"Baja Prog is the world's greatest progressive rock festival, held in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico”. This is what the organizers say on their facebook site Baja Prog. In fact, given the number and quality of artists from all over the world that every year take part to it, this statement does not seem exaggerated.
Baja Prog has held almost continuously for 11 editions, from 1997 to 2008, after which the organizers have had a pause. In 2013, exactly on 3, 4, 5 and 6 April, the festival has returned with a list of artists of respect: Steve Hackett, Eddie Jobson, The Crimson ProjeCKt, Cast, Anglagard, New Trolls, Three friends, Galahad, Locanda delle Fate, Mystery, Jelonek, Panzerballet, Gran Turismo Veloce, Luz de Riada, Crisalida, Introvision …
A tempting possibility, therefore, to celebrate “their” music for many fans of progressive coming from many countries. Apart from Mexico, in fact, we have met fans from California, Peru, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala...
All the history began with an e-mail received in August 2012, where the organizers asked our availability for the event in 2013. "We are a very serious organization," concluded, almost anticipating our first objection "we would not begin another history with a bad final like the announced and then canceled Farfest, where we were forced to apologize to our fans for cancellation, although not dependent on our desire? ". "No, we are a very serious organization." And so it went on ..
Months of preparation, exchange of e-mails, then Tuesday, April 2, the flight overseas. The journey that lies ahead in front of us is long and exhausting. First Milan - New York, where we have to undergo the laborious procedure of Immigration. There, in the zigzag cue of immigration-checks we meet New Trolls, they also going to Mexicali. They are travelling some days in advance (we are scheduled for Wednesday, they for Friday) because they have to make rehearsals with the orchestra of Mexicali.
After more than an hour of cue, luckily without any problem at customs (we have our suitcases full of DVDs and CDs, T-shirts, plates and pedal battery + an infinite number of guitar pedals ...), we go to the gate to San Diego, our second step of the journey. Six hour of flight and finally we arrive in San Diego. The weather is fine and it is a pleasure to wait outside the gate of the airport for the bus sent by the organization of Baja Prog.
We are fifteen all togheter , Locanda and New Trolls, but there comes a bus for more than 50 people. Last year in Japan, in order to rent the most suitable vehicle to pick us up at the airport, we were asked in advance the exact number of persons to be transported, the number of bags for each, as well as the size and weight of each bag. :-). But here they are Latins and a little we like this way “ very italian” to manage things.
We travel for about two hours and a half, we pass the border US-MEXICO without problems and at midnight finally we arrive at the hotel. In total, 26 hours spent travelling: the bed becomes the most coveted and valuable thing in the world.
Next day, the day of the concert, they pick us up to take us to Teatro del Estado for the souncheck more than an hour late. As soon as we arrive to the theater we understand why: the soundcheck of Steve Hackett has lasted longer than expected, due to some technical problem. The former Genesis guitarist welcomes us in the backstage with a smile and offers us his hand. His '"Hi guys," very friendly and comradely for coming from an Anglo-Saxon, makes us a while that he is a myth, that crowds of guitarists were inspired by his way of using the volume pedal to draw a sound like an arc-instrument, the same myth whose guitar solos we used to copy note-after-note in the early days of Locanda when we were still used to make covers.
The soundcheck can not yet start, indeed our tools have yet to be placed. It 's a race against time: luckily our technical crew, Vincenzo and Paolo Penna, using English, Spanish and Italian, are able to communicate with the service and speed up operations. The most unfortunate is Oscar: his keyboards (all the instruments are rented in Mexico) do not correspond exactly to his request and he has to work hard a couple of hours to set "his" sounds. Fortunately intervenes to help a guy of the organization, of which we will forever perorate the process of beatification.
The location, the Teatro del Estado is perfect, but time is running out and we have to close the soundcheck even if we should need some minute more: outside the theater the people is pressing and for security reasons at 6.30 pm the doors are opened. Some sandwiches in our dressing room, a Corona and at 7.30 .... they call out!
We reach the stage. We wanted to begin with 1 minute of pre-recorded intro that our two keyboardists had prepared with care, but someone of the organization stumbles on the cables close to the mixer and pc falls downJ, so we have to start as usual all togheter with "A volte....". The hall is full of audience. The ninety minutes scrolls quickly with “Forse le lucciole…”, “Profumo di colla bianca”, “Sogno di Estunno”, “Non chiudere a chiave le stelle”, “Cercando un nuovo confine”, “Crescendo”, “Sequenza circolare”, “La giostra” and finally “ Vendesi saggezza”. The audience is attentive but at the same time warm; we would like to embrace all of them. Each song is highlighted by their applause and encouragement. The effort is so great because of the fatigue accumulated during the trip, but in the end the sigh of relief as the audience stands up and cheers with an endless applause. The President of Baja Prog Alfonso Vidales comes on stage and gives us two trophies in memory. All has gone well!
We go out to the main gate of the theater for the party organized between the first and second half. The GTV are there and they are playing. But soon they get off and we take pictures all together. A lot of people ask us for autographs and photos. They came from far away. They simply want a souvenir photo and/or a signature on some albums of Locanda of the past (but how can they have them ..?). After that, we go in to listen to Steve Hackett and memories with those sounds go back decades. After the gig, everything shuts down and it is time to go back to our hotel.
Next morning, after a rich Mexican breakfast, at 11 am in the lobby we meet some journalists for the interviews, but very soon it's time to go see the concert of Gran Turismo Veloce, with whom we will share the stage on May 11 in Italy, Veruno. Once arrived there there, GTV from the stage see us and greet us with a "Ciao Locanda!" . At that time a lot of people come to us asking for a picture or an autograph. After the concert, when we move to the merchandising area, in front of the desk dedicated to Locanda delle Fate’s merchandise, the music it is the same. We have to stand up like a monument for at least a couple of hours, while there are a lot of people who want to take a picture with us, or simply ask for a signature on a disk, on a poster, on the program or simply on their ticket.
It 'evening, we go to dinner, then back to the theater to see and listen to Anglagard (whom we will share the stage with on April 27 in Soignies, Belgium, in occasion of the festival Prog Résiste) and The Crimson ProjeCKt. At the end of the concert, during the pause between the first and the second half, we are moving toward the stage to gain access to the backstage when the audience recognizes us, stands up and calls us. We have to stop, greet, let some flash shots. Then we meet Anglagard and congratulate for the wonderful concert, embellished with dreamy sounds "vintage" (yes, the evocative power of the mellotron ...). We greet each other giving us the appointment of Soignies.
Then greet the "patron" of the organization: Carlos Humarŕn, who has been our interlocutor for all the months of "gestation" of the trip to Mexico and President Alfonso Vidales, who by the way we got to see in the afternoon engaged as (great!) keyboardman of Cast.
We make return to the hall in time to listen to the Crimson ProjeCKt: they are all formidable musicians with a determination to make our skin crawl. Only the volume, in our opinion, is a bit too much; deliberately, we guess, since their audio engineers do not seem to worry ...
But it is 11. 30 pm and it is time to leave: two taxi’s are awaiting for us in front of the main gate of the theater in order to bring us back to the hotel. At 1.30 am, after having packed our luggages, a minibus come to take us back to San Diego airport.
So, homeward bound, Locanda begin his trip backward.
What can we say more ..
Many thanks to the whole organization of Baja Prog and to all that wonderful, warm audience! We won’t never forget them! We hope to be back, one day. Who knows ...Adios amigos!
Locanda delle Fate