PLAY! A Video Game Symphony (Chicago, May 2006): Conclusion

As people were filing out, I couldn't get the Zelda theme out of my head. Customers again hit the souvenir vendors hard — especially when they found out they were giving out coupons for free downloads of the Oblivion soundtrack to all concert goers. A line formed near the stairs for the meet-and-greet. At about 11:30, they started announcing that the theater was closed, and everyone needed to leave. I was very near the front of the line, so I was one of the first to get to go meet the composers.

They sent people up in groups of about 10. Near the top of the stairs they had a table setup where all the composers and guests were sitting. There were several members of the media around shooting video and interviewing random concert guests. One of them had a t-shirt that said on the back, while there were some others from MTV, and some who I couldn't identify. Producer Jason Michael Paul was also up there, handing out posters, and telling everyone to have their items ready for the autograph sessions. Since there were so many people signing, they only allowed us to get one item signed, and we were unable to take pictures with them. This really bummed me out, as I'd planned to frame their signatures along with pictures of me with all the composers. But alas, it wasn't to be. I did get pictures of all the composers though.

When I arrived to the beginning of the table, percussionist Rony Barrak was first up. Apparently, he wasn't even mentioned in the program (what's up with that?!?), so I had him sign the back inside cover of my program. We were being pushed through really fast, so I didn't get much time to talk to anyone. I just thanked each of them and shook their hands. A girl in front of me was handing them all CDs saying she wanted to be a video game music composer and asking them to listen. I heard Mitsuda speak a little English with her, which surprised me. I didn't know he spoke English. The other strange thing was Masato Nakamura is pictured in the program for the Sonic the Hedgehog suite, but Yuzo Koshiro was at the concert. This confused me a bit, until he told me he wasn't pictured, but he worked on Sonic. He signed the bottom of my the Sonic page.

The rest of the table went pretty typically. Smile, autograph, picture, thanks, shake hands. Koji Kondo appears in the program twice — once for Super Mario Bros. and once for Zelda. I managed to get him to sign both pages for me. The first signature was in Japanese, but the second time, he just printed out his name in English. I thought that was pretty neat, but he probably was just saving time. It took him about 15 seconds or so to draft his Japanese signature, and he put the date after it too. Jeremy Soule was the only one who personalized his autograph, writing "Tim — All the Best!" next to his signature. He and Jason Hayes really seemed like nice guys. Jason said he was glad to listen to the girl's sample CD, which I thought was very nice of him. Most others will probably just pitch it. I thanked Jeremy for allowing us to download his Oblivion soundtrack for free. Mitsuda didn't say much to me other than "thank you," though I wasn't really expecting much else. He has a really cool signature though. The last in the group were the two Halo composers Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. They really portrayed a sense of experience with how they talked and were dressed. They were very professional, and were a fair bit older than the other American composers present.

As I exited the table, I stuck around watching for a little while. There were still members of the media around. I've been checking and lately (though I guess these two companies are linked now), because I'll likely appear in some of their broadcasts. In fact, one camera was filming Kondo and I as he signed my program. A few minutes later, I noticed someone interviewing Arnie Roth a little down the hall. I waited patiently for them to finish, and then got him to sign my program. I met him previously in Detroit last year. He's a very nice guy as well. I told him they need to bring a concert to Denver, to which he replied "we probably will."

About 15 minutes later, I was about to leave, but then I noticed a familiar orange shirt surrounded by cameras. Sure enough, Angela Aki had arrived and was being interviewed. As I mentioned early on in this write-up, I was bummed out to miss the signing with her the night before the show. Now that I had seen her perform, I really wanted to meet her. So again, I stood nearby until her interview was over, and asked for her autograph. She was super-nice, and just seemed to have a really pleasant demeanor. She was perfectly happy to take a picture with me as well, which was really cool. A nice line formed behind me when we were done. That was an extra special surprise, because she wasn't planning to join the meet-and-greet, and I think she was leaving shortly after that.

At that point, I was pretty much finished. There were still a lot of people waiting downstairs, and as I wandered around aimlessly, Jason Michael Paul came over to me. I think he was about to tell me to not linger around there, but he sensed I wanted to talk to him. I told him I was from the site and how much I loved the show. I said I'd be glad to do what I can to continue promoting it in the future. He seemed very appreciative and told me next time to let him know ahead of time and he could get me a press pass. He's just another in a large group of really nice people I'd met that evening. What a great experience!

By this time, it was about 12:10, so I decided to head out. I walked over to the Doubletree to catch an airport shuttle back to my hotel. As I was walking up, I actually saw the shuttle leaving and attempted to flag him down, but he rudely waived me off. I walked into the hotel. The first thing I heard was someone playing piano down the hall a ways. The piece sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it at first. Then it hit me, it was "Traveling Company" from the Final Fantasy X Piano Collections album. I walked down there, and there were about 15 people in there who'd obviously just attended the concert. Some of them had various Final Fantasy piano books. Before long, a group of five began putting on a mini concert right there at the hotel. There was a violinist, a pianist, a guitarist, a guy playing an instrument I've never seen before (a wind instrument with piano keys), and a girl with a cymbal. They whipped out a nice rendition of "Vamo alla Flamenco" from Final Fantasy IX, which really delighted the people in the room. They've obviously been together for a while. I stayed a few more minutes, but with a flight early the next morning, I caught a cab back to my room. This little concert put a nice little cap on the evening though.

To sum up, the whole evening was an experience I'll never forget. Everything from the opportunity to meet up with some great guys from our forums before the show, to the quasi-concert after the show at the hotel made the experience truly memorable. I didn't think there was anything that could've outdone the first Dear Friends concert in Los Angeles, nor my opportunity to meet Nobuo Uematsu last February in Chicago, but this event just might've topped them both. Though I was unfamiliar with many of the tracks, I can't think of a single one I didn't thoroughly enjoy. I only wish I had some context to them so I could've gone into more detail about them in the review. This concert was truly a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration of talent and dedication, and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it in person. In short, if you have the opportunity to attend one of these concerts in the future, I highly recommend that you do so. Check the PLAY! A Video Game Symphony Website for all the details. Who knows, perhaps I'll see you there!