The first thing I thought about this morning, as I opened my eyes, was that the cat trying to rouse me from my hung-over sleep sounded like a Game Boy.
The second thing is that I had a really, really good time at the opening show night of Blip Festival 2011 last night.
This year's Blip Festival was thrown at Eyebeam on New York City's West Side by a collective of chip musicians called 8bitpeoples, with help from NYC nonprofit The Tank.
Many of those who play chiptunes—music made through the sound chips of old video game hardware-–have long resented the tight correlation between their music scene and video gamers. If that seems implausible at first, think of it this way: They're using the hardware as an instrument to create original electronic music that they hope everyone can enjoy, but the video gamey sound often leads to the misinterpretation that they're making "video game music", or that gamers are the only ones who can participate.
(Photo by Chris Person, @Papapishu)
It seemed as if the surliness has relaxed. It's similar to the same kind of diversification that's been taking place in the gaming scene—the softening of divisions between types of players as the audience broadens-–and this year's event welcomed gamers, musicians, hardware junkies interested in making new art with circuits, and music fans from the chip-savvy to the casual culturists.
So of course we went, my friend and photographer Chris ‘Papapishu' Person and I. (‘Person' really is his last name.) We underestimated the amount of time it takes to get to the edge of the West Side and worried about missing things; the first difference between the scene at Blip and that of other shows we routinely hit up all along the L train is that people are actually there when the doors open-–and not in the "handful of people milling around awkwardly waiting for the show to start" way, but in a lively, vital throng, talking and checking out merchandise and a fascinating hardware demonstration: MakerBot, which somehow prints 3D objects. It was too loud for me to really hear how it works, but its visible inner machinery shifts, glows as if it's part of the room's décor.
Not two minutes in, we spotted Samit Sarkar from Destructoid and Anthony Carboni from Bytejacker. We expected to see a lot of our friends from the video gaming space, naturally. "If you're playing video games, the soundscape the artists use is part of you," Dave Mauro, who's done album art for Anamanaguchi, told me as we caught up in the dark, spacious show room.
This year's festival immediately felt more joyful, diverse and inclusive than ever before, thanks in part to the credit of Anamanaguchi, and the success of the band's Scott Pilgrim game soundtrack. The hyper-positive alt boy-band popularized the use of instruments along with the soundchip, an evolution that helped the perception of chip music evolve from stark electronic sounds blasted out by mysterious, occasionally-alienating individual virtuosos arched over a Game Boy at the back of a stage to a diverse palette of sounds. The band is widely recognizable to gamers and music fans alike, even those who don't generally follow the chiptune scene, and becoming moreso (we totally called it, by the way).