US Fest documentary trailer

September 3rd, 2018 10:43 AM
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Almost two years ago, filmmaker Glenn Aveni concluded a successful Kickstarter to produce a documentary about the Us Festival, a concert held today in 1982 and organized by Steve Wozniak. The final DVD was ambitiously scheduled for production for just seven months later, in July 2017. But Kickstarters rarely run on schedule, as good art takes time. So it's just this summer, a year later than planned, that we're seeing the first trailer for the documentary.

While the main attraction for readers of this blog may be Woz, the focus of the documentary is on the festival, not its organizers. While Woz makes appearances in original interviews conducted for this film, the musicians and concert appear to take center stage. That's not surprising — the event was called the Us Festival, not the Woz Festival, after all.

But Kickstarter backers have not received an update since November 2017, and I can't find a website or release date for the film. It's being distributed by MVD Entertainment Group, whose website says the film was released on August 10, 2018 — but they've not responded to emails or tweets indicating where the movie can be seen or purchased.

I'm hopeful the trailer is evidence that the movie is not vaporware and that we will soon have our glimpses of the musical, event-organizing sides of Woz.

(Hat tip to Martin Kielty)

A documentary of Woz's Us Festival

December 5th, 2016 9:00 AM
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Steve Wozniak is many things: a technical genius, an entertaining speaker, a movie character, a wax figure. But one of his many accomplishments is often overlooked: music festival organizer.

In 1982, Woz created the Us Festival, a counter to the previous decade's "me"generation. It was designed to bring people together and inspire them with some of the greatest musical names of that era, such as The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, The B-52's, and more. The event was even livestreamed to Russia, despite the ongoing Cold War. The event recurred just months later in 1983, archival footage of which is now available on iTunes.

But what prompted Woz, a known inventor and prankster, to bring his fame and fortune to bear on the music industry? Attending or watching the concerts won't tell you; for that, you need to go behind the scenes. And that's what filmmaker Glenn Aveni plans to do with his documentary, The US Festival 1982, now on Kickstarter.

This project is looking to crowdfund $60,000 by December 20, and it's on track to do so: at the time of this writing, it's more than halfway there. The funds will be used to procure rights to even more archival clips and finish production of the film, which includes interviews with many of the concert's surviving musicians.

I'll support almost anything Woz does. Not only is backing this documentary a way to belatedly support his concert, but Woz himself was interviewed for Aveni's movie. I look forward to hearing tales I haven't heard before about this side of Woz!

(Hat tip to Chris Torrence)

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!