SoundBlaster Masters

The Nintendo Fusion Tour brings a pixilated party to the Pageant

The clock has just rolled over to midnight, a lunar eclipse has turned the moon a freakish orange, the Cardinals have just lost the World Series to the Red Sox and a handful of band members and their respective crews are standing outside the stage doors of Avalon, a Boston music venue located right across the street from an eerily silent Fenway Park. But what the ballpark lacks in interior activity, it more than makes up for in exterior commotion. A phalanx of police officers decked out in full riot gear is marching up Lansdowne Street and forming ranks in front of the stadium gates.

As celebrating Bostonians overflow the boundaries of Kenmore Square, officers and news teams try to make sense of the pogoing, fist-pumping, moshing fans. "It looks like there are some people...I believe they call it...'body-slamming,'" a female anchor pronounces frankly as an overhead news camera zooms in for a close-up. "It looks violent, but I think they're happy, like they're at a rock concert or something."

If only she'd been inside Avalon an hour earlier.

This night marks the 28th date of the second annual Nintendo Fusion Tour, a 40-city melding of music and Mario that kicked off September 18 in Phoenix and features -- in a substantial upgrade from year one's Evanescence and Finger Eleven -- Letter Kills, My Chemical Romance and headliners/St. Louis natives Story of the Year.

Though the St. Louis logo on Story of the Year's bass drum doesn't seem to bring the Cardinals much luck on this or any of the previous evenings, it certainly doesn't turn any local fans against the band. (And it can't hurt that SOTY's hilariously nostalgic warm-up tape includes Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," Snow's "Informer," Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and New Kids on the Block's "Hangin' Tough.") They're all here for a good time. The Nintendo Fusion Tour allows concertgoers to spend their between-set time gawking at numerous light and video projections and checking out the new dual-screen, hand-held, wireless and thus-far-glass-enclosed Nintendo DS. Then there is the veritable forest of upright game consoles programmed with the latest GameCube titles, including Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Metroid Prime, Spider-Man 2, F-Zero GX and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

"We've taken a liking to Donkey Konga, where you play the bongo drums and you clap," says Letter Kills bassist Kyle Duckworth. "It's very fun but very annoying if you're not playing. You've got to have some rhythm for that one."

Other band members prefer their video games to kick it old school.

"I'm game-free at the moment, but I do have fond memories of Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon 2, back with the first Nintendo," says LK guitarist Timothy Cordova.

Though Letter Kills jumped off the tour after the October 10 Spokane, Washington, show, the band rejoined the second leg of the tour this evening in Boston. What attracted the group behind the major-label debut The Bridge to this particular tour? "The fact that they wanted us on it," says Cordova. "And before we knew it was the Nintendo Fusion Tour, we knew it was the Story of the Year tour, and we've always done really well on their tours, so it was a pretty easy decision."

In addition to "just hanging out with some of our best friends," Duckworth says there are other benefits to being a part of the Fusion movement: "There's more production on this tour, definitely. And when the kids, and actually some of the bands, see the setup and all the lights that Nintendo has going on, they get more excited."

The fans aren't the only ones who get hyped over video games.

"I like The Sims 2," says My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. "It's a pretty cool game to me because you don't get to have a normal life when you're in a band." It's true: Most Sims characters don't experience a total venue lockdown for three hours as armored vehicles cruise outside. And to think that just this afternoon, MCR had been so unfettered as to perform in front of a packed crowd at the local Best Buy.

"That was really fun," Way says of the in-store appearance. "I don't know how many kids were there; a few hundred or something. I'm sure that bands out there say those are the worst things in the world, but we love that you're in a store with no stage lights, but you're playing as hard as you would play on a stage."

The Nintendo Fusion Tour officially concludes Friday at the Pageant, though a second show has been added for Saturday night, at which Story of the Year (with help from St. Louis' Adair and Orlando's Anberlin) will throw a special DVD-viewing party for the hometown crowd. Bassassins was edited by SOTY bassist Adam Russell and guitarist Ryan Phillips and features, according to Interpunk.com, "music videos, behind-the-scenes segments on the video shoots, TV performances, documentary footage from past to present and backstage film of their crazed life on the road." The DVD will be released nationally this Tuesday.

While the tour may appear to be little more than a mega-marketing gimmick, let's take a moment to stop and appreciate the nature of video-game obsessiveness. From films such as The Wizard and Mortal Kombat to vintage logo tees to the current crop of theme-song cover bands rushing back and forth in their basements between controllers and keyboards, gaming has been ingrained in youth culture ever since the first 8-bit baby was born in 1985. And when a crowd of stoplight-climbing, firework-throwing and "body-slamming" fanatics surrounds a venue for hours on end, sometimes you just want to plug in, tune out and relive the days when your biggest irritation was that smug, giggle-happy pooch who popped out of the bushes when you just couldn't seem to hit those damn ducks.

 
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