PAX DIARY DAY ONE
by Toren Atkinson.
Because of the way Budget Rent-a-Car works we had to rent the car for four days, even though we only needed it for three. As such, I got up at 5:30am on Friday morning. This was the first day of our US “tour” as far as the American Federation of Musicians defines it, which meant we all had to go through the same border crossing at the same time to get our P2 Visa work permits settled. This might not be an issue for most bands but the five of us live in three different cities. Mario and I live in Vancouver (Mario in North Vancouver to be precise), Warren and Jordan live in Abbotsford and Merrick lives on a mountain in Chilliwack. We took two vehicles for the five of us and our gear. Jordan drove Merrick and the gear and I handled the other two band members. First I drove to North Vancouver to pick up Mario then to Abbotsford for Warren, and we met with “Mobile 2” AKA Jordan’s van in the parking lot of the Home Depot on the road to the Abbotsford/Sumas border crossing.
As expected the border crossing took a few moments to process what the hell we were doing. He sent us all inside and we waited while we were ‘processed.’ Actually Officer Vargas was quite nice and I had spoken with him on the phone a few days previous so we had a modicum of a rapport. They stapled the work permits to our respective passports and we were off to Seattle.
I was telling Deanna recently that she has had the rare honour over the past couple of months of seeing me the most stressed I’ve been probably since I moved from Chilliwack to Vancouver and got shingles in 1996. Paperwork is not my strong suit and I’d been dealing with several organizations when I’d rather be in bed or drawing monsters.
Suffice to say once we all got across the border my stress levels dropped dramatically.
It rained pretty hard while we were getting lost trying to find our way to the Guide Meridian highway. I don’t like driving, and that includes the highway into Seattle and the streets of Seattle proper. But we found parking underneath the convention center and checked in. We swaggered up to the VIP registration where I was given the shoes I ordered over eBay and somewhat inappropriately had sent to PAX since the shipper wouldn’t send to Canada. They were really kickass plaid converse though, and I learned that there was some confusion as Robert Khoo has the same shoe size as me.
A large utilikilted Australian named Macca was our wrangler and he showed us around to the green room, the stage, and our booth in “Bandland.” The green room was fully stocked all weekend and I only paid for two meals over the weekend. Our booth was on the end of one side of the hall and we luckily were set up with an extra table because of it. I say luckily because I overestimated how much merchandise we’d need for the convention and we really needed that extra space. Unfortunately it took the staff about 1 1/2 hours for them to track down the location of our merch, which we had sent down ahead of time, and bring it to our booth. So I had to sit at a table with nothing but stickers and buttons on it and try to explain what exactly The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets meant.
Speaking of buttons – what a great call to print up a new set of buttons for PAX (thanks Stewie for another in a string of genius ideas). Buttons were all the rage at PAX and we sold lots.
Sales for the Friday were pretty weak, which made my stress levels rise back up, and most of the band members were off exploring which left me and Mario to break open the boxes and organize the shirts. Nicole from Green Ronin Publishing brought boxes of Spaceship Zero the Roleplaying Game – the ENnie-award winning tabletop rpg that Warren and I wrote right after we recorded Spaceship Zero: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – which actually did reasonably well over the course of the weekend. I had toyed with the idea of running a demo of the game on Sunday but as the course of the weekend drew on and I got more groggy, it became clear that my time would be more valuable in front of a few hundred people passing the booth than for four hours in front of 6 people, even if it is a super fun game.
At 5pm there was a “Musical Guests Panel” that we were, as musical guests, invited to be on. Merrick sat at the booth while the rest of us went across the street to another theater in a different building. We didn’t know what to expect, and we got exactly that. Each band had about 3 people on average and one microphone, so for most of the panel most people didn’t have anything to say. The moderator had a couple questions for the panel and then he opened it up to the audience. We were situated between Anamanaguchi and Freezepop. There were some interesting discussions on how to make money as a band and copyrights. Here’s how it ended:
There was a cock up at the hotel – they were supposed to supply us with four big beds but they gave us four ‘super singles’ which meant that someone had to sleep on the floor. Knowing that Deanna was going to be here on Saturday for a sleepover I volunteered to take the floor that night rather than do the old straw-drawing, because there was no way I was going to not have a bed on Saturday night.
As it turns out, at about 9pm that night the rest of the guys took off to the hotel but I stayed at the booth to see if any lingering sales could be made from the Wil Wheaton line runoff. Nicole showed up and we started chatting. She was waiting for Wil to finish up as they happened to be old friends and the Green Ronin crew, which is to say Chris, Nicole and Kate, had dinner plans with Wil. She asked me if I had eaten – I had not and yes of course I’d love to go to dinner with them and Mr Wheaton.
We went to something like the Brimstone Brewery or some such where of course the place was teeming with gamers. Wil had heard of the band from John “Dork Tower/Pokethulhu/Munchkin” Kovalic and other friends who apparently had been encouraging him to listen to us but he had never actually listened to us, so that was interesting to learn.
The conversation that night went from D&D 4th edition to Chris & Nicole’s adventures at a Finnish game convention (involving naked wrestling and heavy drinking) to creepy fans who invite you back to their place to meet the girlfriend. Wil was functioning on 2 hours of sleep and the staff were, shall we say, less than enthused about their choice of careers that night. Wil tried to order a vegetarian pizza and the only way the waitress could understand it was if he ordered a meat lover’s pizza, hold the meat. This was the first of two non-green room meals that weekend, and it was a night to remember. Many nerd references were thrown about and mediocre but affordable food was consumed.
After dinner Nicole, Kate and Wil headed to the concerts (Freezepop, Johnathan Coulton and the Oneups were playing that night) but Pramas and I decided to pack it in. We bartered such that I would give him a ride home in my rental car and he would let me sleep on the Green Ronin guest couch. The best part of the deal was that I also got a beautiful Freeport map out of the deal. Which is convenient because I’m running a freeport 3.75 D&D campaign.
End of Day One.