by Michael Popke — It’s April, and that means it’s almost time for the curtain to rise on one of the most musically accessible progressive-rock festivals in the United States. The Rites of Spring Festival — RoSfest, for short — kicks off its seventh year April 30-May 2 with a strong lineup featuring Renaissance, Magic Pie and Pendragon, plus Ajalon, DeeExpus, Gazpacho, Days Before Tomorrow, Manning, Mystery, Unitopia and the Von Hertzen Brothers. Held in Gettysburg, Pa., the event seems to have forced the hand of organizers of the granddaddy of all prog festivals, the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARfest) in Bethlehem, Pa. That event, slated for June 18-20, includes more diversity and greater appeal than ever this year with Steve Hackett, Riverside, The Pineapple Thief and Astra.
Unfortunately, I live half-a-country away from Pennsylvania and have never attended NEARfest. I did, however, take in RoSfest 2007, when the headliners included Spock’s Beard and a Starcastle reunion. But the highlight for me had to be the California-based symphonic band Rocket Scientists, with special guest Lana Lane, in the 11:30 a.m. slot on Sunday. Back then, RoSfest was held at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pa.; it moved to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside the following year and finally to historic Gettysburg’s Majestic Theater for this year’s event.
The fact that RoSfest has transitioned to increasingly larger venues three times in the past four years is an excellent sign for the event, the industry and the music. The Three Rivers Progressive Rock Festival (3RP) in Pittsburgh will move from a two-day format to “special event” status in August with the Yes tribute band Going for the One on Aug. 13 and a four-band bill the following day headlined by Syzygy. But metal festival ProgPower USA, originally held outside of Chicago and based in Atlanta since 2001, is still going strong a decade later. This year’s lineup includes Kamelot, Hammerfall and Nocturnal Rites. I’ve been to three ProgPower USA weekends and was overwhelmed by the camaraderie among attendees — just as I was at RoSfest. It was as if we were all part of one big happy proggy family…
If you live in the areas in which these and other prog festivals are held — or have the time and financial means to travel — please consider attending one or more of them. They are well worth it, as many of the bands on the bills rarely perform in the United States. Plus, your presence will help keep alive a scene in which we all steadfastly believe.