Mars Hollow are a rather new American progressive rock band. The origin of the band goes back to 2005. At that point in time Jerry Beller (drums, backing vocals) answered to an advert for 'drummer wanted' in a local Los Angeles paper which led to Beller meeting Kerry Chicoine (bass, backing vocals) in a band project called Code Red, a side project of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto (Spock's Beard, K2). When Okumoto called it a day for this venture, Beller decided that he wanted to form a band of his own and prog rock was the style to explore. Chicoine joined him and Steve Mauk (keyboards, backing vocals) and John Baker (guitars, lead vocals) joined the twosome after answering some adverts. The quartet were signed to the American 10t Records label, that released their eponymous debut album in 2010 (see review) followed by World In Front Of Me (2011, see review).
In 2011 they performed at the American RosFest Festival. They recorded and filmed the whole show for a release on CD and DVD that appeared a year later as Live RoSfest 2011. We can now see and hear how they entertained the prog heads during this festival. I find the DVD is the most interesting disc because you can see Mars Hollow in action. Zeitgeist Media Videography filmed a very inspired band. Thanks to the good close-ups you'll notice that the musicians really enjoyed the positive reactions from the seated audience. The people in the audience behaved rather calm, let the band do their thing but gave them a well-deserved applause afterwards, because of their very impressive performance. Mars Hollow succeeded in getting pretty close to the music they recorded for their two studio albums.
All performed songs sound very enjoyable. In a way these songs made me think of the time signatures of Spock's Beard, the bass and vocal sounds of Yes, the style harmonies of Gentle Giant, the keyboard sounds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the strong instrumental parts of Happy The Man. Next to the entire performance you can also enjoy a section called 'recollections from RoSfest'. In this section the band members answer several questions about their gig at the festival like the things that went wrong and how the fans reacted to their show. Finally 'visual memories', a short photo gallery has been included.
The CD contains the same songs as the DVD and is just as enjoyable. However, there's one difference: the CD holds a brand new audio track recorded with the new line-up. Early 2012 Mars Hollow were invited to perform at a prestigious festival in the UK, but a few weeks prior to the event the band fell apart. I don't know what caused this split, but it resulted in the replacement of founding members Beller and Chicoine by bassist Joe August and drummer Bob Craft. Together with Mauk and Baker they recorded the bonus studio song So Far Away, which is another great prog tune sounding quite similar to the rest of the material. You would expect that Mars Hollow would have sounded differently after replacing two original band members, but that's not the case at all.
This line-up change didn't have any influence on my final judgment, because what you get on CD and DVD is very enjoyable to watch and to listen to and highly recommended to people who enjoy the music recorded by all the above-mentioned bands.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013