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Doujin, Game Music, Indie Music

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(Almost) Live From MAGFest 9: Night Two Concerts (Photos)

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Alright, MAGFest 9 is officially over, and all the OSV staff that attended are trying to catch up on sleep. To everyone that missed it but lived close enough to have reasonably attended, let me say two things to you:

1) Sorry you couldn’t make it.
2) Thanks for not coming, because parking was terrible and the event has become popular enough now that it has easily outgrown the Alexandria / Mark Center Hilton.

We’re already getting word that MAGFest 10 will take place at a new location (nothing confirmed, just word on the street). And that’s good, because cops showed up Friday night, allegedly because of complaints that the concert area (the size of a large conference room) had far exceeded maximum occupancy and was a fire safety hazard. Saturday night the security staff started to keep count for the larger shows and were offering an additional “viewing room” in Panel 2. At least, signs were up saying this was the case.

The bunch of us from OSV that were at MAGFest will be bringing you tons of coverage from the event over the course of this week. Josh Kopstein already reported on Thursday night’s shows, and I’m here to tell you about Friday night. Included are many wonderful photos of the concert taken by Emi Spicer. Check it all out after the jump!

ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

These guys opened the Friday evening festivities. They hit some of the obvious choices in terms of covers, but one thing I really appreciate about E.S. is that they go out of their way to arrange music from games that don’t always get a lot of love. No pics, but head to their site (hosted on MySpace) to check out some of their work. I’m a big fan of that Star Fox arrangement.

ARMCANNON

In one night, MAGFest saw double Danimal. It’s no surprise, considering just how many projects and side-projects this virtuoso guitarist finds himself in. But as impressive as he was, the guy that really stole the show for me was co-founding member Chris Dlugosz, who plays keyboard. Chris doesn’t just lay down chords and comp-work. His solos are excellent, and he puts a lot of effort into getting the sound just right.

I spoke with Dlugosz briefly after the Armcannon set. He informed me that for most shows (including this one) he played a Roland Juno Di, and that for him, the coolest song to play in this particular set was their opening track, a Stark Trek medley, because it was completely new. Most years, they try to have a new album or EP prepared for MAGFest, which means new material. But this year it was more of a “best-of” set, which was great for me, because it was my first time seeing them live. I loved the Mega Man medley, if only because they resisted the urge to do Wily Stage 1 (which would inevitably be performed by at least 2 more bands this past weekend). They absolutely killed it with “Snake Man” from MM3, and their Chrono Trigger track was pretty beast as well.

Again, no photos. We’re sorry! These guys were a ton of fun to watch live. Check out their official site here.

THE ONEUPS

Alright, this was just madness. What are The OneUps without their saxophonist, Anthony Lofton, to lead their jazzy pack? Answer: still totally awesome mega-funk-stars.

With one guy down for the last few months, The OneUps worked on a new recording project that revamps their sound. The EP, which officially releases today (but was sold early at MAGFest), is called “Intergalactic Redux.” They played the album in its entirety, all six tracks back-to-back. Later this week we’ll have an interview with Mustin about this and other projects, followed by an album review.

For now, let me just say that I dug the sound, and that I was wildly impressed by the (unintentionally?) synchronized visuals by José from OCRemix. Crazy panning and virtual camera work for footage of each of the six games, as well as some totally original visuals for games like Tetris … all of this = win.

Oh, and one last thing that I have to mention here because it wont’ be in the CD review: during the final stage music for their funky Contra medley, Mustin yelled “GET TO THE CHOPPER!” It was perfect.

THE PROTOMEN

These guys brought the house down. It was insane. The funny thing was, for me, I didn’t know who they were. I heard tons of people at the convention talking, before the show, about how great they were. What I didn’t know about them was that they weren’t a VGM cover band like everyone else. I assumed they were just going to do Mega Man covers. How wrong I was.

The Protomen wrote a rock opera that is loosely based on the characters in the Mega Man franchise. They’re also a total of ten performers, with tons of talking, singing, chanting, and stage props. They know how to rock, and they know how to attract a crowd. I’d estimate that the first six rows of people packed in (50 to 80 people) were singing along to every last word. Their songs are about a dystopian future, and how the few “heroes” left do or do not learn to work together. They have Mega Man and Proto Man helmets, and arm cannons, and the guys put on silver face paint whereas the girls put on what looks like KISS paint, but only the black lines (none of the white fill). They look awesome and they sound awesome. Later this week, to give you a better idea of what these guys are about, in a feature article called “Who ARE The Protomen?”

This performance was probably the single largest thing to solidify/legitimize the official sound of MAGFest 9: the Colossus roar “WHOOOOOAAA!!” When the lead singer declared it “the fiercest noise he’d ever heard,” that basically meant that the crowd would have to repeat it between each song for every band for the rest of the weekend.

One interesting note: this performance is the one that ended with cops showing up and door-counting starting as a policy. They would go on to play another show the next night, as this night was “Act I” of their show, and Saturday night was “Act II” (technically, a prequel). While some fans question their purpose at MAGFest, which is almost strictly game music-related, others were psyched to hear them perform. Count me with the latter. TONS OF PHOTOS!

MINIBOSSES

If you thought the show ended there, you’d be dead wrong. The guys and gals of MAGFest know how to party into the night, and at about 11pm, it was time for minibosses to own the stage. These guys deserve praise, if nothing else, for sticking it out so long. They were one of the first true VGM cover bands in America, and they’ve been going strong for years. They have tons of experience, and their repertoire is huge. That said, being around so long, they definitely looked the oldest of all the performers we saw that night.

Unlike other bands, who take artistic liberties with the arrangements (particularly The OneUps), minibosses are best known for their straightforward, faithful arrangements, that are often just note-for-note transcriptions of classic VGM. On this night, the minibosses played music from Castlevania (including Castlevania 2), Super Mario (again going the black sheep route with some Mario 2 mixed in), Ninja Gaiden (which they absolutely tore up), and of course, their signature Contra medley. I thought they would end on Contra, since it’s what they’re most famous for, and everyone was yelling for it between songs. But they didn’t stop there. Instead, they ended on Mega Man.

And let’s face it, among these kinds of acts, Contra and Mega Man are tops. So it was obvious, I guess. The faithful arrangements bring me to tears. Wily Stage 1 was amazing; these guys were all over it.

METROID METAL

This was the only act from the event I’d seen before (and it was at last year’s MAGFest). Last year, they blew me away with their incredible arrangements and strong musical chops. Of course, we still love Danimal, but I also found myself cheering for Kirby and Grant like a friggin’ madman. Tonight, they gave me just what I expected. They brought it hard, and I was cheering and dancing and just enjoying myself. After midnight. Oh man, after this set, I was insanely tired.

Beyond the awesome music (which included a surprise Transformers track and a lot of fan favorites), they also invited expert gamer “Nario” to join them on stage to play the original NES Metroid live. But there was a catch: Nario was to play the game using his feet on a dance pad! This helped lighten the mood, and many audience members were sending their eyes frantically back and forth between the mayhem on stage and the screen that showed Nario’s progress. By the end of the concert, Nario had died about 5 times, but he had also picked up bombs, missiles, long beam, ice beam, an energy pack, and was actually in Norfair. I wonder if, with another hour or two, Nario could have finished his epic run.

The band ended with music from Metroid 2. Underdog sequels got a lot of love this night. This is an awesome trend, as far as I’m concerned.

Many thanks to these amazing, diverse bands for showing up and staying out late to rock with the attendees of MAGFest. And again, an extra special thanks to the photographer that provided these photos…

Photos by Emi Spicer

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