Someone once told me, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” It’s funny, really — I grew up in the middle of the Coachella Valley where all we had were snow birds during winter, Coachella Music and Arts Festival, and sand. Sand everywhere. In high school, I never dreamt of the life I’m currently living; no foreshadows, no inklings — and certainly no fun times to be had. I certainly didn’t foresee myself falling absolutely in love with a culture and scene so tight knit like the one I’m currently a part of — a culture in which every time I leave an event, I always feel so amorous, like I’m experiencing everything for the first time. Rockage 3.0 gave me this epiphany.
Looking back, Rockage 3.0 was just the adventure I needed. While MAGFest and Frequency 3.0 were events strategically placed in a particular point of my life when I needed them most, Rockage was a complete soul cleanse. In a matter of 39 days, I lost my two best friends (‘Pollock’, my Havana rabbit, and ‘Carma’, my childhood Dalmatian), which left me feeling like an absolute wreck. I lost both of my pets before major travel events — very coincidentally being MAG and Rockage. While I am still grieving, I believe Rockage was a whatever-deity-you-believe-in-or-don’t-believe-in-send, and I am grateful for being around so many supportive and loving friends to help get me through it, because damn did my losses hit me like a metric ton of bricks.
But anyways, enough about all the melancholy! No one likes a mopy Prof. Oakes, amirite? DON’T WORRY Y’ALL, I STILL GOT MY SPUNK.
The plans for Rockage weekend were simple: Attend Rockage. That’s it. No expectations — just be open to the idea of the weekend taking me wherever it wanted me to go. Very similar to my MAG article, the only solidified plans I had for Rockage was how the hell I was getting there, the floor I was sleeping on, and the crew to roll with (I certainly made new friends, too!)
Some of the crew I rolled with.
I could never possibly conceive concrete ideas and plans for this weekend as it was certainly the first time I was in San Jose; I felt like a fish out of water.
The drive? 324 miles. 5 long, excruciating hours through a barren, cow-filled wasteland with some sporadic rain to keep it fun.
The tunes to keep my passengers and I entertained?
Seriously, I must have listened to this album on repeat like a gazillion times. Such chip. Such mastery. Wow.
We finally arrived at SJSU with backs stiff, tummies growling, but wide-eyed (well, at least 2/3 of us in good ol’ Starscream.) We devoured a very mediocre meal at Carl’s Jr. (diet? what diet?!) then booked it over to SJSU to help set up the Clipstream broadcast. As expected, the Rockage staff was friendly, approachable, and very accommodating, and it was nice to see familiar faces (Eric Finali, Rockage 3.0 event organizer, and Dom Cerquetti, Executive Director of MAGFest) there! Without a hitch, the streams were up and running, and the show started. While it’s certainly difficult to choose my favorite performances (SERIOUSLY WHO CAN DO THAT?!), below are my top 9 picks from Rockage (in no particular order because THAT’S HARD) split up into the three primary categories of artists that performed: chipmusic, VGM, & indie.
1. Danimal Cannon
This totally happened.
With his ‘Total Destruction Tour‘ accompanied by Mega Ran and Brentalfloss right around the corner , Dan ‘Danimal Cannon’ Behrens made his way to Rockage 3.0 this year to melt the faces of those in the crowd completely off. Opening with ‘Logic Gatekeeper’, Behrens’s stage presence goes far from unnoticed—energy pumping, white Carvin lefty guitar in hand while donning a Mr. Tame triforce custom t-shirt. Despite technical difficulties, Behrens’s untouchable guitar skills melded with dreamy progchip melodies drove the crowd wild—Prof. Oakes included. Performing his title track from ‘Roots’, his super secret track with Jake ‘virt‘ Kaufman from an upcoming game, and among countless other awesome tunes including ‘Danimal Across America/Beat It’, Behrens’s shoulder-riding-guitar-playing-shenanigans was by far a highlight to my weekend. To top it off, Behrens presented a chip music panel (with powerpoint transitions, because why not!) highlighting what chip music is, creations from the demoscene (a computer art subculture that produces A/V presentations that run real-time on hardware), and demonstrated NOTE‘s newest release, ‘Color Mechanica‘, live on the Sega CD.
2. Space Boyfriend
Sending their fans on an intergalactic adventure into the depths of space, Jami ‘Space Boyfriend’ Carignan’s low-fi, idol punk, synthpop tunes had me jiving during their ‘Watermelon Party’. To accompany me during their performance? Watermelon flavored Four Loko. Collaborating with knife city in the past on the Heads Up! Hot Dogs soundtrack, and just recently performing at 8bitLA’s Frequency 3.0, Jami brought their notable electronic sound to San Jose during their Rockage appearance, and many familiar faces as well! Performing tracks such as ‘Give Me Your Whole Heart’, Carignan’s interactive performance and interaction with the crowd left us wanting more.
Couldn’t make it to the show? Don’t fret! Check out ‘Bug Spray (Never Give Up)’, Carignan’s newest album, being released on 2/25/14 by Zoom Lens.
3. Together We Are Robots
Formerly known as ‘Xombie’, Mike Ackman, frontman and only headman of ‘Together We Are Robots’, blended his experimental, acoustic sound in his Rockage performance accompanied by his Gameboy soundchip. Gaining inspiration from his spooky apartment in San Francisco, Ackman is no stranger to pulling in his fans with his haunting melodies through inspiration from The Postal Service, LCD Soundsystem, and Uncle Outrage. While no carbeers ensued, Ackman’s Rockage performance was just as strong as his Frequency performance, proving that a performer can still rock their crowd even if they’re performing after Slime Girls… or performing in a small, quaint lounge space. Don’t believe me? See above crew picture! If you’re in the San Francisco area February 20th, be sure to head over to the DNA Lounge and catch Together We Are Robots perform alongside Doctor Popular and Cartoon Violence.
1. Bit Brigade
By way of Georgia, Bit Brigade (composed of Bryant Williamson, Jace Bartet, Luke Fields, Mike Albanese, and Noah McCarthy) made their way to Rockage to speed run *not just* Legend of Zelda, but Mega Man 2 as well! No strangers to the VGM scene, Bit Brigade rocked the MAGFest 12 crowd this past January, and left me in absolute awe. If there’s one thing their performances have taught me, it’s certainly that I wasted a whole bunch of my childhood playing LoZ and MM2 as McCarthy can speedrun them in around 45 minutes. With meticulous attention to detail, Bit Brigade performed EVERY cue, cut scene, and boss battle melody in PERFECT synchronization with McCarthy both nights, truly showing up my skills as a gamer in that extra lives were totally not needed! The (tri)force was strong with these ones..
2. Super Soul Bros.
Performing a hard-hitting FOUR times, including a special request show Sunday afternoon, Super Soul Bros. (composed of Robbie Benson on keyboards, Brian Sheu on guitar, Lionel Briones on sax, Luke Borello on bass, Chris Haman on percussion, and Alfredo Vega on drums), Super Soul Bros. blends OUTSTANDING jazz, funk, and soul melodies and accompanies it with recognizable game and TV show tunes, including Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pokémon. With special cameos by Danimal Cannon, Mega Ran, and Dom Cerquetti (GET TO WORK, DOM) over Rockage weekend, Super Soul Bros. is surely a powerhouse of musicians that takes video game music to a whole other level, and left me jiving in my seat days after!
Here’s a rad video of Danimal Cannon playing with Super Soul Bros.!
Jumping on stage after playing a game of JS Joust in a yellow coat Star Trek uniform, Boboso combines fresh, flowing hip hop beats and catchy nerdcore anthems very similar to that of MC Frontalot, Schaffer the Darklord, and MC Lars while throwing in vintage, tongue in cheek infommercials in his performances. Born in Mexico City, and having lived in Japan, Boboso’s rhymes resonate with me on a very personal level in that his lyrics are the retelling of his awkward, relationship experiences intermixed with a soulful presence of food, popular culture, and butts. With my favorite track being ‘Chillin Like Krillin’, Boboso’s tracks have a chiptune, low-fi surf-like undertone very similar to that of Slime Girls which I ADORE.
2. Curious Quail
Starting as a solo project by singer/songwriter Mike Shirley-Donnelly in 2008, Curious Quail is a five-piece alternative/indie/orchestral rock band from San Jose oozing at the seams with an electropop/chiptune undertone. Nearing their 5-year anniversary, Curious Quail is currently working on ‘After the Lights Failed’, a sucessful Kickstarter project which raised over $10,000 in which they’re recording at the Dirt Room with Jon Devoto and Brad Dollar, names the indie rock scene are knowledgeable of through The Matches, Bird by Bird, Mr. Kind, The National, The Stone Foxes, and Finish Ticket. As a treat, the very devoted Curious Quail Kickstarter funders received a very special and exclusive chiptune remix album by none other than Petriform, who recently released ‘Veneer‘ on February 1st and also performed at Rockage 3.0.
3. Jean Baudin
Holy. Hell. I’m still in absolute shock. Finding a place for Jean Baudin in this post was absolutely necessary. Making use of his 11-string bass, single takes, and no overdubs, Baudin performed many video game covers alongside his own personal work at this year’s Rockage. Hailing from Redwood City, Baudin’s boundary breaking instrumentation and ambient sound was enough to stop me in my tracks—it was enough to sit me in my tracks. Known for his unique, dark, melodic compositions and versatile techniques, Baudin was primarily self-taught and later received lessons from Megadeth’s guitarist Marty Friedman and Jason Becker of the David Lee Roth Band. Coolest thing ever? I got to touch his bass.
4. Picture Atlantic
Forming in early 2006 in Santa Clara, CA, Picture Atlantic was founded by John Tran and Ryan Blair, which according to some good ol’ handy dandy Google search, are ex-members of a San Jose metalcore band ‘Dance Floor Murder’, and Patrick Chu of ‘October Sky’. Sharply dressed, the Picture Atlantic’s aesthetic is known in the Bay Area as being inspired by ‘mod’ fashion including polo shirts, Chelsea boots, Weller haircuts, and an overall ‘ivy league’ style of dress. Releasing two albums, a single, four EPs, the Picture Atlantic has a tentative release date of 2014 for their newest album, whose title is unannounced. Their sound, however, is unforgettable—the Picture Atlantic is an indie alternative band with a very warm, welcoming, and a very honest approach to the art of songwriting.
While I was happy to pick my top 9, they certainly weren’t the only artists worthy of seeing perform! Be sure to check out Rockage SJ on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to see the complete list! Couldn’t make it this year? Don’t fret! There’s always next year. Hope to see you then!
That’s all folks! Professor Oakes signing off!
Facebook | Tumblr | Twitter
Bandcamp | Bit Brigade.com | Facebook
Bandcamp | Facebook | Website
Curious Quail.com | Facebook | Twitter
Bandcamp | Danimal Cannon.com | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube
Bandcamp | Facebook | Jean Baudin.com | Twitter | Youtube
Bandcamp | Facebook | Picture Atlantic.com | Tumblr | Twitter
Bandcamp | Facebook | Space Boyfriend.com | Twitter
Super Soul Bros.
Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter
Together We Are Robots
Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter