8 Bit Weapon at the Smithsonian

March 15th, 2012 9:04 AM
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Tomorrow marks the commencement of GameFest, a three-day festival celebrating the opening of a new Smithsonian exhibition: The Art of Video Games. A year ago at this time, the public was invited to vote on what games should be featured in this exhibit. Now, in 2012, we will enjoy these games receiving the recognition they deserve.

What most excites me about GameFest is the prominent role it grants one of the Apple II community's best friends: chiptune music group 8 Bit Weapon. This group, whose work has been featured in Juiced.GS and who has collaborated with the immensely talented Michael J Mahon, will be performing live this weekend. Many of their tunes will come from the new album Bits with Byte, for which the tune "The Art of Video Games Anthem" was composed.

The album includes the song "Apple Core II", performed entirely with Apple II computers.

If you're in the Washington, DC, area, come down to the Smithsonian to check out these awesome exhibits and performers. And if you're not, purchase an 8 Bit Weapon album — and support those who support the Apple II!

Orchestral Apples

June 23rd, 2011 11:17 AM
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In case you haven't already seen it on A2Central.com, Engadget, TUAW, or Make, I'll do my bit to spread the word: Jason Torchinsky is assembling Los Angeles-based Apple II users into an orchestra, with their beloved retrocomputers as the sole instrument. Their debut concert will be in just two days, at 8 PM on June 25. How much more impressive this performance might be than the works of established chiptune musicians such as 8 Bit Weapon is to be determined, but audience members can judge for themselves by watching a live stream of the proceedings, or the tape-delayed recording of same.

What hasn't been reported elsewhere is that this effort will be reproduced next month in Minnesota, at the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis. If you miss this opportunity to participate in a live concert of Apple II hardware, you'll get another chance soon.

Finally, the image that the Machine Project is using to promote this event? That's from an advertisement for the ALF Music Card. The featured guitarist is Bill Fickas, who found this blog a few months back and emailed me the details behind that photo. Now that's a full-fledged interview waiting to happen!

8 Bit Weapon's Disko Apocalypse Tour

June 3rd, 2010 10:28 AM
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Advances in technology have made the creation of music easier, but it hasn't necessarily made the music itself better. Sometimes, you have to step backward to achieve true artistry.

That's the philosophy of chiptune music, which employs retrocomputers, from the Nintendo Game Boy to the Apple II, to create original tunes with a classic sound. Perhaps my favorite group in this genre is 8 Bit Weapon, which has been rocking the chiptune scene for over a decade, including on national and international tours, video game soundtracks, and exclusive events.



I'm fortunate to have interacted not just with 8BW's music, but with the musicians themselves. I interviewed Seth Sternberger of 8BW for the December 2007 issue of Juiced.GS, two years after I'd first heard Alon Waisman, an old friend of mine from the days of CompuServe, interview Seth on his ChatterBox Video Game Radio Show. In preparation for my interview, I'd listened to the music group's free downloads, but it wasn't until 2009 that I voted with my wallet. I purchased and reviewed 8 Bit Weapon's Electric High EP album in Juiced.GS Volume 14, Issue 3 (September 2009). I dug most of the CD's six tracks, but the first feature anyone is likely to notice is the packaging:

The CD is found in an eviscerated 5.25" floppy disk that's been slit open and the disc inserted, right alongside the original floppy media, then placed in a disk sleeve. It may seem cruel to cannibalize the format that brought us so many fond memories, but it's also encouraging to see them be given new life as a home to music that's representative of the era.

Several of their songs, and even some full albums, are available for download from their online discography, but this summer, you can do one better and hear them perform live. The Disko Apocalypse Tour is currently underway, with their next performance is tonight at San Francisco's DNA Lounge, followed later this year with shows in Las Vegas and Portland, Oregon. Their full tour schedule is still TBD. I invited them to perform at KansasFest 2010, an Apple II convention occurring in Kansas City this July; maybe the Power & Light District would be an attractive venue? Unfortunately, neither 8BW nor KFest could coordinate this event. Both parties look forward to a future opportunity; in the meantime, the band will be represented as a prize at this year's KFest.

If you happen to be flush with cash and want 8 Bit Weapon to come to your town, you can invite them for the cool sum of $5,000 via Kickstarter, an entrepreneurial site that accepts pledges to support independent projects by offering personalized rewards to potential investors. I first became aware of Kickstarter through Jason Scott's successful venture to finish GET LAMP. I've since become a supporter of the open-source social networking software Diaspora as well as the 8 Bit Weapon tour that I myself will not get to attend. I debated whether to make that investment — shouldn't it be the band's responsibility to conduct a tour that is financially solvent? I decided that there is little chance for any band operating in the chiptune genre to be profitable, and that it's up to us other little guys to support causes that we believe in.

Music deserves to be made and heard — especially good music.

Enjoy the tour!