ProgPower USA is the premier US festival for progressive and power metal. It takes place every year in September at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. The festival seeks to bring in bands that don’t necessarily have the fan base to tour the United States but still would like to get their foot in the door. Just as the bands travel from all over the world to play here, so do the fans. The combination of international bands and fans mixed with the intimate atmosphere of the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia leads to one of the most unique festival experiences that the United States has to offer in terms of heavy metal. The first day of the main even was absolutely amazing, and then I had the pleasure of waking up the next day and going back.
All the way from Argentina came Helker for their very first show outside of their home country. The trend for ignoring the opener that carries at many metal shows found it’s exception at ProgPower, as the band was greeted with a warm welcome. Unfortunately, as has been the trend for this year, their drummer was unable to make it to the show in time because of Visa issues. The good news is that they were able to salvage the show with a fill-in player, I may not have noticed if they hadn’t mentioned it themselves on stage.
“This song was about us. The love we have for metal unites us, no matter the flag, the country, the color. We should run the world.” – Diego Valdez (vocalist)
The Swedish power metal outfit was originally just supposed to play for the show’s Wednesday Mid-Week Mayhem show, but when Dynazty was forced to cancel at the very last minute because of Visa issues they jumped to fill in. They had to cut some songs during their first set, so they had the opportunity to play again. The highlight, besides actually getting to see Dragonland in the first place, was when Brittney of Unleash the Archers joined them on stage for their song Cassiopeia. The band is no stranger to fun gimmicks for their show, as they brought out two guest vocalists (who I think were just fans) for a song, and their bassist donned a horse head mask, and their singer had a funny yet crass “F*ck me, I’m famous” t-shirt.
Unleash the Archers
Unfortunately, because of hunger related reasons and waiting in line for the Falconer signing, I missed the majority of their set. At least they sounded great from the signing line.
Kicking off their US Tour in support of their newest album Love, Fear, and the Time Machine, Poland’s prog rock group Riverside brought their show back to ProgPower for another go. They were one of the least heavy bands to play the show, and this didn’t escape front man/bassist Mariusz Duda. He actually apologized for being less heavy, which was responded to with a thunderous, reassuring applause to prove that you don’t need to be heavy to be accepted there. The band played an excellent mix of old and new songs, with all 13 minutes of “Escalator Shrine” being my highlight. Sure, I wish they played “New Generation Slave,” but that’s just me being a stickler.
Just as Soto was the rockstar of Friday, Royal Hunt brought that personality to Saturday. The band played the entirety of their album Paradox, followed by some songs from their new album XIII: The Devil’s Dozen.
Vocalist DC Cooper can sure command a crowd, and his charismatic presence was entertaining to see and hear as he lead a transfixed crowd. One thing that made the show a little bit more special was the fact that DC’s children were in the crowd, and supposedly seeing their dad perform for the first time. You could tell that he was putting a little extra into the show, and the entire band performed well enough to make anyone proud.
The bittersweet moment had arrived, while yes, we were all excited to see Angra, the fact that the festival was almost over weighed heavy on the mind. However, Brazil’s neo-classical legends were there for their only US date of 2015, and we don’t like to dwell on the negative. Since they don’t perform all that in the US, they were to do a special set just for ProgPower XVI. They were to play the entirety of their album Holy Land for the event, followed by some material from their newest album Secret Garden, then my personal favorite Nova Era. closed the show out with a big finale. Fabio Lione, the master vocalist that is he, took some time to interact with the crowd in his own, unique way, by doing a back and forth interaction that nobody else there had a chance of actually reciprocating.
To finish of the festival, Angra was joined by vocalists DC Cooper and Jeff Scott Soto for a cover of Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me.” The energy was so charged with excitement at that point, you would think that the venue was going to implode. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.
I’ve been to many shows, or at least that’s what I like to tell myself, but I have never been to one with such a friendly atmosphere. I struck up a conversation with almost everybody that I stood next to in line, whether it be for a signing or merch, everybody was so nice. The first day of the show, the Wednesday Midweek Mayhem, was described to me as being “like a big family reunion.” A large portion of the people that I talked to were not there for their first time, some had been going since the very beginning, and many for 10+ years and were now there with their kids.
With so many bands, especially on the same stage, it’s easy for things to get overlooked and aural catastrophes to happen. Unless I was too awestruck by being there and didn’t notice, there were no major sound issues. Vocals were fixed and the mixes all sounded spot on within 30 seconds of a band taking the stage. Respect goes out to the unsung heroes that are the sound crew.
Center Stage Theater in Atlanta is also a wonderful venue. Located in Midtown Atlanta, the theater style venue had a modest sized floor area, surrounded by steep sloping seats. This lead to the venue having no bad places to sit. From the top you have a great view, from the bottom you have a great view, and from the floor you have a great view, provided you aren’t stuck behind someone who’s a foot taller than you.
If you walk away from this event without a dozen new friends and the desire to return, then you might have done the weekend wrong and need to re-evaluate your priorities. Thank you ProgPower crew, you put on an excellent show. I’ll be seeing you next year!