Ace Mark from Bigelf is currently on the road with the Progressive Nation 2009 European tour with Dream Theater, Opeth and Unexpect. He hates people who write about themselves in the third person.

I guess it is true what they say: all roads lead to Rome. Once again, the parking lot was filled the bootleg stands. After breakfast it was time for a family photo shoot with all the bands and techs on the tour. The show went really well, and the crowd was awesome even by Italian standards. Seems like Italians don't believe in air conditioning though, again there was absolutely no air on stage. Anyway, a killer show and a great bus party with Opeth and Unexpect afterwards.

Bologna, Italy
After a great day off hanging out in bars and restaurants -- and way too many JD's and Absinthe shots in Bologna with Unexpect -- it was back to work again. The crowd was really rocking, there's something about those Italians. They were singing, chanting and putting up lighters and cell phones on 'Money It's Pure Evil.' Being on Progressive Nation really doesn't suck too much.

Conegliano, Italy
Before we had even arrived the bootleggers were putting up their stands right outside of the arena. And you don't want to mess with those guys. I heard that a while ago some band tried to stop them from selling fake merch, so they burned down their bus. The show was good, we played 'Bats in the Belfry I' after a long time, and people loved it. The signing session after the show was almost too much, people were literally pulling us by the arms in every direction, we just didn't seem to get out of there when Dream Theater was already starting their set. After the show, it was back to the buses with the usual suspects. Mikael and Portnoy were leading a music quiz and Pete whipped out his Firebird mandolin and the Fender mini-amp and started wailing. All in all our Italian experience was absolutely amazing, one of the best crowds in the world for sure. Viva Italia!

Ljubljana, Slovenia
It was Halloween, so a lot of people from the crew dressed up and were acting even wackier than usual. It was also the last show on the tour, so everybody was scheming their pranks for other bands. All the people on the bands and crew were looking really suspicious, trying to figure out one way or the other what the other guys had in store for them. Tivoli had the worst dressing room showers on the tour by far, you had to pull down a rope in the ceiling to get water, which of course was cold. On top of that, the shower room smelled like s---. Total concentration camp vibe. I ended up washing my hair in the sink, Damon took his chances and showered in James Labrie's room.

The show itself was tons of fun, little pranks going on all the time. Froth was dressed up as Portnoy, his outfit was so good that I think some people actually thought he was Mike at first. Right after the somewhat spontaneous Halloween intro we got grapes thrown at us, and there was a little toy airplane flying on the top of Damon which he caught and threw to the audience. Portnoy came to duet with Damon on 'Money It's Pure Evil,' while Unexpect was talking nonsense in French and Finnish through the in-ear monitors. We played 'Counting Sheep' live for the first time ever, and in the end we all got sprayed with serpentine and all kinds of other stuff. All good fun, but now it was time for a revenge.

Mikael from Opeth got his water replaced by a banana and Unexpect kept throwing sugar and food at them. We put a Swedish radio DJ in their in-ears. Our sound engineer Ian was dressed up as Petrucci and made his brief but impressive debut on stage. During Dream Theater's, set the techs put the Cookie Monster on the video screen during Portnoy's grunt on 'Nightmare to Remember.' Later they had their faces hovering on the screen during another song, which got Petrucci's undivided attention. We replaced Portnoy's vocal mic with a vibrating giant dildo, the Opeth boys had a remote-controlled fart machine going in their in-ear monitors, leaving them wondering what was going on. Before they started 'Voices,' all the other bands and crew got onstage for a little disco dance. Ljubljana was a very funny show, and luckily all the bands had a good sense of humor about everything.

After the show, it was time for a little afterparty with long and bittersweet goodbyes. The European leg of Progressive Nation was totally awesome, an absolute pleasure. Everybody in the bands and the crew was so cool, I know I'll miss them a lot. But as Jordan Rudess said, "Maybe we'll meet again somewhere on the rock 'n' roll highway."

Thanks again Mike and the whole DT gang, bless you for having us on the bill in Europe as well. Unexpect and Opeth, it was great touring with with you, wish you guys all the best. Thank you for reading, Ace Mark signing out. Take care and see you next time. Rock on!

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