Rock in Opposition or RIO was a movement representing a collective of progressive bands in the late 1970s united in their opposition to the music industry that refused to recognise their music. It was initiated by English avant-garde rock group Henry Cow in March 1978 when they invited four mainland European groups to come to London and perform in a festival called "Rock in Opposition".
Henry Cow decided to expose a few of these European groups to British audiences and organised, with the help by a £1000 grant from the British Arts Council , a festival in London they called "Rock in Opposition" with the slogan: "The music the record companies don't want you to hear". The event took place on 12 March 1978 at the New London Theatre with the following groups performing:
While "Rock in Opposition" was never intended to be a formal organisation, the festival did generate "a lot of press around the world". This prompted the five bands to discuss future plans and in December 1978 they met at Sunrise Studio in Kirchberg, Switzerland to reconstitute Rock in Opposition as a collective. By this time Henry Cow no longer existed as a group, but as RIO's prime mover its former members still actively participated.
RIO's primary aim was to represent and promote its members. It was decided that membership should remain closed and small, although new members would be welcome provided they (i) adhered to "musical excellence" (as evaluated by the collective); (ii) worked actively "outside the music business"; and (iii) had a "social commitment to Rock". Using these criteria, three new members were elected:
A second RIO festival, organised by Stormy Six, took place between 26 April and 1 May 1979 at al Teatro dell'Elfo in Milan, Italy where all seven groups performed, the original four (minus Henry Cow) plus the three new groups. During the festival, the RIO members met formally again to discuss the way forward. However, despite some constructive discussion, disagreements arose between the groups regarding RIO's role and matters were left unresolved. Two further RIO festivals took place in Sweden and Belgium, but no new meetings, and by the end of 1979, RIO as an organisation had "quietly slipped away".
Towards the end of 1978, Chris Cutler from Henry Cow and Art Bears and one of the active participants in RIO, had established Recommended Records (RēR), an independent record label and distribution network for RIO and similar artists. When RIO folded as an organisation, RēR continued RIO's work by representing and promoting marginalised musicians and groups. RēR became a "virtual" RIO, and "... is part of the continuing legacy of RIO".
Bands familiarized with the RIO movement and genre today include: Thinking Plague (USA), Present (Belgium), Miriodor (Canada), Ahvak (Israel), NeBeLNeST (France), Nazca (Mexico), Banda Elástica (Mexico), Le Silo (Japan), Six Cylindres En V (France), La STPO (La Société des Timides à la Parade des Oiseaux) (France), Panza (Argentina), Klimperei (France), 5uu's (USA), Guapo (UK), Gösta Berlings Saga (Sweden) and U Totem (USA). The term "RIO" today is almost synonymous with Avant-progressive rock or Experimental rock.
A second edition of the France RIO event is scheduled to take place in September 2009 at the same venue as the first. The provisional lineup is Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Koenji Hyakkei, Jannick Top Infernal Machina, Univers Zero, Magma, Charles Hayward, Present, The Muffins, Aranis and Yolk.