And lo, did the gods of music decree that upon the eleventh month, of the twelfth year, of the twenty first century, that there would be a reckoning – a festival of music the likes of which were heard but rarely, and certainly had never been visited upon the small town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
And so it came to be: A mighty reckoning, a festival of revelry, an orgy of sounds rising up from the vintage gaming consoles held dear by these musicians and into the cool evening, music that was so intense that a passerby might have no idea what might be happening within the bowels of the concert hall, save for some unholy but totally funky ritual involving a computer and some nerds.
On November 17th, some friends and I made our way up to Fredericksburg, having been promised some totally sweet chiptunes at a totally rad store. We were not disappointed in any way. Before I get to reviewing the acts, though, I’d like to take a hot second to talk about the venue – namely, one Horseshoes & Handgrenades Vintage Boutique, located in lovely Old Town Fredericksburg. This place is a freaking haven for us gamer-types, as well as your typical hipster or just plain old retro-enthusiasts as well. They’ve got a great selection of old games (I picked up Norse By Norsewest, Suikoden and Goblin Commander that night), and also keep a healthy supply of shirts, albums (on vinyl, ya whippersnappers!), fancy leather shoes, odds, ends, knickknacks, tchotchkies, and comicbooks! The dude who owns the place is super friendly, and honestly, if I lived closer to Fredericksburg, I’d probably dump all available dollar bills into this place. It is amazing. And it was the perfect venue for the 8bit Invasion.
The 8bit Invasion was an absolute blast, and I’m quite sad I missed the preamble – you see, Inverse Phase was kind enough to provide some tutorials on the finer points of chiptuning earlier in the day. While I wasn’t there for it, he gave the same panel at AUSA, and it’s quite informative, especially if you want to learn how to use trackers to tune your chips. If you see him somewhere, talk to him about it – he’s a cool dude who’s been doing this for a loooong time and is glad to help the n00bs start working on their craft.
There were some early performances, but the real meat of the evening got going right around when I got there (the party don’t start ’til the Robot Sex Apocalypse walks in). It was a pretty sweet setup – there was a huge comfy sofa and some comfy chairs scattered about, and the DJ station was next to a projector, which displayed some fairly surreal visuals provided by Mr. Pixelseed himself. And then I guess there was some music and people chipped out with their bits out and then everyone went home. The end.
…what, you thought I was going to review the artists? What am I, a paid writer? Oh, wait, no, this just in, I actually am getting compensated for my work now, thanks to my college being
silly awesome enough to let me get credit for writing this. WELL. In that case, I guess I’ll have to lay down some knowledge for you, then! I’m gonna break this down as best I can, using the power of the internet and my Google-fu to bring you some samplings from each artist that was there. It might not be as good as having actually attended the show, but hey, it’s close, right? I do apologize if I miss anyone – I’ve got the list of everyone who officially performed, though there was an open mic as well. If you’re not in here and you performed, hit me up on the ChipWin Facebook page and I’ll amend that jank posthaste. Now, in no particular order…
MEGA FLARE, aka Josh Little, is a totally brotastic guy who recognized me almost immediately upon my entering the store and proceeded to introduce me to everybody. He’s a nice guy, and he’s a snappy dresser. but more importantly, he’s been tuning those chips for a little while now, and is finally starting to get his name out there. As of Christmas, he’s got a short release out with Noise Channel called Bytesized, and of course has a fully stocked Bandcamp page as well. Let’s take a listen to some of his other newer work, shall we?
You may notice a theme – he’s been amassing a number of tracks and giving them the names of delicious treats. Delicious treats, delicious beats, man. This kid’s going places. 2013’s gonna be a good year for him, if my Magic 8-ball hasn’t been lying to me.
GIGGLESPLAT, aka Davis Barney was actually the only person at the show in a ChipWin shirt, so bonus points to him. Unfortunately, I missed his set, but check out this Bandcamp jawn:
I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this guy – he doesn’t just stick to one genre and roll with it, he keeps jumping around and doing what he wants. I hope he does more.
DJ SUPER SONIC, aka Mark Homayouni, is another one of the guys who I didn’t get to see that night (he was finishing up right as I walked in), but I DID get to see his MAGFest set and ended up accidentally bumping into him at a room party. He’s totally chill, and apparently fairly well-versed in music making programs (his Facebook boasts his knowledge of Deckadance, Ableton, LSDJ and FL Studio). He’s got a few tracks out on Bandcamp, which overlap with some stuff he’s got on Soundcloud as well. He’s more of a live performance guy, which is totally alright – if you’ve seen him live, you know he’s fun times. His online repertoire seems mostly focused on retrogame remixes – and there’s nothing wrong with that, my friends.
INVERSE PHASE, aka Brendan Becker, aka Mr. MAGFest, aka Baron von Untz (get untzy, baby!) had already given a workshop on how to tune chips, but did that stop him from having a teaching session for his set? Absolutely not! Forgoing the usual “thrash around like you stuck your tongue in an electrical socket” style dancing that some associate with the electronica scene, he encouraged one and all to sit near him and partake of the dulcet tones of his laptop. If you’ve been around the chipscene long enough, you probably know that he put out Pretty Eight Machine, the Nine Inch Nails demake tribute album, but I love me some of his earlier works too – like this, for example.
CARTOON BOMB, aka Willelm Blagbyrn, aka Will Blackburn, aka the man with the plan, was the guy who had originally talked to me about all of this shenaniganry going doing, so it is to him you owe this review (and to whom I owe this review, though in a much different sense of that phrase). A lot of his music is usually slow – I’d almost say it borders on the chiptune equivalent of triphop at times (tripchip? chiphop? chiphopanonymous?), but for a nice sampling, here’s one of his more up-tempo beats and one of his other slower, trancier beats, both available at his Soundcloud.
CHIPOCRITE, aka Paul Weinstein is one of the rare chiptuners who doesn’t just fiddle around with LSDJ and call it a day – nay, he also has the power of guitars at his command for live performances! Formerly up in Pennsylvania, now calling the frozen northlands of Charlottseville, VA his home, he’s been quite active as of late, being a traveling chip minstrel at various conventions and nerdmoots. He’s got an album up on Bandcamp, and more to be found at his website. Take a listen to this track for a good representation of his depth – in the span of one song, you get some very distinct styles in there.
DATACATS, aka Chris Connelly, is a rambunctious young lad with a heart full of beeps and a face full of tiger mask. The best way I can describe his music is something similar to how I described SMILETRON’s music in the ChipWin compilation – it’s good detox music when you’ve been listening to a lot of up-tempo, high energy tunes – stuff you can still get into, but not such that you have to dance around like a maniac to enjoy it. He also kicks it oldschool by making his last album available for a very limited time on cassette. I respect that. Take a listen.
NIKOLA WHALLON, aka…er, Nikola Whallon, is who you have to thank for there being the ChipWin Jamspace at MAGFest 11 – he lent us the PA system to do it, so bonus points to you, Nikola! You can redeem them nowhere. In addition to being the dudebro-iest of dudebros, he makes some superb beats. They really speak for themselves.
COMPYCORE, aka “That Guy Who Runs ToastyCo Shirts,” aka Dylan Brown is a mysterious chiptune-wielding, shirt-selling, free-candy-to-strangers-giving individual, and quite a character. Honestly, I don’t have much to say, other than I like his music as much as I like his clothing designs, and was sad that I had no money to give him for either (said money being spent on aforementioned videogames). Peep them tunes, sucka.
CUTTLEFISH. So funny thing about Cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is the only performer I can turn up almost nothing for, internet-presencewise. The only link that was around was to his 8bc member page, which we all know is gone now. Further, I’m fairly sure he did his set before the main event, so I probably missed it, which I count as quite the shame, because the one album I can find on Bandcamp is swag-and-a-half. I’ll be happy to reward anyone who has a bit more data (or more links) for Cuttlefish with bonus points – again, redeemable for nothing, nowhere.
TREY FREY Oh, Trey Frey. How you scared us all. See, no one knew where Trey was for the longest time. The final set had wrapped up, and still no Trey. And then, like a bat out of hell, he bursts into Horseshoes & Handgrenades and starts setting up his jawns, to which he gave a marvelous performance. Dude knows how to make and entrance, that’s fo’ sho’. He’s basically anything you’d want from a chiptune artist – and I don’t mean that in that he’s some kind of run of the mill, nonremarkable dude. I mean he just hits all the right buttons – two ups, two downs, a left, a right, a left, another right, B, A and Start. But don’t take my word for it. /levarrburton
PIXELSEED, aka Sean Smith, was kind enough to provide visuals for most of the show. I will say, I was quite confused as to why some of the visuals were 50’s USDA meat awareness films, but honestly, I’ve learned it’s really best not to question these things. According to his website, Pixelseed has been doing things in the music industry for 18 years – meaning that he’s been doing stuff longer than half of the people performing that night were alive, which is simultaneously scary and awesome.
And that’s it folks! Shout outs to Emily Feder of the Chip Music Chronicle for coming down and shooting some videos that she’ll probably never upload (;D), mad ups to H&H for being totally tubular dudes for letting this happen, and good job to all the chipbros who performed that night – you ain’t no chip chumps, you chip CHAMPS. Also, keep an ear out – there’s talk of a Part 2 happening this year, which should be bigger, better, and crazier!
Here’s some Facebook links for everyone except Cuttlefish, who, like his namesake, remains elusive and slippery.
THAT’S ALL, KIDS. Have fun at MAGFest. (It doesn’t actually matter if you’re reading this and MAGFest isn’t going on, because that’s just a permanent thing to wish someone.)