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VGL Write Up
Posted By: Dracc <>Date: 1/25/09 7:38 a.m.

So, it is 4:00 AM as I start writing now, and I have to be at work by 8:00 AM, but I just returned from the Video Games Live show at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, and I wanted to give everyone a little write up. Firstly, AWESOME...

The show starts with some great internet inspired montage videos while the orchestra situates themselves. Most notably, the crowd loved the humorous 'Yuri the only one!' by the Leet Street Boys. The show starts with the orchestra running the gambit of classic game music while fast cut clips accompany them on the screen.

Tommy Tallarico leads the show, and does a marvelous job. This guy has energy and charisma to spare. His counterpart is Jack Wall, who helms the orchestra as the conductor. Wall is more laid back than Tallarico, but still shows a playful side in a few moments, such as leaning in as if to swallow the camera at one point, while the overhead display magnifies his head to roughly thirty feet tall. The audience is encouraged to do shout outs and applause or yell as the thought strikes them, and indeed they did.

I found myself yelling out, "Do a barrel roll!" during a minor set change. Everyone nearby cheered, then someone below replied, "I can't let you do that!" prompting my own, "But I've got a better ship!" Later, during a montage of Zelda games, there is a scene from Ocarina where the camera zooms around following Navi, to which I yelled out, "Listen!" again to a delighted cheering. This sort of thing was happening all over, and everyone was getting involved. So much for a quiet evening at the orchestra!

The musicians and vocalists for each VGL show are local groups who prepare and practice before the tour comes to them. Both played masterfully and seemed to really enjoy doing the show. Unfortunately I do not know the names of the orchestra or choral group, and google has been no help in finding out. If someone knows, please reply here with the groups' titles.

The show then progresses from game to game, too many to share everyone on here(Tallarico informs us that they have a repertoire of over 80 pieces, but perform about 25 a night, pieces being chosen in part by the audience in polls before the show) One hi-light is the first ever performance of the music from Metroid. Not sure how that one had never slipped into the show before, but it was certainly well recieved.

One very cool break from the flow was the introduction of Martin Leung, better known as the Video Game Pianist of internet fame. He performed a medley of Final Fantasy tunes, but suffered from a few missed notes. If you have seen his videos, this might shock you as he sometimes plays blindfolded and at breakneck speeds. He more than made up for it upon his return to the stage later in the night where he performed the Mario themes which gained him popularity. He did in fact don a blindfold and nailed every Mario song just as in his video. He was given a standing ovation for both of his appearances.

This Seattle show certainly feels like a special one as the show goes on. Seattle played host to the first tour stop ever(The original VGL show was debuted at the Hollywood Bowl, but Seattle was the first road stop) and yet it has been three years since then, and finally VGL has returned.

Another first of the night, happened during one of the onstage contests. The winner of the Starship Troopers 3 (Somebody PURCHASED that film?) drawing was flown to the show from Florida, and lo and behold Tallarico invites a delightfully animated grandmotherly woman to the stage to play some live action Space Invaders. She did not beat the level in the required 2 minutes, but not for lack of trying, and certainly not for lack of audience support!

Splitting Adam came down from Vancouver, B.C. to play their single, 'On My Own' from the Need for Speed: Undercover game. They had a neat back story to accompany their performance. Splitting Adam is comprised of EA employees who formed a band, and submitted their demo to EA for the game, all without announcing their identities. In the end EA chose their track for the game, only then realizing who the members of group actually were. [Edit, 11 Feb 09: only one member of Splitting Adam actually works at EA - the rest have regular day jobs elsewhere. Added at the request of a band member -lwu]

Seattle, as you know is also home to everyone's favorite game studio, Bungie. And Bungie has a bit of a reputation for creating spectacular music, thanks largely to Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. Both were on hand this evening.

As a side note, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the faces of your favorite game devs and composers! I saw Marty casually strolling through the crowd being mostly ignored, so I hollered out his name rather compulsively. I might have startled him because he looked about with 'who-is-calling-my-name?' written all over his face, before he saw me waving to him. I'm not sure if anyone else around me had any idea why I did that, but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

Anyway, back to Bungie news... That Halo 3: ODST debut that had popped up all over the net turned out to be slightly disappointing. I think allot of people were expecting an peek an unheard track, or something to that effect. In actuality, it was the LIVE debut of the music from the ODST trailer. Not what I was expecting, but Halo music live is always a treat, so no complaints here. The hi-light for this event? O'Donnell and Salvatori reprising their vocals from the Halo:CE theme. Indeed, the two composers sang a duet of monophonic chant and invited the audience to sing along.

But that was not the end of the halo festivities. The orchestra went on to play the main theme from each halo game released to date. Tallarico joined in on electric guitar, and really got into it. He opted not to play the solo from the Halo 2 theme(Anyone with Guitar Hero will understand why) and instead provided the rhythm part. This gave Halo the longest running performance, and was certainly on of the most exciting and epic pieces of the night, rivaling the Metal Gear Solid theme best overall piece.

The encore started with 'One Wing Angel' of the, up until then, notably absent Final Fantasy 7. Then on to Castlevania where Leung provided the organ parts, and Tallarico again wailed on his guitar.

For me, the best part of the evening was the after show meet and greet. There was a whole slew of Bungie Crew there. I was wearing my recent ebay purchase, a sweatshirt with the Mjolnir armor printed over the entire thing and a full face zip up hood for the helmet. It is a pretty rare bit of schwag which was apparently sold through the Bungie store for a very limited time, and does in fact have an official Bungie tag sewn in. I haven't been able to find any pics or references to it on the web outside of the auction where I got it. After chatting for a minute or two, they finally realized what it was that I was wearing. None of them had ever seen it before which really surprised me. What surprised me even more was when they asked if they could take my picture with the hood zipped up. Every single one of them pulled out a phone or camera and proceeded to snap a quick pic. It felt a little weird that the gaming Gods of Bungie wanted to take a picture of me, instead of the other way around. Someone asked if the pic could go on the site, which I immediately agreed to, not even being sure if they were serious or not. We'll see if it ends up on the Bungie Blog. me and my friends presented our XBOX 360 faceplates to be signed which also surprised them(I sort of figured that was a pretty common item to bring to a signing) and everyone agreed that it was better than bringing the whole box. They were a great group of guys, and we had a excellent chat about all sorts of cool stuff, though in the end I couldn't coax any ODST tidbits from them... cest la vie.

Further down the table were the Bungie musicians O'Donnell and Salvatori. For them I had a special request, which the other Bungie crew agreed was pretty epic. I requested that Marty write out the opening bars of the iconic monk chant. He immediately started penning the staff on my XBOX 360(The faceplate is too small, and was already crowded with signatures) which I had in fact also brought and lugged around all night in my Mirror's Edge messenger bag, when he stopped and said, "Oh... we could get in trouble for this... meh." (Slight paraphrasing) He and Salvatori hummed the line to themselves and marked out an abbreviated version without a time signature or bar lines. It was perfect. Exactly what I wanted, and no disclosure issues for them to fret over. They both signed below the notation and I asked my one question of two composers, which Joystiq told me I needed to put some thought into.

I asked if there was ever a great piece that they really loved, but which never made it into the game due to cuts in content. This happens all the time in film, so I expected that the same would be true here as well. They both agreed that such things happen all the time, and even mentioned that they should get together and release some snippets, possibly on the website. Here's hoping they do!

Then I came to Gabe Newell who went to work signing my faceplate. He seemed sort of bored. I mentioned the huge article in GameInformer that came out a few issues back, I said how excited I was that Steam was working so well at delivering contact, dropped a bit about how I wished I had brought my Orange Box to have signed... nothing. Maybe he wasn't feeling well, or maybe the 8 Bungie Staffers were stealing all his thunder.

At the end of the table was Martin Leung, who is your typical shy musician type. But he is the typical shy musician type who is also internet famous and touring with VGL. I told him that I had never met an internet star before, and he offered to shake my hand, and penned his own signature on my faceplate in very neat handwriting. Very pleasant fellow indeed.

Finally I got to Tallarico, who I had honestly known nothing about before the show, but who I definitely had grown to like by the end. We talked about the panel, my sweatshirt, and the show. I told him that I loved his energy and the entire VGL project. He too was another stand up guy who was really enjoying the meet and greet.

It seemed that Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade missed the meet and greet, so with that, me and my small entourage politely exited the line and headed home, very satisfied with the evening, signed XBOXes and faceplates in hand, and a whole evening full of great stories and memories.

I want to thank all the VGL crew, especially Tallarico and Wall for starting the whole thing, and the Bungie Crew coming out and making us local gamers happy and having a good time while doing it too. Oh, and for granting our special requests!

Message Index


VGL Write UpDracc 1/25/09 7:38 a.m.
     Re: VGL Write UpRelativiox 1/25/09 5:59 p.m.
           Dang, nice seats!Louis Wu 1/25/09 8:12 p.m.
           Re: VGL Write UpRoss Mills 1/26/09 1:48 a.m.
     Re: VGL Write UpDeepblue 1/25/09 10:23 p.m.
           you're firstMarty the Elder 1/25/09 11:31 p.m.
                 Re: you're firstCocopjojo 1/25/09 11:50 p.m.
                       x2Spartan Jag 1/26/09 6:51 a.m.

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