Call of Duty XP 2011 event in Playa Vista
September 3, 2011
Held Friday and Saturday at the Hercules Campus in Playa Vista (where the Spruce Goose was built), Call of Duty XP 2011 was a two day convention centered around the titular military-themed video game. It was a multi-million dollar gathering and its closing night headliner was fittingly colossal: Kanye West.
Surely paid handsomely, he didn't give the type of quickie corporate gig set we've seen from others. Rather, he more-or-less recreated the ego-tastic, melodramatic extravaganza he presented at this year's Coachella, complete with mythological backdrop. He pumped it up with on-stage banter and even a surprise guest, something that didn't happen at Coachella.
With Watch The Throne near the top of the Billboard charts and Jay and 'Ye's surprise duet at last week's VMA's, we'd hoped we get to see a little Jiggaman/Yeezy showdown in the flesh. Instead, we got Kid Cudi, and though the pairing wasn't as bombastic, their jam together on "All Of The Lights" was the highlight of the show.
It felt good to have anyone take the spotlight off West for a moment, actually. While we're a fan of his flow and his beats, there comes a point when the self-aggrandizing gets tiresome. He also performed his hits featuring Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Estelle, rapping over backing tracks with their vocals on them, and each was rendered with intensity, if not the most precise timing. Of course, favorites such as "Gold Digger," "All Falls Down," "Heartless," "Jesus Walks," and "Love Lockdown" were great as well. He delivered them passionately, one after another, with fairly short intros.
"No artist on the planet can give you this many hits back to back to back to back..." he declared smugly, mid-set. "Somebody better Youtube this shit." And of course, this being tech-nerd central, many did.
We found it funny that West would encourage filming, since his very large and intimidating personal security guard took all of us media in the photo pit aside before the show for a stern speech about what was and was not okay, camera-wise. This was a new one. We were not to shoot the first song, which saw West emerge from the crowd on a platform that rose in an ominous cloud of fog. (No matter; we snuck a shot, which you can see to the right!) Then we were to be escorted in, one by one, to shoot the second and third songs. We had to line-up single file, leave all beverages outside the pit and not get too close to the stage.
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Speaking of lining up, we heard that fans waited for up to three hours for activities on the campus including zip-lining, paintball, and a jeep ride, all simulating the scenes from Call of Duty's Modern Warfare 3, which comes out in November. We will now and forever refer to it as "Call of Dudes," however, as the ratio of men to women at the event was about 10 to 1.
Most of said dudes paid $150 for the two day event, which also offered two concerts (Dropkick Murphys played on Friday) and a chance to play the new game first inside a massive, multi-room soundstage. Oh, and they got a copy of the game.
Kanye concert or no, Call of Duty's glamorization of military warfare probably isn't increasing enlistment in armed forces, but at least the event gave back to our service people. Money from admission fees went to Activision's Call of Duty Endowment Fund, a charity that helps returning veterans transition back into civilian life.