ProgPower USA: An Inside Look At America’s Premier Metal Festival

The month of September means many things to different people. For some, it is the end of summer, to others the beginning of fall, or the beginning of the school year. For those in the underground prog/power metal community, September means one thing: the arrival of the annual ProgPower USA metal festival.

ProgPower USA began in 2001 by promoter Glenn Harveston. The very first festival was held on February 23–24, 2001, in Lansing, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, at J.J. Kelley’s. The subsequent events have been held in Atlanta, Georgia, at Center Stage Atlanta. The festival has a wide reputation for high quality and a laid-back atmosphere. Band members performing at the festival frequently socialize with fans, and numerous artists have been known to attend even when not playing, including D. C. Cooper, Matt Smith of Theocracy, Jon Oliva of Savatage fame, Lance King, members of Evergrey, Dietrick Hardwick of Mindcage, Dustin Mitchell and Curtis Morrell of Katagory V, Ray Alder and Nick Van Dyk (Redemption), and Urban Breed (Pyramaze, ex-Tad Morose). Over the years ProgPower has hosted the U.S. debuts of notable metal acts such as Kamelot, Epica, Nightwish, Evergrey, and too many more to mention!

As a first time attendee in 2010, I was instantly drawn to the atmosphere in midtown Atlanta. Walking to The Artmore Hotel (the official hotel of the festival) and into the hotel courtyard, I was struck by a sense of community. It was like metal nirvana. The people I met that year were so warm and inviting, it was like I was a part of something bigger than just a metal festival, and it was like I was joining a family of like-minded individuals. There were always friendly faces to “show the newbie the ropes” by showing me around, introducing me to people, including band members performing that weekend. I recall standing in the lobby of the venue having a beer when Marco Hietala (of Nightwish fame and performing that year with his solo band Tarot) approached our group and started chatting and having a beer with us. This is not an exception at PPUSA, but the norm.

Over the three years I’ve been attending, I have had the pleasure of chatting and hanging out with members of Redemption, Amaranthe, Crimson Glory, Epica, Vanden Plas, and so many more. There is just so much to do and see during the festival, four days (including the Wednesday mid week mayhem and Thursday kick off shows) doesn’t feel like it’s enough to experience everything. Aside from the music, the other part of the festival experience is of course, the epic after parties, where you can socialize with fellow attendees and the band members themselves. I have (vague) memories of drinking with vocalists Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus and Jake Berg of Amaranthe, who were both performing with Kamelot that year.

I came home that year with incredible memories, tons of merchandise from the infamous Vendor Room, and with a hundred new friends that I still have to this day. When I returned in September of 2011 I wasn’t the unsure “newbie” anymore, I was coming “home”, but this time I was returning as a sponsor for that years headlining act Sanctuary. This was a whole new aspect to the fest to experience and enjoy. Being a band sponsor allows you backstage access and in front of the barrier privileges which only makes the concert experience all the more unique and special. It was at 2011’s fest that I met and became good friends with the band Voyager from Australia, who were making their U.S. debut that year. We started a friendship that continues to this day. It was as a sponsor that I got a behind the scenes look at what goes on backstage, which for the most part, is a controlled chaos and in the middle is the mad conductor, Glenn Harveston in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap, along with his lovely wife and director of social media, Jennifer, keeping things running smoothly, along with an amazing crew of professionals that make sure the bands go on without a hitch (okay, maybe there is an occasional hiccup, but it’s usually out of anyone’s control!). It’s truly amazing to see how this team of individuals has kept the festival a successful entity for over a decade.

When I returned as a sponsor again in 2012, this time for Friday night headliners Epica, I was a seasoned pro who knew the ins and outs of the festival, the late night parties, and I was even answering questions and helping a fresh crop of “newbies” to enjoy the festival. So finally we arrive to 2013 and in less than six months, another epic ProgPower USA festival will be upon us. For me, it will be another new experience, as shortly after last years festival, I was asked by Glenn and Jen to join the PPUSA crew as an administrator on the official ProgPower Facebook page, which just celebrated a milestone of reaching 10,000 fans/likes, a huge accomplishment for sure.

This year features another stellar line up of bands including U.S. exclusive debuts from Myrath, Reinxeed, Xandria, and Damnation Angels among many others. It also includes the return to the festival of Sabaton and Circus Maximus (this time as headliners) along with Soilwork (another U.S. exclusive), metal stalwarts Armored Saint playing their only U.S. show of 2013 and prog legends Shadow Gallery. The Thursday night kick off will feature the North American debut of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, the return of Circle II Circle, and prog newcomers In the Silence. For veterans of the festival, there is nothing I can say that you don’t already know yourself, but for anyone who is a newcomer, or if you are on the fence about attending ProgPower USA, I can assure you that it is a metal festival experience like no other in the U.S. The best advice I can give is, experience everything, talk to people, pace yourself, and sleep is overrated! As I am typing these words, more than half of this years available tickets have already been sold. Don’t miss out! Tickets are onsale now through Ticketmaster. Go to www.progpowerusa.com for more information.

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