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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!

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