I managed to win two passes to this year’s Toy Company Chiptune festival at the August MRGS meetup by answering a trivia question correctly… before the actual question had been asked. Basically, one of the organizers started the question with “A Canadian astronaut…” to which a whole bunch of people just yelled out “Chris Hadfield.” To which he responded, “no, that’s not the answer to the question I haven’t asked…” To which I yelled, “Space Oddity!” And managed to win the tickets. For context, see here.
Anyways, I was really excited to win the tickets because a) I’d never been to a chiptune show before, and b) I had no idea there were chiptune shows happening in Montreal, let alone an entire 2 day festival dedicated to the genre. I’m not going to lie and say that I was way into the genre or anything, but I have a few groups that I really like (do Crystal Castles still count?) and was eager to learn more about the scene.
For those of you not familiar with chiptune, it’s basically dance music for video game nerds. Chiptune, or 8-bit as it is also known, often utilizes actual consoles (handhelds like the Game Boy are classics) as instruments, or mixes video game samples with other electronic sounds to create deliciously blippy beats. It’s a pretty broad umbrella and is sometimes lumped in with Nerdcore and Wizard Rock as music for nerds, but from what I can tell chiptune these days has more in common with the hacker roots of early electronica than it does with Jonathan Coulton.
I had to miss out on Friday night’s sets, but Saturday I made it just in time to catch DJ Cutman, as evidenced by the amazing costume he wore while DJing. The setup was also very impressive, built around the idea of being able to hang out and have a good time as much as it was about dancing to the bleeps and bloops. The Mount Royal Game Society was there with their big wooden arcade machine full of top local indie games, while Gros Joueurs had a bunch of the best multiplayer games to play on gigantic screens, including Bomberman, X-Men & Turtles In Time!
I didn’t take many pictures because my poor camera just wasn’t built for low light environments, but I was also having too much fun running around meeting new people. Not to mention having tons of fun dancing and playing games. I didn’t even mind that my date for the night had ended up bailing on me.
I met an awesome girl named Alicia (I hope I spelled that right) who I introduced myself to after seeing her accost her male friend for not taking her seriously as a gamer. I found out she’s in Montreal studying game design at Concordia and we cemented our new instant friendship with a round of Greedy Piggy Chase where I got thoroughly shellacked.
I had some good conversations about abandonware and digital preservation with MrGhosty, played a good 7 or 8 levels of Turtles in Time and played Super Mario Bros. with 3 people using a giant oversized NES controller.
It was also interesting how wide a range there are of musical styles, even under the “genre” of chiptune. DJ Cutman‘s set was very dance-y, while Nullsleep was fuzzy and noisy. And then there’s Oxygenfad, who ended his super glitch-y set by dancing on a speaker in a bikini and rubbing whipped cream all over himself.
All in all I actually had an amazing time and I’m kind of kicking myself that I hadn’t looked into the scene sooner.