All Photos © Paragon
I haven’t made this news public, and have only told a handful of folks in my life, but after I did my write up for the Paragon/Rapid Fire show, the members of Paragon actually sat down and discussed how much my words meant to them, and it was decided that they would approach me about working in some capacity with them. Guitarist Marc Crotts and I had a couple phone conversations, and he said some tremendously awesome things about the stuff I had said about them and asked if I would be willing to become a “member” of the band in that I would “make them look cool with my writing.” He asked if I had seen the movie Almost Famous, which of course I have and he asked that I be the main character of the film…The Enemy. I told him I would be honored to work with them, but they made my job of making them look cool easy since in my estimation they were already pretty badass.
I have been extended an all-access pass, if you will, to their lives in regards to the preparation for their upcoming show in Charlotte at The Chop Shop November 2, as well as full participation pre and post show, as well as enjoying their performance that night as well. Suffice it to say I geeked out pretty hardcore about this (after I got off the phone, of course, so as to not sound like a complete dork.) Music, especially live, is my life. It’s the main thing I do for entertainment and have been to countless shows over the years. There was even a time when I was the guy on stage playing for my adoring fan(s), but now I’m satisfied with being in the audience witnessing the magic of it all. And it truly is magic, the craft of making music and putting it on stage for the world to see. Yet in all my life I have never been given such an incredible opportunity to not only witness the creation of another band’s music, but a band, frankly, I’m in deep admiration of. And of course my woman AJ will be there every step of the way as well.
Our first chance to attend one of the band rehearsals got off to an early start. Since we have to travel a little, we got up earlier than usual to get some of our chores done before hitting the road. Marc texted me and informed me that Sonny Reynolds, singer, was laying some tracks down so the practice would start a little later. That worked out well as we got to chill out some. We met Marc to follow him to their practice place. Replacing the old cliche of garage band, most utilize storage facilites for their jam sessions. I have spent many an hour in my time sweating (or freezing depending on the season) my ass off in one of these tiny rooms, banging out tunes typically 4-6 hours a session. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about meeting the guys. Again, I reiterate, Paragon is a band I have been a fan of for many years, despite only hearing a couple tunes on the radio and never actually seeing them live back in the day. And after seeing their show at Amos’ my fandom deepened immensely. In my eyes Paragon were rock stars at this point. Now that I have met all four members, including Shawn Love, bassist, and Scotti Montagnino, drummer, I see them as my friends, and will likely become my brothers in short time.
All four guys were super gracious in meeting, and actually seemed as excited to meet me as I was them. After my conversations on the phone, in text, and via Facebook, I already knew Marc was a very nice guy. I was very pleased in meeting Scotti, Shawn, and Sonny, realizing that every member of Paragon were some of the coolest guys around. One thing that struck me about the band was the contrast in character of each member. Right off the bat I saw Sonny as The Leader of the practice- as founder (along with Marc,) frontman, and main songwriter that stands to reason. Marc was The Guitarist- ready to play and taking everything in stride. Scotti was The Joker, and quite good at it. Shawn was The Mediator as well as The Glue- he definitely was the one bringing it all together.
The storage unit had been transformed into this incredible environment for creativity. The warm coloring of the room, the sconces and mirror, the whole room was the perfect place for making these wonderful songs. Paragon are working on a few new tracks for the upcoming show, and they’re all in the very early working stages, yet even now you can hear just how amazing they are going to be. One thing I absolutely loved about their approach was how even the simplest passage in the song got their absolute attention and care as the more busy sections. You could tell just watching the discussion going on between all four members about this part of the song, or this section of a chorus, that each man was interested in making those bits and pieces as perfect as possible and having each part work for the song in order to entertain the audience as opposed to just being some flashy bit of trickery that lazier bands will toss in to take the easy way out. The passion and care they took for their songs was so inspiring, and in turn will make not only the songs better, but their performance ultimately as well. And even though Sonny was The Leader, everyone had equal say in the final outcome. Even if it was a part that one member was partial to, he was willing to make whatever sacrifice was beneficial to the song. Even though I would never dare put myself in the same league as Paragon, that attitude was exactly what we tried with the bands I played in. Or at least attempted to. My musical partner at the time and I was clearly the main creators, but we never had a problem with taking instruction from the other bandmates. Working together as a team is the only way to create the absolute best music a band is capable of.
As for the songs, oh man that crowd is going to be so blown away by these new songs, as well as their other material. They’re a great mixture of progressive, metal, AOR, and pop (good pop, not what that word has become associated with these days.) There are catchy hooks, stunning technical wizardry, sexy grooves, and heavy yet melodic stuff going on that was getting AJ and I fired up. The band was fired up playing them. Like I said earlier, music is magic (as well as what Frank Zappa always said: Music is the best.) Taking a nugget of a musical idea and turning it into a song is a magical thing to not only do, but witness. Watching one passage start off one way, then go a different way becoming something so perfect, how is that anything other than magic? During a break, the guys approached me (AJ had stepped out) and apologized for boring us, but nothing could be further from the truth. AJ and I were both so in awe of watching Paragon work. I realize a lot of this seems like ego stroking and preferential speech, but even if I didn’t like the guys or had never been a fan prior, watching this would’ve made me one. I can assure you, I have no problem speaking my mind, and if I think something sucks, I would certainly say it. I’m simply blown away at the degree of talent in this band. From Marc’s fretboard wizardry to Scotti’s spectacular work behind the kit to Shawn’s thundering bass, and despite the fact that Sonny didn’t sing a whole lot, when he did he did things with his voice that most singers only wish they could, and all four members made their craft look like it was just doing something fun. Sonny also, it turns out, is quite an excellent guitarist on top of that.
This will definitely not be our last time going to a Paragon rehearsal. If it weren’t for the fact that I have to work every other weekend, I would be present every Sunday when they practice. It is such a true honor to be able to witness the rise of this band, and to do my part to see that it happens. Just like my brothers in Final Curse, Paragon is band richly deserving of greatness not only because they’re magnificent players with incredible songs, but are also some of the nicest guys on the planet. I certainly don’t want to wish my life away, but I can’t wait for two weeks to pass by to hang out with them again.
Written by Chris Martin
Senior Staff Writer