Oh man, I’m still beat from MAGFest X. We’ve written about a ton of music so far, but we still have three days of chiptune concerts to cover! The noon-time chiptune concerts featured three artists apiece with a “secret chiptune concert” (which was blatantly listed on the schedule) that featured even more on the final night. Acts including Disasterpeace, Knife City, virt, and others performed along with special guests at the secret concert.
Patrick and I have double-teamed the coverage of all the performances for your reading pleasure, and of course we have more photos from Emi Spicer.
Hit the jump for more.
Day one featured Disasterpeace, Revengineers and Danimal Cannon. A pretty strong lineup, and I was excited to attend as I hadn’t seen any of these performers live.
Disasterpeace immediately blew me away with his dreamy soundscapes complete with 8-bit arpeggios and live guitar work. I’d describe his work as very textural as one piece flowed into the other, giving us everything from a lovely oceanscape to an espionage-esque track. His accompanying drummer for this performance, Rekcahdam, slammed along to the complex arrangements at lightning speed. He actually lost one of his sticks during “Ensis” and kept going with just the remaining one until a stage hand brought him a replacement, which was impressive to watch. Rekcahdam was also given a portion of the set to perform two of his own pieces sporting funky bass, percussion and a chip lead.
Revengineers were more rock-flavored with 8-bit accents. They had a small crowd of passionate fans who were really feeling the music, swaying with the melodies. It was a short set, but a good one.
Danimal Cannon was next, bringing his own unique blend of 8-bit and metal. He’s of course a beast on the guitar, and his solo performance at the chiptune show on Friday was actually the first set of three that he’d play that day (in addition to a guest appearance with This Place is Haunted). He amassed quite a crowd, shredding like crazy on guitar while 8-bit arrangements poured out of his Game Boy. There were some funky tracks off Roots (read our review here), the appearance of a nifty chip organ section and a funky dance track at the end.
While I was there for most of the performances on day two, I had to step out in the middle to see Battlecake, so fortunately Patrick Gann was on hand to lend his impressions:
First up was Chipocrite. This Philadelphia artist (who also performs with Cheap Dinosaurs and their game cover side-project, Auto-Scroll) opened with the chords of the old hymn “Abide With Me.” From there, he transitioned into the track “I Quit.” It’s a great song, but the thing I first noticed here when my ears perked up is that the sound quality was fantastic. Live chiptunes aren’t incredibly easy to mix, but the sound guys in the back had Chipocrite (and everyone else) sounding like the rockstars they are.
As Chipocrite continued, people began to move closer to the front, nodding heads to a pitch-bending, minor key piece called “Monkey Torture.” I loved the heavy drums on this one. Then we heard “Truce,” “FBI,” and “Mr. Knights Is In The Building,” in which Chipocrite added live bass guitar into the mix alongside his Game Boys. These songs all featured dancy, syncopated beat and were awesome. However, on the 6th song, a cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” Chipocrite performed the melody in some low registers and it was hard to hear over the rest of the song. The great, if overused, chord progression (IV V I IV) kept the momentum going.
The last two tracks were “Beat Reporter” and “Little Computer People.” Both were fantastic. I have to say, Chipocrite woke me up even better than the robot-made coffee I had just got from the convention center lobby.
At 1pm, Knife City started his set. He admitted it was the same set as what he’s played at most venues the past few months, but it was new to me. And sweet lordy did I enjoy it. This crazy party animal (he’s Luke from Anamanaguchi, by the way) jumps on stage and yells “I don’t give a f—!” And thus began almost 40 minutes of amazing, party-friendly chiptunes.
Using two Game Boys and some mixing equipment, Knife City kept the music busy and the fans even busier. Much dancing ensued. One thing I noticed as a trend was his use of heavy, booming drag triplets to break from one section of a song to another. Very effective, very awesome. Near the end of the set, even I was tapping my feet and starting to move around. This guy knows how to put on a killer live set and has a few earworm-melodies for fans to cling to. He also covered LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” at one point.
The size of the crowd increased near 2pm when Jake “virt” Kaufman took the stage for the first time that year. Being a California resident, it’s hard to get out to east coast events. But virt was here, and he was rocking some beautiful pink hair, nifty glowing toys and of course some fantastic music.
Even as a live performer, it’s clear that virt is an accomplished long-form composer. His melodies were sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean he let up on the beat. Again, much dancing ensued.
I didn’t recognize many of the tracks, though I believe I heard some tracks from Mighty Switch Force in there. All I knew was that everyone had a great time during his performance. I suspect virt’s fans (myself included) got more out of the performance than virt could possibly get out of all of MAGFest (though he himself seemed pretty psyched about the coming performance of Earthbound Papas).
The secret chiptune concert came at around 1 AM after the Earthbound Papas finished their set. The early morning opened with Inverse Phase playing some of the material he’s been working on for various game projects (it’s crazy just how far he’s come in just a short couple of years). There was some “Rock You Like a Hurricane” as well, which got a nice response. He was, however, followed by some technical difficulties, and it was a good hour before any of the other acts got to perform.
Inverse Phase had a lot to say during his set, but it was great to hear how his musical talent has blossomed
But perform they did. Animal Style was up next with 8-bit sounds and live guitar voice creating upbeat melodies. He played a relatively short set, but I really dug the second track that had a tropical vibe with playful percussion. An0va also performed with guitar and 8-bit sounds, giving us a dreamy opening track before jumping into heavier material and cover of the song “My Machines” by Battles. There was a strange video projection on the wall talking about rats which was somehow entertaining at 2 AM or whatever time it was. I also loved his upbeat drum ‘n’ bass track — very chirpy and cute.
Next up was our guy, Joshua “Zen Albatross” Kopstein. He opened with a political message before jumping into some distorted, grungy and twisted club music. One track had these neat little coin-sounding effects that I was enjoying, and all of his songs sported great beats. I thought it was interesting that Zen Albatross is able to put on a nice club set while still retaining that upbeat melodic sound. Still, he had everyone in the room dancing. He ended with a track from an upcoming minusbaby remix album before his grand finale with laser beams and explosions, ending his set with a bang.
Zen Albatross knows how to put on a persona. He almost looks cool with his hood and scarf. But not really. [Note: Jayson is clearly upset about not getting a cool scarf for Christmas -ED]
Dauragon was next, who I was super excited to hear perform after hearing his then-incomplete tracks at MAGFest VIII. He’s come a long way, and his sound is just as heavy as I remembered. I’d describe it as “gutteral” with its bassy tones and drum ‘n’ bass style percussion. Apparently some event had ended in the convention center, and some nicely dressed ladies in heels wandered into the room, joining Dauragon on stage to dance. He took the opportunity to have them press buttons and trigger events in his song, which was a neat impromptu experience.
The most memorable moment of the night, however, was A_Rival, who took to the stage at around 3:30 AM. Yeah, it was late, but it was absolutely amazing. He didn’t bring any of his signature hip-hop to the stage, instead opting to go for his old style of electronic club music which he focused on before developing the A_Rival moniker. There was footage from Doom on the screen along with headshots from some shooter game. His set was heavy yet fun, and even I was jumping all over the place and pumping my fist at A_Rival’s command. It was a blissful thirty or so minutes (I have no idea how he lasted, as he was jumping around more than anyone) and at the end of the concert, nearly everyone in the audience had made their way on stage to dance and jump alongside him. His final track was a pumping remix of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song, which was an absolute blast. At the end of the show, A_Rival opened his suit case full of CDs and demanded that we take them. Maybe he had too much to drink, but I’d like to believe that he was touched by our response to his energetic set.
DJ CATS had a tough act to follow as most people filed out of the room, but I stuck around to catch his heavily melodic set which was a nice way to come off the energy high from the previous set.
Well, sorry we went on for so long, but there was a lot of material to cover. In actuality, we should have probably provided daily write-ups on the chiptune concerts as there was certainly enough material. We’ll give that a shot next year, but in the meantime please chime in on your favorite chiptune performances of the event. Did you dig Disasterpeace, Knife City, or virt? Or did A_Rival steal the show?