◆ Date: August 22nd, 2014
◆ Location: Villain, Brooklyn
◆ Music: Arcade High, Bubblyfish, Meishi Smile, Bit Shifter, Paza, Shirobon, Trash80
◆ Visuals: Batsly Adams, Chromacle, Raquel Meyers, Rosa Menkman, vaporstack
◆ View complete photo set: http://bit.ly/1vx85e9
Doors to Villain opened at 7pm and I felt a tingle of nostalgia. The painted brick walls of the venue brought me back to the Blip Festivals at Eyebeam. LWLVL (Low-level) is the first chip music festival since the last Blip came to an end in NYC in 2012. LWLVL is one of many festivals that have started their own following after the end of Blip and they have some pretty big shoes to fill. Before the show began there was plenty to do between grabbing a drink at the bar with friends to interacting with the art gallery. It was a full of techie-friendly installations and arcade games which invited festival goers to explore the space. The piece titled “The wall” by Mark Kleeb attracted many over the night. The wooden panel had gears of different sizes that would spin at different rates. A nail on the gear triggered a wire that was connected to a pipe. As the wheels spun the pipes would play at different tones and rates. “It’s the largest analogue sequencer,” said Kleeb. Another installation was a piece called “Deconstructed Christmas Tree” by Philip Sterns. Large, industrial lights were mounted to a board on the wall and they flickered beautifully attracting viewers like flies to a flower.
An hour later Arcade High took the stage with Vaporstack (formally known as futurestack). Their synth-inspired 80′s new wave tunes started off the festival with some dancy chip music. Morissa Trunzo, Pittsburg based singer/singer writer/ actress joined Arcade High on stage for the last song of their set titled “Heat Wave.” The chiptune legend, Bubblyfish was second to perform with the talented Rosa Menkman on visuals. Bubblyfish’s heavy, dark electronic beats started to get the crowd bouncing around as the venue started to get hot and sticky.
LA artist, Meishi Smile teamed up with Chromacle on visuals for a performance that injected a surge of energy into the venue as he hopped around stage. His music is described as “electronic project inspired by J-pop, noise and shoegaze” on the official LWLVL app. Apps for events are by no means new but I found this one to be particularly well designed and useful with an official festival playlist, tracks form each artist, information on visualist and installation art as well as a map to the venue and UBER codes for discounted rides.
People pushed to the front of the stage as Bit Shifter started to play. LWLVL is the first stop of his summer tour which will take him to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Manchster in the next month. Raquel Myers colorful visuals presented the perfect backdrop to this legendary chip musician. Bit Shifter ended his set with his loved cover song “Under The Milky Way” while the crowd danced and sang along.
Swedish musician, Paza, hasn’t been to NYC since the summer of 2012 when he performed at the “Hackers On Planet Earth” chiptune concert series. Under the glow of Bastly Adam’s visuals Paza delivered an animated set, wearing a mask with a vocoder (an analysis/synthesis system). Fellow international artist, Shiroban, is based out of London and makes music with the Game Boy, Commodore 64 and synths. Although it was his New York debut, an enthusiastic audience member chanted his name as he took the stage and started to play. Halfway through his set dancing turned into friendly moshing and fun ensued.
Trash80 ended the night with a big dance party. Several people crowd surfed and the crowd truly could not get enough of him. They demanded an encore. Although he said he hated encores he complied and asked if they wanted something new or something old. From the first few beats of “Missing You” screams echoed through the venue and the temperature rose even higher as the crowd danced harder.