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The Prog Report: USA

Roie Avin discusses whether the US could ever have an awards or a chart for progressive music?

Last week was certainly a big week for prog with the Progressive Music Awards happening on Sept 3rd.

Of course the awards were in London, where Prog Magazine is based and where the genre has been the most successful over the last many years. There was also news of a UK Progressive Rock Chart, which excited many fans. Interestingly enough, in the US, there was a lot happening in prog music last week, as well. This inspired me to take a look at what has been a pretty eventful period recently with prog in America and wonder, “could we ever get close to a US Progressive Rock Chart?”   

The music industry publication that has all the music charts in the US is Billboard. Being that is typically reports on popular and big selling artists, it was quite a surprise to see two prog artists prominently featured in it at the same time. Spock’s Beard have lived for over 20 years in relative obscurity outside of the prog world, weathering numerous lineup changes only to find they’re popularity actually hitting a peak this late in their long career. The result was a place on the Billboard Heatseeker’s Chart, a list usually reserved for newer acts, but all things considered, a noteworthy achievement nonetheless. Meanwhile, Riverside, also achieved a rare feat by appearing in a full article on Billboard’s website with an interview with the lead singer, Mariusz Duda. This appeared only days before their latest album came out.

Last weekend also marked the return of a few festivals. One was the much talked about Morsefest 2015. Hundreds of prog fans from all over the world flew to Nashville, Tennessee to spend a weekend with Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy for a full weekend of concerts and time with band. In North Carolina, on the same weekend, was a smaller outdoor festival called Prog Day. While it did not feature any of the mainstream acts, it did have 10 bands from all over the world, including Chile, France, US and Belgium.

While all of this was going in the first week of September, another event is getting ready to occur in just a couple of months. The Cruise to the Edge, the trip featuring Yes, with about 30 other prog bands joining them, is set to sail out of Miami, Nov 15th-19th. Now in its 3rd year, the cruise features not only classic groups like Yes, Marillion, and Saga but also more modern acts like Neal Morse, Haken, Anathema and Spock’s Beard.   

This bookends a banner year for prog which began with a few major releases that also charted very highly on the US Billboard Top 200, a place usually bereft of Prog acts. Steven Wilson, one of the leading names in the genre released his 4th solo album, Hand.Cannot.Erase, which debuted at #39. Prog metal group Periphery released two albums, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut:Omega, on the same day and they debuted at #15 & #16, while instrumental proggers, Animals as Leaders, debuted at #23 with their album The Joy of Motion.

Slowly but surely, it seems that prog is making its way back into the consciousness of the American music fan. Maybe that US Prog Music Chart isn’t that crazy.

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