Sunday, April 29, 2012

PAX EAST 2012



It seems like just the other day we were gathered around my Sister in-law’s kitchen table and I was setting out on what would be my maiden voyage into the world of Zombie Fluxx.  The delicious smell of bacon and turkey mixed in the air, tantalizing our nostrils as I first sweat over the ever-changing rules of the game. This was November 25th, a date that will be forever known in my family as Bacon Christmas (I’ll better explain this awesome holiday in a later entry) and it was time again to discuss our plans to travel to Boston for the gaming mega-fest known as the Penny Arcade Expo East (or PAX East). Last year I entered PAX East a mere babe lost in a sea of digital stimuli, cosplay, chiptunes, nerdcore rap and 20-sided die (read about it here).  But this year would be different… This year I was no mere N00b; I’d spent 2011 listening, gaming and absorbing all the wonderful things PAX East had to show me, and now it was time for the 2012 festivities to begin…

From left to right: Joe & Desiree PAX East N00bs

LEVEL II

Unfortunately my Sister-in-law and her fiancĂ©, the two that introduced me to the world that is PAX East, were not able to join us in this year’s festivities, but if you have to miss it they had a great reason: saving up for their upcoming wedding (Congratulations guys). So sans our guides and with two new additions to our party, it was time again to set off to the Boston Convention Center for what promised to be a fun filled weekend of digital bliss, but not quite yet. Unfortunately my player 2 was extremely busy working on leveling up in her future career as a RN (Registered Nurse) and couldn’t miss her Friday morning class, which meant we would be arriving at PAX East late. Thankfully, even though we wouldn’t be there for the opening ceremony, I didn’t have to miss out on Jordan Mechner’s keynote speech thanks to TwitchTV broadcast. So there I sat in front of my computer monitor watching the opening of PAX East unfold, anxiously awaiting Jaclyn to return from school so we could embark on our quest. I found Mechner’s speech quite interesting and entertaining and I’m now really looking forward to playing The Last Express on my iPad 2 when it’s released for the IOS later this year. While I was watching the Keynote and simultaneously Googling the games I was familiar with, our guests for the weekend arrived and shortly after that Jaclyn did, too. It was time to unplug myself from virtual PAX East and begin our journey to the real one.

First view of PAX East from the shuttle
Fast forward several hours and we were waiting outside of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers waiting for the shuttle to scoop us up and bring us to the event we had all now been patiently waiting for. The schedule of the shuttle, something that seemed to be printed in Hylian to me last year, made perfect sense this time around and they were right about to start running again. So a quick and painless bus ride later and we were there at the gates of the Boston gaming mecca and we only had one thing left to do before we explored; get our badge lanyards and swag bags. This wasn’t my first rodeo, but something about now leading a group instead of following in one gave me a little reservation about journeying into parts unknown in such a large building. For the record, I did know where I was going, I was correct in my assumption, and should’ve just went with my gut feeling, but instead I chose to doubt myself and ask for directions. That lead our party in the complete wrong direction; we ended up loosing an ox and Jaclyn suffered from cholera. Okay, maybe that was a little bit of an exaggeration, but what did end up happening was the expo hall closed while we were busy exploring and ultimately stopping for food. Huge bummer; first day at PAX East and we wouldn’t even be able to explore the Expo Hall, but honestly I did know we’d be getting in late and my main goal for Friday was to attend the Friday Night Concerts and see The Minibosses play for the first time ever. I’ve been a fan for a while now. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear their favorite video game music played on real instruments? It’s great music to listen to while I write (or blog even) because there are no lyrics. I’m one of those people who can’t write and have lyrics because then I’m listening to the lyrics instead of writing. Some of my favorite music to listen to while I write (besides The Minibosses) would be Daft PunkAirAnamanaguchiThe Advantage, and Deadmau5, so it would only be fitting that I cross one of the groups off my list (the list of bands I need to see) and blog about them as I listen to them (Anamanaguchi played PAX East 2010, but I wasn’t there). 

From left to right: Travis Desiree & Joe waiting for the show to begin
The concert lineup for Friday night was as follows: SupercommuterThe Minibosses, Metroid Metal, and The Protomen. I’d been a fan of The Minibosses for a while now, but I didn’t know much about the other bands. Thanks to my awesome future brother in-laws’ insistence that I check The Protomen out, I first went to their website and checked out a few of their cuts, then quickly downloaded their albums and was completely blown away by Act II: The Father Of Death. Their sophomore album is amazing and if you haven’t heard it yet you need to check it out; it currently gets heavy rotation in my car and I was lucky enough to see them play the whole thing live at PAX East. In fact, as excited as I was to see The Minibosses play (and I was super excited) my excitement was almost eclipsed by my desire to check out The Protomen live. We managed to get in line in front of the main theatre pretty quickly and luckily I had warned those new to PAX East that standing in line was part of the whole process so they came prepared with handheld games and new apps downloaded on their smart phones. Additionally, the PAX East volunteers were walking around handing out challenges as part of the line experience. I was handed a fist full of pipe cleaners and asked to build something. I quickly scanned the colors I was handed (lots of black, a little orange and a single red) and went to town building a black widow spider. When the volunteer came by again, I was rewarded for my effort with a PAX East 2012 arachnid pin: score!    

Travis and his spider
The concert began with Supercommuter aptly named because they write and compose all of their songs during their daily commutes and they use a moded Gameboy to make their beats. They had a fun, catchy Nerdcore sound and were a great opener, and I can see myself downloading their music in the near future. Check it out if you’re a fan of hip-hip and/or if you like videogame sounds, something I’m starting to hear on more and more mainstream tracks.

Minibosses take the stage

Then the moment that I had been waiting for… The Minibosses took the stage and they rocked it, playing some great stuff from their long list of NES covers. If I had one complaint… Okay, maybe two, it was that they didn’t play The Legend of Zelda (and no that wasn’t me yelling “Play Zelda”)which I would’ve loved because I’m chronicling my way through the game series and there was no Mega Man II. I would’ve loved to hear both these tracks, maybe even Mega Man II more because it’s how I first discovered the band and one of my all-time favorites, not to mention the last videogame that I completed and blogged about (you can read it here). But with that being said, they did play a lot of their stuff including Kid Icarus where they were attacked by Metroid Metal Eggplant Men, faster and faster versions of Excitebike (which can all be found on Brass 2) and my personal favorite: rarity DuckTales. It was great getting to see them play finally and I hope I get another chance so I can see them play Mega Man II live - it reminds me of the time I saw Pantera live and they didn’t play Cemetery Gates, but that’s a whole other story.      


Up next was Metroid Metal. They, much like The Minibosses, played covers of NES songs, but unlike the ‘bosses did it with a theme and that theme was Metroid. The boys of Metroid Metal played songs ranging from the original NES classic (now available in the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS) to the Wii release Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. It was really cool to hear these songs in their metal versions and watch the game play on the large screens as they played. My favorite track was The Tunnel from Metroid II: The Return of Samus because it was like being transported back in time. Metroid II: The Return of Samus was one of my first Gameboy games and twenty-one years ago I spent hours upon hours trying to beat it. Watching the gameplay on oversized screens while listening to Metroid Metal jam on the theme was the best kind of crazy nostalgia and made me jonze for my black-and-green-screened Gameboy. You can also get Metroid II: The Return of Samus in the eShop, but I have many miles of Zelda to beat before I sleep so that walk down memory lane will have to wait. I would highly recommend checking out Metroid Metal though if you’re a fan of Metroid or metal music, and if you’re a fan of both and haven’t heard them yet, you’re in for a treat.


The Friday Night Concerts concluded with The Protomen, a concept band that writes their music loosely based on the themes of the Mega Man NES games mixed with their own vision of a dystopian future where the human race is enslaved by their own conveniences. As I said before, just hearing a couple tracks from Act II: The Father Of Death was enough to make me run (figuratively, not literally, I was already in front of my computer) out and get the album. It’s a great example of operatic rock and each track on the album blended together beautifully, adding to the rich tapestry that is the overall concept. There are two tracks I love and would absolutely recommend if you wanted to check out The Protomen but didn’t know if you were ready to just download the whole album and that would be The Hounds and Light Up the Night. The Hounds has a great rockabilly feel with its driving guitar and use of horns and Light Up the Night is a great example of the bands ability to produce great theatrical rock. So if you want to hear a good sample of their music, those would be my recommendations, but seriously just download Act II: The Father Of Death;  you won’t regret it. I will admit, as far as the show went though I was almost alone in my love for it, not because the girls weren’t fans but because they were the last band. Their start time was late and the girls were asleep, especially my player 2 who not too long into Metroid Metal’s set was lying on the ground passed out completely. I will give her credit for a) being able to sleep so soundly at a rock concert, and b) allowing me to stay and enjoy it, so thank you, but because I’m me here’s a picture of her sleeping, cute Tron hoodie and all.

Jaclyn asleep on the floor
With the conclusion of Light Up the Night, we exited the main theater and made our way sleepily towards the awaiting buses. Yes The Protomen still had a couple of tracks left on their album, but I did get to hear my favorite ones and Jaclyn was more than patient with me; after all she did spend her morning in classes. I was really excited that the concerts were so great and my party, who had never experienced PAX East before, were equally excited and couldn’t wait to explore the legendary Expo Hall floor. It was a great night and one of the things besides the great music that had me pumped was while we waited to get into the show (and yes, as I crafted my pipe cleaner spider) I spotted a familiar face from The Legend of Zelda series that first appeared in Majora’s Mask. You guessed it, I’m talking about the infamous Tingle. Tom had fashioned a great cosplay Tingle costume and was kind enough to indulge me in letting me capture a photo with him (something that would’ve rewarded me with a heart piece in Majora’s Mask). This would be the first of my Zelda-themed pictures of the weekend and one of my favorite moments of my Friday night. So, with tired eyes and happy hearts, our first day of PAX East was complete.

From left to right Tom as Tingle and Travis
Part two coming soon…