Progressive Nation at Sea 2014
February 18-22

Cruising from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay & Grand Bahama Island

With live music by:
Transatlantic, PSMS (Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine, Sherinian), Jon Anderson of Yes,
Adrian Belew’s Power Trio, Devin Townsend Project, King’s X, Spock’s Beard,
The Flower Kings, Pain of Salvation, Anathema, Riverside, Periphery, Animals as Leaders,
The Safety Fire, Tony Harnell & Bumblefoot, Bigelf, Beardfish, The Dear Hunter, Haken, Jolly,
Anneke van Giersbergen, Mark Mikel, Next to None, Bad Salad, Felix Martin, Eumeria
and 17 Up-and-Coming Bands on the New Millenium Stage

They’re Calling Me... Into the Blue
A Chronicle of Rock on the High Seas
by Kris McCoy

The cruise has now ended. As I write this, I’m walking the two miles from the Port of Miami toward downtown so that I can catch a train to Fort Lauderdale for my flight home. It's a beautiful Miami morning. The walk is providing me time to reflect on the week and create a rough draft/outline of this chronicle. I expect to clean it up some on the plane. Once I get home, I’ll add some final touches, photos and videos.

I'm having a hard time finding the words to describe the experience of the last few days. Perhaps the word joyous would work best. At least that's what I think separated this festival from other concerts I've attended. Pure joy. From both fans and artists. Everyone on board knew that this was something unique and unprecedented. The bands knew it wasn’t “just another gig” or “just another meet and greet.”

As I detail my day-to-day experience, I've decided to write for myself. I'm not sure who else might read this - friends, family, other prog fans. I’ll include enough information that even a non-fan would know what I’m talking about, but I am my main audience. I want to ensure that this memory stays with me as vivid in 40 years as it is now. I'll likely include many seemingly insignificant, uninteresting details and encounters. Also, in some special moments, like the second Spock’s Beard set, I plan to include some backstory to help capture how the show made me feel. Let’s see if I’m successful.

When Mike Portnoy announced Progressive Nation at Sea in August, I knew I would do whatever it took to be on that boat, whatever the cost. The lineup was truly amazing, including bands from all sub-genres of progressive rock: 70s-style prog rock, metal, thrash, indie rock, jazz, etc. Being a Mike Portnoy production, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint. Portnoy is the hardest working man in rock music. Drumming for Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Adrenaline Mob, Flying Colors, Neal Morse, and Winery Dogs is just a fraction of his story. He’s constantly putting on huge three hour concerts and always trying to out-do himself. Luckily, my wife Kristy is also a fan of several bands in the lineup and agreed that we should go together.

The event planning company Sixthman created a Facebook group called the Progressive Nation At Sea Guild. Led by Sixthman Jennifer, the group allowed us to get to know other cruisers, speculate about performances and share our anticipation with one another. Fellow proggers helped educate me on some of the bands I wasn’t yet familiar with. By October, Kristy and I had a playlist going nonstop with new favorites Anathema, The Dear Hunter, and Riverside along with many bands I’ve been listening to for years (Transatlantic, The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Beardfish, Bigelf, Haken, etc.).

Sixthman posted the performance schedule on a day in January when the school at which I work was closed for bad weather. I spent the entire day analyzing the schedule, trying to figure out which stages to visit to catch my favorite bands. Luckily, it was arranged so that I would get to see all of my favorites, many twice. My excitement level grew exponentially. It was starting to get very real. Kristy and I are avid travellers, spending most of our summers abroad. She commented that she’d never seen me so excited for a trip. At night I would dream about being on the cruise and meeting my favorite artists. In the back of my mind, I was nervous that the floating festival might not live up to those dreams and high expectations. Turns out, those fears were completely unfounded.

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