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Video game music spawns new tribute genre

Gamer jazz groups, string quartets, mariachi bands

Video game tunes — welcome to the music of your life.
Video game tunes — welcome to the music of your life.

If you’re still unsure about the level of influence that gaming culture exerts on present-day society, take a moment to consider this fact: there is now an entire ecosystem of bands whose sole purpose is covering songs featured in video games. Even more surprising is that there are so many of these bands that every new act jumping into the genre of Video Game Music must come up with a unique spin on how they will deliver these songs, just to seem relevant.

Brew Game Plus 3.0 flier

When Kirby’s Dream Band (KDB) formed 11 years ago, the scene was still relatively small. “We were the only ones in San Diego at the time, and I think there was one in L.A. and one in Sacramento,” explains the band’s keyboardist, Ian Luckey. He has watched the scene grow to the point where there are now jazz groups, string quartets, and mariachi bands tackling the same musical material. “Pretty much any genre you can imagine, someone is doing video game music with it now,” he says. “There’s a group in Nashville called The Protomen. They’re a really large group. They’re like Queen; kind of rock opera-style. They write all original music, except all of the lyrical content is about Mega Man,” a Japanese manga comic character. “If you can think of it, at this point, someone is doing it in that genre or style in the VGM scene.”

KDB has played at large industry events such as Washington DC’s Music and Gaming Festival (MAGfest) and its more recent west coast incarnation, MAGwest. MAGfest had over 24,000 attendees in January 2020, numbers which Vista-based Aztec Brewing’s upcoming Brew Game Plus 3.0 festival are unlikely to top on October 16. That being said, you can expect the same universe to be represented, as the VGM events have developed a fanbase that displays many of the same traits found in the Comic-Con scene. Even the trajectories of the two movements share similarities. “Comic-Con started off as kind of a pretty niche thing,” Luckey explains, “and you look at it now, and you can’t get anywhere in San Diego while Comic-Con is going on. It’s gotten crazy. I think that’s a good example of a thing that seemed niche early on, but there’s actually a really big fanbase for them. It just hasn’t been until a little more recently that there’s been an outlet for it.”

Past Event

Brew Game Plus 3.0

Luckey and his wife CeCe are helping Aztec co-owner Tristan Faulk-Webster organize Brew Game Plus 3.0. It’s not their first rodeo together. “We did a show [at Aztec] in 2018 and we did a show in early 2019, but as far as Brew Game Plus goes, that was something that we created with Tristan, in terms of it being a festival instead of a show with a couple bands. It kind of started off with Aztec providing the venue, and then us just booking the talent. Then we started working together on other elements. It’s melding together as we do each subsequent event. They’re getting a little bit bigger and more elaborate.” This year’s edition will feature, along with the food trucks, vendors, and a costume contest, eight VGM bands. KDB will headline, and Luckey and his wife will share the stage in their Halloween-inspired VGM outfit, the Tonberries.

For Faulk-Webster, this is the Aztec event that he has grown to look forward to the most. If it comes off, he has ideas for how it could expand in the future. “I think, first-off, we would probably try doing multiple days, and then after that, find a bigger place that we could hold it. Vista has the Moonlight Amphitheater, which can fit over 1000, and there’s lots of other possibilities all throughout San Diego.”

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Video game tunes — welcome to the music of your life.
Video game tunes — welcome to the music of your life.

If you’re still unsure about the level of influence that gaming culture exerts on present-day society, take a moment to consider this fact: there is now an entire ecosystem of bands whose sole purpose is covering songs featured in video games. Even more surprising is that there are so many of these bands that every new act jumping into the genre of Video Game Music must come up with a unique spin on how they will deliver these songs, just to seem relevant.

Brew Game Plus 3.0 flier

When Kirby’s Dream Band (KDB) formed 11 years ago, the scene was still relatively small. “We were the only ones in San Diego at the time, and I think there was one in L.A. and one in Sacramento,” explains the band’s keyboardist, Ian Luckey. He has watched the scene grow to the point where there are now jazz groups, string quartets, and mariachi bands tackling the same musical material. “Pretty much any genre you can imagine, someone is doing video game music with it now,” he says. “There’s a group in Nashville called The Protomen. They’re a really large group. They’re like Queen; kind of rock opera-style. They write all original music, except all of the lyrical content is about Mega Man,” a Japanese manga comic character. “If you can think of it, at this point, someone is doing it in that genre or style in the VGM scene.”

KDB has played at large industry events such as Washington DC’s Music and Gaming Festival (MAGfest) and its more recent west coast incarnation, MAGwest. MAGfest had over 24,000 attendees in January 2020, numbers which Vista-based Aztec Brewing’s upcoming Brew Game Plus 3.0 festival are unlikely to top on October 16. That being said, you can expect the same universe to be represented, as the VGM events have developed a fanbase that displays many of the same traits found in the Comic-Con scene. Even the trajectories of the two movements share similarities. “Comic-Con started off as kind of a pretty niche thing,” Luckey explains, “and you look at it now, and you can’t get anywhere in San Diego while Comic-Con is going on. It’s gotten crazy. I think that’s a good example of a thing that seemed niche early on, but there’s actually a really big fanbase for them. It just hasn’t been until a little more recently that there’s been an outlet for it.”

Past Event

Brew Game Plus 3.0

Luckey and his wife CeCe are helping Aztec co-owner Tristan Faulk-Webster organize Brew Game Plus 3.0. It’s not their first rodeo together. “We did a show [at Aztec] in 2018 and we did a show in early 2019, but as far as Brew Game Plus goes, that was something that we created with Tristan, in terms of it being a festival instead of a show with a couple bands. It kind of started off with Aztec providing the venue, and then us just booking the talent. Then we started working together on other elements. It’s melding together as we do each subsequent event. They’re getting a little bit bigger and more elaborate.” This year’s edition will feature, along with the food trucks, vendors, and a costume contest, eight VGM bands. KDB will headline, and Luckey and his wife will share the stage in their Halloween-inspired VGM outfit, the Tonberries.

For Faulk-Webster, this is the Aztec event that he has grown to look forward to the most. If it comes off, he has ideas for how it could expand in the future. “I think, first-off, we would probably try doing multiple days, and then after that, find a bigger place that we could hold it. Vista has the Moonlight Amphitheater, which can fit over 1000, and there’s lots of other possibilities all throughout San Diego.”

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