Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been drawn to arcades. They were the only place on Earth where you could take first place in a white-knucle race, engage in friendly yet heated competition, and blow up the Death Star all in one night. The constant stream of bleeps and bloops emanating from those hallowed halls undoubtedly played a big role in my love of chipmusic today. Thinking back, my first-ever experience with live music was delivered by the Rock-Afire Explosion at the nirvana of my childhood, Showbiz Pizza Place. During those years when arcades were alive and well, their siren song would magnetize me at every skating rink, pizza joint, 7-Eleven and grocery store. It got to the point that whenever I’d rush away from my mother’s side, she knew exactly where I was going.
These warm feelings are understood and happily resurrected by Swedish chip musician PICE in his fantastic album, ‘Insert Coin’. The magical opening track ‘Prologue’ sets the tone for the album, in which a wistful melody is supported by gently rolling waves of bass. The following track ‘Another Great Morning’ shines forth with an optimistic composition where cheerful tunes abound. Conceived on New Year’s Eve, ‘Fireworks’ mixes gorgeous live piano with delicious chip sounds and crunchy bass to create a standout track that will give you a serious case of the warm fuzzies.
Nostalgia-triggering is definitely an artform, and PICE has got it on lock. Rather than cheaply regurgitating familiar tunes from the past, he creates his own unique soundscape that pushes all the right buttons. In fact, there’s just a single instance of a well-known Mario sound effect, and it’s executed perfectly during the buildup of ‘Ice Cream!’. If you aren’t on your feet by the end of this track, or at the very least bobbing your head, then you may need to check your pulse.
Elsewhere, the cosmic sounds of ‘Milky Way’ offer up a steady driving beat and a catchy melody interspersed with more open moments that offer the listener a chance to reflect upon the vastness of our galaxy and what lies beyond. The idea for this track came from viewing images of space, and it’s a personal favorite of mine. PICE then mixes things up with the aptly named track, ‘The Hard Stage’. This track exhibits a dangerous intensity that was cooked up in the smoke-filled cellar of Dr. Wily’s castle and then forged in the fire of Bowser’s deepest lava pit.
Overall, ‘Insert Coin’ epitomizes the slow jam. The album sits comfortably at the forefront of a focused listening session, as well as in the background of your next social gathering. PICE is definitely one artist you’ll want to support and follow. He is very skilled at creating happy, nostalgic music that evokes the kinds of feelings I had in the arcades as a kid.
Thankfully, I can now say that there’s no need to just dwell on the past anymore! ‘Insert Coin’ will serve as the perfect soundtrack as I tell you of the greatest thing to happen to my hometown of Lafayette, LA: newly opened Arcadian Bar and Grill! So, hit play and let’s go to the arcade!
For well over a decade, I have lamented the death of the arcade and feared that they would forever remain a fond yet intangible memory. Over that time, I’ve toyed with the idea of putting together a MAME cabinet for use at home. Ultimately though, that is just a small part of the full arcade experience that has never left my mind. Imagine my excitement upon hearing that a barcade was coming to town! Anticipation grew over the hot summer months, until Arcadian finally opened its doors in late October. Oh yes friends, it is glorious, and it’s something that I must share with the chiptune community!
I had the pleasure of speaking with the owner of Arcadian, Robert Zorn, and here’s what he had to say:
Chris: What gave you the idea to open a barcade here in downtown Lafayette?
Robert: I’ve been restoring old video arcades and pinball machines for the last 12 years. My first machine was a Donkey Kong Jr. cocktail that a church had given to me and a buddy of mine when I was 14. After graduating high school and moving to Lafayette, we had picked up a Street Fighter II cabinet from a Goodwill, and that just set off a firestorm. We started going around the state with trailers buying as many as we could. Over the last 10 years, I’ve probably restored somewhere around 1,500 to 3,000 arcade and pinball machines.
I’ve always wanted to open a retro barcade. I just wanted to open up a place that brings nostalgia back. Every one of these games brings back a certain time in people’s lives. Just seeing the artwork on some of these cabinets will take someone back to the time in their childhood when they first saw that, and that brings back warm, happy feelings. So, it’s all about revitalizing these old games that are still popular today and giving them new life. They’re all rewired and have been given new LED screens.
Chris: I noticed that! I have to say that I’ve been anticipating the opening all summer and it has exceeded my expectations! Considering the age of many of these machines, they are in excellent condition.
Robert: I’ve put a lot of work into restoring them and have picked them up everywhere from Craigslist to large auctions and warehouse loads. Some have had cosmetic facelifts but these are all the original cabinets produced by Midway, Nintendo, etc.
Chris: How has the response from the public been?
Robert: It’s been overwhelming. Within the first day of putting our facebook page up prior to opening, we had 1,000 fans. Before opening our doors, that number had reached over 3,400. Now we’re getting an average of 100 new fans a day and have been packed every night. We wanted to make something that’s a chill place. It’s kid friendly until 9, so that people our age can come in with their children and experience something with their kids that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience, something from their childhood. We have all craft brew on the tap, and an excellent food menu as well that is made from scratch daily.
Chris: It definitely fills a niche here in town that has never been filled until now, and really puts Lafayette on the map. We have a lot of chiptune artists and fans that read this blog, and we’d really love to know if you would be open to the idea of having a live chiptune performance here? I think that this would be the perfect venue for it!
Robert: Definitely. I have had inquiries about live music before, and once we are farther out from our opening I would love to do it. I agree with you, I’d love to do it.
Chris: Awesome! Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.
Robert: There is more to come! I have over 200 cabinets that we’re going to rotate in and out. We’re going to use facebook and let people vote them in and retire others. We have the biggest HD projection screen downtown that is 15×15 foot which could be utilized in future performances. Arcadian is a melting pot as far as our patrons that appeals to young gamer kids, people our age that remember these things, hipsters and people that would not usually go downtown.
Chris: Yes, just looking around you can see its appeal to a wide range. It’s really exciting, and congratulations on all of your success here!
Robert: Thank you.
And that, ChipWINners, is the story of how my hometown went from pretty good to full of WIN! I encourage you all to come on down and check it out!
Arcadian Facebook page