I would like to start this article off with an apology. Longtime fans of the blog may know that, generally, if I’m writing a post-event retrospective (i.e. PAX East or MAGFest) I make it a point to not only cover the music but also the various games I played at the event – highlighting indie games is one of my favorite things to do, as it helps smaller devs get some much needed press. Unfortunately, due to my increased duties helping sling merch at Chipspace this year, I was unable to play any games at MAG, so this year’s review is limited to the chiptune showcases that I caught at both Chipspace & main stage. Which isn’t to say there’s not a lot to talk about, because holy balls, there were a lot of awesome showcases at both venues!
You can check out the Chipspace stream archives from the geekbeatradio Twitch stream here – they’re all uncut at the time of this posting, which means you might have to do a little digging to find the showcase you want, but this also means that all the open mic slots are preserved as well! I appreciate the fact that, at its core, Chipspace has been and always will be a place for anyone who makes chiptunes to come up and show off their music. There were a number of folks who had their first time in front of a crowd at MAGFest this year, and being able to get up and get your first performance under your belt is so crucial. Whether it’s your first performance or maybe just your first one in a while, Chipspace offers a nice low-pressure opportunity to show off an old favorite or new work to friends & fans in a public setting.
But as to the actual showcases, I’ve got to say we had an excellent spread! Not only in terms of where performers were from geographically or even their compositional styles, but also regarding who they were affiliated with – there were old favorites from the halcyon days of the NYC scene, several folks from Philly’s 8static crew, the first ChipWIN showcase in years, contributors to the Chiptunes 4 Autism compilations, BotBers, as well as folks finding new fame and recognition through Materia Collective. I was consistently surprised by the artists we had this year – there were so many artists that I’d either never or just barely heard of that had me constantly scraping my jaw off the floor. It’s hard to pick a specific moment to talk about, but I remember chuckling at ap0c’s “easter egg” between songs (gadunk gadunk, baby), the crowd going absolutely mad for skybox playing, and glomag dropping a cover of the theme to “Buckaroo Banzai.”
If Chipspace’s showcases were amazing just based off of raw talent, the Mainstage chip performances were a whole other level thanks to the magic of HIGH PRODUCTION VALUES. Everything from Professor Shyguy having custom visuals for his songs to Sam Mulligan and The Donut Slayers having rehearsed comedy bits for most of the performance plus a cavalcade of cameos from friends and family, to just having Dino Lionetti on visuals so many times in one weekend (seriously, I have no idea if or when Dino sleeps; between his visuals in Chipspace and Mainstage plus playing with Chromelodeon I swear he was on stage for a solid 24 hours), Mainstage was the place to be. While Mediatron was able to capture all of the Mainstage concerts, some are currently down for post-editing, so make sure that you keep checking back on the MAGFest YouTube channel to see what’s been added.
I think what was the coolest bit about this year’s chiptune offerings was that there seriously was something for everyone. For the hardest of hardcore, there was the Demoparty. For folks who wanted pure chip and sometimes vocals, Chipspace had it covered. But for folks who wanted a bit more, some “chiptune and…” if you will, Mainstage really had a bunch of interesting offerings this year. Danimal Cannon and Professor Shyguy were the only “typical” offerings you might expect on Mainstage – one, a master of shredding and the other a lyrical champion – but both were a single person who plays guitar with chiptune accompaniment. On the other hand, Curious Quail was a really unique add. For an event that trends towards metal and heavier rock, having a chiptune + full band act somewhere closer to Modest Mouse was an unexpected treat. MAGFest has been trying to expand its nerdcore offerings as well, and having both Mainstage’s Supercommuter plus Chipspace’s FYÜTCH doing chippy nerdcore was a pretty sweet supplement to the already strong and expanding lineup.
And then there was the Chiprave. Whether you wanted to dance the night away or have your face melted off by the power of pure awesome, this was the event for you. The combined talents of Graz, bryface, HarleyLikesMusic, Don’tblinkoryou’lldie, and chibi-tech were an international powerhouse that could not be stopped. Watch below to experience it yourself.
I know that our blog is very America-centric (most of our writers live in the US after all), and that it’s specifically rather East Coast based, as most of us able to make it out to shows usually do so in the Virginia-Massachusetts corridor (Editor’s note: Wanna help fix that? Join the blog team!), but with that bias acknowledged, I really do think that MAGFest has become one of the biggest and best ways to experience a wide variety of chipmusic live and in person.
MAGFest is unique because they keep it fresh year after year; in recent years they’ve instituted a policy about only playing Mainstage every other year. There are now five major instances of MAGFest across the USA – Super in January plus Stock, Labs, West and BitGen Gamer Fest spread throughout the summer. There are MAGFest folks at PAX East doing a curated Jamspace Showcase and the possibility of people showing up on off-years to play some of the second stage areas (such as Chipspace or the Mega Man-athon or the POSE Lounge at Super, for example). The sheer number of venues to see shows at means that it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll see the same act more than once a year or so. Between their aforementioned policy and the addition of Rob Carballo, AKA boryalic of geekbeatradio, as the head of Chipspace with his years of experience in finding new acts, it seems that for every returning act there are two or more fresh faces on the roster as well. It’s my hope that this is a model for live chiptune going forward on any coast or continent, because personally I want to keep rocking out to chiptunes until I die.
If you don’t want to sort through the MAGFest and geekbeatradio videos to find what you want, I’ve included links to all the musicians and visualists that participated in Chipspace or were featured on mainstage below – check ’em out! Buy their music! Start your own local music festival and book ’em! As long as you’re supporting artists, you can’t go wrong.
Seats out. Happy New Year, ChipWINners.
Chipspace (organized by showcase):
Kickoff concert: nelward
ChipWIN: LemonDrop | Metroyd Myk | BrickBRKer
Bitcrushed: bit-crushed.com | Chipocrite | Ap0c | Dimeback
geekbeatradio: geekbeatradio.com | glomag | FYÜTCH | Hangongetready
MAGWest: skybox | Neon Death Cat | R23X
Denver: Michael Zucker | robotsexmusic | The Ghost Servant
VenoSci | Dino | Pixelseed | Partly Human | Thresher
Mainstage (organized by day):
Thurs: Professor Shyguy
Fri: Curious Quail | Danimal Cannon | Please Lose Battle
Sat: Sam Mulligan & The Donut Slayers | Supercommuter
Chiprave: Graz | bryface | HarleyLikesMusic | don’tblinkoryou’lldie | chibi-tech
No Carrier | SBthree | Kira City | Dino | VISMANCIENNE