Hail, faithful readers of GIMMGP! I have returned from the frigid streets of the National Harbor, where the great banners of the Music and Gaming Festival once flew. The vendors have packed up their wares, the games have been stored for future play, and the final songs have been sung. MAGFest 2016, is over.
Unlike previous visits to the festival, I did not focus on playing arcade games or witnessing the changes from gatherings passed. For me, MAGFest 2016 was all about the music. I had a wonderful time at this year’s festival, where I met some amazing musicians and came home with a small pile of auditory goodies.
Of the many panels held over the MAGFest weekend, the one I HAD to see was the Q&A session with Manami Matsumae. This fantastic composer has created music for some of the most beloved video game soundtracks, including Mega Man, Shovel Knight, and my personal favorite, U.N. Squadron. It was a privilege to see such a prolific composer in person, and to hear so much about her impressive career.
The panel was a great opportunity for fans to ask Matsumae all sorts of questions, including her preferred games to compose for (upbeat action titles), what instruments she can play (“Anything with piano keys”), and plenty about her history in the game industry. Currently, Matsumae is a freelance composer, working very heavily with indie developers and with the music label Brave Wave. Please be sure to check out her more recent work at Brave Wave’s website!
At the Q&A session, I ran into some of my other favorite people in video game music. The Super Marcato Bros., Karl and Will Brueggemann, were also attending the panel! Upon introducing myself, the brothers immediately threw a big group hug on me, proving that these podcasters are just as kind and positive in person as they are on the microphone. I had a chance to converse with the duo about games, music, and (of course) our mutual appreciation of Manami Matsumae and her work.
The Super Marcato Bros. have been on a roll lately, releasing episodes about game music from 1994, the Mario RPG series, and a particularly interesting episode about a recurring melodic technique they dubbed the “Five Finger Fanfare.” Please be sure to check out the brothers’ podcast, as well as their original music. It’s great stuff!
In addition to these amazing encounters at MAGFest, I brought home several new albums for my listening pleasure:
The latest album from The OneUps made its debut at MAGFest 2016. This collection of jazzy tunes continues the tradition of great video game covers that was started by this awesome band way back at the original MAGFest. Notable tracks include Saw VIII (Metal Man from Mega Man 2) and Ice, Ice, Cavey (Ice Cave Chant from Donkey Kong Country).
I discovered a delightful new band at this year’s festival. The Super Soul Bros. are a collective of San Jose-based musicians who mix jazz, funk, and video games into a fantastic musical experience. This band expands beyond simply playing music from video games, bringing improvisation and their own funky joy into every track. I picked up their first studio album Fireball!, which includes a delightful version of Meta Knight’s Revenge, along with their live album from San Pedro Square, which features a whopping 11-minute journey to the Chemical Plant Zone…and beyond!
This is certainly an interesting mash-up of genres: electronic dance music remixes of vocal covers of classic video game songs. From their website, “Ten producers collaborated to bring Smooth McGroove’s famous acapella versions of game tunes to the dance floor.”
I’m not gonna lie: this album is not in my wheelhouse. Since I have only limited experience with EDM, the tracks were very hit-or-miss to me. However, I definitely recognize that the production quality and sheer variety of styles present are quite impressive. The artists on this album have done an excellent job, and if you are even remotely interested in EDM or game music, be sure to check this out.
I was extremely pleased to find this album on sale at MAGFest. This comprehensive soundtrack comes from music label Brave Wave, as the first in their Generation Series, which stands for definitive editions of legendary video game soundtracks. From their website:
“We are working with researchers, consultants and world class engineers to bring you the best possible versions of these soundtracks. We are also working closely with developers, license holders and original sound teams. All of our work will be overseen and approved by the respective composers or the person in charge of the sound team (wherever possible). On top of that, our physical releases will contain extras like interviews, art booklets and more.”
This is EXACTLY the sort of reverence and care that should be given to beloved video game music. Soundtracks from games like Street Fighter II are musical masterpieces that are part of our cultural history. I am so happy to own this soundtrack; to hear meticulously remastered versions of the music from my youth and read insightful notes from composer Yoko Shimomura on her work. Please, PLEASE support Brave Wave and their endeavors to promote and preserve this amazing music.
Thus ends my takes and tales from MAGFest 2016. In addition to these musical misadventures, I was very pleased to see so many cosplayers paying homage to my favorite game of 2015, Undertale. So as a final treat from MAGFest, please enjoy a small sample of the fantastic costumes from the festival floor!