This year was my first ProgPower USA so I thought I’d write review. Sorry it took a little while and it going to be a bit long. The tl;dr read version is that it’s the best festival I’ve ever attended, completely unique in the U.S., and you should totally go. Regular attendees probably will not care, but hopefully this might help someone thinking about going to make the decision. Here’s a little bit about me to give some perspective on where’s I coming from. I’m just a late-30s dude from Pennsylvania. I started with metal in my early teens and listened to mostly thrash and some death with a little bit of NWOBHM—bands like Megadeth, Slayer, Morbid Angel, and Iron Maiden. Access to music was limited and I never had a “metal mentor.” With no internet, sporadic college radio was about it. Up to about 5 years ago, I had hardly ever listened to prog metal (except some Queensrÿche) and I would not have known power metal if it bit me in the ass. I used to think keyboards had no place in metal. Yeah, I know, I was totally full of crap. Once I became self-employed, I had lots of time to listen to music during the day, as I work alone so no boss or coworkers to bitch. Thanks to the internet and college radio again, my tastes broadened and got better, at least I’d like to think. My interest in opera and classical singing had also been growing so I was really ready to move into symphonic, prog, and power metal. I immediately became a fan of artists like Blind Guardian, Nightwish, After Forever, Epica, Delain, Arjen Lucassen, Eluveitie, Children of Bodom, and well you get the idea. Floor Jansen and Russell Allen quickly became two of my favorite singers. I only heard about ProgPower a few years ago and earlier this year, I decided it was time to just buy the tickets and go. So, I’m not a hardcore power metal guy with 20 years of listening experience. I don’t play in band. I go to a handful of live concerts each year and the opera at least twice. I had never been to Atlanta before and my roots are far more rural than urban. But the quality and variety of PPUSA made me an instant devotee. If you are thinking about going but have doubts, don’t worry and just go for it. I’m so glad that I did. I’m a detail-oriented person so I think (or overthink) about planning and logistics. I didn’t find it too bad to drive into Atlanta. There’s a good bit of traffic and some large highways (at least for me) but nothing terrible. Navigating around the city can be a bit challenging but a cheap GPS system made it pretty easy. I didn’t fly but the airport is world-class and the public transportation system seems very good. I might fly next year. My wife and I stayed in a bed and breakfast about 8 miles east of the venue. It was nice to be out of the city but the drive was bit longer than I expected. In the future, I will try to stay closer. Staying very close would be an advantage because it would be nice to be able to take a break in your room. Parking was really easy, convenient, and cheap. In this and every other way, the PPUSA crew is really helpful and provided detailed information and maps. I parked in the law school lot for $7.50 per day and got a spot within 50 feet inside the gate on both days. The parking garage seemed very safe. Overall, the area around the venue seemed safe. I’m not used to being out at 2 AM in large and foreign city but it was really not an issue at all. The area around the venue was really more commercial than residential so it was quite peaceful at night. I immediately noticed the culture when waiting in line to get in. Everyone I met was friendly and cool. I heard stories about there being a few asshats around but I sure didn’t meet them and I can assure you that the vast majority of other attendees are great. I don’t look “metal” in the least and I fit really well so there’s nothing to worry about there. When other attendees found out it my first visit, many of them thanked me for attending. How cool is that? When was the last time you went to a concert and someone else there thanked you for coming? Overall, things are quite laid-back. It’s a long time to just sit there and listen, so people take lots of breaks, socialize outside, attend signing sessions, leave for food, visit the huge vendor room, and the like. You really have to pace yourself. I was a little too focused the first day and I was about shot by midnight. It’s really a marathon so you just go with the flow and take as many breaks as you want. The venue was very nice. The seating and views are great. All the staff seemed polite and I didn’t witness any problems involving fans. Once again, I heard there were a few dbags but I didn’t see it and it’s certainly not common at all. Food was available and prices and quality seemed entirely fair. Now on to the heart of any music festival: the bands. I’m not going to a band-by-band review because it would be long, boring, and who cares what I think anyway—music is about personal tastes. The band members are very accessible. Early on, Mark Jansen from Epica got out of taxi right in front of me. He was in a big rush but he smiled and said hello with complete politeness and humility. Herbie from Sinbreed talked to me for a few minutes in the lobby after I told him I liked his set. He could have just said “Thanks man” and walked off but he didn’t. I had never attended a signing session before in my life but I figured now was the time. I only did one because I wanted to see as many bands as possible. There’s a tradeoff because there’s some overlap—the lines are longer than the time between sets. Some people spent more time getting stuff signed than watching bands and that’s perfectly cool but not what I wanted to do, at least not my first time. I queued up for MaYaN because I really like their album and I’m a big Epica/After Forever/Floor Jansen fan. It was great and all the members were a pleasure to meet. Isaac was super-friendly and I felt like I was chatting with an old friend. Meeting Floor was beyond cool and I was probably a bit star struck. She’s exceptionally statuesque and very pretty in person. I told Floor I was looking forward to the new ReVamp album and she took the time to tell me about the progress and what they were working on before she left for the U.S. This is the ProgPower experience that people rave about! As for the performances, I didn’t love every band but they all totally deserved to be there. The variety was great with prog and power as the focus but some melodeath, symphonic, full-on death vocals, and black/folk metal thrown in. No doubt, you will get to see bands that you would never have a chance to see in the US. You will get to sample music that you would not otherwise try. I tried to do my “homework” by at least checking out all the bands on YouTube but you can only do so much. I had hardly heard of Serenity and Solution .45 but their sets made me an instant fan. MaYaN was probably the best set I’ve ever seen but I do admit that my love of the album and meeting Floor probably biased me. Still though, the MaYaN set alone would have made the festival worth attending for me and there was so much more that was great. The sound was quite good, better than most venues I’ve been in. Given the length of listening, ear plugs are a must. Personally, I would have preferred a bit lower overall volume and higher vocal level in the mix. This year had many female vocalists, which was awesome, but it was a bit hard to clearly hear them (and some of the men too) when the band was playing at full power. But maybe it was my ears or just tiredness too. So to sum up this overly-long dissertation, my first PPUSA was great and it will not be my last. If you are undecided, if you don’t like 25-minute proggy epics, if you’re not sure about Atlanta, or the culture, or whatever, don’t worry about it and just go. Support a totally unique festival in the U.S. because if you don’t it will really be Europe or nothing. Thanks for reading.