◆ Date: September 12th, 2014
◆ Location: The Zoo, Manchester, England
◆ Music: Alone, The VIRUS Empire, Theremin Hero, Maskinoperator, Demoscene Time Machine, Mega Ran, Zabutom, Goto80, gwEm, Needle Factory
◆ Visuals: KeFF, Euan McKenzie
◆ View complete photo set: http://bit.ly/1uuiVm3
SuperByte‘s third annual chip music festival has grown into a 3-day celebration of DIY technology, lo-fi and most of all, chip music. As I walked into The Zoo I saw all the signs of a great chip music festival. The stage was glowing from bright LED lights and was set with a table flooded with cables, computers and other electronic devices. Huge speakers were stacked on top of each other and faced out into the heart if the venue. The visual artists were testing out their artwork while the merch table was busy creating hand written signs as the bartender paced back and forth ready to pour. A huge disco ball scattered light on the floor.
James took the mic promptly at 7pm and introduced the first performer, Alone. He warmed up the crowd with his chippy beats as festival goers started to trickle through the door. Based in Cardiff, Wales, Alone combines makes music from game consoles filtered through delays and drum machines with guitar.
The Virus Empire took the stage next. His music is heavily influenced by 90′s and early 00′s dance music and he got the crowd moving with 8-bit covers such as “Don’t You Want Me ?” and K-Pop group Girl’s Generation’s song titled “Trick.”
Fog filled the stage just before Glasglow-based artist Theremin Hero came on stage. He started by playing the game boy and Moog Theremin. He masterfully manipulated the sound by moving his hand over the theremin as if he was playing an invisible cello. As if that wasn’t cool enough he introduced his hand crafted “NESkeytar” made from an old Nintendo NES, original guitar hero controller and toy keyboard controlled by the raspberry pi. Plus you can still play games on it! He held up the Vulcan greeting sign and played the theme song to Star Trek. The Superbyte crowd was already in love with Theremin Hero by the time he brought out his Laser Harp and played the theme song to super Mario brothers.
Maskinoperatör appeared on stage out of nowhere. He was dressed in all black and had thick, black makeup on his face and in his hair. You could barely see him aside from the whites of his eyes, his white eyelashes and his blond beard. He spent the first minute staring silently into the crowd before heading to the back of the stage asking for the monitors to be brought all the way up. His darkness permeated the room as his deep beats shook the the organs in your body.
In contrast to the darkness the next performer, Demoscene Time Machine, presented fast paced, high pitched beats and got the crowd dancing to in no time. The venue heated up with dancing bodies and love for this Swedish artist.
Mega Ran took the stage with his signature blue pixel tie. His set was a unique interactive experience as he engaged the audience with song, story telling familiar tunes and humor. The audience changed “here we go” and clapped on cue while he rapped. Mega Ran told the SuperByte crowd a story about how he was a Former 7th grade teacher who quit his job to become a professional rapper licensed by Capcom. He went into the rap he did for his students on their first day of school. There were many unforgettable moments of his set like performing the theme song to the sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” and his freestyle where he rapped about random things people in the audience gave him including a drawing of himself rapping. He ended with a communal dance where he invited the audience to come up on stage and dance with him.
Swedish chip tuner, Zabutom, started his set at midnight and brought the festival goers back to some classic chip tune. At this point the music was so loud I thought I wasn’t wearing earplugs. The crowd seemed to loose control of their bodies and danced heavily in the red light.
James came on stage to announce that SuperByte had officially sold out and introduced Goto80 as a god and legend. Goto80 performed in corporate attire: a blue collared shirt and tie. A computer screen on the table added to the office-style of his performance. Many of his songs had a mechanical feel to them. Halfway through his set, a costumed character came on stage with a huge (fake) gun and shield. He bounced up and down in video game style of movement.
It was nearly 2am when gwEm set up a table at the front if the stage for his Atari DJ set. The crowd was noticeably thinned out but there were still a good amount if hard core festival goers dancing and having fun. Fresh beers were bought and a 2nd wave of energy hit the crowd as gwEm continued to move their bodies.
Manchester’s very own Needle Factory took the stage just as gwEm came off. His hard industrial tunes forced the last drops of energy out of the festival goers who were still left standing.