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Game Music, Indie Music

Live From The Arcade: The PAX 2009 DVD (Review)

Live From The Arcade: The PAX 2009 DVD (Review)

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From webcomic to charity to convention, Jerry Holkins & Mike Krahulik’s Penny Arcade empire has quickly become one of the most successful properties in the videogaming world. So when the duo approached NYC filmmaking troupe 2 Player Productions (creators of the soon-to-be-released chiptune documentary, Reformat The Planet) and asked them to shoot a web series and document PA’s yearly gaming mega-event, the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, they jumped on a plane, moved to Portland and haven’t looked back.  With PAX 2010 just weeks away from arriving at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, the PAX 2009 DVD offers a fond look back at last year’s Expo, ensuring that we’re all sufficiently pumped when PAX’s euphoric typhoon of live music, games and events hits Seattle once more in September.

Read on to see how the 2 Player crew captured one of the most exciting videogaming events on Earth.

Anyone who attended the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo can attest that the event is a non-stop whirlwind of videogames, tournaments, tabletop, panels, music and pretty much anything else you’ve ever wanted in a gaming convention. So It shouldn’t be surprising that the complete PAX DVD experience is contained within a whopping six (6) discs. That’s a lot of Expo to cover. It’s wholly appropriate then, that the energetic handheld camera work and spastic editing style of 2 Player Productions was selected to capture this chaos as it occurred over the 3-day Expo. If you’re not used to seeing events captured in this way, it can be a little jarring at first, to say the least. Sometimes, it even seems a bit too energetic, most notably during the keynote speech from legendary game designer Ron Gilbert. But fortunately, the parts that pique our interests most here at OSV are the ones where this style works best: The concerts.

Hyperactive cuts and dizzying high-speed zooms are exactly the kinds of camera techniques needed to properly capture the dazzling 8-bit punk rock performances of NYC chiptune heroes Anamanaguchi. Fortunately for the 2PP crew, they’ve had plenty of practice filming the group, along with many other notable performers, during their time documenting the New York chiptune scene. Culminating their previous experimentations filming in a concert setting, the group’s discerning eye for dynamic moments and audible cues make Anamanaguchi’s performance easily one of the most electrifying segments of this massive 6-disc set.

Ever since ‘Still Alive’ compelled thousands of people to sing into their webcams, Jonathan Coulton has certainly become the sing-along standby act at PAX. JoCo’s soulful crooning provides a welcome respite in a lineup consisting mostly of high-energy acts. Many more audience shots here, giving that warm fuzzy communal vibe, kind of like you’re in a car with 20,000 other people, singing along to your favorite tunes. I imagine this is what a Ben Folds concert must feel like … minus the songs about vacuum cleaners and under-appreciated software programmers.

Photo: Tony Thayer

The first time I saw MC Frontalot live was in on a cold November evening in downtown Manhattan while playing in a band with Shael Riley. And while the idea of “nerdcore” hip-hop has always struck me as shamelessly novel (and more than a little silly), I couldn’t help but be impressed by his impeccable cadence and animated stage presence. For his PAX appearance, these qualities naturally make for one heck of a performance. Front’s tall, gangly frame springs forth, throwing out a barrage of hand gestures that add lovably awkward emphasis to his quirky lyrics about videogames, first world problems and dances named after female former British Prime Ministers.


Photo: Nate Horsfall

Of course, a PAX DVD wouldn’t be complete without Metroid Metal, the brainchild of prog metal guitarist Stemage and one of our favorite VG arrangement acts here on OSV. The lighting and camerawork are different here, with more earth tones and wide shots that are better suited to the dark, heavy mood of MM’s complex Metroid arrangements. No matter what course the music takes, the cameras seem to follow along nicely, floating in tranquility as the mood simmers in the beginning of ‘Phendrana Drifts,’ then perking up right on cue as tempsoundsolutions’ Kirby and Armcannon’s Dan Behrens let out a series of furious synchronized riffs. There’s even a guest vocal appearance by Norg of The Smash Bros! Always good to have unexpected sightings of MAGFest crew.

If you’re jonezing hardcore to return to PAX in just a few weeks (or won’t be able to make it), the PAX ’09 DVD is your a chance to self-medicate on last year’s memories in the most spectacular way possible. And even if you’ve never been to PAX before, the sheer volume of high-quality concert footage and bonus content is reason enough to take this set home. It’s obvious that the PAX team has really gone above and beyond to ensure that these discs deliver the definitive concert experience, and readers of this site and others like it are bound to appreciate both the production quality and the performances themselves.

Buy: Penny Arcade Expo 2009 DVD Set

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