Chip Music, Game Music

MAGFest 7 Wrap-Up: Music, Games, And Airport Security

January 27, 2009 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook MAGFest 7 Wrap-Up: Music, Games, And Airport Securityon Twitter

For game music enthusiasts such as myself, there was no better way to start the year off than by attending MAGFest. The Music and Games Festival, or MAGFest as it has come to be known, is a yearly gaming festival, heavily influenced by game music. This year, it ran from January 1st through 4th in Alexandria, Virginia. With an estimated attendance of over a thousand, the festival has continued grow each year. Yet, rather than the usual corporate atmosphere we encounter with gaming conventions like E3 and the Penny Arcade Expo, MAGFest continues to maintain a very relaxed and enjoyable environment. Like most other independently run conventions, they provide workshops, panels, and gaming rooms. However, the most appealing feature for us was the live concerts featuring a host of video game inspired artists, including performances by the Smash Brothers, cover bands such as Arm Cannon, and the chip-rapper extraordinaire, A_Rival of Wave Theory.

See more after the Jump.

The convention was amazing, but the trip itself had a few hitches, so bear with me.  I got there well enough (although the lack of ginger ale on the Delta flight had me down), and it was great meeting up with some of friends I hadn’t seen in awhile.  I checked out some of the free play arcades they had set up and socialized with the con goers, including our own elusive Dale North.

While the concerts were divided over the course of several evenings in the main concert room, a unique feature of the festival was the jam session room which was open for most of the day, allowing anyone to come in, pick up an instrument, and play a set. This gave way to impromptu performances by members of the game remix community; many of whom are featured on sites like OverClocked ReMix. The room was also used to host a chiptune concert on both Friday and Saturday evenings after the main concert took place. Those acts included Zen Albatross, Dino Lionetti, and Jake “Virt” Kaufman, among others. The event proved to be so popular that the room easily filled beyond capacity, forcing some attendees to wait in the adjacent hallway between acts. From what I’ve heard, the event will be moved to the main concert hall next year, with the expectation of similar turn out.

Being a member of the game remix community myself, I’ve grown to know many artists who contribute to sites such as OCRemix or VGmix. MAGFest provides a rare opportunity for many of these musicians to meet up with their peers, as well as fans, from these sites. These artists often make the yearly mecca just to meet up, enjoy the concerts and party during this weekend long festival, and this year was no exception. MAGFest itself has a long history of working closely with these fan-based communities, even providing them a panel to discuss their current affairs and upcoming projects. There were also group and individual composer panels featuring many of the honored guests, such as Jake Kaufman, Tommy Tallarico, Howard Drossin, and Grant Kirkhope. During his panel, Tallarico shared his opinions on the current trends in game journalism, which weren’t favorable. He also touched on his various industry experiences with a brief Q&A session. Kaufman provided a panel focusing primarily on his “Kwakfest” speed composition parties that he has been known to host, and which I’ve been known to take part in on occasion. This coincided with the release of his recent Kwakfest album, which was being sold at the convention for a mere $10.

Music wasn’t the only focus of the convention, as several fan-made feature length films were previewed and screened. This included X-Strike Studios’ upcoming Resident Horror, co-scored by our very own Dale North, and Eddie Lebron’s live action feature Mega Man. I was particularly interested in seeing the progress that was being made on Mega Man after having witnessed the trailer that hit the web several months back. After the extended, 15-minute MAGFest exclusive trailer, which definitely gave me goosebumps, Eddie was nice enough to hold a short Q&A session, the details of which can be found in their entirety here. Regarding the soundtrack for the film, a little digging has pointed to Siddhartha Barnhoorn, who has scored several independent films, and as mentioned in the Q&A, has worked with Lebron in the past. Lebron also noted during the session that the soundtrack will feature a number of memorable cues from the series. I’m truly impressed with the film so far, and we all should look forward to seeing the finished project later this year.

With all that was going on, the weekend almost seemed to end too soon. Between the countless room parties, panels, screenings, and concerts, it became easy to to lose oneself. Though there wasn’t a large show floor, or countless vendors, the ones who were there seemed genuinely interested in the convention itself. A friend of ours who runs my favorite rare games outlet, Mad-Gear, even mentioned to me that he might need to bring help along next year, just so he could really soak in the experience.

Flying on New Years day has it’s benefits, as the airports were basically empty. The flight home, on the other hand, ended up being delayed due to winter weather, causing me to miss my connection and leaving me stranded in Ohio. On a funny note, I was pulled into secondary at the TSA check point. The they had a fun time questioning me about Jake Kaufman’s album, no doubt due to the amazing poser art of a naked man, namely Nario, riding his totally righteous dragon. They also brought up the copy of Daigasso Band Bros. DX that I had bought. Apparently they were confused by the woman who looks like a weird dog on the back of the box (though admittedly I’m still confused about that myself.) After humoring the TSA officials, I finally managed to get home, only to find out that Delta managed to lose the bag I paid $15 to check the day before.  It wasn’t a nice way to end the trip, but MAGFest definitely made it worth the trouble.

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