In 2015, Rolling Stone polled their journalists and published “The 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time.” Forty-one were released between 1969 and 1977, 10 of those within the year 1973 alone.

Here we are in 2023, 50 years after the golden age of British progressive rock, when young musicians of great skill, some with considerable formal training, crafted meticulous baroque suites that combined disparate styles of art music. Prog rock bands played rock n’ roll instruments even as they left American rhythm and blues behind. They burst out of school and stormed concert halls. Some of those groups — King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Rush — became among the biggest acts in the world.


7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7
Sweetwater Theatre
5501 US Hwy. 30 W., Fort Wayne
$30 · (260) 432-8176

Then, the Sex Pistols hit in 1977 and the music business pivoted to punk. Prog bands lost financial promotion in the industry’s first mass-extinction event, and prog was never the same. (The second cataclysm, after the musical ecosystem regained high levels of musicianship from synth-pop to hair-metal, came in 1991 with the meteoric impact of Nirvana and the artistic nuclear winter that followed, but that’s another story.)

So why, 50 years after 1973, is a band of ace West Coast musicians touring the nation paying homage to these bands of the ’70s? 

ProgJect: The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience are Jonathan Mover on drums, Mike Keneally on guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Marc Bonilla on guitar and vocals, Ryo Okumoto on keyboards, and Ric Fierabracci on bass guitar. They’ll perform on Thursday, Sept. 7, at Sweetwater Sound.

Highly skilled musicians

If you are a fan of a certain age, you know who the musicians are in ProgJect. Among them, they have toured the globe and recorded with artists who were in Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Chicago, U.K., Spock’s Beard, Asia, Dethklok, and artists including Frank Zappa, Mike Oldfield, Kevin Gilbert, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Devin Townsend, and a host of jazz greats we don’t have room to mention. Then there’s decades of session work on television and film soundtracks.

It’s only natural that this band would play Sweetwater, where a community of highly trained, serious musicians have loved prog rock above all else.

Keeping prog alive

In a phone interview with Mover, he explained that he got inspired to form ProgJect after he substituted for the drummer in Quebec’s The Musical Box, the world’s greatest Genesis tribute band, in 2019. 

Mover played only a handful of dates with them. But he said, “I had such a great time, and every night that I got on stage with them, it was like being 14 years old again in the basement of my parents’ house with headphones on, practicing to (1977 Genesis live album) Seconds Out. As soon as I got back to L.A., I said, ‘What can I do to continue this?’ But I didn’t want to be in a ‘tribute’ band.

“The two things that I wanted to do was to cover the genre of prog and really open the whole thing up to everybody that I was influenced by and that I loved growing up.

“The other thing was I wanted to do it with the caliber of musicians like I have now, pro players that could kill this stuff, but also connected to the prog world like I am.

“And those were the two pieces of the puzzle that began to come together that gave me the guidelines of what I was looking to do.”

Shorten it up

Prog rock is known for long-form, sprawling pieces. Although the music is carefully composed and not given to extended solos and improvisation as in blues or jazz, prog rock can be fatiguing on the attention span. 

As Mover wants to get many bands’ best-known works into a two-hour set, he settled on a plan to cut down and arrange medleys of songs by bands like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and the intensely complicated music of U.K. and Bruford.

None of this is going to diminish the fiendish intricacy of the musical challenges, however, and the audience knows the pieces well enough to hang through the abrupt modulations and hairpin turns they will be throwing at us.

Playing with the best

“The caliber of players that I’m surrounded with on stage is just insane,” Mover said. “Mike Keneally, Ric Fierabracci can play anything with anybody, and these guys are here doing this stuff with me. Every night is a treat not only for myself, but for the audience, too, because there’s some great magic that happens on stage.”

Mover said that they are looking ahead and calling on other veterans to join them at certain gigs, particularly saxophone and flute players to help fill out their interpretations of King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull. He even hints that they are putting out feelers to invite some surviving members from the classic ’70s bands to sit in with them. But Mover has endless praise for the guys he’s already got.

“Even though we’re colleagues, it’s still very thrilling and very exciting to be on stage with these guys every night.

“One constant every single night that I hear from everyone is, ‘Man, you guys look like you’re having so much fun! You’re all smiling the entire show.’

“We’re having a blast and it’s getting better and better every night.”

Already, they are looking further afield. 

“We’ve had some offers come in for next year to get over to the U.K. and Europe. I was just connected last week with a Japanese agent promoter who is inquiring about a handful of dates in Asia. Everybody is very excited. They’re into it, they’re committed to it. We want to make this the priority and then work other gigs around it. Everybody is into doing this for years to come. That’s the game plan.”