I yawned and stretched as I awoke, happy to know I was about to make the 9-hour drive to Toronto from Boston that day. It was our 9th annual Rush Fan Convention, of which I was an organizer. I packed up my car filled with clothes, A/V equipment, games, CDs, Neil Peart Signature drumsticks, and a giant box with the return address from Harmonix. I had made this trip many times before, and I knew that around hours 5 and 6 I usually started to go insane.
As always, when I approached the border into Canada, I was stopped and asked what my intentions were in their fair country. "I'm going to a Rush Fan Convention." "A what?" "A convention for Rush Fans.. The band? From Canada?" "No, I know who Rush is.. But why would you be going to something like that?" "I volunteer there, . It’s fun? See all my friends?.. etc etc.." "Pull over." And of course, they wanted to search my car. Fine. I wasn’t worried, because as usual the only drugs on board were in the form of caffeine in my Big Gulp sized Diet Coke. But I just didn’t want them to confiscate my copies of classic Bass Player Magazines circa 1988 with Geddy Lee on the cover. They tore open all my boxes and carefully packed equipment. They saw the video projector. They saw the Rock Band game. "So wait... Are you guys like... going to play Rock Band on the big screen and stuff?" "Heck yes, we are." "Very well, you may go." Sweet. Blasting "The Spirit of Radio" I crossed into the Great White North. Two hours 'til Toronto where I would be reunited with my friends from all over the world who help put on the convention, or just come for the fun as attendees.
The con was great as usual. We had an attendance of about 80 (which in this economy we were pretty happy about.) Friday night was a big opening party on the Toronto Island, filled with food, frolic and an acoustic Rush sing-a-long. Friday night was also the set up night for the Saturday’s events. I broke open the Rock Band bundle, and promptly began the downloading of the whole Moving Pictures album DLC. I couldn't wait to show this off! The room was closed except for our other organizers, who hadn't actually ever seen the game. But once I showed them how to play and strapped on their guitars, away they went. The figured it out really quickly, and before we knew it, it was 2 am, and we had been playing for hours.
Saturday was our big day of gamehow style activities and events (trivia, name that tune, etc) and our first guest speaker, Rush's Security Director Michael Mosbach. (No, the band themselves don't come. I think they might be a little afraid of us. Which really, I can't blame them.) But boy did he have some stories!
Also mid-day was the first premier of Rock Band at RushCon. We had a bunch of people sign up to want to play so it was hard choosing which songs everyone could do. ("Limelight" seemed to be the favorite. We had to disqualify "The Camera Eye" due to the fact that it’s about 12 minutes long and we only had so much time.) The audience was mesmerized. Many hadn't ever seen the game. And it was a way for those who dreamed of being in a band to live out their fantasy. Criticism was harsh however. This was a room full of the biggest Rush fans one would ever meet. Missing a note was unacceptable.
The game looked great on the big screen and sounded awesome on our PA. We definitely got a lot of people hooked, that’s for sure. It’s amazing how a video game can open up a whole genre of music to new fans. And it’s incredible to think that youngsters are being exposed to this sort of classic rock via Xbox, and not the juke box. Everyone had a great time.
Saturday night closed with our tribute band show. The band Limelight from New York blew us away with their note for note perfection. (You would think we would be sick of hearing Rush by now, but you would be sadly mistaken.) Everyone stayed up to the wee hours of the morning partying and hanging with fellow fans.
Rush tribute band Limelight
Sunday brought a tour of Anthem Records (Rush's Indie Record label in Toronto.) Our second guest speaker, Rock Historian Martin Popoff, and then our annual charity auction.
We had a couple marquee items this year. Some signed items by the band, donated by Anthem Records, a lot of homemade artwork, and of course the awesome donation of the whole Rock Band 2 bundle from Harmonix. Complete with a guitar signed by all of the Harmonix staff. Geek Heaven!
We also had a super special donation of a personalized signed copy of Roadshow: Landscape With Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle by author and drummer Neil Peart. Competition got fierce during the bidding. Tension was thick. The Rock Band 2 bundle went for $205.00 to a lucky fan Donna R. in Florida, and the autographed Neil Peart book went for $1,500.00 to our con regular “RushGirl” Bev from Toronto. All the proceeds of our annual auction go to the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto. And this year we surpassed the $50K mark for our 9 years of donations. Pretty awesome.
I also found out that on Sunday, legendary rock documentarian Sam Dunn was going to be at RushCon to film interviews for his upcoming feature on Rush, and they wanted to interview me and a couple other "character" Rush fans. I was insanely nervous, and don't even remember what I said. It was a little over an hour of yammering about how much I loved the band, how hot and sexy I think Geddy Lee is, what the band means to me and how many shows I've seen, etc., etc. I hope I didn't sound like too much of a geek. But I guess time will tell.
Sunday night we had to say goodbye to all our beloved friends. Another RushCon came to a close. It’s always so sad to have to go back to real life after such an incredible high. It's always such a special and fun time for us. To share this sanctuary for Rush Nerds. Always my favorite weekend of the year. We are in the planning stages of RushCon 10, and I look forward to meeting new Rush fans from around the world!
Special thanks to Harmonix for the huge donation of the game and for supporting us nerds. Visit RushCon.org for more info.