Despite treacherous weather, PAX East 2017 went off without much issue this past weekend in Boston, MA. The expo show featured the usual accoutrements; a huge expo floor for showing games, a console and gaming room, several panels featuring a wide variety of topics on video games and gaming in general, and of course the all-day JAMspace and late-night concerts. There was a wide assortment of acts playing this year, from rock to metal to classical and jazz fusion, and thus PAX-goers had pick of the litter in terms of their musical entertainment.
First up, the MAGFest JAMspace. All day Friday and Saturday, an ongoing cavalcade of scheduled performances from artists across the VGM, chiptune and nerdcore circuit graced the small stage in a ongoing mini-concert during the daytime hours, supplemented by open jam slots for anybody to grab an instrument and rock out for fun. Injecting a bit of MAGFest into PAX with the help of Boston8bit and GeekBeatRadio, the JAMspace is popular for allowing additional musical acts to freely play while also giving the open opportunity to con-goers with a passing fancy to have a good time rocking out either as individuals or with others. Encore performances by Videri String Quartet, as well as Soul Soul Bros, The World is Square and more were featured and live streamed on the MAGFest Twitch channel where they are now available for viewing.
On Friday and Saturday nights were the event concerts. Three performers each night graced the stage and put on their best for PAX East. Friday night featured Videri String Quartet (Of whom we have interviewed before.), The Protomen and ended with the rock speedrunning of Bit Brigade playing fan-favorite Mega Man 2. I particularly liked it when, after he had finished the last boss of the game, runner Noah McCarthy took over on drums for some of the final music from the game. It’s small touches like that that make for unique performances.
Saturday night’s concerts began with the OneUps going through a ensemble of their wide repertoire of covers, including a brand new cover of Undertale; long-time PAX veteran nerdcore artist MC Frontalot with his group slinging beats; and the metal handbanging tracks blasted by Viking Guitar. (Disclosure: I stayed with Viking Guitar and helped with their merch booth.) All of these performances were solid representations of their respective, and wide, styles of music; though there seemed to be some audio issues plaguing both the live performances and Twitch streams that night. Despite this, I loved the diverse genres of music being represented both concerts nights as a whole so you had a little bit of everything for everyone.
One thing that I observed during my time at the PAX East concerts is the difference in the crowds as compared to events like MAGFest. Artists that would normally be bringing in hundreds of music fans moshing and grooving to the music brought in a smaller and more subdued crowd despite attendance numbers being significantly higher than something like MAGFest. It really made it clear that despite the size and scope of PAX East (and certainly, any PAX event), you’re going to get a far wider variety of nerdy tastes and it will be reflected in certain areas like the musical shows. This may be an obvious survey for other people, and it’s certainly not bad in any regards, but it was one I hadn’t considered until then and it lead to the thought that video game music might still be seen as niche within gaming culture and has a ways to go towards gaining the recognition many of us believe it should within both the industry and with gaming fans. Regardless, PAX East’s concerts were enjoyable for this nerdy game music lover and I commend them for always giving us the opportunity to celebrate our love of the craft.
You can check out all of the PAX East concerts and MAGFest Jamspace shows on the PAX Official Twitch archives.
Tags: Bit Brigade, Concerts, Events, Game Music, PAX East 2017, PAX-East, Super Soul Bros, The OneUps, Videri String Quartet, Viking Guitar