ProgPower XVII Review, Atlanta, GA, September 9-10, 2016
Four years ago, Kelz and I went to Connecticut to see Arch/Matheos. It was a pretty magical and at the time I didn’t think it could be topped…
That was until ProgPower announced that Fates Warning would be playing all of Awaken the Guardian with the band lineup from that album.
I bought 3 tickets right when they went on sale last year as it was obviously going to sell out. Kelz was automatically in and Rodney claimed the other. Done and done. And I mean done! To be truthful, Fates and Refuge (aka Rage from Germany) were the only two bands on the lineup that I really wanted to see. Anneke Van Gierbergen, formerly of The Gathering, was a little added bonus.
Thursday: I flew into Atlanta that evening and Kelz was already at our hotel a couple of blocks from the venue. We decided to get a couple of drinks and I contacted my friend, Charlotte, who is also from Austin about her whereabouts and knowing that she was planning to have dinner with John Arch and his crew. She told me they had left the restaurant already but thought he may still be there. I looked for them when we walked in and didn’t see them and just went to the bar to grab a burger and some beers. After being there for a bit, all of a sudden like an apparition (yes, I went there), John popped up beside me at the bar. My favorite singer of all time standing next to us. What an awesome surprise. He and his friends were on their way out and it was awesome that he saw us and said hello for a few minutes before heading back to his hotel to rest for Friday’s show. We finished our food and drinks and went back to ours as well.
Friday: We got up and made out way down to the hotel’s worthwhile breakfast buffet. Mmmm…bacon. After breakfast and getting cleaned up we headed down to the venue, Center Stage, in the Midtown part of Atlanta. Doors opened at 1:30PM and we arrived about that time to see a few friends in line from here in Texas or from other festivals that we’ve attended. Once inside, we jumped in line for band merch to get the 30th anniversary of Awake the Guardian shirts. Done. Canada’s Ascendia was on stage and I peeked in for a second to see the inside of the venue area. I wasn’t into the band at all and to be honest not into any of the other bands that weren’t named Fates Warning or Refuge.
Fates was scheduled to do a signing at 4:30PM and the line was already forming by 3. We got in line around 3:30 and just waited it out with our stuff to get signed. I made the joke several times about all of the prog nerds in attendance, but I’m just as much of a nerd for the stuff that I love as well. So the pot calls the kettle black…with glee! Once the line got going and we get to the band, Joe DiBiase stood up and gave me a hug. I gave him a Grand Slamm box set that he didn’t have as it was a spare copy. He was stoked. We’re both Thin Lizzy fanatics. I just brought the first 3 album covers as I got all of my other stuff signed in CT at the Arch/Matheos show. A few quick words with the rest of the guys as the line behind us was long. We were originally told 3 items only and they were starting to limit it to 2 by the time we got to the band. We got lucky to get all of our stuff done as the line was pretty long. After the signing, Kelz took our stuff back to the hotel. I’ve not been feeling so great for a week or so and am thankful that he made that run a couple of times. I didn’t go in and listen to the next couple of bands either but by the time Kelz returned, we figured we should go inside, find some seats and hunker down as the room would surely be filled for Fates. Rodney showed up right at this time and we went in and got some good seats on the side. We sat through Gentle Storm’s set which was utterly boring except for the 2 Gathering songs she did. Her voice still sounds great and her band was solid but the music just didn’t do anything for me. I literally dozed off twice. Scar Symmetry was direct support for Fates and I dozed for a second during their set as well. They were heavy but….but…ugh. I can’t deal with that stuff. They have a lead singer who sings clean-style and a separate singer who does the cookie monster vocals. NO. That was a tough set to sit through, but we didn’t want to lose our spots. After their set, they showed a video announcing the lineup for next year and it was very clear that I’d not go. Angel Dust was the only interesting band named and from what I have been told, they don’t touch their first 2 albums, so I can’t really care.
Then Fates came on and the packed house went crazy. They opened the show with The Sorceress and played all of Awaken in its entirety. John looked very happy to be there and very comfortable. His interactions with the band and the crowd were great and his voice was just plain fucking awesome. The whole band was great although there were some apparently some technical difficulties with their monitors which caused a couple of slight mishaps but no train wrecks. It was great hearing that whole album live, especially Guardian, Fata Morgana and Giant’s Lore. Again, John’s voice was out of this world and I think he sounded better at this show than in CT 4 years ago. After they finished with Exodus, the stage went dark for a few minutes and they came back for a 4 song encore which included Damnation, The Apparition, Kyrie Eleison and Epitaph. Their Keep It True show had Night on Brocken in the Kyrie slot. Their setlist showed both songs but DiBiase told me after the show that it was going to be one or the other and they obviously chose Kyrie. So many emotions and great memories during their set. They could have played any of those first 3 albums all the way through and I would have felt the same.
After the show we went out to the street. The entire crowd was in awe and all you could hear was everyone praising the show and with good reason. After a few minutes out there, John comes up to me and says, “Grab your friends and come with me.” Wait. What? YES SIR! So I grab Charlotte and Steve when they were coming out and the 5 of us went backstage. I really didn’t expect that but there we were just outside of Fates’ dressing room. I saw some other friends back there as well. After a little bit of time, we were welcomed into the dressing room. It was very casual and I got to speak with DiBiase and his son for quite a while. John hung out with us for a bit. What an awesome guy. He’s just a dude like us…but not really. Mike Portnoy was back there and I said hello. He didn’t care. haha. I wish I would have had the Book with me, though, as he’s listed with Majesty. Oh well. As things were winding down back there, we got to say goodbye to the band and I got to talk to Matheos for just a minute along with Zimmerman. The conversation was pretty humorous but that story will be left in the dressing room. Afterwards we met up with Oliver from Keep It True and Kiri at Gladys Night’s Chicken and Waffles. The perfect end to an incredible night.
Saturday: Another roll through the breakfast buffet. Their bacon is on point. We were trying to decide if we wanted to head back to the venue to do the Anneke signing or go bumming around to some records stores. The record store decision won out. I found some cool stuff at Fantasyland Records and Wax N Facts Records. After returning to the hotel and getting our Rage stuff together, we grabbed some very boring pseudo-Mexican dinner then got back to the venue right before Refuge hit the stage. We grabbed our seats and waited for the band to start. It was clearly obvious how under-attended Saturday’s show was. The floor was pretty open and there were tons of available seats. Refuge hit the stage and just blasted through their set playing only material from their era as a trio, which meant I’d not get anything from my favorite album, Execution Guaranteed. They sounded great all the way around. Peavey’s vocals were solid and they were obviously having a great time on stage. I remembered about 5 or 6 of their songs and seeing the songs Don’t Fear The Winter and Refuge live were certainly highlights. It was just a fun set overall. Haken was on next and I popped in for a minute before getting line for the Refuge signing. BORING.
The Refuge signing line went pretty quickly as most of the folks in front of us were just getting either their tickets signed or the festival program. Kelz was ahead of me in line and had quite a few items and they happily signed it all. I had them sign the Book. The guitarist was slightly interested in it, the drummer was just happy to be there and Peavy was asking questions about it. Another great addition! After we finished with the signing, Haken was still playing. Ugh. Devin Townsend was up next but neither of us cared so we went down to the merch room for a bit, had a couple of beers, said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel where we ordered a pizza and drank a beer while reflecting on another incredible weekend that is also another one of our Mitchfests. Then sleep.
Sunday: What? Yes…breakfast buffet. My flight wasn’t until later in the day so we hit one more record store at noon and didn’t find anything of note. Kelz dropped me off at the train station, we said our goodbyes and I headed off to the airport on a couple of different trains filled with Atlanta Falcons fans. That was fun. At the airport I met Malik, who was also at the festival. Great dude that loves prog metal. He gave me a spare copy of Serious Black’s debut that I have yet to listen to, but I will. I love the metal connections.
As I’ve said elsewhere, this show was the tops for both of us. I can’t think of another show that could ever come close to that again. I said that after Arch-Matheos as well, but this was even more intense than that show.
I met a lot of new friends of friends and it was great catching up with some older friends that I don’t get to see very often.
Written by The Metal Files
September 13, 2016 at 8:23 am