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