While there’s a million things one can do at MAGFest, the concerts tend to be its biggest draw. After all, what’s a music and gaming festival without the concerts?
MAGFest 12 boasted an impressive lineup of several videogame music cover bands hailing from a variety of places in the U.S., including one band from Sweden and even one from Brazil. There’s an incredibly vast amount of genres that these artists cover, spanning from metal to rap, jazz and even folk.
If there’s one bit of advice I can give anyone who will be attending shows at MAGFest in the future, it’s that your curiosity can lead you to some amazing experiences. Don’t know a particular band? Go attend the show anyway, because your head might explode from the awesomeness.
Granted, I couldn’t attend every single concert, so this isn’t a complete list in the slightest. Nevertheless, I present to you several mini-reviews of the acts I had a chance to rock out to, along with some choice video footage and links to their Bandcamp pages.
What if technical death metal and Nobuo Uematsu had a baby? It’d probably spawn Knight of the Round, a band that takes several of the Final Fantasy series’ tunes and gives them a heavier edge while incorporating all sorts of complex time signatures and poly-rhythms. Their covers of “Troops March On” and “Mako Reactor” made me wish I had long hair to swirl around in an epic headbanging session.
Mega Ran’s popularity has grown considerably over the years. With the help of producer K-Murdock, he raps over classic game music from the likes of Mega Man 2, Illusion of Gaia and Earthbound, while instilling lyrics that are very personal reflections on his upbringing. His interaction with the crowd make his sets even more enjoyable. Take his freestyle raps for instance, where he incorporates objects that the crowd holds up into his rapping.
3. Bit Brigade
Bit Brigade doesn’t just settle for hard rock covers of classic game music. They take things to the next degree with their pal Noah, who does a live speedrun of the game onstage while they perform the music to it, changing it up when appropriate. At MAGFest 12 they debuted The Legend of Zelda on NES, covering all of the game’s music while also adding in some jams from Zelda II, A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening and Ocarina of Time.
The band’s rendition of the Dark World Dungeon music from A Link to the Past was so impressive that I thought I was listening to a videogame music version of Black Sabbath.
4. The OneUps
The jazz/funk game music covers of The OneUps offer a nice break from the heaviness that’s usually associated with the scene. The band has been at it for several years, going through several lineup changes and a ton of covers. The band closed out the first night of MAGFest 12, which was dubbed “MAGprom.” The most memorable part of that night was when the MAGprom king proposed to his girlfriend right on stage after dancing to one of the band’s slower jams.
Don’t mistake his look and his exceptional guitar skills for Joe Satriani. Even so, Danimal Cannon (also of Armcannon) is easily one of the most impressive guitarists in the videogame music scene. He also happens to be a great chiptune artist, utilizing a Game Boy that runs homebrew software to produce his intensely pulsating chiptunes.
I stumbled upon Chronicles of Sound towards the end of their set, where they lulled me in with a cover of The Lord of the Rings theme followed by a cover from Disasterpeace’s Fez soundtrack and a tight, rocking rendition of Final Fantasy VI and VII’s boss themes. Their albums on Bandcamp feature original music that adheres to their style of rock infused with plenty of keys and cello.
Although Viking Guitar is normally comprised of just one man who forges rocking game medleys, he was joined by Metroid Metal’s Stemage, Stemage’s brother Adam Henry, Travis Morgan and MegaBeardo to pull off some brutal metal covers that included the likes of Super Castlevania IV, Blaster Master and Secret of Mana.
While not actually brothers (only bros), the duo strum up an incredible storm on their acoustic guitars. Their cover of Castlevania sent chills down my spine, while their performance of the Mii Channel music was made even more humorous by the backing video that featured Mii versions of several of the MAGFest performers.
What blew my mind the most was their final song, which included the complex “Battle Runner (Stage 3)” and “Bloody Storm (Boss BGM)” from Contra III: The Alien Wars. While the embedded video above doesn’t do the audio justice, you’ll at least get a sense of how cleverly crafted the whole thing was.
9. The Megas
While The Protomen may have kicked off the whole “Mega Man rock opera” idea, The Megas stick a little closer to the source material, crafting lyrics that directly reference the stories to your classic Mega Man games while also incorporating those familiar tunes into interesting arrangements.
MAGFest 12 was a first for many things, most notable among them being MegaDriver’s first appearance and performance in the United States. Hailing from the Top Gear (SNES) and metal-loving communities of Brazil, the band covered a wide range of music from the Genesis and SNES eras. They even brought with them a vocalist who belted out some appropriately metal lyrics to games like Golden Axe, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Street Fighter.
It also bears mentioning that their guitars are custom-made, sporting the head of Sonic the Hedgehog, a golden axe and even a freaking Sega Genesis/Megadrive.
LONELYROLLINGSTARS, which made its debut performance at MAGFest 12, features a supergroup of videogame music cover artists that touch upon a variety of games, from Turrican 2 to Katamari Damacy, and even the Gamecube Bootup ditty. While their covers of Mario Kart: Double Dash’s “Rainbow Road” and Katamari Damacy’s “Lonely Rolling Star” remain high on my list, nothing topped “Dr. Bakula to the Future” for me, which featured a medley of the themes from Quantum Leap, Back to the Future and Dr. Who.
What made this medley even more epic is that it became the band’s running gag to play the Quantum Leap outro a couple of times, including their finale.
Add The World is Square to a list of bands that prove that videogame music covers are more than just a hodgepodge of heaviness. Hailing from Massachusetts, the group tackles anything that has to do with Square Enix, focusing mostly on the folkier side of the company’s repertoire, including covers of “Scars of Time” from Chrono Cross and “Vamo Alla Flamenco” from Final Fantasy IX. Mandolin, acoustic guitar and world percussion are among their tools of the trade.
The band is currently in the process of recording a follow-up to their debut album “No Phoenix Down Can Save You Now.” I hear there will be a bit of Breath of Fire (gasp!) in it.
“Take DEVO, Rammstein, Dimmu Borgir, Type O Negative and a 1985 Nintendo. Mix them in a blender. Then blast them into outer space! Wow! Sounds like URIZEN.” That’s the band’s perfect summation of their sound, but it doesn’t describe their stage antics, which are a sight to behold.
You can go into a URIZEN show and expect to see a nefarious mad scientist that attempts to foil the band by way of electrifying thinking caps and a full-on mech assault (seriously, he pelts the band with nerf darts while riding on a freaking mech in the crowd) as well as some interesting encounters with an eye goo monster, an automatic toilet paper gun and a giant robot.
And that’s not even getting to the part where the band blew the power out in the Jamspace and thus ended their set by engaging the crowd in a “Wall of Colossus.”
Before X-Hunters, I never would have thought that a metal version of Donkey Kong Country’s “Aquatic Ambiance” would sound so fantastic. Also, they opened with Mega Man X’s “Storm Eagle.” I can’t think of a more perfect way to kick off a Mega Man-infused set.
15. Those Who Fight
Take the infectiously melodic melodies of Uematsu, infuse them into an original storyline involving an evil empire and an opposing resistance and you get Those Who Fight.
The band features exceptional guitar and vocalwork, much of which is handled by the band’s two guitarists: Descendants of Erdrick’s Amanda Lepre and Armcannon’s Mike Willard. The band does a marvelous job with several Final Fantasy tunes, which include a very faithful cover of “Dark Messenger” from Final Fantasy IX and a lyrical version of “Devil’s Lab” from Final Fantasy VI that’ll leave the bassline stuck in your head for eternity.
So, are you convinced enough to come rock out with me at MAGFest next year? Are you ready to chastise me for missing out on Machinae Supremacy, Armcannon, DJ Cutman and Triforce Quartet? Let me know in the comments.