I live down in Wilmington, but used to live right outside of Garner. I've gone to every single AZ since 99. Over the last few years, schedules aren't released until 1-3 weeks before con, which is not helpful at all.
AZ never had a band until Noize (that was mainly because of a contact they had). Kotoko was nice, but was unexpected, imo. Noize is what they have left, but are a huge draw. I'd rather then have had Balzac (who has US representation) like I begged them for (and gave them the contact info for) years ago. That is the worst dealers room I've ever seen. And I go back to the Hilton days too. I spent more money in AA than in the dealers room. The Mikimoto panel/signing was one of the very VERY few panels I even went to this year, and I'm glad I did.
Yeah, I think I was one of the few who didn't bring dvds/books.