Chiptunes and Blip Fest Tokyo

Welcome to Blip Festival Tokyo!

Back on Sept. 4 and 5, I attend the inaugural Blip Festival Tokyo concert. I’ve followed chiptune music off and on for about a year now, but had never attended a concert.

A cover version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Oh, what is chiptune music? It seems there are several definitions, but what I tell people is the creation of music using old videogame hardware. That is, using the sound processors from the Game Boy, NES, Atari, Commodore and other systems to create new tunes. Perhaps the most well-known name from the scene is Anamanaguchi, a group that most recently composed the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim: The Video Game. They were not at this show though.

I forget his name, but he rapped/sang during Bit Shifter's set

So who was at the show? Bit Shifter, K->, Sabrepulse and many others. The performers represented countries from around the world. The big draws for me were Japanese group YMCK and Hip Tanaka. Tanaka is best known for his work at Nintendo, where he composed the music for Gyromite, Balloon Fight, Mother/Earthbound, Dr. Mario, and more.

After someone's set

When I talked to Bit Shifter, he said he was surprised at the turn out, as he truly had no idea how many people would attend the show. My sentiments echo his words. I didn’t realize there was a large following of this scene here in Japan, even though some of the performers are from Japan.

I forget his name, but his music was awesome

The shows were nice, though I will have to admit I only really enjoyed half the artists. It was a fun time though, and I witnessed people moshing and crowd surfing in a place I thought I’d never see it–a chiptune concert in Japan.

Hip Tanaka, former composer at Nintendo, performed Sept. 5, 2010

When I’ve told some people about the concert, I was asked once or twice about the live aspect of the shows. Since the music is synthesized, do the artists really do anything? Yes, they do. It’s true, much, if not all, of the artist’s music is composed in advanced, there are still elements that can change the way it sounds. Some people use mixers to change audio levels, or there is distortion added to some tracks, or tempo changes, etc. Of course, when there are vocals, those are live and can definitely change or be influenced by the performer’s mood.

A female vocalist performed during one of Hally's songs

The show was fun, and I think I’d go to another one of these events again… if tickets were a bit cheaper. Here it was a little more than $70 to buy tickets at the door to attend both nights. If I had purchased in advance, the total cost would’ve been 6,000 yen. YMCK does have another show coming up soon, so if I can find a way to go, I think I will.

It was not uncommon for performers to leave their audio setups and move about the stage

In this post are a few choice pictures from the concert, but the full galleries can be found at my smugmug account.

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