I’m in Sydney’s notoriously hipster suburb at a bar with cabaret-esque red curtains gracing a stage except instead of Moulin Rouge, Pikachu is playing the saxophone while a Bruno Mars’ doppelgänger is crooning along. This is where the punchline usually resides except there isn’t one because this isn’t a joke, it’s The Consouls EP launch at The Vanguard in Newtown.
The Consouls are a Sydney based six-piece band that plays music from the niche genre of video game jazz. Jonno is the double bass piece that fits The Consouls puzzle. He’s also the only one in the band I actually “know”. We had one class together back in first year before he moved ambitions, universities and Bachelor’s degrees away from mine. I’m fairly sure we said very little to each other in real life but gave the Internet equivalent of a cursory nod when the Facebook friend request was accepted.
The band begins at nine with Dragonborn, a Skyrim number that I’ve never heard before as I’ve never played the game but jazz makes anything easy to listen. (It’s probably worth pointing out here my complete lack of a musical background, I just know what I like). Next is a certain crowd pleaser called Lost World from Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The original is a cheery boppin’ tune so popular that it exists as a ten-hour loop on YouTube. The Consouls version to me sounds vaguely like elevator music dressed up in a bowtie and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s very snazzy and mature. The Consouls have already got themselves a bit of a reputation in the Zelda community for their version of Dark World from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past which is also the song they played right after Lost World.
Despite not really knowing each other, there were always vague attempts at catching up due to our fair number of mutual friends. What jumpstarted my conversations with Jonno again was actually the band itself and my occasional cosplaying. The realisation of our common interests led to bonding on the interwebz over rocky childhoods where our gaming hobby wasn’t exactly the coolest thing to be doing. And at least for me, gaming which started off as an interest became a place of solace as I continued to suck at socially acceptable hobbies like running and a variety of sportsballs.
Looking back I probably could’ve done with more exercise but the tradeoff was that I got my imagination blown through compelling story lines in Mega Man, amazing character development in Harvest Moon, learnt and developed a keen interest in Three Kingdoms history via Dynasty Warriors and just had a rocking time breathing fire and head-butting everything in Spyro 1, 2 and 3. Gaming also became a bonding tool between my dad and I who I only saw on weekends. In fact, the majority of my time wasn’t spent actually gaming but coercing my dad into getting me through Crash Bandicoot levels that my child-like dexterity just couldn’t handle and also making him my Player 2 in lieu of having no friends. I am who I am today because of the games I played. Anyone who knows me will know how much I attribute my writing ability to what I learned from all the Final Fantasy games I played. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have guilty pleasures like Tekken 3, Soul Calibur II and whatever the latest version of Smackdown! VS Raw was. But like my cousin Adrian says, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to relax and be entertained because ironically, life isn’t always about levelling up.
Halfway through the show and The Consouls are tearing through into Super Smash and Mario territory. We have Gourmet Race and Overworld playing but as a side dish there’s also a lot of banter going on between sets from piano player Julian and saxophonist Tim. Some of it is quite witty but other times the band demonstrates that they are not beneath a ‘your mum’ joke. It’s all in tremendous good fun though as it relaxes the crowd and gives the show a personal touch. It makes one feel like they’re watching their show from a garage or a teenage boy’s bedroom. Which I think may be the whole point of all of this, creating a space where we can be comfortable and united in our gamer geekiness.
The climax of the show is when the band begins the Pokemon arc, bringing back Josue from the opening act, Josue and The SoulBenders. To Josue’s credit he’s not at all like the Uptown Funk pop icon, with a voice that’s several octaves lower and huskier than corn making it actually kind of perfect for this earthy rendition of the Pokemon anime theme song. Following this are the sounds of Julian’s keys playing the tune of Pallet town which then actually goes into a full on Pokemon Red/Blue battle theme as though the whole crowd had just all walked into tall grass together. After such a great setlist thus far, this was still by far the pinnacle of the night. It’s hard to describe this bit just in words, I’ll see if there’s a video I can put up to accompany this.
We’re winding down now with Terra’s Theme and then an encore performance of Song of Storms. I turned up to The Consouls half to support a friend and half to satisfy my curiosity and ended up leaving with a ridiculous case of warm fuzzies. The peak of my gaming lifestyle has long past but that night, little Sam came out to give me the highest of fives. There’s beauty in everything, even in video games. Especially in video games. Thanks to The Consouls for pushing that agenda out to the world.