Written by: Michael Stegner
Have you ever had an experience that was so unique and moving that you needed to tell people about it, but you could not find the words to do it justice? These are moments that must be felt first-hand in order to fully comprehend their impact. When you try to describe these experiences to your friends who were not there, you always come up short. There’s a word that describes this feeling of sublime indescribability. The word “schway” is a feeling of righteousness which is felt by an individual, but can’t be described with mere English language. If you do a little bit of research about Progress Fest online, and you are sure to come across the word schway several times.
Now that we’re on the subject, this year’s Progress Fest will be held at the gorgeous Highland Farm in Dublin, Virginia— the same location that has become the festival’s home over the past three years. Progress Fest has become notorious for its unique artistic community, attention to health and farming, and the DIY mindset that helped the event grow organically since its inception in 2013.
The event’s roots paint a story of not only the festival, but the people, family, and community surrounding it. Progress Fest started in the basements of Progress Street in Blacksburg, VA, a college town dominated primarily by the Virginia Tech campus. An underground DIY concert scene was growing rapidly, and after pressure from local law enforcement grew, they moved out of the basements and into the hills at Pinky’s Farm in West Virginia. It was here that the event’s 3-day festival style format was born.
“We weren’t trying to make a camping music festival happen, it was an accident,” said the festival’s creator, who goes by the name The Father of Time. ”We were seeking a place where people could peacefully observe music and bands could play without being hassled.”
After it’s first year in West Virginia, Progress Fest moved to the Highland Farm in Dublin, Virginia. Ever since then, the Highland Farm crew have been working on providing more than just a musical concert experience for their guests. They are striving to make an actual impact on the lives of the attendees as well as giving back to the venue’s land as well as the local community.
“We want to serve locally sourced food, for instance. We have locally sourced omnivorous, vegetarian, and/or vegan food options, much of which is grown right on Highland Farm,” said Father Time. “We want to recycle. We want to make sure the space is comfortable for people.”
Part of ensuring a comfortable space includes taking care of the land before, during, and especially after the event is over. Aside from building art installations and structures, ticket sales help share the costs of repairing infrastructure to ensure a good relationship between the landowners and event organizers.
Those who have been to P-Fest in the past can expect similar art, music, food, and people that have been the previous years, but The Father of Time has a few new tricks up his sleeve to keep things interesting and fresh, especially as P-Fest alumni move away from Blacksburg. “ We are building a secret tree stage in the woods for a late night DJ set”, he explained. “The stage will be decorated with a 6 foot UFO art installation that is made out of paper maschway.”
The lineup, which is carefully selected through the DIY scene in Blacksburg, covers a broad spectrum of genres. yOya, Sean Barna, Night Idea, Electrobro, Marble Berry Seeds, snowhaus, shining mirrors, Grey Watson, Humbalaya, Mettaforce Funk, Johanna Vaughan, Spark Arrester, Trebuchet, Astrologikal, Newman, and Buddhagraph Spaceship have all played DIY shows in the area.
”Aside from these bands, everyone else on the lineup is a friend of a friend, or a respected returning musician,” explained Father Time. “I want to foster a sense of community in my shows. I want to bring good people together. I want my friends to be my friend’s friends. Hundreds of bands applied to play this year and it has been difficult not over booking.
As the demand for more music festivals increases each year, it is difficult to determine which ones are worth your time and money, and which ones are not. The one thing that Progress Fest is sure to deliver is a unique experience unlike any other festival. It is set in a gorgeous venue in the hills of Virginia, and although it’s size can’t compare to other events, a small group of people (only 450 last year) always makes for a more intimate weekend. From the forward thinking individuals running things, to the amazing lineup of talented bands and artists, this weekend will be sure to leave you struggling to find the right words to explain your experience.
“A schway thing or person will give you goosebumps, humble your ego, teach you something you can’t repeat,” said Father Time. “This year Progress Festival will be very schway. I can’t know that for sure, but I can just suggest it.”