Saving The Pandas, Raising The Bar

It’s been a good run for The Copper Revolution so far. I’d never tried to produce a theatrical, sci-fi-meets-steampunk piano rock show before, so this was something of a major gamble for me both artistically and professionally. Sure, I’ve been playing concerts for geeks for years now, but it felt like I was crossing over a line.

YO HO HO!

Photo by Peter Verrant‎

Something I’ve noticed at a lot of the cons I’ve been to: Most main-stage music acts don’t really do anything original. There’s an awful lot of re-mixed video game soundtracks, re-mixed anime soundtracks, and pop music with genre-specific lyrics. That’s why I’ve been blown away by acts like Pandora Celtica that are trying to do something original. (Full disclosure: They do a few parodies of known songs, but their original content far overshadows the derivatives.)

This isn’t to downplay the talent of bands doing EDM versions of the Cowboy Beebop sountrack or anything… In fact, some of the most talented musicians I’ve known were in cover bands. I just see a line between different philosophies: One approach is a safer celebration of the things that make us happy, another is a risky attempt to make people happy with something totally new. There’s always the possibility of rejection no matter what, but anyone who understands pop music knows it’s safer to go with the stuff that’s already familiar.

The Risk That Paid Off

Stick Juggling at CONvergence 2014

Photo by Peter Verrant‎

Every audience that has seen The Copper Revolution thus far has loved it, so that’s a reassuring sign. I wasn’t sure if anyone would go for the whole “we just crash-landed here and decided to put on a concert” vibe, let alone the evil Admiral Phineas Odious IV. I guess I thought people would be out on the dance floor thinking, “when are they going to start playing Jonathan Coulton songs?” Instead, the audiences- mostly newcomers -have really gotten into the Revolution.

WHEW.

No, seriously, you can’t imagine how much of a relief that is to a writer. Before every show, I’m defecating masonry while wondering if anyone’s going to laugh at Prodo-1’s pre-show countdown schtick. They did. Every time, even if there were only a handful of people in the early seats. A crowd that can laugh at something new is one of my favorite things in the whole world. If they go for the stupid gags at the beginning, chances are good they’re going to go for the music and comedy throughout the show.

From Steampunk to Saving the Pandas

So, on that note, I should mention that I’m working on a new album adventure called High Orbit Saves The Pandas, and at the same time thinking of what we’re going to do for our next live show. If this year so far has been a proof-of-concept, I know what I have to do next: keep the adventures coming. Just like The High Orbit Holiday Special, the next album will be five songs and about 45 minutes of me and my robots getting into trouble. In fact, the album’s already close to finished!

High Orbit Kickstarts The Pandas, Starting September 1 2014 If you want to know when you can help us take it to a real studio, PLEASE join the Robot Army at www.matthewebel.com/freemusic

It’ll be difficult turning the album into a live show, but I don’t intend to just do a literal interpretation on stage. In fact, The Copper Revolution has taught me some very important lessons:

  1. Don’t stop the music. Sure, the sketches are funny, but most cons give us a dance floor for the show whether we want one or not. The last thing people wanna do is just STAND there and watch me talk to robots. For the next show, I’m going to make sure we can play SOMETHING, even over the dialogue/action/animation.
  2. Mix up the set list. It was really difficult putting together original songs for the Copper Revolution set, and I never built in the possibility for variations. Anyone who’s been getting my regular live recordings is probably bored of this show by now ’cause it’s tightly scripted. For next year’s con shows, I’m going to make sure we can change up at least a third of the songs to keep it fresh at every show.
  3. Start with music. My goal to have a fully animated intro kind of fizzled, but it may be for the best. Nothing killed the end-of-countdown energy like MORE stuff to watch on screen. We can always tell people how we landed on that planet after the first few songs.

So the work continues. If we get enough support in September, we’re going to save the hell out of some pandas (and planet Earth) and kick 2015 into high gear.

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