E3 is a great place to get a sneak peek at the biggest upcoming games, meet with developers and make industry contacts. And if you’re a developer, there are few places in the world where you’re under more scrutiny, as gaming press, bloggers and rabid fans examine you under a white hot microscope of judgment. So it kind of works out in our favor that we’re a company full of performers.
A good first impression is key to a game’s success at E3. Lavish play spaces (like, say, a recreation of Abbey Road Studios), gigantic screens displaying epic trailers and booth babes are all jockeying for attention. So when it came time for HMX to plan our first day at E3 2K9 with The Beatles: Rock Band we knew we had to start the convention off with a bang.
On Monday night, after taking care of everything at our booth, HMX hosted a private party on the rooftop of the Standard Hotel in downtown LA. It seemed a fitting tribute to The Beatles to honor their last public concert on the roof of the Apple Building by having a rooftop concert of our own to kick off E3. The venue was absolutely incredible (film savvy viewers will recognize it as the setting for the finale of Crank) and we couldn’t have asked for a better stage set up. We had our stage backed right up against the edge of the rooftop and The Beatles: Rock Band sign looked great against the skyline. The HMX band of myself, HMXsean, HMXjohnd, HMXalex, and HMXkat set up our gear and fine tuned the AV settings while some of the higher ups and MTV folks took advantage of the comfy sofas and the slick bar. The whole spread was really amazing, and helped set the tone for our demos later that night.
The reaction was tremendous, and for the entire time we were on stage it didn’t feel like we were doing a demo… there was no stress, no pressure about what the gaming journalists were going to say about us afterwards… just a toe tapping good time, playing and singing up on stage with some friends while looking out at a rooftop full of smiling faces.
Guests started to pour in at 9pm and before we knew it we were shoulder to shoulder with our partners from MTV, top brass from Apple Corp and Abbey Road, other developers, members of the gaming press, various executives, and assorted VIPs. People were so excited to get their first hands on with TB:RB that we actually had to chase a full band worth of games journalists off the stage before we gave our demo. Once the crowd was settled we took the stage, cleared our throats and got ready to show off our chops. I took the bass, HMXalex hopped on the drums, and HMXjohnd played guitar and shared vocal duties with HMXkat and HMXsean.
We started off the set with "I Want To Hold Your Hand," an HMX band favorite. It’s a great way to start the show off in a historical context during the band’s earlier years and it’s a guaranteed sing along. We followed with "Get Back," once again giving a nod to the famous rooftop concert at the former Apple Building in 1969. I think the crowd was especially impressed by the fact that we had gone so far as to memorize the intro and outro banter that frames "Get Back" in TB:RB. It was those little details that really captured the crowd’s attention. Finally, we closed our set with "Here Comes the Sun" to show off the dreamscapes as well as our three part harmonies. This is the second time we’ve played this song in front of Olivia Harrison and it doesn’t get any less surreal.
The reaction was tremendous, and for the entire time we were on stage it didn’t feel like we were doing a demo… there was no stress, no pressure about what the gaming journalists were going to say about us afterwards… just a toe tapping good time, playing and singing up on stage with some friends while looking out at a rooftop full of smiling faces. As soon as we finished our set anxious fans rushed the stage to play. Having three vocalists on stage at a time certainly helped cycle through the mob a bit quicker. People exchanged oohs and ahhs over the new hardware as they scrolled through the set list trying to settle on which of the ten demo songs they wanted to play the most. Most people were able to get up on stage a few times to play a couple of songs, and people were constantly trading instruments when making new bands.
People really took to the vocal harmonies, especially after learning that they are constructive but never destructive and can only contribute positively to your score. Even novice vocalists were more comfortable singing along knowing that there were a few other singers backing them up.
We rotated band members pretty regularly, and had more than a few notable folks take the stage. The one and only HMX CEO Alex Rigopulos, who you may have seen smiling from ear to ear while drumming during the Microsoft press conference Monday morning, put in quite a bit of time on stage alternating between drums and guitar. When he wasn’t playing he was milling around encouraging others to get up and play. At one point we had an all star band made up of Alex Rigopulos, Josh Randall (Creative Director at HMX / TB:RB Project Lead), Dhani Harrison, and Paul Hicks (Engineer at Abbey Road Studios), which was certainly a sight to see. Oh, and Alex forced Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin from Superbad) to hop up on stage to play a few songs towards the end of the night. Hilarious.
No one was put off by the limited set list and we played all ten songs multiple times. People sang in groups all night, and crowded around the screens to watch the background animations. We played until the wee hours of the morning, and had to pry instruments from eager hands to pack up and head home. It was an amazing way to start the week (all of this before we even did our first demo at the Convention Center) and really set the tone for our time at E3.
Check out more of the 2009 Harmonix E3 recaps!