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Creative distance

Porcupine Tree
The Rave
Milwaukee, WI
June 2, 2007
Porcupine Tree Porcupine Tree

Story by Matt Richter
Photos by Matt Schwenke

Steve Wilson must smirk at the ironic success of Porcupine Tree, a band born as a musical mirage manifested from his preoccupation with 60s and 70s rock. Similar to the start of the Gorillaz, Porcupine Tree began as a fable, a fake 70s band, complete with a fictional history including prison stints by non-existent band members, all spun from Wilson's creative subconscious and formed by his self-taught multi-instrumental talents. Begun in 1987 in Hertfordshire, England, Wilson recorded several hours of psychedelic ambient rock to give his imaginary group a face, eventually compiling a cassette, Tarquin's Seaweed Farm, which built up a massive underground following. His half-serious side project gained momentum, leading to the band's first album On the Sunday of Life (Delirium) in 1992. The following year, Wilson, recognizing the trajectory of Porcupine's evolving sound and consequent popularity, joined with Colin Edwin (bass) and Richard Barbieri (keyboards) to create a real live Porcupine Tree.

A career spanning multiple continents, three decades and 14 critically-acclaimed, award-winning albums led the band to a sparsely populated Rave Saturday night to finish off their U.S. tour promoting their latest album Fear of a Blank Planet, released this year.

Backed by the tight rhythm of Gavin Harrison and back-up vocals / guitar by John Wesley, Porcupine Tree cut through several decades of rock influences to weave their own blend of ambient, psychedelic, alternative, and more recently-metal, into a new brand of progressive rock. Barbieri's dark, melancholy keys added depth to the clean riffs, and at times rough dissonance, of Wilson and Wesley, while Harrison abruptly switched tempo mid-song from even-paced, intricate rock to a driving heavy metal beat. During "Fear of a Blank Planet," a large screen backdrop flashed dark video clips of starry-skied landscapes and stoic young faces popping pills, matching the band's at once morose and aggressive sound. Barbieri began "My Ashes" with a dark, organ-like keyboard sound while Wilson fingered guitar arrangements reminiscent of Pink Floyd to weave a more ambient rock tone. In "Gravity Eyelids," Wilson led the group through a slow, dark intro, then relied on Harrison's quick hands to drive the band into a heavy metal frenzy.

The mostly lifeless crowd managed to scare up a little head-bobbing enthusiasm for the three-song encore, but the band's occasional long-winded, meandering jams and Wilson's at-times flat vocals left onlookers waiting for more than was there. Their instrumental abilities, however, are undeniable, and all joking aside, place Porcupine at the forefront of today's artists who refuse to walk the line and forge their own trail through industry labels to indulge pure creativity.

Porcupine Tree Porcupine Tree
Porcupine Tree Porcupine Tree

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