the new album:
Single Release Dates
VOYAGE – 10/28/22
About The Portal
The Portal is a rock/electronic concept album with a supporting multi-media and theatrical concert.
The Portal was originally conceived and released in Boulder, CO by producer and creative director, Luke Comer. During that time, he was curious about using entertainment as ritual to help people generate community, overcome limitations and expand their consciousness and their culture. He was particularly curious about how earlier, more primitive cultures did this through either religion, ritual or entertainment. He was also influenced by various forms of entertainment from his past, including Pink Floyd, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Burning Man, raves and other festivals—as well as by the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Driven by these inspirations—and the importance of them in his own life—he wanted to create his own concept that combined elements of ritual, music and narrative into one gestalt—with the ultimate purpose of taking the audience on a universal and transformative journey.
Luke initially conceived of this concept as a ritualized concert called, “The Portal.” At the beginning of this concert, the audience is lured into The Portal by the mysterious and beatific woman called Beatrice. Once inside, they are then guided upon waves of animated fractals (psychedelic images generated by math) into another world, represented, in this case, by the desert. While traveling from one realm of the desert to another, they encounter various archetypes—named the Syth, Cyclops or Reaper—that challenge them in some way, while also helping them overcome their fears and limitations as humans. In the end, the audience travels into the alpine mountains for their mysterious, loving, but fleeting encounter with Beatrice. Once conceiving of the concept and the narrative, Luke licensed music from various musicians to fit the various parts of the narrative. Most of all, he worked with various musicians and producers to conceive of new music, generating initial ideas in many cases from jam sessions at “hippie parties” in the hills above Boulder.
At this point, Luke chose the mediums for his concept. He chose one large video screen to house the portal, the fractals, the archetypes, as well as the desert and characters. In front of the video was the band—the vocalists, drummer and guitarists, who were, at that time, supported by “backing tracks” that contained the rest of the music, as well as voiceovers and foley. He also included two female dancers and occasionally live versions of one of the archetypes, as well as considerable amounts of both stage and moving lights. Then, he captured the desert video at Arches National Park and the alpine footage at Blue Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness, just above Boulder. In the initial versions of the show, the stars were Chris Kelly, Zarah Mahler as Beatrice, Gilly Gonzales on drums, John Sousa on guitar and Xavier Onassis as the frontman.
Upon its release at the Boulder Theater, the audience seemed ecstatic about the show as witnessed by various comments. Off and on for the following years, The Portal toured through Colorado, other western states, as well as California, mostly in concert venues. However, due to its complexity, the show was expensive to produce relative to other concerts – and the financial model was not working, despite the enthusiasm for the show. Exhausted with touring, Luke improved upon the show, hired Daniel Katsuk as the frontman, and ran the show in one warehouse in RiNo (Denver) for one month, selling out the final weeks while receiving praise from both fans and the media. After that, the show was transitioned to New York City to the Minetta Lane Theater in the West Village, while recruiting new talent to bump the show to another level, including Billy Lewis Jr. as the frontman flanked by three extraordinary dancers, Jessica Aronoff, Nicole Spencer, and Marija Juliette Abney, choreographed by Jessica Chen. However, in Manhattan, the audience responded to the show differently—with everything from scorn and derision to appreciation and praise. “It appeared,” Comer said, “to be about the most bipolar show in NYC at the time—which makes sense given the culture of NYC.”
“By the end of our time in NYC,” Luke continues, “I felt really conflicted with and exhausted by the project. I thought the show was original, engaging and profound—and was at the forefront of innovating media for concerts and theater. Furthermore, much of the audience and many critics loved the show. However, I also thought the show was problematic and not fully developed—and even just tacky at times. I was also the creator of the show, the Director, and the Producer, there every night of the showing—and absolutely exhausted. After running for about eight weeks in the West Village, I decided to let our lease expire at the theater, even while our audience was growing, and move on to other projects.”
However, Luke was not finished with the music. He originally developed the music for the show itself, not for an album, but through the years, working with different producers, he started to shape that music into songs to fit onto an album. He first drafted the album with various producers and musicians in Boulder, and later added the spellbinding and haunting lyrics from Katsuk, without releasing the album.
When the show transitioned to NYC, Luke worked with David Sisko to add many more layers, atmospheres and nuances to the music, through recording musicians and programming electronica. (The album was released briefly during this time, but then Luke decided to withdraw the release for another time.)
After that, Luke worked with Kevin Clock of Colorado Sound Studios to bring the album to fruition, including rewriting bass lines, reworking drums, adding more lyrics from Katsuk as well as Zarah Mahler, and then completing the mix to sound like classic rock mixed with modern electronica. Once the album was finished, Comer thought they had all magically created something spectacular through multiple cities and drafts.
While the music and songs stand alone, the album explores some of the most profound questions of our existence, especially if we ever chose the path of what Joseph Campbell called “original experience.” What is our relationship to power—both the power we and the world exert over ourselves? How do we develop our identity? Do we listen to the media or our own instincts and soul? And what is our relationship to psychological death and transformation? Do we remain the same person, more or less, throughout our lives? Or do we constantly evolve towards something higher, even as that requires considerable courage? And what, ultimately, is our relationship to the finiteness of our earthly existence, and how do we relate to the mystery beyond?