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Metastasis of Bone Cave Ballet

Prog-rock finds a balance between the experiment and the song

Bone Cave Ballet / photo courtesy of Facebook

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Growing up, I was always exposed to classic rock. Listening to 97.3 KBSG, in particular, was my jam. As a child, you just sort of naturally assume that your parents like the same thing. I later found out, though, that oldies radio was a compromise for my parents - my mom being a fan of soft rock like Bread and Carole King, and my dad being a fan of progressive rock like Gentle Giant and 10cc. As I got older and my musical tastes became more varied and exploratory, my dad slowly started to introduce me to the intriguing, frequently self-indulgent, sometimes maddening world of prog-rock.

In particular, I recall watching a concert film of King Crimson, performing songs off of THRAK. While I was drawn to the bombastic edge of songs like "Dinosaur" and earlier fare like "21st Century Schizoid Man," I distinctly remember watching King Crimson deep in the middle of a convoluted noodle session and thinking, "My god, it's like they're torturing their instruments. When does the chorus come back?"

I'm always going to be attracted to experimentation and creative compositions, but when it comes down to it, the song is the thing. Bone Cave Ballet is a prog-rock band that totally nails this delicate balancing act that draws the line between playful complexity and intrusive self-indulgence. Songs off of their recent EP, Will of the Waves, echo qualities of those '70s prog giants like Yes and King Crimson (particularly its centerpiece, "Shape To Stay"), but there's a lightness that speaks volumes to their respect for the form and backbone of a well-structured song.

"I was a singer-songwriter first, and I was doing my own thing," says lead singer and guitarist Jacqui Gilroy. "I'm classically trained, but Kelly Mynes is kind of a punk/proggy drummer. We started playing together, and it shape-shifted the sound that I was creating into its own thing. That was back in 2007. ... In being classically trained, I'm pretty bored with things that are straight 4/4 or don't have a lot of emotion or change, dynamically or rhythmically. I was already doing my syncopated thing as a songwriter, but having that percussion made all the difference."

Since Gilroy and Mynes joined forces, they've since accumulated Jeff Blancato on guitar and Ezekiel Lords on bass. After releasing an LP of curvy prog-rock in 2009 (Echo of Entropy), Bone Cave Ballet began to metastasize and find their footing as uniquely nimble purveyors of complex rhythms and pristine melodies.

"Where we're at now is a different place, because it's definitely about the four of us," says Gilroy. "We kind of have our own modern take on songwriting, but we really appreciate the roots of progressive rock. ... We consider (Bone Cave Ballet) to be really melodic, lyrically focused, instrumental rock, but with voice (Laughs). ... We're trying to write songs, like really good songs. I tend to think about things like movements and where it can go next. We try to keep a lot of space in the parameters of how we think about things, and at the same time, always try and do what's best for the song itself."

Experimentation for experimentation's sake can be a fun tunnel to explore, but the ability to rein oneself in is a valuable one to have. Following every whim is too easy, which is why I'll always give enormous amounts of credit to people that can write a solid three-minute pop song. Being able to split the difference is ideal, and it's something that Bone Cave Ballet do very well. They're able to take you right to the edge without shoving you off.

BONE CAVE BALLET, w/ Bandolier, Red Sea, Buffalo Tongue, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15, Bob's Java Jive, 2102 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, $5, 253.475.9843

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