Simon Godfrey's Letter From America

Simon's been to Progtoberfest for Prog Magazine. Here's six things that left a lasting impression.

* Chicago is a prog town – This inaugural festival, held over two days was home to almost half of the 22 acts that performed. There is no doubt that not only does the city have a great reputation for live music, it also is one of the most vibrant progressive scenes in North America.

* Location, location, location – The festival was held at Reggies Rock Club in the south of the city, which sported two separate performance spaces, three bars, a rooftop beer garden, a record and clothing store all in one building. Even with ten hours plus of live music each day, there were still plenty of alternative activities for the festival-goers to enjoy.

  • Something for everyone – The line up for Progtoberfest was extremely eclectic. From the unbridled inventiveness of Stick Men, the jaw dropping arrangements of Thank You Scientist, the intricate prog metal of District 97, the middle eastern power of Mano, the superbly bonkers Cheer-Accident and the ambient soundscapes of Steven Wilson’s keyboardist Adam Holzman, through to the anthemic chord work of Dream The Electric Sleep, the neo-stylings of Presto Ballet and the symphonic grandeur of Big Elf and Spock’s Beard; no-one went away disappointed.
  • Highlight moment of the weekend – Drummer Jimmy Keegan’s stunning lead vocal performance on the Spock’s Beard track Carrie during their medley of the album Snow. Magical stuff.

  • Artists and fans together - Even though VIP ticket holders got to meet the bands and sign merchandise between sets, all of the artists were available to talk to at some point throughout the weekend and even sat with the audience to check out the other acts.
  • Best Spinal Tap moment of the weekend - The band Wertico, Cain & Gray actually performing a free form Jazz Odyssey in front of a festival crowd. None more prog.