Backstage: PAX East 2010

Hey there Rock Band Land, Kyle, aka HMXdropslash, here again to chime in on more events goodness. This past month has been pretty crazy, starting on March 7th with The Las Vegas Bar & Nightclub Convention, continuing straight into South by Southwest Interactive and South by Southwest Music, and then continuing straight into PAX East. By now you’ve probably heard all about SXSW from the Official Harmonix Rock Band Podcast, so I’ll pick up at PAX East.

This PAX was actually a pretty crazy event on all fronts. Not only was it the first PAX East, it was also my first PAX, and it was in Harmonix’s own backyard of Boston, MA. Everyone here knew that we had to do this right and really go big. And big we went…

Hopefully you’ve seen all the videos and read the notes and recaps from the awesome (and ridiculous) stage performances, the interviews, the signings, the giveaways, the raffles, the Harmonix Dev visits, and more that we had in our Rock Band Lounge, so let’s talk a little bit about how it all came together and how it all stayed together during such a bananas show. 

For those of you that didn’t make it out to PAX East this year, our “booth” wasn’t really a booth at all. Instead we took over the bar space on the first floor of the Hynes Convention Center and transformed it into a Rock Band Lounge/Performance Venue. Having our own dedicated space off the main show floor allowed us to do normally verboten things in such a major venue. We could crank the volume to 11 for the four speaker, 700+ watt, sound system, and the two 46” LCD HD monitors, that flanked our 16’ x 12’ performance stage. We let people draw on, tag, and sticker all our walls and furniture. We left out tons of free swag out for the grabbing. For the lounge aspect we plunked down a bunch of couches, tables, chairs, beanbags, stools to provide a place to just hang out, relax, and escape the insanity of the PAX main floor for a while.

On the Rock Band front we had our usual fully-loaded Rock Band 2 kit, including the, then unreleased, Jimi Hendrix tracks. We also brought along a fully loaded Rock Band Network console to show off all the hard work the RBN authoring groups have put in. All in all we were sporting a whopping 1300+ playable Rock Band tracks for our stage. And just because we were dedicated to making the inaugural PAX East really rock, we also had a playable demo of the upcoming Green Day: Rock Band on-site for people to rock out on. 

That is a metric crap-load of music to play, but what was it all going to be played on? Well, for that we brought in 2 Full Body Wooden Fender Strats, 3 back-up Rock Band 2 Strats, an Ion Drum Rocker, a Rock Band 2 stock drum kit with a triple cymbal expansion, and 3 Shure Beta 58A mics converted from XLR to USB. It was a pretty premium affair all around and, barring a few hiccups, it all worked out pretty spectacularly. The Fender Strats were an especially big hit (I love those guitars).

The gear

After that it was all up to the PAX East attendees to really turn that set-up into something special, and did they ever. We got to see some truly amazing performances across all three days, nearly all of which you can find videos and pictures of on Flickr, Facebook, Vimeo, and the like.


The performances were really only half the attendee battle though. The audiences that gathered for the days shows, the cheering crowd, the other side of Rock Band fandom, were truly amazing. I’ve really never seen such a supportive and awesome group of spectators. Everyone was just so cool, so willing to keep the energy level high, so eager to cheer for people on stage, and so willing to support everything we had going on. Our Green Day: Rock Band demos were awesome because the fans, you guys, made them awesome. Our Child’s Play raffles were hugely successful because you guys made them successful. When RBN authoring teams took the stage to show off their work, they were met with the cheers and support deserving of that great work. Everything we put forth as Harmonix and Rock Band was made great by your involvement, skills, and support.

I may have not been able to see much of the PAX East show floor, but I kind of feel that I didn’t need to. The biggest spectacle, the most fun, and the best crowd, was always right in front of me.

The crowd at the Rock Band Lounge