Let me tell you about my hoodie. It’s solid black with an inner fleece. Its drawstring is missing. On its back, a very evocative image of a hand, in what looks like a suicide position. And on the front, a simple word across the left breast. “PROTOMEN”. It’s two years old, it’s falling apart, and when I can no longer wear it anymore, it’s getting framed and going on my wall of Rock and Roll Memorabilia.
Some time in 2010 on one of my TV Tropes binges I’d heard about a small band that played rock operas (being a seminal form of art throughout the 60s and 70s, pioneered by The Who and more or less perfected by Jim Steinman) based on Mega Man (being a seminal work in the video game canon and one of the landmark titles in game design for both Capcom and the Nintendo Entertainment System)It was difficult to picture exactly what I expected them to sound like. Borrowing the mp3’s from my housemate I had a listen, and was blown away. It’s hard to describe exactly how it sounded for the first time. It was noisy, distorted, not unlike Sonic Youth. But there was an elegance and intricacy. Every note was deliberate, in a manner similar to Queen. The sawtooth synths and thundering drums with the overdriven guitars sounded, whole. It was exactly the sound I wanted. For the next few months they basically took over my headphones.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2011, PAX East had just been announced and I had never been to a serious gaming convention before. Let alone what was, at this time, the fastest growing and certainly ambitious conventions in the gaming community. Having found myself with the ability to go to New York around the time of the convention and with the news The Protomen were playing, I made my first international flight in over 10 years. I’d made some new friends, hung out with Tabletop god Steve Jackson, and spent a bunch of time talking and hanging out with my favourite band.
Commander and Murphy (lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist/band leader respectively) were the most vocal. They’d seemed impressed I’d come from Australia for the convention. They were softspoken and very nice to their fans. At one point an A Cappellla version of Ginuwine's “Pony” was lead by The Gambler. It was also freezing. A Boston January is a horrible thing to endure if you’re an Australian raised on the beach and being that I buy a shirt at every band I see, (especially if their music was aquired through less than legitimate means) the hoodie, which cost about 20 US dollars, seemed like a sweet deal.
This was all before I got to see them play. Closing out the Saturday night PAX concerts, they tore the place apart. For a few people in the audience, it seemed like this was their first rock show. I knew going in to expect competent musicianship, but that’s all. The full 9 person ensemble spent the evening shredding instruments. I was still feeling the jetlag, and it worked in my advantage. I danced my feet off, and Jimmy don’t dance. I’ve never had so much fun with a band. A group of talented, theatrical and really nice people playing awesome music.
At PAX Australia earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to interview Murphy, Commander and Panther after their show, where they scored a whole lot of new fans. This was their first international tour. (I told them about how I bought a jacket from them in Boston, and Commander actually recognised me. I was more than a little bit floored by this.) I made it to the two Sydney shows, but couldn’t make it to the PAX Show itself.
The Protomen are a band unlike anyone else on the scene today. They write, play and perform with an immutable grandeur. They put everything they have into everything they do, and very VERY few people outside of their core audience has ever heard of them. And better yet, they chose Australia for their first trip out. If you’ve never heard of them before, head to YouTube or iTunes and check them out. If you want to support them, visit their Australian store, which vastly cuts down on shipping costs and stocks pretty much everything (including Australian-only merch!). They have fans down here and it costs a tonne to get here. Please help them out and convince them to come back.
Once a Reality TV Somebody,
Now just a big kid who loves video games, and the telling people about them.