We all left work earlyish and tried to get to LA Live as early as possible, because not-so-coincidentally this is also the week of E3. "Earlyish" turned out to be almost exactly at 5. We were hoping the event hall was open till 6 so that we could beat (some of) the crowd to the restaurants.
Plan A was Yard House, but it looked a bit ominous when we saw a shortish line going out the door. As we were approaching and waiting in the line i noticed a lot of people wearing LA Kings stuff and surmised that one of the Stanley Cup games was going on. While waiting we decided that we'd be okay with a wait of up to an hour. However when we got to the front and asked the server what the wait was for 3 she told us they weren't giving out times right now. The place was full up, and they suspected that no one was going to leave before the game ended. Oh? What time does the game end? About 7:30.
Um, yeah. It didn't take us very long to decide that that wasn't going to work. So we decided to fall back on plan B, which was to go around the corner and across the street to see what the wait was like at El Cholo. (Our tentative Plan C was to walk a couple blocks up Figueroa to Riordan's Tavern, assuming they had any vegetarian stuff that Avalyn could eat.)
However when we got to El Cholo we were happy to discover that it was half empty! Apparently we had in fact beaten the main E3 rush, and since El Cholo doesn't have TVs in most of the dining area it hadn't been taken over by LA Kings fans. Score one for us!
We got guacamole to go with the chips and i contemplated trying the chimichangas again, but decided to get the fajitas since i hadn't had them before. I also had two and a half cadillac margaritas, and was veeery tipsy by the time we were ready to go.
Apparently we hadn't been paying as close attention to the time as we should have (after all, we had three hours to kill when we first got there! Although it was already 5:30 by the time we were seated at El Cholo) and after running by the car to grab the tickets which we had forgotten, we arrived at the Nokia theatre _right_ at the start time of 8:00. The orchestra was just striking up as we were walking down toward our seats and were a couple measures into the first song as we were sitting down. So pretty much the best timing one can possibly have while technically being late :)
So to follow in kirinn's footsteps, i will make a track list with commentary. (Quite a lot of commentary in fact, since i never know when to shut-up.) However there were so many special guests at the E3 event that i definitely couldn't keep track of them all, and especially not all their names. However there's a partial(?) list of the people on the Video Games Live site: http://videogameslive.com/index.php?s=e32014
I'll try and use that to reconstruct as much as possible.
- Castlevania - A great way to start. Standard Castlevania medley with lots of rock bits. Afterward the main guy (Tommy Tallarico according to wikipedia), who's apparently both one of the founders of, and MC for, the concerts, introduced himself and a bit of the history of Video Games Live.
- Shadow of the Colossus - The MC introduced this as one of the best unappreciated games out there and said it's one of his favorites and urged everyone to try it if they haven't already. I've played the first couple hours of it and definitely ought to get back to it at some point. Pretty good music, though not anything i really recognize.
- Mega Man - This was when the first of the special guests were introduced. In this case it was the band "Critical Hit", which was founded by the composer(?) of the World of Warcraft music, Jason Hayes. The band is composed entirely of well known musicians from within the industry, but i've forgotten the names of most/all of them. The music was a medley which included most of the really popular bits from Mega Man 2. It was a little rough in spots, i'm not sure if that was because they hadn't had enough time to practice with the orchestra or if they were having technical difficulties with the sound, but even so i definitely enjoyed it.
- Bioshock - For this they had the composer, Garry Schyman, come out and conduct, and the violinist Taylor Davis playing. (I believe she was also one of the members of Critical Hit.) "Violin Tay" is apparently a much geekier (though less acrobatic) version of Lindsey Stirling. I definitely need to check her out now that i'm aware of her existence. Music-wise, Bioshock is one of the many, many games on my pile of shame, so the music just seemed very generic orchestra-y to me.
- Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved - This was one of the many "world premieres," by which i take it they mean premiere for Video Games Live. For some of the "premiere" music they specifically cited other places where it had been performed before. In this case it also seemed very much like product placement for the upcoming Harmonix game, but it definitely fits the theme, so it gets a pass. They had the composer(?) (Inon Zur) and some DJ prodigy (Cole Plante) come out to conduct and... i'm not quite sure what the DJ person did. They also had a "gamer they found" come out to play the game on stage. I've got to say that if you just picked a gamer at random, male or female, you would not be very likely to get someone as conventionally attractive and well practiced at performing on stage as she was. I'm not sure how they managed the selection process, but there were definitely some pretty strong criteria at play. (I'm also not sure if the skin-tight outfit was to make it easier for the Kinect to recognize her movements, or for *ahem* "audience appreciation", but i expect the later played at least a partial role.) But anyways, they played what i believe was the intro music, and then cut to two segments of in-game music which the gamer was playing along to. In general the game looks like a Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents type game, but with Kinect controls you trigger by waving your arms around. Apparently at intermittent points it pops up images of different instruments and you get to choose which one you want the music to emphasize for the next section. Alternately you could kind of consider it a free form Dance Central i guess. In either case it looked okay for one of those "get up and jump around in front of the camera" type games, but not worth getting a Kinect for IMHO. I did appreciate that the first in-game song clip was Radioactive, but i didn't recognize the second song.
- Final Fantasy 6 - One of the highlights of the concert for me. Jillian Aversa (aka pixietricks on OCRemix) came out to do the vocals and Andrew Aversa (aka zircon on OCRemix) came out with her to do... i'm not quite sure what. OCRemix got a shout-out as a great place to get tons of awesome (and free) video game music. But in any case, Jillian came out to do a Final Fantasy song wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet of roses, so of course all the fans of the series could tell what it was going to be immediately before they announced it would be the Aria. During the song she tossed the bouquet down into the pit where someone was quite happy to catch it :)
- There were a lot of short breaks between sets during the concert. They showed a lot of the "Game vs Game" videos (the ones i recall are Mortal Kombat vs Donkey Kong, Frogger vs GTA, Duck Hunt vs Contra) and some countdown lists of "worst video game names ever" and "worst voice acting ever." And at this particular point they stopped to introduce the people who'd contributed to the Video Games Live kickstarter (which i hadn't heard about before) at the "get to come up on stage at one of our concerts" level. The three people they introduced were a guy who runs a Child's Play like charity (http://www.getwellgamers.org/), a guy from some "VR gaming startup" (Pop Up Gaming?) (he also had some kind of mascot along with him who didn't get introduced) and the "third" person was, i believe, Tyrone Rodriguez (i think they actually skipped over his name) from Nicalis, aka the Cave Story people. So that led into....
- Cave Story - The Video Games Live world premiere for this game. This is another one of those games i own that's on my pile of shame, so i'm not actually familiar with it. However despite that the music sounded good and the game clips they were showing looked very interesting. (They announced that they were going to be showing fan-art from the game on the side screens, but i was so entranced trying to figure out the details of the game from the video on the main screen that i forgot to look at the others, which i feel kind of bad about.) It's impossible to say if a game is more or less fun to play than it looks from watching video of someone else playing it, but i'm definitely more interested in checking the game out now.
- Portal 2 - So for this they brought out Peter Hollens, who is a YouTube celebrity in his own right but who i primarily know as "that guy who did Skyrim and several other videos with Lindsey Stirling." He did his own rendition of the Portal 2 song, with his video for it playing in the background. I've played a couple hours of the Portal 2 co-op with jmpava, but almost none of the main game, so i don't really know the song that well. In fact i tried not to pay too much attention to the lyrics even though i already know some vague spoilers for the game. However it was certainly a good performance, and i really ought to get around to playing the game :)
- Civilization 4 - Another one of the high points of the concert, they had Christopher Tin come out to perform a medley of music from Civilization 4, which of course mainly consisted of his (first ever for a video game theme song) Grammy Award winning "Baba Yetu". That song always makes me break out in tears if i'm not careful, though i'm not sure why. Possibly in part because it's the awesome intro song from the best game in one of the best series out there, one that i first started playing back in my BBS days and have invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in since then. But in any case, this one was awesome.
- Skyrim - So they had Peter Hollens there, and they did a Skyrim song, but not as performed by him. Instead they brought out "Malukah", a woman from Mexico with a wonderful voice who did an acoustic version of a Skyrim song on YouTube that got her millions of hits and which she has managed to leverage into a career doing music for several different game companies. Needless to say her performance was very impressive.
- Tetris - So since this year is the 30th anniversary of Tetris they managed to get the creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, as a special guest, and he got a standing ovation. They also had Henk Rogers, who i believe was the original publisher of the game, or something along those lines. The music was the traditional Russian style music they had on the GameBoy (and i presume on many other platforms) with vocals by Jillian. The video was a montage of video segments of different versions of the game mixed with pictures of box covers from different versions of the game. So many memories of playing the game for hours and hours on the GameBoy. Very good music of course.
- Intermission - There was a 15 minute-ish intermission during which Avalyn went to get some water and i think neonelephant was playing MPQ on his phone, which was totally appropriate given the venue. However i was entranced by the video they were playing, "My Childhood in Four Minutes" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgJ0p7WtxJ0
- Kingdom Hearts - They brought out Eimear Noone, who they said is working on new Warcraft music, to conduct the Kingdom Hearts music... yeah, i don't get it either. This was a medley of Kingdom Hearts music with clips of Disney Movies and cartoons for all (or at least a lot of) the Disney characters who appeared in the first game. ie, no Tron. Boo! ;) But aside from the lack of Tron it was good.
- Banner Saga - They'd already had out Christopher Tin as the first person to win a Grammy for a video game song, so now they brought out the first person to be nominated for an entire video game soundtrack, Austin Wintory, who was nominated for Journey. However he also worked on Banner Saga, so they did a world premiere for that. And coincidentally enough, the people he recruited for that soundtrack were Peter Hollens, Malukah, and Taylor Davis, and hey! They were all here to come out and perform! What a coincidence! I actually participated in the Banner Saga kickstarter, so i think that means it's on my double-plus pile of shame =P They showed various scenes from the game during the music. Neither the music nor the art are quite in my favorite style, but they are both very good.
- Journey - Ha ha, you thought we were going to bring Austin Wintory to conduct something and not have him do Journey? Kidding! Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Journey is on my pile of shame. (Though is the game really even playable anymore without the community crossover still going on?) Not familiar with the music, but i liked it, and the scenes they showed up on the screen were of course very pretty.
- Hearthstone - They brought out Russell Brower, who i think was the third special guest responsible for Warcraft music. I wasn't taking good enough notes to figure out how that works. He wasn't conducting this song however, he was just introducing the Hearthstone composer, Peter McConnell, who also did the music for Grim Fandango. They also brought out Critical Hit again for this one. I guess while i've been playing the "F2P" game Marvel Puzzle Quest, everyone else has been playing the "F2P" game Hearthstone. So i'm not familiar with the game or music at all, and i may not have really understood what they were showing up on the screen, but the music was definitely pretty good.
- World of Warcraft - This was the premiere of a song from the upcoming "Warlords of Draenor" expansion pack. I'm pretty sure Russell Brower conducted this one, though he mentioned that Eimear Noone was working on the music with him. And someone with a pretty good voice and very good timing managed to shout out "Leerooooy Jenkins!" right into the space before the orchestra started playing. I've watched WoW over people's shoulders a bit, and seen plenty of YouTube videos featuring it of course, but i'm not really familiar with the music (not that this is music i would have heard before anyways.) It seemed like perfectly decent music to me, and i have no idea if what they were showing on the screen was significant in any way or not.
- Monkey Island - You know how we said Peter McConnell did the music for Grim Fandango before? Oh yeah! He also worked on Monkey Island. So out he came again, this time to play guitar, plus one of the people from Critical Hit. I haven't actually played this game, in fact i'm not sure if i actually own a copy or not, but the music was definitely cool.
- League of Legends - They had the lead composer from Riot games, Christian Linke, come out to talk for it, but they had the person who wrote this piece... Mike Barry i think? come out and conduct it.
- League of Legends - And then they did a second piece, for a character called "Nami". For this one they brought out Randy Kerber for piano and Amy Tatum for flute, who've both apparently performed for a number of game soundtracks.
- Halo - They saved Halo until almost the end, though as an XBox non-fan i would have been happy if they'd just left it off entirely. For this they brought out the composers Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori, who have also been jingle writers/singers. They did a medley from all three games. I recognized the vocal bit and opening guitar, though mainly from previous viewings of Video Games Live, but didn't really know anything about the rest of it.
- Final Fantasy 8 - I believe they mentioned before the FF6 song that One Winged Angel has gotten a bit overplayed by this point. Not my favorite FF song, but definitely a good one, and one that's certainly well suited for orchestral performances.
- Chrono Medley - The first encore song, a medley of both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. They brought Critical Hit out again, for the third time i believe? This was excellent of course. Most importantly, it included a bit of Frog's theme :)
- Mario Theme - Okay, not a real song, but the MC had everyone pull out the DSs and phones and hold them in the air, and then did a back and forth between him and the audience singing the first couple lines(?) of the main Mario song, before declaring "okay, that's silly."
- Still Alive - Actually before the Mario bit, they had all the special guests come back on stage for bows. Then after getting the Mario thing out of the way we did a final sing-along, with Jillian as lead vocal, supposedly with Peter and Malukah backing her, though i couldn't really hear them. I had "coincidentally" played through Portal with Avalyn on sunday, so when they started the credits video for Portal she realized it was going to be Still Alive almost as quickly as everyone else did :)
After the intermission but before starting up the music again, they did a giveaway for "Something Else Music Works", which i guess is an online video game music store/streaming site/something.
I don't remember them playing anything really significant as people were exiting, not like Tron Legacy from a couple years ago. (At least i think that was Video Games Live.)
And as mentioned at the beginning, i'm not 100% sure about the names or positions of all the special guests. I know i didn't manage to list them all, and of the ones i did list i'm pretty sure some of them had performances during songs that i'm forgetting about. (In particular i think Jillian, Malukah, and Taylor Davis may all have performed in more songs than i've noted above.)
So all and all it was a very awesome concert. It was even better than the previous E3 Video Games Live concert i went to a couple years ago. We'll have to see if they can up the stakes the next time they do it.
Cross-posted to G+