Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga
As impassioned as Prog fans are, it should come as no surprise that someone would make documentaries about it. What makes “Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga” unique is that it is not a history. There has been plenty of media (especially print) dedicated to that already. The primary subjects are the state of the genre now, and how the East coast of the United States has become a major focal point.
The film does good service to both of these concepts. There is a bit of history to add context, but most of the attention is on the current East Coast hot spots, and artists that have risen to some prominence since the resurgence in the ’90s. It was also obviously shot during the 2009 concert season, as all the interviewed musicians were either performing or attending NEARfest, Prog Day, or Orion Studios that year.
There are clips of several acts, but the lion’s share of screen time is spent with four bands. It is a good representation of styles between Cabezas de Cera, D.F.A., Cheer-Accident, and Deluge Grander / Dan Britton. Dan Britton provides some very honest insights into the difficulties involved in being a progressive musician, and making it happen live. I especially love his commentary on movie soundtrack music. Cabezas de Cera is portrayed (accurately) as the face of prog’s furure, and obviously the favorite of the film makers. They are some of the most original and innovative musicians in any genre working today. D.F.A. and Cheer-Accident make nice counterpoints as veterans of the modern era. There are shorter segments with Qui, Phideaux, Karmakanic, and a very good bit with La Maschera di Cera. The latter also provides musical contrast to D.F.A. in regards to the Italian scene. There are interviews with dignitaries like Gary Green, Roine Stolt, and Paul Sears, but there is no doubt that the stars of this show are the aforementioned four.
Mike Potter from Orion and Steve Feigenbaum from Cuneiform are on hand to provide insight into the production side. Just like the musicians, for them it is more a labor of love than a great way to make a living. Then there are fan interviews. When you see Pedro Castillo of Tempano being interviewed as an attendee of a festival, you understand. Whatever the specific role may be, everyone is a fan. The love of progressive rock is the universal bond between all of these people.
Overall I would say that “Romantic Warriors” is effective on what it sets out to do, and entertaining. There is definitely something to that East Coast thing. There are probably more Gentle Giant fans per capita in New Jersey than anywhere else in the world. But I would like to have seen some exploration into what happens in other areas. When I grew up, Western Michigan was a Genesis stronghold, and the only place Marillion played without Rush in 1986. Or the stranded fans who only have the online connection. I understand the focus on a band like Cabezas, but as much as I love them, I almost got tired of seeing them. D.F.A.’s concert footage doesn’t really reveal much after the first few minutes either. Cheer-Accident’s video is more confusing than anything it may strive to add. Some of this time could have been put to better use.
As it is, this documentary will probably not find an audience outside of the Prog community. And those people will not be disappointed. For a broader audience it would take a bit more depth, and explanation of why this sub-culture exists for the outsider to enjoy.
The DVD is available for purchase at http://www.progdocs.com
Documentary by: Adele Schmidt and José Zegarra Holder