Earlier we showed you the sweaty pig bin that makes up the ever-so-awesome MAGFest concerts, which should be the main reason for anyone to attend the convention. But not every show is dedicated to the arrangement of pre-existing video game sources which triggers the nostalgic buttons in everyone; some actually go the extra mile and perform using the video game hardware itself to create original and diverse tunes, many of which are supreme dance material with feel good spirits contrasting the live instrument side of things nicely. Thanks to our own Josh Kopstein, MAGFest offered one of the best lineups a chiptune fan could ask for.
Set at a more humane hour and calmer than the other concerts, the chiptune show was one of the more memorable of the many which MAG offered and left some great impressions. The pixel art backdrops presented at the show were done by NO CARRIER and enso, two world-traveling tech wiz’s who have mastered this fine art of producing live generated graphics by using custom software running on NES consoles and other devices. It all made for a smaller yet more welcoming atmosphere to all the shows as lines and fans were more focused towards the acts as a whole. Thanks to Emi Spicer, we have some wonderful photos along with our impressions to share.
After a presentation on chip music history from Zen Albatross and a brief Q&A with some of the artists, MAGFest head honcho Brendan Becker, known in chiptune circles as Inverse Phase, opened the show with a demonstration of his elaborate NES cover songs from his laptop. His arrangements were extremely impressive and had the audience bopping along to 8-bit versions of CeeLo Green’s “F-You” and Blur’s “Song #2,” among others. It’s amazing that even while going crazy running the event, Mr. MAGFest still had time to grace us with his music.
Newcomer Note! is a relative unknown even in his home city of New York, but judging by his performance at MAGFest, that should be changing very soon. Note! performs dance music DJ-style using two Game Boys, but the sound is like nothing else I’ve heard from the genre. His intricate syncopated rhythms constructed from ultra-compressed samples and blazing fast melodic flourishes entranced the small crowd that was gathering in the room as the performances continued and caused a lot of people to stick around for the acts that followed.
Even though Dan Behrens started showing his chipstickles on ARMCANNON’s second album Return of the Attack of the Legend of Pizzor, it’s only very recently that he has come out on his own with several tunes that are vast and impressive in their own right. Despite being his first true chiptune solo show, Dan had complete control and the crowd loved every minute of his set, thanks in part to his long experience in ARMCANNON and their own entertaining shows. Backed up with his guitar skills several songs impressed me, though perhaps no other made as much of an impact as “She Will Be Remembered” which is just an absolutely fantastic song.
Sometimes it’s hard to look with a neutral eye at a close colleague and judge a show without any bias towards the positives one knows behind the scenes, but Josh “Zen Albatross” Kopstein has the full talent to put on a show that won’t disappoint. In addition to being the main promoter and arranger for this chip evening, he also took the stage and offered a musically aggressive atmosphere.
When you combine some greasy hands of a Canadian, a porn ‘stache Tom Selleck would be jealous of and chip music that could only be the works of a green pepper hating walrus, you get Dark Warriors. With Simon Andrews on guitar, Mike Lagiglio on drums and Wizwars on the Game Boy, they’ve managed to gain a small splattering of attention on the chip scene with their excellent band sound combined with melodic chips. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Wizwars was not in attendance, but his fellow band mates along with replacement Alex Atchley did more than make up for the absence and provided one hell of a MAG debut for themselves.
This would be the first time me hearing the music of Noisewaves after hearing great things over some time. While their set itself didn’t let me down, it seemed to be riddled with some technical errors and tuning which would eventually bleed into the other sets. Much like the band before it, Noisewaves featured drums and guitar over a chiptune backdrop, though their approach can be seen as more deep with a lot of ambient moods and emotionally geared melodies. I believe the guitarist mentioned this was the first live show they’ve played, and if so they did quite well for themselves.
Their complete MAGFest set is available to download free at Bandcamp.
George & Jonathan
The buzz in the room was quite electric as the pastel colored jackets became visible on stage and dance positions were all assumed by the audience. George & Jonathan was in my opinion the best new act to come out of 2010 and their 2 releases last fall amazed me with their funky freshness. The set would start out with countless volume issues however which initially put a slight damper onto things, though after a few minutes of fixing and jiving, the music was on a roll and the dance party commenced. Playing a plethora of favorites from THE BEST MUSIC and THE BEST CHRISTMAS, they also choose to debut brand new songs for future release which sounded as amazing as ever. A set which was impossible to resist, with 2 dudes who could violate me with deep traveled fist.
The main eventer and deservedly so. Cheap Dinosaurs is the trio of Patrick Todd (Parasprinter), Joey Mariano (Animal Style) and Dino Lionetti (Chromelodeon). A super team in every right, their progressive rock style fills the space with a completely unique atmosphere. Most of the technical difficulties seemed have been sorted by the time they took the stage and fans new and old were impressed as always with the quality of their performance. Though it is not a fault on the band’s side of things, many seemed too tired and taxed after the George & Jonathan concert to stay for the whole thing but for those who did, they were served an excellent closer to arguably the best concert lineup MAGFest had to offer this year.