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Have a Cigar: Night Of The Prog Festival

Drummer turned promoter Winfried Völklein mixes business with pleasure to make his dreams come true.

“I began promoting bands because I wanted to be on stage,” says musician Winfried Völklein. “It turns out that I’m better with figures and organisation than playing the drums!”

Völklein grew up in Germany, listening to prog heavyweights Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Yes and King Crimson, and spent those early years as a promoter working with local acts before moving on to pop and rock bands. But in 2003, he was given the chance to flex his progressive muscles.

“I had the chance to take over the European management of [Genesis tribute band] The Musical Box,” he remembers. “They had played some big venues which made me think that this type of music could be profitable.”

Just two years later, he decided to take a risk and find out for certain with a special one-day prog festival at Germany’s Loreley Amphitheatre, home of the famous Rockpalast concerts. Headlining the very first Night Of The Prog was Fish – the name a play on Night Of The Proms – and it did not take Völklein long to realise that the progressive music movement was not dead but had merely been convalescing. The festival expanded to a full weekend in 2007 and has since welcomed a wealth of diverse names, from Jethro Tull to Opeth, via Tangerine Dream and Haken (who he also manages).

“It’s been a long-time dream to organise a progressive music festival,” Völklein says with enthusiasm. “We’ve had nearly all the headliners play – except Yes – and there are millions

of good young bands out there now.”

Helping him discover some of the best talent is InsideOut’s Thomas Waber, who became involved with the festival a few years ago as a result of a late-night conversation.

Next year, the event celebrates its 10th birthday and Völklein has already started plotting some special treats. “We’re hoping to create a ‘best of’ line-up, maybe with a second stage so we can present more young bands,” he reveals.“It’s early days yet. I’ve also got Sigur Rós, Elbow and Archive on my wish list so we’ll see!”

Natasha Scharf
Natasha Scharf

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.