I’ve been fortunate enough to attend every PAX at which Rock Band has been present. Explaining the joyful insanity that is PAX to someone who hasn’t attended is a challenge, but explaining the LUNACY that is the musical presence at this “gaming convention” is near impossible.
Every year in Seattle, I would hang casually during the day with Damian, Jon, and Kasson as they checked out our game and generally mingled on the floor with other gaming fans. They were folks with whom we’d crossed paths repeatedly, and, in Kasson’s case, a coworker of ours. Then at night, they would transform into MC Frontalot, Jonathon Coulton and the Duke from Freezepop and play in front of throngs of fans, all passionate about this musical culture that they shared.
When PAX announced that they were coming to Boston, it was immediately clear to us that Harmonix needed to put on some sort of musical event. We are LOUSY with cool bands who have been featured in games and we know from experience that fans and devs can rock together in perfect harmony. Our crew was lucky to have TheBestSteph working alongside us, as she’s been a Boston-based concert booker and promoter for many a year.
With that, our “Harmonix Showcase” idea was born. Stephanie set out to put together a bill of Harmonix Bands and smash them into our favorite club less than 2 blocks from our office: The Middle East Downstairs (arguably the coolest room in the state for live music). The bill quickly turned into a wondrous amalgam of musical stylings from the Rock Band 2 disc: First was the industrial rock of Death of the Cool, followed immediately by the amazingly unique and full-band popsplosion that is That Handsome Devil. The Konks and Anarchy Club decimated the stage with brutal proto-punk and thunderous hard rock, respectively, and the night was capped off by my band, The Main Drag’s, indie-dance fun. It was, in short, a crazy weird lineup that made absolutely no sense on paper.
But in actuality, it was a perfectly “Harmonix-y” bill, possibly because of what rhythm titles have come to mean to gamers who love music. The playlist on any of our discs ranges across all genres and styles. Playing along brings you so close to the music that you may not notice that you’re enjoying Bikini Kill alongside Steely Dan, all in the same setlist. Fans of our games become fans of the music and can enjoy shoegazing, moshing, pogoing, headbanging and boogying all in the same breath. It’s the unique vibe of fun and interaction that can only come from Harmonix.
The night was filled with great performances but, more importantly, the evening had an amazing energy to it. Fans and bands mingled together and shared a true camaraderie, like an Endless Setlist marathon, but with a door guy and better lighting. Stories and info were exchanged over the merch table, much fun was had, and a TON of money was raised for Child’s Play Charity, a favorite of ours and Penny Arcade’s. For one night, we took 600+ gamers, 5 bands, and a rock club and turned it all into a party that uniquely celebrated exactly what Harmonix is all about: bringing people together with the shared joy that comes from making music.
Needless to say, we felt the love from the crowd and we were so proud to be able to bring a side-show like that to the PAX madness. Perhaps we’ll have to make it a recurring event in the future...
Picture credit: HMXLushLife. For more pictures from the show, visit HMXLushLife's Flickr set.