It’s been about a week since the conclusion of MAGFest 2016, the music and gaming event’s 14th year in operation, and as for any dedicated MAG-goer, it’s a lot to digest all at once. MAGFest has grown in size and scope ever year since it’s inception, and it’s impossible for any one person to properly cover everything they set out to – whether you’re going for fun or otherwise. I had the pleasure of attending with Michael this year, and we both had agreed that there was no way we could get to everything we wanted to to report back on. Events like MAG become a “Best Laid Plans” scenario every year, but we do what we can.
Held yet again at the Gaylord at National Harbor, this year was another series of being awestruck at how large the event has gotten, and how diverse it’s become. Thankfully, I managed to check in on a few keys things, some old and some brand new, that were definitely worth noting.
This year I found myself having to be realistic in what I wanted to catch; a handful of main stage bands, try to catch a composer panel or two, and then focus on covering new sessions within the MAG repertoire. The attendance of MAGFest this year was astounding, even after my being taken aback at last year’s seeming boom in event-goers. Thousands of every type of media-lover you could imagine had shown up to represent their communities, and attend their chosen fandom’s sessions and panels. MAGFest indeed has become more diverse as the years have gone on; no longer simply being about video games and VG-related music and instead branching off into other echelons of media and general nerdery. The inclusion of performers such a Ninja Sex Party/Tupperware Remix Party, Psychostick, I Fight Dragons and others over strictly VGM bands who don’t limit themselves to any one facet of geeky music is a testament to that.
There were indeed plenty of familiar faces in the concert lineup this year. Veteran band Metroid Metal took the stage right out of the gate on Thursday night and performed in their usual manner of intensity and grand shredding. My nerdy heart swelled to hear their “Transformers medley” played loud and proud, and despite my having seen them several times in years past, there is always something magnetic about thrashing about to “Kraid” with hundreds of other metalheads.
Other returning groups included The OneUps and Bit Brigade. I missed the former, sadly, but fortunately caught the main stage performance of the latter. Their debut playthrough of Ninja Gaiden I have to say has been my favorite performance of theirs to date; even above Castlevania. The gameplay was incredible, and I think it was the cutscenes of the game that added a special element to the set. When the entire concert hall cheers at the ending kiss scene among the blaring guitars, you have yourself a true MAGFest moment.
There was a lot of new VGM acts as well that I was able to catch. The first was V-jams, performing at the MAGCabaret (formerly MAGProm). A rotating lineup playing jazzy songs intended for a formal setting, with trivia intermittently between sets. I was only able to catch a bit of the event, and loved the music I did hear (The cover of “Africa” by Toto was a fun touch), though once the trivia portion was announced I confess I was put off a bit. Regardless, it was a fun time and an excuse to dress classy and dance a bit – something that’s nice to see others do too.
One of the things I was most intent on seeing was the inclusion of the mini-event known as MAG Underground; a 1-day, all-day MAGFest-within-MAGFest nestled within a corner of the Gaylord atrium where a bunch of additional bands and performers went on stage and proceeded to rock to their heart’s content. Featuring 10 bands and performances, including Super Guitar Bros, Marshall Art, oldschool bands Autoscroll and Gimmick!, and new bands such as Vic Viper and Prime Legacy (The CarboHydroM Experience), the mini- event was thrown together by volunteers from TheShizz.org (a forum that grew up around The Minibosses, of which I am indeed a member; full disclosure) and some gracious MAGFest hosts. While the Gaylord and convention center bustled with thousands of game and media fans, MAG Underground was it’s own slice of MAGFest throw-back that paid tribute to the MAGFests of old. (Or so I’m told, as my first MAGFest was 10) If you’re of the mind that MAGFest has gotten a bit too big or too busy and yearned for small and simpler, yet energy-charged, music performances, then MAG Underground was for you.
So, another year has come and gone, and now we await what’s in store for next year’s MAGFest. While I wasn’t able to get to everything I’d wanted to see, it was as enjoyable a time as it always has been, gripes aside. Michael will be following up with his own experience, but I can safely say that it was a fun year with plenty to check out and hopefully a lot of returning features next year.
Photos courtesy of Max Noel. used with permission.Tags: Bit Brigade, Events, Gimmick!, MAG Underground, MAGFest, MAGFest 2016, Metroid Metal, News, Super Guitar Bros, V-Jams, VGM, Vic Viper Band