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OpEd

American Heavy Metal Tradition: ProgPower USA, and its Uncertain Future

Photo of Nightwish

Band Photo: Nightwish (?)

The ProgPower USA festival is approaching its thirteenth year, but if you were to look at the number of international bands who have made the Atlanta-based festival the site of their US debut, you would find that number even more impressive – a solid eighty-two. That number includes bands such as Nightwish, Blind Guardian, Edguy, Gamma Ray, Pagan’s Mind, Circus Maximus, Stratovarius, Riverside, and more. The US is not known for heavy metal festivals – at least not of the level that Europe is known for, with Wacken, Hellfest, and all sorts of other open-airs. In the US, ProgPower is the longest-running and most well-known of the handful of festivals we do have. Moreover, as evidenced by the title, this is a pointedly progressive- and power- metal themed festival, with performances by an average of 14-16 bands over several days.

Last year, I had the privilege of attending the festival and contributed a series of write-ups about each of the days afterwards. The experience was much like a Comic-Con or anime convention, only geared around highly amplified sound aimed at rattling my brain and rocking my soul. It was like another world altogether, given that everyone I interacted with on that three-day stretch could talk for hours on end about the juxtaposition of synthesizer and guitar solos with no reservations. It felt like a family reunion.

Although I had never met these people before, I instinctively knew them. I knew them inside and out, just as I knew each song of each band that was playing. I had also never met the bands before, but would soon be shaking hands with them and having personal conversations with them thanks to the concert’s social nature. The bands usually become one with the audience during the day unless they have to jet off to someplace soon after. For twelve years, experiences like mine have been made thousands of times over at this festival.

For the 2012 year, ProgPower USA has lined up a strong combination of major bands and up-and-comers for the days of September 14th and 15th. The festival has also sponsored concerts on the 12th and 13th at the same venue, which are devoted solely to the massively popular bands Nightwish and Kamelot. On the 14th, performances are expected from Epica, Redemption, Primordial, Serenity, Amaranthe, Kingcrow, and Sinbreed. For the 15th, Symphony X takes the reigns alongside Pretty Maids, Mayan, Mystic Prophecy, Solution .45, Lanfear, and Beyond the Bridge.

Despite the critical success of the festival in the past, festival organizer Glenn Harveston expressed doubts that there would be a 14th year in the video below. He has currently turned down band bids and sponsorships for next year due to the slow pace of ticket sales despite having one of the festival’s strongest lineups. Given the lack of other heavy metal festivals in the US, it came as a bit of a shock to festival devotees and has recently spurred many of them on to spread the word and push ticket sales.

This bastion of American heavy metal culture can be saved if tickets are snapped up. Currently, less than 300 tickets remain unpurchased, although Glenn notes that ticket sales are still “trickling in.” Links to the Ticketmaster purchase sites for the festival can be found on the official Facebook page, along with many posts that help travelers find lower-priced lodging, area businesses, and transportation for the event.

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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9 Comments on "American Heavy Metal Tradition: ProgPower USA"

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CROMCarl's avatar

Writer / Reviewer

1. CROMCarl writes:

Great job Frank. This is America's only hope for a great festival for power/progressive metal! This needs to happen every year!

# Jun 7, 2012 @ 4:23 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
xFiruath's avatar

Content Manager

2. xFiruath writes:

This is a fest I'd love to see - I especially want to catch Mayan in action! - but unfortunately not this year. Hopefully going to make that Katatonia/Devin Townsend/Paradise Lost tour though.

# Jun 7, 2012 @ 4:28 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

3. Cynic writes:

Lol Primordial cracks me up - uh black metal tour? Yep that's us. Folk metal tour? We're the perfect fit. Prog power? That's us all right!

# Jun 7, 2012 @ 4:49 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
CROMCarl's avatar

Writer / Reviewer

4. CROMCarl writes:

I second that for MaYaN....but to see Epica headline Friday, Symphony X Saturday and then the topper is catching Nightwish/Kamelot the night before. The power of my inner nerd compels me!

# Jun 7, 2012 @ 4:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. Big_bud26 writes:

Hi,A couple things depending where you are to GO to this festival is majorly expensive and also it happens during school which is most cases is more important to people and also power metal I have found always struggles to get fans but..to say its the best known festival for the US I disagree Maryland Death Fest is as well known if not better known. Also a small issue with me for this fest is sum bands would be cool in a theater setting but..most bands hell no. I wlll add last year I would have luved to attend but..was too broke n this year the lineup is meh..in my words but..I do hope it happens every year. Like I'd luv to see Paradise Lost,Blind Guardian,seen Nightwish but..plan to see them again.

# Jun 8, 2012 @ 2:32 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Senior Reviewer

Big_bud26 -- Maryland Deathfest is very well-known, but has only been going since 2003, making PPUSA longer-running. MDF is huge, though, you're right. And PPUSA can get expensive -- tied in with the bad economy, that's probably why ticket sales have been slow.

# Jun 8, 2012 @ 9:39 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. M.E. Flying V writes:

I have attended the fest 5 times now and had the pleasure to perform a special set at the Artmore Hotel last year during the festival. It is a great community (many people return every year) and I have made long lasting friends from my own NJ/NY area as well as throughout the country and world. As a case in point about the sense of community, VOYAGER performed at the last fest and is currently on a North American tour with Rhapsody of Fire. There are a ton of Facebook postings feature pictures of PPUSA attendees posing with the band. Attendees who have come out to support Voyager at their local venues during this tour.

# Jun 8, 2012 @ 12:42 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
8. M.E. Flying V writes:

BTW, excellent article Frank!

# Jun 8, 2012 @ 12:43 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
CROMCarl's avatar

Writer / Reviewer

9. CROMCarl writes:

And what a sincere pleasure it was to see Voyager on that tour with Rhapsody of Fire. Brilliant live band!

# Jun 9, 2012 @ 1:02 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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