'Twas a party unlike any ever seen in Winterfell, to be sure.
Saturday's Rave of Thrones, an EDM and light show at the Bomb Factory featuring Game of Thrones actor/DJ Kristian Nairn as the headliner, brought out a diverse crowd of regular ravers and cosplay-loving fans. Still, there was no question why almost everyone was there: They wanted to see the man known and loved worldwide as Hodor.
That's primarily the reason I went as well. My exposure to EDM going into the rave was limited to a couple of movie scenes and one interesting club experience in college. I had an idea of what I was getting into but was braced for anything.
Those who got to the Bomb Factory extra early with VIP tickets got the chance to live a geek's dream: sit on the Iron Throne. The rave has been known to feature its version of Westeros' most uncomfortable chair in its tours, and uncomfortable it was. A little smaller and more flimsy than what's seen on the show, Nairn's throne still did the trick (to which I can personally attest).
Lest one forget the subject matter Rave of Thrones was based on, the venue was decorated with homages to the show. Apart from having an actual Iron Throne, house banners from Thrones hung from the balconies around the floor. The stage featured a faux stone wall around the raised DJ platform, and red banners of House Lannister flanked the throne once it was moved in front of the platform (a nice touch for those up-to-date with the show). With several monitors on stage and a massive screen behind, all showing bright digital flames, the overall setup was, for lack of better words, very cool.
Two DJs warmed the audience up before Nairn hit the stage. DJ Charlie Rocket got things started shortly after 8 p.m. He definitely got the cosplay memo, dressed as if he'd come out of the Dark Ages, and played his set using a light-up board that hung on his shoulders like a guitar. I was impressed with his tracks, but it was too early for a lot of folks to get into it (save for five guys in front having the time of their lives) and the crowd was just beginning to form.
Attendees had been encouraged to come in 'Thrones' cosplay, but only a few took up the call.
Most of them came in medieval cosplay basics (not including folks there representing the Scarborough Renaissance Festival), although a few really went for it. At least five Daenerys Targaryens hit the floor; the Hound, men of the Night's Watch, Rhaegar Targaryen and an Unsullied soldier were also spotted.
Rocket was followed by a DJ and violin duo, appropriately called TheDJvsViolin. Julio Rivera (DJ Souljah) worked the turntable while Sharla Marie Franklin paced the stage playing the heck out of her electric violin. Their set ranged from beats with folk and jazz flair to what I can only describe as EDM elevator music; what was novel at first with the violin quickly wore out with the crowd. It wasn't until the last, more energetic tracks of their nearly two-hour set -- and the arrival of a trapeze dancer over the middle of the dance floor -- that more people got into the music.
Perhaps it was because they knew who was coming out next.
After the audience chanted "Hold the door!" and fake snow began falling from the ceiling, the man of the hour emerged. Nairn, not dressed as Hodor but in regular pants and a T-shirt, took the stage to flashing strobe lights and jumped right into his set, blasting out dance music to a crazy laser show. At one point two White Walkers, the icy villains from Thrones, flanked him on the stage, glaring into the crowd.
Apart from the evil entourage, little of Nairn's performance called back to the show for which the rave was named. The giant screen behind him played scenes from Thrones remixed to fit the beat from time to time (I never expected to see the Battle of the Bastards as a dance party, but there it was), and at one point he played a retro-electric version of the show's iconic theme music. But the rest was standard, high energy House Music with little variety but some serious bass drops throughout.
The crowd, enthralled with Nairn's presence at first, began to settle down a few minutes in. Many ravers jumped and head-banged almost nonstop, but many more just nodded their heads to the music.
Still, Hodor commanded their attention with his effort. Repeatedly having to wipe away sweat, Nairn never stopped banging his head or stomping to the beat. He genuinely seemed to enjoy himself.
It was okay that a lot of the crowd, including myself, wasn't overly into the music itself. Every time he played a long, ear-piercing build up that led to a massive bass drop, we all dropped with it. When he held his hands up and made a heart, we all returned it with shouts and cheers. When he waved goodbye, telling us he'd never forget this night and giving us a final "Hodor," we all went wild.
Nairn is a professional DJ -- this, not acting, is his real job -- but for the Bomb Factory audience, the music almost didn't matter. Of the couple thousand people in the crowd, most came to see the man they knew as Hodor. With a personality as sweet as his character's, and all the energy he threw into his performance, that was more than enough for a good time.