Welcome back to my Year in Review series. These Year in Reviews are not, what I call, official “reviews”. They are a series of musings, learned lessons and stories of what I experienced through out the year. Of course, reviews are featured but they are blended in with everything. It’s a director’s commentary of my adventures during the year of 2019 in the Michigan Geek Scene.
I had such a great time at MAGFest in 2018 that I decided to come back. With that being said, my New Years’ experience got off to a rough start. On Wednesday, I had a 100° temp as I flew out from Grand Rapids to Maryland for MAGFest. Sickness be damned. I was determined to make it to the festival and enjoy it no matter what. Let’s just say that I wasn’t doing a whole lot when we arrived in Virginia the day before the event. As the days of the convention rolled on, I started gaining more energy. It’s as if the event was powering me up. By Friday, I felt great. Shout out to my girlfriend for taking care of my invalid self that whole weekend. She made sure that I stayed hydrated and encouraged me to eat despite feeling unwell. I’m very thankful for her. Besides the rocky beginning, my MAGFest experience was pretty solid.
Here’s a list of the bands that I saw: Knight of the Round, Mega Ran, Bit Brigade, The Runaway Four, Wreck the System, Danimal Cannon, Kris Maddigan and ConSoul, Dethlehem, Ocabanda, MC Frontalot, Frank Klepacki and the Tiberian Sons, and Lame Genie. I’ve included links for all of the groups. Check them out and please support them, if you like what you heard. With that being said, I would like to highlight a few concerts that stood out to me in the next few paragraphs.
Watching Mega Ran perform, on the main stage at MAGFest, felt monumental to me. Sure, I’ve watched him perform numerous times, but they would pale in comparison to watching my favorite rapper perform on the biggest stage at my favorite convention. Those three factors gave this concert a special feeling to me. I wouldn’t have missed this concert for anything in the world. It was awesome to watch him combine forces with K-Murdock, the NPC Collective, and Bitforce for an excellent set. I’m sure it was a dream come true for Ran to perform in front of Takashi Tateishi, who was the composer of the iconic Mega Man 2 soundtrack. When Austin Creed brought out some dancers to twerk on stage (during the New Day song), I couldn’t help but laugh. Ran doesn’t curse in his songs and he certainly doesn’t feature booty clapping during his sets. That was all Austin Creed’s idea. Suffice to say, he and K-Murdock were quite surprised by the scantily clad ladies. If you watch the video, you can hear K-Murdock at the exact moment he realized what was going on. Segueing into Church was a well-timed coincidence after that song. Plus, Mega Ran introduced me to a solid band called Bitforce. They were his backup band and I dug what heard. This definitely ranks as one of my favorite Mega Ran concerts.
Knight of the Round
I was glad that I was front and center to see my friends, Knight of the Round, destroy at MAGFest. They got off to a rocky start, but they crushed it after the first song. It was great to be there for them when they hit a main event slot on main stage. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
From the look of the photo above, I looked impossibly bored. It seemed like I wished I was anywhere else. That was far from the truth. Huge shout out to Kyle Gaddo of Heavy Blog is Heavy for the permission to use the photo. This dude is an excellent photographer who is light years ahead of me. Support him please.
Being at the Chromelodeon show felt like I was witnessing an important moment in time. From what I understand, they were an influential band in the video game cover scene. Chromelodeon was the band that all the other bands came to see. I saw Danimal Cannon in the crowd, and a few members of Bit Brigade were on the side of the stage. Even though, I was not overly familiar with their music or importance in the VGM scene (at the time), I felt compelled to check out their set. I was not disappointed. I remember connecting with their music while they were performing Polygon Sun. It was a magical moment and I’m glad that I was able to experience their concert.
The Hit Points
The Hit Points were the biggest surprise and highlight of MAGFest. I remember walking close to the Belvedere Lobby Bar and I heard some music playing the made me stop dead in my tracks. Here was this Bluegrass cover band, before my eyes, creating awesome music. Suffice to say, my mind was blown. I managed to grab a spot at a table, courtesy of this nice dude that I met at that very concert. After the first song, I texted my girlfriend and told her to drop everything and come to the bar right away. After she arrived, we enjoyed this extremely talented band. Once their set was over, I became a huge fan. For anyone reading this, I would highly recommend checking out the Hit Points.
On a side note, a huge shout out to the nice dude who allowed my girlfriend and I to share a table with him. His only stipulation was that he could sit where he could see the band. I flat out told him that he had dibs on whatever seat that he wanted since he was sharing the table with us. He didn’t have to share his table with us, but he did, and I truly appreciate him for it. I have nothing but good things to say about the majority of complete strangers that I’ve encountered at MAGFest. It’s one of the reasons that I keep coming back to that awesome event.
I was disappointed with myself at MAGFest. Throughout most of the weekend, I was glued to my phone instead of actually watching the concerts. When someone messaged me, I felt obligated to respond in the moment. What was the whole point of attending concerts when I couldn’t live in the moment and soak everything in? I’ve always made it a point to not be attached to my phone, especially at concerts. I could never understand why people would stare at their phone while a cool event is happening before them. At some point during either Friday or Saturday, I stopped and asked myself what I was doing. I decided to place the phone in my pocket and watch the bands perform. I made a vow to never do that again during a concert when I returned to MAGFest in 2020. (Psst. I kept that vow in 2020 and my experience was even better.)
Another Life Lesson
During the final concert (Frank Kelpacki and the Tiberian Sons), I came to the conclusion that the middle of the concert floor was the best place for an ultimate auditory experience. During a few shows (Lame Genie and The Runaway Four), I was upfront, and I could barely hear the guitar. Rookie Mistake. It finally dawned on me that speakers were pointing out to the crowd on the side of the stage. I wish that I realized earlier in the weekend. After I made an adjustment to where I was standing, my experience improved. Too bad it took the last concert to make me realize my mistake. Live and learn.
Knight of the Round interview
It had been a few years since I last interviewed dem boys in Knight of the Round. Back then, I had no idea who the hell they were, and it showed. This time around, I was well prepared and a legit friend of the band. I’ll admit that I was a little rusty and the beginning of the interview was more of a Q&A at first. Then, it became a conversation as the interview progressed. I really enjoyed our discussion on black metal sound production and our appreciation of MAGFest. This interview was a good way to start the year.
Fun Fact: This was the only 2019 interview that I used an alternate outro theme. A few years ago, I commissioned a metal theme song for my videos (from Justin Taylor). While it was awesome, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work within a 5 second intro. Considering that I interviewed an awesome metal band, why not use an awesome metal song to close out the intro? It was only fitting. Shout out to Justin.
The whole process of setting up the Knight of the Round interview gave me the feeling of not wanting to do anymore interviews in the future at MAGFest. First, I had to scout for a quiet and private location. Then, I had to clear it with MAGFest staff. Then, I had to clear it with security. Then, I had to wrangle my guests for the interview. The whole process took about two hours. Don’t get me wrong, everyone involved was super professional and extremely nice. I ended up missing a band that I was interested in seeing. The whole point of MAGFest is that it is a vacation first and foremost. I’d rather relax instead of doing work while on vacation. While it’s fun conducting an interview, it’s still work at the end of the day.
I finally got a MAGFest hoodie!!!!!! Ever since my first time at MAGFest, in 2018, I’ve always wanted to own one. I bought the classic black and white design while Sarah bought the purple Star Fox themed version. It’s like a badge of honor for me. I know it sounds cliché but wearing it reminds me of the great times I’ve had at MAGFest. I will treasure this hoodie for years to come.
Leveling Up Again
I decided that 2019 would be the year that I branched out into doing interviews online. I will not deny that I’ve been lucky with all of the interview opportunities that came my way. However, having the opportunity to do interviews from my home would be a nice change of pace. No more trying to find a quiet a private place to conduct an interview. No more dealing with very limited time slots at conventions. No more hoping for conventions to book the guests that I hope to interview. After securing a solid internet connection, I decided to venture into Skype territory.
MC Frontalot was my first Skype interview ever. Since it was my first Skype interview, I didn’t know what to really expect since it was an audio call. Normally, I can see my guests, read the body language, and react accordingly. That wasn’t going to be the case with this interview. I will admit that I started out a little stiff while trying to get in as many questions as possible. However, as the interview progressed, it turned into more of a conversation that let the topics breathe. I got the feeling that Damien enjoyed the interview because it wasn’t based around Nerdcore Hip Hop. Outside of mentioning it in the intro, it didn’t really come up in conversation. The dude has been bombarded with those questions for years. Why would I want to waste a golden interview opportunity on those questions? How often does he get to talk about Alternative Comics or his musical, Young Zombies in Love? I’m sure I’m one of the few people to bring up those topics in an interview. It was a pleasure to interview the Godfather of Nerdcore Hip Hop. Also, he sent me his recorded side of the audio. It sounded better than the Skype audio. If I can go that route, I will take it every time. Shout out to Mega Ran for making the introduction.
When I first started MIGeekScene, I never imagined that I would interview, the Demented Duo known as, Twiztid. Who would’ve guessed that they would end up creating a very successful pop culture convention? I hoped for an opportunity to interview them during Astronomicon year 2 and I got one. I love how these two bounced off of one another with true chemistry. Time flew by in this interview. I had to cut out a bunch of questions. Granted, I would’ve loved to have more time but I’m grateful for the opportunity. However, I hope I have another shot at them because I have more to talk to them about. I think they would dig the fun questions that I left out. Shout out to Mike for setting up this big opportunity.
On a side note, I wish I would’ve framed this shot better. I actually cropped out more of the shot and zoomed in because it wasn’t framed the way I thought it was. The final product worked out but it’s a lesson that I will not forget.
Huge Shout out to Tim for being my assistant for Astronomicon again. Not only did he provide transportation to and from but he helped out with my equipment too. Tim’s a good dude and I will gladly bring him along to Astronomicon in the future
This was the 2nd time I’ve decided to do a video review. The last one was years ago, and it wasn’t that good. This time around, I was happier with the result. My good friend Tim (aka Echoside Fiend) sat down with me and we talked about our time at the event. I’m glad that I had a person to bounce off for the review.
And that wraps up my winter season. Want to see how my adventures into the warmer months of Spring went? Check out the next the part of the 2019 Year in Review series.