Prog Power was one of my surprise highlights of last year. It was on a whim that myself and co-Room Thirteen writer Terry took the 260 mile round trip to Cheltenham to see six bands we knew nothing about. Impressed by the set up and overall slickness of the venue and event, we vowed to return next year whatever the line-up.

When the 2007 line-up was announced we salivated at the prospect of Kamelot, Jon Oliva's Pain and Communic being on the same bill. They may not be the biggest bands in the world but they're perhaps some of the most loved within the prog and power metal fraternity. This was evident in the attendance as there was a significant increase in numbers from 2006 to 2007 which created a wonderful atmosphere for the above bands and more surprisingly Haggard.

The most attractive proposition of Prog Power is the venue itself. The Centaur building on Cheltenham Race Course is large, clean and brimming with all the modern facilities you want from a venue, such as canteen, tiered seating, bars, comfy chairs and toilets within dashing distance just in case. The organisers of Prog Power have it just about right because as soon as we were through the main doors we were greeted with a smile and a goodie bag full of CD samplers, flyers, pens, hats and t-shirts, not forgetting the excellent Prog Power Sampler which this year contains 30 tunes over 2 CDs and a DVD! And if that's not value for money I don't know what is. (Prog Power Sampler Disc 2 track 6...I wrote that one, plug plug)

With the courteous staff and merchandise wall in the foyer there's a big smile on your face before you've even stepped into the auditorium. Prog Power is a family event and the choice of venue and thought towards the customer is a reflection of that, in fact our own party of two had grown to five from last year including two young lads who are mad for power metal.

The set up was virtually the same in regard to stage and seating. The two large video screens high on the left and right of the stage played rock videos all day from Brainstorm to Sonata Arctica and kept the waiting crowds briefly entertained even if the volume was turned so low you couldn't actually hear the music. We were also given a map reference, taxi firms and a list of the stage times including the band's signing sessions which all went to the wall with Haggard's belated arrival. Unfortunately as the journalist I missed Susanne ahem I mean Haggard's signing session due to Leaves' Eyes set. (Curses!)

The new addition this year was the canteen serving food to the hungry masses, this was a welcome change to the burger van camped outside the venue charging small fortunes for a cheeseburger and chips. But like the sucker I am I relented and visited the said burger van twice, taking out several loans in the process, because that's they type of crazy thing festivals make you do.

After consolidating the aforementioned loans and adding Ocean Finance to my BT friends and family package I wandered into the metal market for the umpteenth time convinced that I hadn't scoured all of the CDs for sale. The metal market is a brilliant distraction for the music loving metal head. It was located in a subdued lit room away from the main hall, and although not very large still sold enough boots, t-shirts and compact discs to keep you looking over and over again. But these aren't any old compact discs, there are racks and racks of rarities and bands you've never even heard of.
"I don't like the growly singing and the overly operatic female vocals, what have you got?", asked the man next to me to one of the stall owners. The stall keeper proceeded to take the poor man, who was probably wishing he'd never asked, on a tour of his CD collection. If you were looking for a new band, or just something different then the metal market probably had it, you just had to spend an hour looking for it because it would definitely be there and probably marked up in Euros in which case you'd have to use the accompanying exchange rate chart to fathom its actual price.

Beyond the metal market was the best distraction of the day: The Elixir Guitar Promotion Corner was offering a guitar duel against their guitar virtuoso, and if you licked good and proper and the guitar-lick master liked the kind of licks you were licking out, then you would be added to the white board to fight it out for a brand new electric guitar. Prize or no prize this was a brilliant idea and thoroughly entertaining to watch as tentative kids tried to lock guitar horns with a professional. One after one they tried admirably but sadly falling short of actually out playing their opponent. The on-looking crowd applauded each challenger, not only as a flash of entertainment but also as a show of respect to those brave enough to pluck away with aplomb. Of course how could I not refuse? I took off my bag but was thrown by the incredibly short guitar strap, un-down-tuned strings and more importantly he told me we were playing in the key of 'A' not 'E'. How could my knowledge of one-scale, taut strings and playing under one's chin cope with such a turn of events? In truth it didn't but it was a hell of a lot of fun trying.

I would argue the guitar duelling should be a key event every year at Prog Power because it's the little ideas such as this, the CD sampler and the video screens that added that extra panache to the festival. The only downside to this year's event was the stage running times. Not helped by Haggard's late arrival, the crew never regained the time lost setting up the plethora of band members and it was past midnight when Jon Oliva's Pain finished their final note.

I'd hate for this festival to have two stages and over clutter the experience, quality over quantity should be the order of the day as well as a chance to chill out in the fresh air with a tray of chips. Prog Power 2007 offered all of this and I can only see the event gaining momentum in the years to come. As long as the bill remains strong then the people will come, and myself and cohort Terry will hope to make this year's party of five into next year's party of 10 and beyond! Thanks for a great day.