The bands on night two of the Blip chiptune festival played out like one of those fantastic mix tapes: up a notch, up a notch, down a notch, sideways, rock the house, down a notch, roof comes off. And boy did it.
With folks like Bit Shifter and Random anchoring the show, you know you’re in good hands. And the super-pixelated display that backed them only accelerated the head rocking videogame flow experience. It’s not so much that the retro sounds put you back in classic games but rather that they bring back the sense of momentum and joy those games evoked in an entirely different context. They blew that place up like a one-two punch.
But the real surprise of the night came from an entirely unexpected source. The front half of the acts was a bit uneven and when Coova (pictured above) took the stage with the words “I just flew in from Japan and I’m really tired,” the audience wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We needn’t have worried. She stood motionless, but her sound was anything but. The luminous, pulsing, distinctly Japanese, and forever evolving melodic structures that poured from her gameboys were the most stunning thing I heard all night.
Chiptune performances can resemble plate spinning with gameboys (most acts had at least 3) standing in for plates, each of which must be kept on point with the rest. Here the penalty for slipups isn’t so much crashing dishes as beats out of sync and busted breaks. It’s a precision dance of in-time button mashing, swapping patch cables, and slipping carts in and out of handhelds at exactly the right instant — or the crowd don’t bounce. And what’s amazing is that the best of the performers have this new art down to a science.
The Blip Festival is only half over. This afternoon features a screening of the fabulous 8 BIT documentary and Nullsleep plays tonight. Bubblyfish hits it on Sunday. If the vibe turns out anything like Friday, neither should be missed. For those who can’t make it, the wonderfully diverse multidisc chiptune compilation available at the show should be online orderable soon.