May 20, 2011 4:00 PM | Matthew Hawkins
Last night was the first evening of Blip Festival 2011. It’s already been a very special show thus far, on numerous levels... First and foremost, it marks the fifth anniversary of the now yearly chiptunes gathering, not just for New Yorkers, but 8bit music aficionados the world over. It’s also a return to Eyebeam, which hosted the 2nd Blip -- my favorite installment to date -- back in 2007.
And for further selfish reasons, I was also happy to see the show return to Manhattan, since it would be far easier to get to (the previous Brooklyn digs weren’t impossible to reach, but were still somewhat of a pain in the ass). Yet I still found myself running late, to the point that I completely missed the first act, Chipzel. Drat. I was afraid that I’d miss Zen Albatross’s set as well. Thankfully, I was able to catch the final half; I'm pals with Joshua Kopstein and knew what a big deal performing at Blip was for him. After all, it’s the biggest, grandest stage for any chiptuner at this point. Never seen the dude happier. Equally joyful was Jenn De La Vega, Blip's publicist, who screamed between beats, "I'm so proud; he's one of us!!!"
She means, of course, one of the local boys and girls who have helped to inspire and energize the chip scene on a global scale. As in Blips past, 2k11’s edition has thus far been a nice mix of proven local talents and brand new faces from every which way. One newbie was Talk To Animals, from Baltimore, who I was a big fan of even before she decided to whip out the ukulele for some Tiny Tim action. Another fave of mine was BEASTMODE, hailing from Quebec, who turned out to be the one act with the most word-of-mouth buzz leading up; anytime someone said that they might not stick around for the entire night, they were immediately told, "But dude, you have to stick around for BEASTMODE. That guy is SICK!"
Though it was the locals that stole the show last night. First and foremost was a triumphantly kick-ass set by Anamanguchi, who built strong reputations as the kids that know how to bring a party. I've heard them live countless times, but never before have they sounded so perfect. Usually either the live instruments are drowning out the chiptunes, or vice versa, but not here; it was a PERFECT balance. Word had gotten out that beforehand they'd be playing a brand new set, and the new songs are easily some of their best work to date.
Yet it was perhaps Minusbaby who might be remembered the most, perhaps of the entire festival, when all is said and done. When he first got on stage, alongside were various other musicians, with mandolins, clarinets, tubas, and all other manners of instruments. The scene created a buzz in the audience that is simply indescribable, and the same could be said of the amazing mixture of electronic and traditional sounds that followed. Near the end, Richard Caraballo stepped aside and let the clarinetist and others take the spotlight. The crowd was completely transfixed, though in the final stretch, it was funny seeing people give each other looks that read like, "Umm... what's going on here?" It's definitely a performance that people will be talking about for a good while, so dare I say history was made?
In just an hour, night two begins, including Bit Shifter, exileFaker, and Tristan Perich, plus more. For more information, be sure to hit the official festival site (with links to partake in the action, even if you can't be there).