Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pre Blog: Travel Journal: The Escapist Expo

[Copied from my old Blog]
So, for today I'm going to give a review of an event we've attended: The Escapist Expo!
The details of this weekend are still fairly fresh in my mind and unlike Nerdapalooza (which I intended to review as well) I won't wait a day longer than today to transcribe the events before my mind carelessly forgets or warps them. So..
Thursday morning: I drove to Orlando to meet with the rest of the band at Moose's. Traffic was fairly horrible as usual and the typical 3 hour drive took 5 hours due to rubbernecking. The rest of the band showed up shortly after and we got in an hour and a half of last minute practicing. Fairly worthwhile because we'd added a new song to our set that I didn't think was really going to be added, and only found out when I showed up. After about an hour of packing (est. 9pm) we departed in the trusty Vandom Encounter (our tour van)... Only to find out that we forgot some fairly important gear at Konami's. We backtracked a bit and departed once again at 10pm!
Somehow, being in a 15 seater van was more comfortable than being in an RV and I fell asleep rather immediately. Woke up at about 8am or 9am at a gas station in North Carolina where the band was busy filling the water dish of a local orange cat that had become empty. I shifted to the passenger/co-pilot seat as we switched drivers, which was doing well until the engine started to overheat, forcing us to stop a mere 30 miles from the expo. We let it cool off a bit and tried again... After we hit the red a second time a mere 15 miles from the expo we stopped near an unmarked road and waited long enough for the transmission to be opened. A few of us went down the unmarked road on foot (it was completely empty) and stopped after we found a giant swastika written in a red substance (blood?) on the ground. We also heard the sound of engines revving in the distance on the road, beyond the view of the tall trees and decided it was time to head back to the van. About 20 minutes after that we were able to top off the fluids of the van and somehow coaxed it to get us the rest of the way.
We found 1 hour parking for the entire van and trailer directly across from the Expo loading dock, and were pleased to discover that the room just past the dock was where we were supposed to store our gear. The staff was immediately helpful and friendly, and carried stuff/directed traffic/got us badges. It was about noon by the time we finally got our gear unpacked and set up the merch table. Konami and the others found a very nice place that did quick repairs to our van while I manned the merch booth.
At some point (1pm?) the Expo officially opened and people started flooding the hall.
I was surprised by the sheer friendliness of the attendees... For instance: The vendor to my right was an 8-bit bead-art maker who offered to give away Space Invader characters she'd made to people who bought our CD's! There was also a passer-by who had a fantastic poster (I told him as much too) and who got me one just like it simply because he was that nice of a guy and saw that I was unable to leave the booth to do so myself. In the 5 or so hours I was selling stuff, informing new people about the music they had no clue existed I also did my fair share of giving things away to people who were down on their luck or who didn't seem like they were having a good time yet. I got a few people to smile, and a number of them got me to smile right back by being awesome. I was surprised to find myself involved in lengthy and fun conversations about Russian mythology, obscure video games, and music. At one point I was able to make my own rounds in the merchant room and met some more really awesome people! I met some insanely talented shirt creators known as P-Shinobi, I picked up some fantastic game-themed shirts (LOOK AT THEIR GATO FROM CHRONO TRIGGER) and (POKE'MON BADGE) pins from Sanshee (, I got to chat with the creators of the Dragon Age (and Game of Thrones) Pen and Paper, picked up some ultra obscure PC games, and I MET RED STORM ENTERTAINMENT... To explain: I have been on the top 1000 gamer charts for Rainbow 6: Vegas & Vegas 2 during their prime. I have also played and beaten and logged countless hours into every R6 game since the original (and still go back to play the entire series). I'm a fairly good Ghost Recon fan, and I own much of the Splinter Cell series... Well, sales and buying stuff aside we (as a band) got invited to a nice dinner by the Escapist and enjoyed getting to chat with a lot of the staff. In short: Friends were made, and even more surprisingly old friends of mine (from my home town) showed up and happen to work with the Escapist now! It was also neat to catch up with everyone and meet a lot of the faces behind the emails (despite me being completely faceblind). Shortly after the dinner we headed to catch a part of the Flash Gordon "movie on the lawn" event which was just nice. Really relaxed environment, outdoors, cool air, free popcorn, and friendly small-town environment. We checked out the Lucky Strike cigarette area, a half-sized bakery with a 3 foot door, and a place called 'Revolution', which featured really excellent Milk Shakes! I was wearing my new GATO shirt, getting complemented like mad by random people when suddenly some friendly guys paid for my drink because my shirt "rocks". Turns out, it was the Sanshee guys and we (Kit, two other band associates, and myself) spent the next half hour drinking and chatting with some of the coolest people around!
Some time after leaving, Kit and I headed back to the hotel and caught a few hours of much needed rest.
The next morning a friend and I got up at 9, set up the booth, and sold stuff for pretty much all of Saturday. We didn't even really see the sun or eat all that much, we just sold. Somewhere towards the end of the day, still meeting a flood of very pleasant individuals, I found myself asleep under the merch table after an apparent lul and took it as a cue that I needed to rest a bit before the concert. I was completely fine with this because my new friend from Korea (who is a much more talented salesman than myself) and Josh (local of the NC scene) were helping sell stuff. A bit later I barely remember some issues trying to get everything loaded/checked on the stage before the cosplay contest, watching the main events rooms transform from 2 rooms into 1 giant one, and hauling equipment a fairly short distance. Somewhere in the mix I got to chat with Gavin & his girlfriend (two absolutely upstanding individuals) for awhile about the upcoming show, the abnormally super-friendly atmosphere of this Expo, boring jobs and places we'd been, and about Cubase & writing music about video games. I perhaps forgot to mention it earlier but we (myself and the band) also got to hang out with the D&D Sluggers pretty much the entire weekend. Two really chill guys you wouldn't expect to see on a stage rocking a keytar and guitar midst chiptune bass and drums. I found them to be really enjoyable as both people and musicians.
Next we took the stage midst lots of feedback issues. I'm still not sure what specifically caused it all but I think we did a good job as a band playing a show with bad sound. Despite no longer maintaining our Russian accents I found myself slipping back into a half-accent at times. It was kind of strange referencing ourselves as Russian Vampire/Werewolf/Zombie Hunters out of character, but it's also nice being able to address people as yourself and a lot less confusing. The highlight of the evening for me was being completely surprised by the success of 'Swamp Witch'. We'd been tweaking it a lot over the last few months and the current version of the song actually worked and caught people's attention. It'd been kind of a monotonous failure at the last few shows, where I'd wished we could end the song far before we got even halfway through. Seeing that people enjoyed the song (and in that light it was really easy to see their faces) was pretty cool! Kind of like Black Hawk Down or a "no song left behind" policy. I'm glad we were able to make it work.
By the end of the show I was completely exhausted and relaxed (I use the term loosely) to Miracle of Sound, which I really enjoyed.
It was a lot of fun to watch Gavin perform, partly because he's awesome, partly because he was really having a lot of fun performing and his joy was infectious. In short, an excellent show. We (the band) got invited to a super-secret party in a super secret area within the hotel but by the time we finished packing & loading away our gear after the shindig the party was in the process of dying. Still, I took a few moments to admire the location/view as well as a half-sized bottle of VIP water (which I didn't know was a thing but tastes exclusively of victory).
The next morning I woke up a mere 6 hours later and got back to selling. More conversations, more people, and still people were being very friendly. I saw a very awesomely dressed Commander Sheppard & Tali from Mass Effect and asked to get a picture with them. Oddly enough, the moment I said that, one of the super-legit photographers from the weekend was walking by and was kind enough to take a picture of us. I think we did a sort of Charlie's Angels pose but can't remember clearly due to sleep deprivation. A few hours later I picked up some shirts from P-Shinobi, packed up, said my final goodbyes to a bunch of fantastic people, and.... Bumped into the gentleman who creates Zero Punctuation! I'd technically been near him the entire weekend, but was too nervous to really approach him and try to chat (because seriously, what do you chat about with someone you know a lot about but who knows/cares nothing of you, and is jetlagged?). He was fairly friendly and I had about as much success trying to spark a conversation in my nervous state as normally have trying to "relax" while playing video games at home... Any by that I mean it was just shy of an epic failure. (For instance, Last night I couldn't play my new PC games because they were from the DOS era and my computer couldn't run them without severely crashing every 30 seconds. So I moved on the PS3, but my PS3 had to update with some new patch and was taking forever, so I switched to Wii, which apparently just got some new firmware update that was also taking forever, so I switched to X-360 which wasn't done downloading the crap-ton of downloads required for me to finally play a full version of Mass Effect 3... Seriously people, this is why I write music so often. I literally can't do anything else. Sadly all my recording equipment is currently on the stage of TEDxSarasota, because it's being used to record our show on Wednesday). I didn't ask him to sign anything if that's what your thinking, I just didn't say anything intelligible. It was kind of like meeting They Might Be Giants... I know a LOT about them through documentaries, listening to their songs, being a podcast fan, and an avid dial-a-song user, but I've never technically spoken to them for more than 5 sentences so I come off as creepy if I try to converse with them using this knowledge.
Well, 3 sentence interaction being complete, awkward penguin being present, I left his presence and we left the Expo.
I once again fell asleep for pretty much the entire drive and despite the van breaking down two more times on the way home we were able to get back to Orlando safely.
That about sums up a fantastic weekend with 1500 stand up people.

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