Talk about a strange feeling...the 23 minutes before I walk through the main expo hall doors at a gamer convention of the highest order. I equate it to your first day of middle school. You’ve had like 12 years of relatively the same routine and then all of a sudden you’re thrust into a situation where you have no earthly idea who you are anymore or what got you to this place, but your stomach is all squishy and flopping around like a fish that fell off the hook and landed on the floor of the boat.

Y’all, I am a total nerd. I admit it and that’s one of the reasons I was totally excited about taking this assignment. I mean, who doesn’t like a good video game fused with super technology that makes whatever game you’re playing look real AF. I played Quake back before the www was available in businesses where we’d link up our computers at some lucky bastard’s house and play for a solid 20 hours straight. Even before that, being from the Old School, that existed way before the graphics on a computer screen hijacked the game table people’s imaginations. I succumbed to the calling of gaming back when you created your character in your mind and he/she/it became the badass or the weakling of the table. (I had a killer elvin-cleric that would destroy any DM’s conjured tale. Her name is Andromeda and she rules at Level 13 and 159 hit points.)

Suffice to say, that this wasn’t enough to prepare me for what I was about to walk into. Now, I know that gaming is one of the highest revenue generating industries in entertainment segment and it’s not just a kid’s favorite pastime. With over 65% of adults that play video games, along with scads of kids and teens. (Source: ESA)

Why would a rock journalist cover a gaming convention, event, or supreme operation that encompasses every aspect of gaming? Well, Lovelies I took this assignment not only to bring you the skinny on what happens inside a massive event like DREAMHACK, but to see where music fits in the dailies of those that put gaming in any part of their lives. See, it’s not just about the play, or the graphics, or the interaction, or the gear it takes to participate.

Gaming has transferred from a pastime to a way of life for a huge portion of players. Friendships are forged, wages are won, titles are kept and lost, all the while serving a purpose for people that play. Like anything that becomes an everyday part of someone’s life, this importance also absorbs the other things that make a person whole. Follow me here Pretties...you are not only you as a person, but what makes you unique or an individual is also formed by what you surround yourself with, right? The important things in life that we choose to entertain us, employ us, what we create are all influenced by the pieces of the equation. Example: I’ve loved music my whole life and so that love has been a big influence in my life.

In a nutshell, here’s what the DREAMHACK folks describe the event as being on their website:

The DreamHack festival is a one-of-a-kind experience for all types of gamers and digital enthusiasts.

The core of our festival is the bring your own computer LAN party. Open 24 hours a day during DreamHack, thousands of our community members travel to DreamHack specifically to play games and make new friends in the LAN.

In addition to the LAN, our festival events feature the world’s best esports, cosplay competitions, tabletop gaming, console gaming, pc gaming, hackathons, panel discussions, live music, and an expo hall featuring the newest technology about to hit the market.

PHOTO CREDIT: DREAMHACK 2019 EMMA ANDERSON

DREAMHACK has been a pioneer in bringing these outputs together for all types of gaming fans with expos and events happening all over the world! This year, DREAMHACK migrated from Austin, north to Dallas. With accessibility to an international airport, lodging out the wazoo, as well as a slew of things to do for those who aren’t participating in the LAN BYOC party.

What’s the LAN BYOC, you ask? Good question. This is a 24 hour event for the longevity of the event where gamers bring in their own computer (BYOC) and connect to the DREAMHACK local area network (LAN) and play with friends. It’s pretty simple and there were hundreds of gamers that wheeled, toted, and hoisted their gear into the Convention Center floor meeting up with their friends to enjoy face to face and digital experience.

Before I even went in the site, I spoke to a four guys that had taken a break and were going back inside. Two were from different states, one from Austin and the other lived here in Dallas. I asked them what they loved best about the event, the third DREAMHACK they’d participated in, BTW. Having gamed together as a group for about five years, they looked forward to meeting up face to face and playing together the whole year. They were excited about being in Dallas because they thought there was more room, a more stable LAN, and it was easier for two of them to get to travel wise.

The LAN area was quite impressive, although for security reasons, I wasn’t able to access the area so I didn’t get to see their set up or really continue our conversation we had. I am pretty certain their invitation for me to see their camp for the next three days was instantly forgotten when they got back to their spot though. Even in the LAN, the competition is fierce and they go hard for those three days with little to no sleep, surviving on caffeine, adrenaline, and the fact that they have 72 hours of uninterrupted, intensely fueled gaming.

When I got into the event, I started at one end and went all the way to the end, taking it all in. Since I was solo on this operation, I immediately decided that I was going to concentrate on just a few key areas of the event. Since I’m not a competitive gamer or have little knowledge of this segment of gaming, I shied away from these events that went on all three days. I will say that the team competitions that I saw happening as I passed by or sat down to watch, blew my mind. Teams have jerseys or team branded shirts, coaches, managers, etc. They’re sponsored by companies and are followed by fans. That was eye opening and blew my mind frankly. I told myself that I was going to find a team and follow their progress for a while just so I could familiarize myself more with this aspect of the industry. Make sure you stay tuned to the CherriBird.com website for all of these details and the announcement of the team I choose to use as my guinea pig or if you have a suggestion of a team to follow, make sure you suggest them in the comments! Seriously. I’d love suggestions!

The areas I chose to focus on covering at DREAMHACK in Dallas: security, vendors, streaming, music, the similarities of music and gaming fans and where the synergy of these two industries could be used together for the benefit of both. Since this year is the first year DREAMHACK is in Dallas, I thought these were a good start, especially from a rock journalist’s perspective.

Music and Gaming Synergy

Photo Credit: Hunter Basnight

I’ll start with this part of the event. Exploring the synergy that exists between gaming and music seems elementary, after all, both industries are at the core, entertaining the fans of both. I think I was rather presumptuous to think that I could find some magical element that would bridge this gap hidden somewhere in the event’s floor or find it watching and interacting with DREAMHACK’S attendees. Both Friday and Saturday the event booked some pretty heavy hitters in both EDM and Metal segments of music, which I thought was brilliant, personally. Friday’s line up was SQUALZ, GRANT, KUURO, & SEVEN LIONS. Saturday’s lineup hailed AS ABOVE/SO BELOW (a Dallas metal band that I’m very familiar with and have known the musicians in this band for years with their other projects like singer JACOB PIERCE as the singer for Louisanna metal band IN VEIN and local band LOW GEAR, CJ PIERCE - yes, the brother of JACOB - guitarist for the band DROWNING POOL), HYRO THE HERO, CANE HILL, & TRIVIUM. 

AS ABOVE/SO BELOW | CJ PIERCE Photo Credit: Cherri Bird | Sheri Birk 2019

Make sure you keep a look out on my coverage of AS ABOVE/SO BELOW as I go in depth with not only the band's performance at DREAMHACK, but even more about the band on CherriBird.com and of course right here!

Both nights had killer talent and I was pleasantly surprised that all of these artists had the opportunity to play and make new fans. I was also happy that both TRIVIUM and CANE HILL were slated to participate in some fan interactive gaming during the event. MATT H , singer for TRIVIUM was supposed to play Fortnyte with fans Friday night, but unfortunately technical difficulties prohibited him from playing. When I spoke with him while waiting at the Free Play computer gaming area, I told him that even though I’d never played the game, I would try since he was playing. I might have even challenged him competitively (wink, wink, nudge nudge) - but we didn’t have the opportunity. I could have played the glow in the dark frisbee field game with him and several other fans, but y’all know my motto: “I don’t run unless chased”, so that was out.

Friday’s EDM night was rad and I love running across new artists in genres that I normally don’t cover. Not that I don’t cover them by choice, I’d love to cover more EDM shows! See, EDM is like painting a visual picture with the music and the DJ is the paint you feel as it’s slapped on a canvas. The beats, the drops, and the mixes they combine become recipes for fans to dance, move and just be in the moment with the music. I thought the night’s music was perfect for DREAMHACK and the attendees.

Saturday’s Metal show was exciting for me because up until this show, I had only heard how badass HYRO THE HERO’S live set. I’d reviewed his latest record “Flagged Channel” late 2017 prior to it’s release in 2018 and instantly loved it not only for the music, but when I interviewed HYRO via phone right before the record dropped, his charisma and candor and why he writes the music he does just amplified the music more for me. “Live Your F*cking Life (LYFL)”, “Monster” and “Never Back Down” are my fav’s from “Flagged Channel”. Not to mention getting to hang with him a bit on Saturday and playing video games like kids in an arcade was a hoot! HYRO, Q (his TM), and I played Killer Queen, a multi-player stand alone game that used a few skills and sequences that spawns a competitive nature in players as well as allows the players to hone skills from other games that comes together in getting your player, a bee, to get balls of honey back to the hive.

Photo Credit: Cherri Bird | Sheri Birk

We chatted a bit on the record and you’ll be able to find that interview here and at cherribird.com soon! Make sure you keep an eye out for that and a full report on his set at DREAMHACK and summer plans for HYRO THE HERO.

It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that CANE HILL is one of my favorite bands. Just look at cherribird.com or my socials, and you’ll see that once I was assigned this band as newcomers to the touring life a few years ago. They were the openers and I was immediately impressed with their aptitude of heavy along with the sway of southern metal - as in Louisiana southern. I’ve tried to be available whenever they’re in town because what you hear on their latest LP via RISE RECORDS Too Far Gone” is what you get live. For real. It’s music you can relate to emotionally and music you can bang your head to physically.

Photo Credit: Cherri Bird | Sheri Birk

TRIVIUM is not only a fan favorite for metalers (and myself included), but since MATT is an avid gamer himself, he and the band are known in the gaming community as well. “The Sin and the Sentence” in my opinion, is their breakout record that leveled them up last year. They are pure metal performers too and with the touch of progressive rock in the guitars and vocals, their live show is ballz.

Photo Credit: Francisco Suarez

Here’s what I’ll say about both night’s shows that threw me for a loop, TBH: the attendance for all of the artists was a little surprising to me. I thought more people would watch the bands and was surprised to see so many people exiting when the show closed down both Friday and Saturday night. I’m sure there are good reasons like for those that weren’t in the LAN, they were probably tired after a full day of fun or the vendors probably wanted to go eat and such. But unless attendees had to have a certain type of wristband to attend the shows, I would have thought more would have stayed. Now this didn’t mean that there were 13 people watching, clearly you can see from the photos that both nights the music portion of DREAMHACK was well attended. What I mean is, means that the crowd size surprised me and I would have thought it would have been wall to wall, packed in like sardines, crowded. And it was not.

The sound and lighting production were spot on! The bands had a generous sized stage to work on and fans had views of these artists that were not obstructed and it was never hard to see the stage from certain vantage points. I loved the whole set up and I know the bands did as well.

A downfall was there wasn’t any place for people to sit or lean against. And for those that had been there all day, I’m sure they would have loved to have a place to sit and chill towards the back or tables to lean against. I know towards the end of the night on Saturday, I would have paid to sit down waiting for TRIVIUM to play.

Without going into a long dialog detailed account of the subject of music, artists, their management/PR teams, event staff, live posts, and the press, I will mention that I thought the aspect in covering DREAMHACK from a Press perspective was a little off putting. I assumed (and you know what the saying about assuming something means, so I will take responsibility for my assumptions) that Press credentials meant the same at this event that they do at any rock or music show I’ve covered. I didn’t ask about requirements because I always adhere to the rules of concert coverage and photography. I only use pro-gear when covering a show with photos. I don’t go live to socials in the pit unless it’s a local band or a band that I know and have been given permission to do so. When I work, I follow the rules. Always. Even when others are still shooting when the three songs are over - I follow the rules because I love what I do and don’t want to be blackballed for going rouge at shows I’m credentialed by the band’s team to cover.

That said, I’ve never understood the push back and the harsh criticism that going live at a show in the pit from everyone but the artist on stage. Especially now that live streaming is almost a daily occurrence for a lot of people. I mean, in our hands we have a complete mobile studio of sorts. While I understand that an artist’s image is important, I don’t understand the policing of media personnel with regards to live posts or a few shots of the band with a cell phone. After all, we are professionals that have been credentialed based on an approval of our past work, and probably have the knowledge to be more discerning than a fan when using this amazing and ignored part of technology. Why not have control of live posts or broadcasts by the media? Why shouldn’t someone that knows how to use live posts as an invaluable marketing tool for that moment and for the future, not be allowed to do that? I don’t get that. I mean it’s a lot easier to track down the press at a show than to watch the videos from 100 fans from a show and message them to take down the post.

Plus, and here’s the real deal - bands don’t give AF. Unless it’s proprietary or new music or for some other reason, bands actually like it when there are live posts of their shows. They know that posts like that will garnish views and have the potential to make new fans. Plus the fact there is literally a historical account of their entire tour they can go back and watch documentary style.

There are some industry people that are going to have to loosen up the drawstring when it comes to this aspect of covering artists because with the increase in speed of wireless technology and the ability of devices becoming smarter in a sense to put out more and more content, this kind of coverage is going to become the new norm. As more and more bands start doing live concerts and selling tickets to these shows, there will need to be people that understand this technology and know how to cover it in the media.

This surprised me that DREAMHACK wasn’t more versed with technology in music with respect to music. I mean, ya they streamed it over their Twitch channel, but to my knowledge, that was about all. And just as there are oodles of options in gaming about levels of technology and where to push the envelope, it exists within live music as well. Since DREAMHACK did incorporate music with their expo, I was surprised that the people I talked to at the event (attendees and vendors alike) didn't realize there was a concert or that they weren't planning on attending. I also figured that there would be an emphasis on the technology with regards to music and gaming, and there wasn't. 

With regards to the synergy of music and gaming, I didn’t find it at DREAMHACK. Not because I didn’t look or that it doesn’t exist. Suffice to say, this topic is going to have to be one that takes more than a three day event and for timing’s sake, will have to come at a later date. While there are similarities within fans of the two massive industries, there are differences that I need to explore further and where these two can come together and do come together.

I left DREAMHACK with a head full of knowledge that I didn’t have before and I love walking away from an event feeling like that. I love having the desire to want to learn about newly introduced topics. And I love that it is music that is usually the catalyst for me to learn new things, you know?

Alright Lovelies, now for the highlights of the other points of DREAMHACK DALLAS 2019 that I think you should know!

Event Organization/Security

I have to say that I was totally impressed with how acutely planned and well organized the event was. The security at this event was rigorous but not over the top. I felt totally safe going in and out of the event. I also felt that security was very well represented on the floor. I couldn’t travel 5 feet without seeing an officer or a security personnel. They were nice, respectful, and I didn’t think it felt too over the top either. I mean individuals had gear, vendors had booths of gear, each tournament, the food vendors - I felt safe and I think that’s a really strong positive to have at an event like DREAMHACK.

Vendors

As you can imagine, there are a ton of vendors that could benefit from having a booth at DREAMHACK. Even companies that aren’t necessarily in the gaming industry stand to benefit from a presence at a show like this. I didn’t see many of these vendors, there were some. Companies that think outside the box when it comes to marketing catch my eye and if I’m interested or need their services I’ll usually remember them being at a show like DREAMHACK.

There were vendors here that I had no earthly idea what they did, but the attendees sure knew. I didn’t see any booths that didn’t have people in them during my passes back and forth on the main isle.That’s not to say that all booths were packed to the gills, at all times. What caught my attention was the bustle that occurred during the show at vendor booths, food/beverage vendors and the equipment/gear vendors.

I stopped by the BenQ/ZOWIE booth and spoke to Brandon about their mouse lines and we also spoke about mousepads and the mouse cord contraption they have. I love that chopsticks in a block looking invention that keeps your mouse cord from getting in the way or impeding movement during play. It was extremely informative to learn about the technology that goes into a BenQ/ZOWIE product that are specifically designed for players in a gaming environment.

At the CLX booth, who also sponsored DREAMHACK by providing the towers for the Streaming area and the Free Play area. Their booth was jam packed with so many interested gamers that were looking to upgrade or redo their machine. This company stands tall and above the rest with machines that are tailored specifically for the hobbyist or the pro. This company has some seriously sick computers that fly through even the most resource pulling of games. But don’t take it from me, you can find more information on the web. Just click here or the graphic below.

Lovelies, I’m also getting to test drive some of the equipment I saw at the show and I will most def show you and tell you what I think about it when I get the equipment! You should follow me on socials if you don’t already to make sure you know when information from DREAMHACK is uploaded and ready for you!

The VR Rhythm and Groove Game - GROOVE CATCHER

Of course I had to try a game I’ve never played before. And well, I’m not coordinated enough to learn all the commands of a new game on a controller lickety split. So when I spotted the Groove Catcher logo brightly printed on the graphics of their booth, I had to check it out. I’ve also never played a VR game outside of the rudimentary first VR games where your phone becomes the eye screen.

Talking to the rep whose name escapes me at the moment but is on the live post I recorded with him, I was instantly drawn to the game because the objective of the game is to follow swirls of light set to music, scooping it up almost in your controllers and also smashing square blocks dropped in to shake it up a bit. I knew I was going to look like a weirdo playing the game, but this is the other thing that made me love this game; the game’s created to make it look like or make you feel like you’re dancing! It was a sweet game and one that I could invision playing in a party setting or just you and your boyfriend or girlfriend. Hell, I might even play this if I was by myself! It’s a blast even for me, who’s not the most coordinated person on the planet!

But I really think I did a pretty good and scored better than I thought I would!

The cool thing about Groove Catcher is they have a home VR system that will be available or is already available to pre-order. The console is going to be a game changer for home VR because of the versatility it brings to people young and old at home!

Check ‘em out here or by clicking on the below graphic to find out more info and how you can play here! www.groovecatchervr.com

Streaming Area

One area of interest for me personally was the CLX Streaming Area. Because the equipment and due to social media allowing users to post live videos, streaming has become a very popular segment in gaming. Streaming a video game through services like Twitch and Discord. What’s so interesting about streaming to me is the ability to communicate a message to an audience in a live setting. I was impressed with the Streaming Area at DREAMHACK because it gave over 30 streamers the opportunity to be live at the expo to communicate the happenings to their followers that weren’t at the expo.

Folks, this is a marketing goldmine and one that is not utilized to any great success because (IMHO) of the music industry’s resistance to technology. Yes, there is a learning curve that artists need to know regarding equipment, connection, platform requirements, etc. However, once these objectives are reached and mastered, the world is their oyster!

I went to the Streaming Area on the expo floor. Totally randomly picked a live streamer and sat down in front of his station, found him on Twitch, followed him and watched a bit of his live stream. DapperJameson was playing a game and interacting with over a thousand viewers during his hour stream and when I commented that I was sitting in front of him, he laughed and gave me a shout out. From this minor interaction on his page, I received a bunch of interaction on my barren Twitch account and on Instagram, my profile had over 20 new Follows in the time frame DapperJameson was on his live stream.

Now let that sink in. This was completely random and completely unplanned for about 12 minutes interacting with a person I have never met or participated with before. What happens when there is a little bit of planning and research...just think of that potential in artists, signed or unsigned.

Summary

Alright Pretties, I have typed enough about DREAMHACK today. My experience there was killer and I would definitely recommend attending an event. DREAMHACK events happen in other areas of the US and world wide. You can check out all of the details at their space on the web by clicking here or the icon below. You can also catch the winners of the Championship games on the site and what teams walked away with in Dallas this year.

Hopefully, Dallas will have another expo next year because I am telling you, I’m there for it! It’s a great thing for the City of Dallas as well. I mean who wouldn’t want hundreds of gamers if not more ascending upon our fair city? It’s better than ET’s or militants from some other country, right? Right!

All kidding aside, DREAMHACK has the potential to be the best gaming expo to hit Dallas if not Texas as a whole not only for locals, but for people near Dallas as well! Make sure you stay tuned to CherriBird.com for more from DREAMHACK over the coming months because I have a ton of stuff that just needs to be highlighted in and of itself.

Also, please take a minute to head over to Twitch and Discord, find me and add me so you’re up to date and in the know when I start the engines with live streams from The Bird’s Nest here in Deep Ellum, Texas. If you don’t follow me on other socials, y’all need to get with it!

Til Next Time - MRML - Cherri

Mad Respect | Much Love

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