Written by Colin Burns // Edited by Andrew Busch // Header Image courtesy of Rings and Coins
When you were younger, what was your favorite type of music? Did you have a cool older sibling who got you started in the right direction or did you get lost in the doldrums of Kidz Bop and the like? No matter what you listened to in your parents cars, if you’re reading this site, chances are the music you heard most as a kid was video game music. That’s where bands like Bit Brigade come in.
Bit Brigade is a video game cover band. What makes them stand out from the countless cover videos you can find littered across YouTube is the fact that these guys actually tour and have a kick-ass live-show. I was fortunate enough to catch them at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago the other night and as my partner can attest, I was humming the Mega Man 2 soundtrack the entire walk and train ride home.
The band is outfitted like a standard rock group: two guitars, bass and drums. What makes them unique is their fifth “member” whose role as “conductor” means he gets to sit on stage and play an NES game while the band provides the soundtrack. The show I went to was Mega Man 2 night. Their conductor takes a seat in the middle of the stage, loads up a ROM of the game with the music hacked out on an NES Everdrive inserted into a top-loader hooked up to a large projection screen displayed behind the band, and proceeds to wreak havoc on Dr. Wily and the robot masters. During this remarkable display of skill, the musicians are showing off their insane playing abilities as they play every stage theme to accompany the action. Remember, video game music back then was programmed; it was never meant to be played live but somehow, these guys pull it off. I wonder if Takashi Tateishi ever knew how good his melodies would sound erupting from a Gibson SG hooked up to a cranked Marshall half-stack? There’s something special about a room full of people losing their heads as the final Bubble Lead makes contact with Dr. Wily’s true form. Nerds like us don’t really get too many opportunities to go crazy so when we go, we go large.
That’s part of what makes going to a Bit Brigade show so cool. You along with everyone in the crowd and everyone on stage have this shared experience of playing these games and hearing the music blasting while being surrounded by a group of equally excited humans is uniquely evocative and nostalgic. Hearing the Air Man theme while watching someone deftly deal with those pesky bird eggs you could never quite figure out is amazing and seeing something like this when you were younger would’ve been enough to blow your mind.
Bit Brigade has an impressive body of work available for streaming and download on the Internet including music from The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania. Definitely check out their recordings and live videos online but if you can catch one of their live performances, make an effort to do so. Rarely do you get the chance to be in a room with everyone grinning ear to ear, sharing an appreciation music and just generally going bonkers over video games.