ProgPower USA XII: Day One
Friday began early in the day for the ProgPower crowd when US-based Creation’s End took the stage at around 2:40. Italian Guitarist Marco Sfogli got the crowd warmed up with some serious movement on his fretboard. Rhythm guitarist Rudy Albert and bassist Joe Black pulled on their best game faces for the early crowd. Vocalist Mike DiMeo had a nice stage presence and belted it out there. The set was a bit short, but as an opener, it had to be. Nevertheless, the band opened the day well without a hitch.
After the band wrapped its set, the reunited US band Sanctuary, featuring Warrell Dane and Jim Sheppard from Nevermore, was immediately in the lobby for a signing. Unfortunately, the band schedule and the signing schedule (both published in the very cool ProgPower program book given to attendees) did not see eye to eye. The bands reached a half-hour to forty-five minutes behind schedule throughout the day, so the signing sessions often took place during a band’s set. This made for tough decisions like: “Do I stay through the end of Voyager’s set or do I go get Ihsahn’s autograph?”
Darkwater had taken the stage shortly after. The Swedish group was well-received and performed their variety of progressive melodic metal to a crowd that obviously appreciated, judging by their reaction to Evergrey the night before. The band had an aesthetic that begged to be watched closely as the purple lights fell on them for certain songs. Just after, I met with Red Circuit’s keyboardist, Marcus Teske, for an interview in the adjacent club, Vinyl. For the ProgPower show, Vinyl was converted into a merchandise room with everything a progressive fan could want. I was to go broke a few hours later because of this.
Australia’s Voyager, a crowd favorite, took the stage at around 5:20. There were some seriously infectious grooves in this set. Unfortunately, I had to head out halfway through their set due to a previously scheduled interview time. Nevertheless, the guys of Creation’s End were cool and revealed that their next album was already written and was just awaiting the recording process. In the dressing room beneath the stage, we could hear Voyager blaze through a cover song montage that included AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine, and Van Halen while we laughed at how awesome and legit it sounded.
Eldritch, from Italy, took the stage next and gave the crowd a heaping helping of their “El Nino” album, as well as several songs from other albums. If any of the bands on this ProgPower bill was a miss, the crowd didn’t show it. Eldritch loved the response and gave a shred-filled performance.
Germany’s Mob Rules was up next, and vocalist Klaus Dirks was to be the most exciting performer of the night. He had the crowd on the back of his thumb the entire time, riling them up and flying around the stage like Bruce Dickinson. The band had all of the pit and much of the seated audience giving them a standing ovation at the end. In their 17 years as a band, they don’t seem to have lost a single bit of energy.
After the set, I had gone out to a local Mexican restaurant to get some dinner and ended up running into Ty, the drummer for US-based band Artizan, who noted that the band is working on a US tour. The day before, I had run into UK band Haken, who was on the prowl looking for a place to get some steak for dinner. They ended up going with Mexican food and drinking down at Tap, a UK-style gastropub. By this time, all the bands were mingling with the fans and drinking up.
Coming back to Center Stage, the crowd had sensed it was time for Norway’s Ihsahn to make his North American debut for his solo project. Fans piled in and crowded the pit area as sound check went on longer than normal. The curtain was lifted and the black-clad former Emperor mainman was revealed with his backing band, Leprous. The crowd roared and “The Barren Lands” opened the setlist. Over the next hour or so, we were treated to “A Grave Inversed,” “Scarab,” “Misanthrope,” “Unhealer,” “Emancipation,” “Invocation,” “Called by the Fire,” and “Citizen.” As a bonus, the band threw two Emperor songs into the set – “Tongue of Fire” and “Thus Spake the Nightspirit.”
During the set, the crowd was chanting, “Holy shit! Holy shit!” Obviously, it went well. Leprous performed extremely well, considering that Ihsahn’s music is not easy by any stretch of the word. This was the only band of the evening to feature blast beats in a progressive framework. Sanctuary was up next, and it was going to be a long night. The band didn’t take the stage until after midnight. The band blazed through red-hot tracks from their three albums as vocalist Warrell Dane pushed his voice up in his falsetto range. Warrell noted several times that “this shit’s not easy to sing!” The band ripped guitar solo after guitar solo. Several stupid fans were hustling them to play Nevermore songs, to which Warrell responded “Oh, shut up.”
Neck muscles sufficiently sore from headbanging, the crowd was treated to rest time and a video preview of the bands for next year’s ProgPower USA XIII. The headliners were revealed to be Symphony X and Epica, with the following bands in tow: Redemption, Primordial, Serenity, Solution .45, Kingcrow, Sinbreed, Pretty Maids, Mayan (with special guests), Mystic Prophecy, Amaranthe, Lanfear, and Above Symmetry.
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