September 9th, 2013


ProgPower USA: Mindcrime & In The Silence (Wednesday & part of Thursday)

ProgPower USA is a music festival held in Atlanta for progressive heavy metal. If you're wondering "what's progressive heavy metal?" I'm afraid I still don't know. Alinsa and I were emailing each other about music back in March and she mentioned ProgPower, then spent a couple thousand words talking about how amazing it was. At the end, she asked "Say, do you want to go?"

"... well, now I do."

So we made plans to go together this year. I intend to do a trip report. We'll see how much of it I get through!

I am not much for reviewing music -- I don't even have language in which to express what I like or don't like about a group -- so this is going to be more about my experience than about the show itself.

We arrived on Wednesday: there's sort of a pre-pre-show on Wednesday night, and a pre-show on Thursday, before the festival itself on Friday and Saturday.

The Wednesday night preshow featured Mörglbl, an instrumental-only group that was fun to watch, very expressive faces and an entertaining style, and a Queensrÿche tribute band, Mindcrime. They performed two albums in full, "Rage for Order" and "Operation: Mindcrime". I didn't think I knew "Rage for Order" that well, but I recognized every song and could sing at least the chorus on most. Alinsa and I stood directly before the stage and I shouted-sang nearly every line of "Operation: Mindcrime" along with the band. It was a good show with a small but enthusiastic audience. The singer emulated Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche's lead singer until last year) startlingly well, including the quirks of Tate's voice and style. I have seen "Operation: Mindcrime" performed live by Queensrÿche themselves -- the only concert I'd been to in the last 15 years -- and this was, well, granted not up to that show. But it was excellent. If you like Queensrÿche and live music, Mindcrime is well worth seeing.

Thursday night was In the Silence, Circle II Circle, and Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. (There is some kind of odd history with Rhapsody and Luca Turilli that I don't really know. I think maybe the current group doesn't have rights to the Rhapsody name. Turilli was the guitarist and not the lead singer, but has a large following and a lot of recognition as a solo act. Mostly in Europe. A lot of the ProgPower groups are well-known in Europe but have little following in the US. For the sake of brevity, I am just calling the group Rhapsody from here on.)

The Thursday preshow started around 6PM, but we had VIP passes and so arrived at 4PM to collect those, see the sound check, and get dinner backstage. Nathan, the preshow organizer, had sent instructions to meet "by the doors", so we waited outside the entrance. We met two other VIP holders there, Cindy and Sean, and chatted for a while on the steps about music and where we were from and the show. At 4:10, Sean went inside to hunt down Nathan, since Sean actually knew Nathan already. He came out again saying 'Security said he'd bring him out to me'. Another few minutes later, we all went in to see what was going on. It turned out we were supposed to get our passes at Will Call and meet Nathan by the doors directly outside the concert hall. Oops.

So we missed most of Nathan's VIP spiel, but he summed it up for us. Pretty straightforward: everyone in VIP was allowed before the barrier for the full set of every band, no photos from before the barrier after the 3rd song, and let the pro photographers do their thing and move around as needed. We sat through sound check for Circle II Circle, then filed backstage for dinner.

Dinner was in a small room backstage ("backstage" at this theatre was mostly "underneath the concert hall") with cafeteria-style tables. As we were seated at a round table, a handsome young man in a brown jacket asked if he could take the seat beside me. "Sure."

We exchanged a few remarks: I forget why but I commented on how he looked well-dressed in jacket and a nice shirt.

Alinsa: "Hey! You made fun of my nice shirt!" Alinsa was dressed in business-casual on both Wednesday and Thursday, button-front shirts with slacks.

Me: "That's because you're not wearing a nice jacket."

Newcomer, indicating his jacket, "10 dollars at an outlet. Ten years ago."

Me: "See, it doesn't even have to be an expensive suit."

Newcomer: "Thank you, by the way. I've been traveling for three days straight so it's good to hear I don't look it."

As we were talking, I noticed he had a distinct Scandivanian accent. Which meant he was almost certainly with one of the acts. Most prog metal is imported from Scandinavia, so if you're from that part of the world you don't need to come to America just to hear it. (Later, I found a couple of Swedish women who had come for the show, so it's not unknown. Plus some band members travelled with their families).

I was saved from asking about it when he mentioned that he'd come from Finland and another woman at the table said, "You came all the way from Finland for ProgPower?"

"Yes. With my instruments."

".... oh."

He introduced himself after that as Mikko, the keyboardist for Rhapsody: he's been with them a year. They do speed metal, and he noted it was very good practice, having to play fast enough to keep up with them. He stayed and talked to us for a good half hour at least, sometimes about his work -- his travel schedule was harrowing: he'd already played two concerts in the last two days and had not really slept in three -- and sometimes about random other stuff. Security theater and Customs coming into America (I apologized a lot for both), the climate and demographics of Finland ("Do people ever say "I'm sick of the cold, I'm going to move to a warmer country?" "Hah, I think that!"). It was neat. We missed the first couple songs of In the Silence because we didn't want to leave, but In the Silence sounded so good even from backstage that I had to go in. I was a little surprised when the other people rose almost immediately after I did -- apparently I triggered the 'time to go now' group instinct.

I loved In the Silence's performance -- I'd guess they're on the fringes of what can be considered prog metal, melodic and mellow at times, but great music. I bought their CD later in the weekend and am very much looking forward to listening to it. They had one band member that they'd flown 2200 miles to play one song. He played a guitar-viola, more-or-less an electric guitar played with a bow. It sounded great: I could hear the difference between it and the other guitars played in the same song.