ProgPower USA XVIII Day Two Musings (9/7/2017)

Contributor Steven Stolper was on point enjoying the findings at the annual ProgPower USA Festival that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the Center Stage Atlanta theater. Historically speaking, PiercingMetal has NEVER been to the event but we’ve occasionally had interest in going based on the lineup for the year. I asked for a quick briefing of the acts that he saw and here are his transmissions to the High Command from the field about Day Two.

ProgPowerUSA XVIII Day 2: Sadly, I was a tad bit hungover from the previous day’s festivities which would cause me to miss the first band of the day – Next to None. This is the band that features the son of Mike Portnoy on drums so perhaps another time. That said, there was still plenty more music to see and hear over the course of the day so onward we march.

Twilight Force (Sweden):
This was the perfect way to start the night. Light happy fairy tale themed power metal with tales of dungeons, dragons, elves, and other creatures set to galloping Helloween style tunes. Hands were held high and choruses repeated. (Plastic) swords were unsheathed and brandished. Smiles all around. Band performed a very competent set of jolly songs, slaying the dragons of self-doubt and banishing negative emotions to distant realms, and all was right in the world.

Vanden Plas (Germany):
Back to the prog portion of the event. This veteran German band plays very smooth Dream Theater style melodic prog metal. Great dramatic singing. I seem to recall the singer also does musical theater productions back in Germany. Sounds about right. Songs are not super technical though there is a good amount of keyboards. Fans of recent Fates Warning albums would definitely appreciate Vanden Plas. This is an exclusive US appearance for Vanden Plas . I believe the only other time they performed here was at an earlier ProgPower some years ago. This is what this festival is truly about – bringing over groups who would otherwise remain unseen by the North American audiences.

Between The Buried and Me (USA):
One of the more mainstream bookings for the fest, Between the buried and Me has no problem filling venues of this size on their own. I am guessing this date fit their tour schedule. Not being very familiar with BATBM discography I wasnt sure what to expect. It turned out to be an interesting, though somewhat challenging listen. The band is definitely progressive in the true sense of the word. Heavy technical riffs and aggressive singing interspersed with beautiful clean vocal passages. There were some great keyboard parts as well, courtesy of the singer doing double duty. I am kind of conflicted the band’s sound. It didn’t always feel like a very natural mesh. I generally do prefer clean vocals though. The crowd was surprisingly receptive though, considering how many old timer proggers there were. There was even a mosh pit, a rather rare occurrence at this generally genteel gathering. I’ve been told the band’s latest album has more clean vox, so probably a good starting point for the classic prog fan like me.

Metal Church (USA):
Founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof surely has a reason to be smiling. Ever since reuniting with former singer Mike Howe, Metal Church has been on a tear, releasing an exciting new album and reintroducing new generations of fans to old classics through relentless touring. The setlist was a delicious mix of classics and a few new ones. All were unstoppable riff monsters. It was just not possible to keep the neck from flexing In familiar fashion as soon as the music started, so heeding the call of the wild I descended from the safety of theater seats into the pit and headbanged like a man possessed along with most of the very enthusiastic crowd. Mike Howe showed impressive energy for a man of his age, stalking the stage like a hungry tiger on the prowl while belting out classics like Fake Healer and Badlands. The lead guitarist Rick van Zandt deserves a special mention for fantastic solo work. I should also add that the band has recently added drummer Stet Howland on the kit after the departure of the longtime skin basher Jeff Plate (Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Savatage). Howland is a solid addition to the lineup. All in all, a very satisfying end to a great night of music.

And so ended the first half of the ProgPower USA 2017 Festival. Before we close up, let’s have a little history lesson for those not familiar with the event. These 2 days were not originally official parts of the festival. They were more of a pre-party and are organized and booked by a different team, though working closely together with the main man, Glenn Harveston. Tickets are also sold separately. While the main event, days 3 and 4 sold out pretty quickly as they usually do, the first 2 days did not sell out this year. People were still able to buy tickets at the door. It must have been quite close to a full house though based on size of crowd. After the show, it was time for some customary early morning debauchery at the infamous hotel courtyard parties. Many of the band members were on hand to partake in the fun so it was a good time to socialize with them and fellow metalheads from around the world.

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Wow, this sure sounded like a proper Metal time. I don’t have much to add to this as far as editorial observation so I will just get more excited about the upcoming third installment from an event that I wish I was participating in myself.

Official Websites:
ProgPower USA: http://www.progpowerusa.com
Next To None: http://www.nexttonone.com
Twilight Force: http://www.officialknights.com/gatherings
Vanden Plas: http://www.officialknights.com/gatherings
Between The Buried and Me: http://www.betweentheburiedandme.com
Metal Church: http://www.metalchurchofficial.com

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