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Blip Festival 2009
where game boys do more than tetris
by: Nicholas Palumbo - December 12, 2009

Look UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT at Blip Festival 2009 and you might be awestruck by the lights and sounds surrounding you. This isn’t a video game…This is all real.

Blip Festival 2009 is a festival celebrating the 8bit movement. Every year, people from around the world flock to New York to hear exhilarating music from nostalgic video game consoles (NES, Game Boy, Atari, etc.) and see stunning accompaniment visuals. This year’s festivities will feature great 8bit acts as Starscream, Nullsleep and Bit Shifter. The Festival will take place at The Bell House from Thursday, December 17 to Saturday, December 19. Tickets are $15/day or $40 for a 3-day festival pass.

I recently sat down with musical artist Chromix and visual artist Jean Y. Kim. We talked about what one might expect from this year’s festival.

What nostalgic equipment do you use?

Chromix: I use an NES and a Game Boy. The NES I use is actually the same one I had growing up. The Game Boy is actually an SP I got from my wife for Christmas when we first started dating (I knew she was a keeper).

Do you work with any of the visual artists beforehand?

Chromix: I usually do, although I'm always amazed by what they end up doing.

How do you correlate your visuals to an artist’s music?

Jean Y. Kim: For each set that I do, the number one priority is that the visuals correspond directly to the style of music that an artist's music plays. Basically, the music dictates every decision made: colours, movements, graphics, everything. I try to work with people whose music I like so it is very natural for me to combine my own style and aesthetic to theirs. In the best scenarios, it becomes a totally collaborative experience.

Describe the sights and sounds of the Blip Festival.

Chromix: It's like a rave, only less druggy and more nerdy. Instead of DJs, you have guys with Game Boys acting like rock stars (complete with crowd surfing and head banging) and people behind so much equipment you're afraid they're going to start an electrical fire. The music is anywhere between rave music remixed by Super Mario, a typical indy band with a bit of electrics thrown in, and the sound a fax machine would make if it could cry. Sometimes there's singing, sometimes there's guitars, and sometimes there's an Atari 2600. The visuals are intense... always somewhere between a broken Nintendo and a disco. At the same time it's like summer camp because you have people from all over the world who come to New York for a few days, camping out on couches and all, just to be a part of it.

Jean Y. Kim: It's difficult to describe holistically, the sounds and sights of Blip Festival, so I'm just going to throw you some adjectives that I've found to be relevant in the past: bumping, dope, cute, sweet, sexy, raw, violent, angsty, celebrational, romantic, experimental, bright.

Will you cover any artist/song during your set?

Chromix: Yes... right now I'm torn between Interpol, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or Sonic 2. That's Blip for you!

What dance will you do on stage?

Chromix: A spastic one? It's hard to really plan for anything when you know you're going to be so focused on a tiny screen with 500 people watching you, but I always get my point across.

What musical/visual sets should people catch at the festival?

Chromix: David Sugar is a legend and will definitely put on a great show. Little Scale and Leeni both write amazing music that is completely accessible to anyone who has a soul.

Jean Y. Kim: Definitely, people need to check out The Hunters. It is the new project of a well respected female Japanese artist, Coova who is as talented as she is unique. Also, in respect to visuals, Julian (The C-Men) is playing his 10th anniversary show at this year's Blip Festival, he is probably one of the most influential people in the scene, as well as being hilarious himself. This show is not to miss.

Why should people go to Blip Festival?

Chromix: People should go if they've ever genuinely enjoyed a song from a video game or even a song at a rave. Even if they haven't, no one ever feels out of place at Blip. Everyone is very friendly and there's room for people who want to dance their hearts out and people who just want to kick back and have a beer. It's one of those rare things that could only happen in New York, and I'm grateful to have been a part of it these past few years.

Jean Y. Kim: People should go to Blip Festival because there is no other event in the world like it.From the styles of music and art that come together to the community that happens around it, nothing else happens on this kind of scale without any pretension at all. It is seriously the most enjoyable time. I've known people with no interest in electronic music to have been inspired to start making their own after being at the festival, Artists from abroad have said that New York City is the best scene in the world as far as community and quality go. If you look at lineups from years past, they range from the experimental (Loud Objects) to the aggressive (Huoratron) and the sweet (6955). Bottom line is: these three days are going to be super fun and high energy, super high quality, and super unique, and there is something for everyone.

Blip Festival will take place this Thursday-Saturday at The Bell House in Gowanus. Tickets are available on Ticketweb and at the venue.


"It's like a rave, only less druggy and more nerdy."

Blip Festival 2009
"2009 Blip Festival"

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what it is

A 3-day 8-bit extravaganza.