ProgPower USA XII: Kick-Off Day
Band Photo: Vanden Plas (?)
For the long-running USA metal festival, ProgPower USA, metalheads typically have no problems driving or flying from all across the country. Where else can you see sixteen mostly international bands, all of whom are pushing their own abilities and the boundaries of metal, over a two-day period? Now in its twelfth year, ProgPower takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the Center Stage venue. Run by Glenn Harveston, who is first and foremost a fan, the festival spans the days of Friday and Saturday, September 16th and 17th, but officially kicked off on Thursday. The Swedish band Evergrey also performed an all-acoustic show at The Loft on Wednesday.
The show lineup, as announced on ProgPowerUSA.com, is as follows:
Thursday - Powerglove, Vanden Plas, Evergrey
Friday - Creation's End, Darkwater, Voyager, Eldritch, Mob Rules, Ihsahn, Sanctuary
Saturday - Haken, While Heaven Wept, Red Circuit, Labyrinth, Forbidden, Therion
On Thursday morning, I had packed and left Nashville, TN, driving four hours to get down to Atlanta, which was further away than I thought. Upon reaching the venue, I was instantly impressed. Center Stage has air conditioning, several bar areas, a spacious interior, and seats as well as a pit area. By metal’s standards, this was the music venue equivalent of a Four Seasons hotel. I met with Swedish melodic metal kings Evergrey for a very entertaining interview before the show. Immediately after, I also met with the well-spoken and well-trained video-game metal iconoclasts, Powerglove.
During sound check, the speakers in the lobby were playing what was coming off of the sound board, which meant that guests checking in or buying tickets were treated to Evergrey and Vanden Plas warming up. The Evergrey sneak preview was definitely notable, because the band was warming up material from their album, “In Search of Truth,” which they were to play through from start to finish in their first set. This was the first time they had done such a set, and as I learned in the interview, not expected to be done again in the near future.
At about 5:45 pm, ProgPower guests with gold passes were allowed in ahead of the regulars. Shortly after, at 6 pm, Evergrey came out for a signing session in the lobby. A limited number of commemorative t-shirts were printed about Evergrey’s world-exclusive “In Search of Truth” set, and they were selling well. As everyone made their way in to the venue, there was a very serene and giddy feeling going around. Fans of progressive metal are generally seen as nerdy, and nerds like each other. When we see so many of each other in one place, we tend to get talkative and excited.
Powerglove was the first band up. They came on stage and announced, “ProgPower USA! We are here to fuck up your childhood!” They blasted into their renditions of the musical themes of Batman, Pokemon, Mortal Kombat, Mario, and Final Fantasy, dressed as characters themselves. Drummer Bassil Silver was a real highlight, with “Powerglove” banners hoisted on flags strapped to his back while beating the shit out of his drum kit. The whole experience was pretty entertaining and involved blow-up power swords and candy being tossed out into the audience.
German-based Vanden Plas was up next after a set change, which pushed the band fifteen minutes behind schedule. The crowd was hungry for this band’s ProgPower debut and showed it throughout the set. Unfamiliar as I am with the band’s discography, I can’t identify what songs were played, but it definitely made me want to investigate them. The vocalist employed a bunch of energetic stage tricks (even a karate kick at one point,) and the interplay between the band’s soloists was good. During the band’s set, filming for the ProgPower DVD was rolling, with cameras dropping in over the crowd, just above their heads. The band played until 9:30, but was cheered on for a 15-minute encore.
The high point of the night was not to come until Evergrey. Right away, the band launched into the beginning of their seminal progressive metal album, “In Search of Truth,” by opening up with the tape recorder intro to “The Masterplan.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a negative review of this album anywhere, and it certainly did the trick this night for this crowd. Coming back for a second set, the band played through noteworthy songs such as “Blinded,” “Wrong,” “Broken Wings,” “Frozen,” “A Touch of Blessing,” and “Recreation Day.” The band announced, “we will be drinking our asses off with you guys for the next couple days.”
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