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'An empowering ecosystem' | First ever 'Pokécon Memphis' wraps up at Memphis Music Room

Celebrating the ninth installment of mainline video games in the popular franchise, all things Pokémon were celebrated at the Memphis Music Room from Nov. 18 to 20.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — From Friday Nov. 18 to Sunday Nov. 20, Memphian fans of the Pokémon phenomenon had the chance to meet the voice of "Professor Oak" on Shelby Oaks Drive.

A building known for being the Shriner's Temple has been "evolving" into a creative space called Memphis Music Room, and the first ever Memphis-based Pokémon convention, or "Pokécon," brought together gamers, card game aficionados and even some of the voice actors of the original television series. 

Jason Paige, the vocal talent behind the original Pokémon theme song (as well as a session singer who has performed at Madison Square Garden with Michael Jackson), was present at the event. 

"Pokémon teaches kids how to read, teaches kids how to write — it teaches kids critical thinking because each kid catches Pokémon in their own unique way," Paige said. "There’s no one answer, there’s no one way to do it. It’s the opposite of our education system that wants you to chase one answer with everybody else ... These kids are chasing their own answer, they’re chasing their own idea [and] they’re chasing their own way of doing things." 

As the "prime demographic" for the first seasons of the show are now old enough to be parents, Paige said that typically, these days, the grandparent crowd might be the one's who are skeptical of the series. 

"It really is an empowering ecosystem for them to explore and like I said, there’s many different angles to explore," Paige said. "They could do it through the card games, the tournaments — the collecting, which teaches them about investing and teaches them about value. That’s why they banned it from school — it’s the antithesis of school. School teaches you how to do one thing in a behaved fashion in one way, and Pokémon wants you do to everything in your own way." 

As far as doing things in one's own way, Paige also said that the Memphis Music Room "did a really good job" in assembling all the necessary elements for a Pokémon convention. 

"I do these events, and this event had the best band — the best music of any event that I‘ve done," Paige said. 

It was Area 51, a local band, who performed a "full 30-minute set" of seven songs that featured Paige fronting the performance. 

"It’s fabulous to know that there’s Pokémon-people all over the world, in every city, in every town," Paige said. "There’s such incredible enthusiasm and even in Memphis they drive hundreds of miles around to come here to experience this Poké-madness."

When asked if Paige could tell, back in 1998, if the song he was recording would have the affect on pop culture that it has, he answered:

"Every moment in our lives is an opportunity to hit the ball out of the park," he said. "We don't ever know if something's going to go out of the park, but we know that we're going to swing." 

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