At the outer fringes of the rock scene, there are groups of musicians who are attempting to redefine and extend the boundaries of popular music. They are a hearty lot, going against the prevailing trends, and playing music that is, often, an odd collection of styles and sounds. Friday night, three of these "progressive" groups (all vocal) were presented at the Washington Ethical Society.

The highlight of the evening was Balloons for the Dog. Their music is a curious cross between the fusion sound of Jean Luc Ponty and the electronic pop of Roxy Music. Yet the musicians are no mirror imitators -- they have forged these disparate styles into a sound that is intriguing, with complex instrumental sections which are contrasted by imaginative and witty vocals. Balloons for the Dog is surely one of the finest rock groups in Washington, and its music has the potential for breaking into the commercial market.

The first two groups, However and Bazilisk, demonstrated many of the pitfalls which beset experimental music. While the musicians of However were technically proficient, their playing suffered from a lack of direction, meandering from jazz to English folk to hard rock with little sense of purpose. Bazilisk presented fragments from an opera-in-progress which were poorly executed and featured ludicrous dramatic effects. Its performance ran the gamut from the pretentious to the preposterous.