Chiptune lWlVl Fest: Friendliest Electronic Show Ever

August 25, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

Chiptune or chip music — produced by manipulating or emulating the sounds of video games — was once an incredibly niche genre, something you had to trawl the internet to find. Nowadays, Skrillex uses video game-like noises in hit songs and chiptune superstars Anamanaguchi soundtrack movies. This success and the legitimization of video game-inspired music and video games as art set the stage for the first lWlVl Festival in Brooklyn last weekend.

From 2006 on, Blip Festival was a mainstay for chip musicians around the world, but they held their last event in Tokyo in 2012. From what I saw on Saturday night, lWlVl’s organizers and performers are more than ready to take up its mantle. lWlVl’s producers, who are responsible for chip music events Pulsewave, Kick*snare and Control-Flow, made sure attendees knew where they were. Their aesthetically pleasing logo was everywhere — painted on the wall outside Villain, the Williamsburg skate park/venue where the festival was held, on t-shirts for sale inside and gracing the bodies of those who’d taken advantage of free temporary tattoos. In one room, installations by artists like Daniel Tempkin and Phillip Stearns and an arcade curated by Death By Audio was displayed. The games were diverse, including the whimsical, Esty-ified Nest and the classic feeling boat racer Powerboat Italia ’88.


Despite the mainstreaming of chip culture, the audience was still psyched to be around so many of their fellow low-bit fans. “This is like a family reunion,” said artist IAYD while performing. The crowd was nerdy but badass, like Comic Con kids who had snuck out to smoke weed. Blue was a dominant hair color.

I may like the aesthetics of chip more than the music, but even so there was plenty to be entertained by at lWlVl. The visuals for each artist were a level above those usually seen at shows, as was the merch design. I particularly enjoyed the black and white glitchy manga-influenced projections by Vaporstack for energetic L.A.-based Slime Girls, who played their first out of state show at the festival. Musically, MonsterVision was the most impressive. Two openly weird dudes, their melodies were based on the more ominous side of vintage video games, conjuring dungeons and boss battles. They reminded me of a toned-down Extreme Animals.


There was an overwhelmingly welcoming atmosphere that permeated the neon-lit room all night, something that is rare at Brooklyn electronic shows which can be painfully pretentious. This was certainly purposeful – organizers made a point to remind us of their safer spaces policy after some mild moshing broke out. Everyone seemed to be genuinely and sincerely enjoying themselves, a refreshing change of pace in the world of too-cool-for-life warehouse shows. I left lWlVl hopeful that gaming culture can produce fun, innovative art that’s actively trying to be inclusive — not a bad Saturday night.


(Photos: Sophie Weiner/ANIMALNewYork)