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Photo by Marjorie Becker

Music is kind of weird, people play gigs, often well, sometimes very well. Every now and then, the stars align or fate intervenes or maybe it’s just the right crowd in the right place with the right band but something utterly remarkable happens. I wasn’t in that theater in Paris when patrons rioted at a Stravinsky ballet, nor was I in Shay stadium when you barely hear the Beatles over the hysterical teenage girls. I didn’t get to see that one gig where James Brown threw down with Prince and Michael Jackson, but I was at the Condom and Hally show.

Rewind a few months and the Blip Festival reached out to the community with a kickstarter project. Said community responded with great enthusiasm and chipped in close to five figures. In late October Bit Shifter (one of the festival founders) announced:

“Post-show event for Kickstarter backers. Featuring Covox and Random performing a joint collaborative set as Condom. I am not joking.”

I remember thinking, “oooookay?” I mean, I love Random, I love Covox, but Condom? sounds kind of silly. 4 days before the show a second announcement, again from Bit Shifter.

“Update (2009 12 14): also special guest set by HALLY. I am still not joking.”

Really interested now, Hally is about as close as Chip music has to a megastar and I had been lucky enough to catch a couple of shows but seeing him at Blip? That would be a real treat.

Spin forward to about midnight on the 18th of December. I was happy as a kid on Christmas morning, having just seen a hero of mine (Patric C) tear up the Bell House. No real memory of any backers party. We were all politely ushered out of the stage area and people started trying to work out the whos and hows of getting back into the Hally and Condom show. I don’t remember exactly how (possibly with the help of my editor at TCTD) but I got back in and joined the crowd.

Hally looks more comfortable than pretty much anyone on stage. I don’t know if it practice, confidence in his music or he just knows how much we all love him but he is a benchmark of stagecraft. A quick toast to the crowd and he slipped into that delightful, funky, Famicom powered groove of his. The reaction was enthusiastic and happy, Blip festival just adores Hally. Seeing him at Chipmusic’s biggest event with the genres most dedicated fans was everything I hoped for.

Personal highlights of his set for me were the epic Gradifunk and a new tune I hadn’t heard before. It was based, I think, around a sample of a forgotten house track woven into some new catchy slice of awesome. The final tune was Hally’s splendid cover of Surfin’ USA from the Squarewave Surfers CD. Having once again shown the world exactly why he is at the very pinnacle of live chip music Hally left the stage to thunderous cheers.

Dripping, tired and blissfully happy after the performance, I was still not really sure what was going to happen with Condom. The duo took the stage in near total darkness, clad head to foot in black. A couple of technical glitches were sorted out while an expectant crowd looked on. Individually Covox and Random are hugely talented and respected musicians but Condom was an unknown quantity.

Photo by Marjorie Becker

The first 30 seconds of the show, established the tone for the rest of the set perfectly. Random and Covox switched on small, eye like lamps on their headgear a chilling cold voice explained in terms a little abstract for my adrenalin addled brain to follow what Condom was all about.

Then the visuals started, simple, geometric shapes rendered in black and white. Stage still almost totally black.

The bass dropped.

Then the drums.

Then The Bell House went absolutely wild.

The music was minimal, almost to the point of being stark. Tunes immediately accessible, like you had already been listening to them for months. Absolutely impossible not to dance. The set was well thought out, as if it was mixed by a masterful DJ reading what the crowd wanted, delivering every time. The performance drove on, punctuated occasionally by more chilling vocal samples, the audience perfectly connected with the artists. At one point I moved to the side of the stage to watch the crowd for a few minutes. People were just hooked, totally engrossed in the music, arms in the air, smiling faces, dancing their hearts out.

The 30 minute set finished and Condom left the stage, lights came up and Random and Covox appeared, unmasked to much applause. The spell was finally broken.

I couldn’t really do much of anything for a few minutes, I just sat on the floor and let reality seep back in. Rumor has it the source files for all the music have been deleted. It’s never going to be repeated.

I don’t know who came up with this wonderful crazy idea but my sincerest thanks. Show me a backers party with Condom and Random a playing a set as Ravox next year?

Name your price.

I’m there!

Slides fom NO CARRIER's Open Source VJ Solutions workshop

Day 2

Day 2

Any fan of Pause Music should be familiar with Disasterpeace. Kind of an interesting choice for Blip given how incredibly intricate and progressive his music is. I wasn’t sure how well it would translate to a live setting. The answer is not badly at all but I couldn’t help feeling the empty drum kit on stage was a little sad. Obviously any artist is free to play their shows however they wish but if any act was open for a kind of live chip super band this was it. Logistically difficult but it would have been oh so awesome. Enso backed Disasterpeace up with some sweet, occasionally creepy graphics. Altogether a solid enjoyable performance.

I hadn’t heard much of Starscream before tonight so I was pretty excited to see them. There is quite a buzz about the duo (Gameboys and live drums) and the crowd obviously loved them. JYKs visuals had a hard edge to them, a corrupted, psychedelic vibe with glitchy space images. Another nice pairing.

I was really impressed with Outputs visuals with Day1’s AGM performance so I was looking forward to seeing her work with Fighter X and it matched the duo’s high energy tunes pretty well. Fast paced, blocky and colorful. Fighter X themselves are from what I guess you could call the newer school of Gameboy dance music although I think they had a keyboard (Korg Microx?) on stage as well. Very fast paced, lots of energy and pretty popular with the crowd.

Little-Scale/Rosa Menkman
This was the first act of the night I had really been looking forward to. Little-Scale has been incredibly prolific in terms of music and hardware throughout 2009 and and I was really curious to see what he would use on stage and what type of music he would go for. Hardware wise I think he was running a 2600, a Master System and a Megadrive and his music ranged from relaxed, abstract and mellow to distorted, rhythmic and aggressive. Probably most places in between too. The energy in the crowd was surprisingly aggressive, not hostile but very very physical, a little surprising. Rosa’s visuals again suited the music perfectly mixing what looked like monochrome, corrupted, scrolling data with collages of icons and occasional abstract shapes. In typical Little-Scale style, he made a render of his set (not the live recording) available on his site

I, Cactus/VBlank
I absolutely adore I, Cactus’s 8bp release it’s one of my all time favorite chip EPs but its very short and fairly old so I had no idea what to expect from his live show. In a word it was weird, very weird. His live rig was a laptop with an external monitor, I would guess he was using some kind of tracker but I’m not sure. He had fragmental samples of an astonishing range of musical genres and it all just about held together over inspired beats and occasional wonderful melodies. Without meaning to sound cliche, hard to decide to decide if the guy is a little crazy or an absolute genius.

Nullsleep/Rosa Menkman and Paris
During the last year I caught a couple of Nullsleep sets which featured some tunes I heard tonight. It was great to hear the songs up on a big system with room to dance. The set sounded huge and terrifying, really really good. Kind of hypnotic in a way. Rosa and Paris had I really rather groovy blend of distorted Nullsleep logos, creepy data skulls and almost strobe fast abstract graphics. Older favorite tunes were conspicuously absent but I personally prefer that, with each new phase of his development Nullsleep gets darker and more aggressive, my kind of thing. Bring it on!

Rainbowdragoneyes/The C-Men
“I don’t get it, a metal dude playing Eurobeat?”. I don’t know exactly what happened or why the transition occurred but after a few minutes, “OH! I get it! a metal dude playing Eurobeat” and totally got into the groove. RDE is catchy as hell, like super infectious, with a deadpan stage presence, an absolute riot to listen to. I actually wonder is he has some kind of audio disconnect in his brain where Eurobeat sounds like Slayer to him. Which ever way it works, inciting the crowd to form a huge circle pit during Eur Hawt was inspired. The whole performance was most enjoyable and consider me a convert.

Patric C/No Carrier
I can’t really lie, Patric C was a bit of a hero of mine when I was a teenager and I was a little star struck to meet him. He is an absolutely 100 percent solid dude, really pleasant, knowledgeable and funny. His body of work is so immense I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of a live show so I couldn’t have been more happy with the “Amiga Rave” set. Patric C has a delightfully engaging stage presence and No Carrier matched it well with a bright and faced paced visual backdrop. The combination of “Flex Busterman” and the Lenny D name drop made this one of my favorite acts of the festival and I really hope Patric performs this type of set more often.

Day 1

The Bell House is a great venue. I have absolutely no idea why but I had it in my head that it was a hotel. Not true. It’s a big, old warehouse, I think from the 1920s. The entrance is through a fairly large open room which doubles as a bar and a cafe. There is a merchandise table at one end, well stocked with CDs, T-Shirts and other goods. A door at one end leads to the main hall, probably the size of a large school gym. It’s a lazy rectangular shape, with the stage on one of the longer sides. Imagine you are standing in front of the stage, facing away. Directly across from the stage is a low tower with the mixing rig with booths for VJs on either side.  On the right wall is bar number two (did the crew choose a good venue or what?), behind you to your left is the artists backstage area and the left wall has an emergency beer tap, I assume for artists who are already to drunk to be able to find the other two bars.
Continue reading Day 1 Report

Day 2 video

Day 2 video, more coming soon! Video by BOSTON8BIT.

This post was submitted by Chris Mahoney.

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