The March of the Bit Brigade: After doing this job for so long, it’s good to know that it’s still possible to be surprised, to see something that feels completely different. With that in mind, Athens, Georgia band Bit Brigade perform live and full rock reinterpretations of old Nintendo (NES) soundtracks.

One of the actual members of the band is a master gamer called Noah McCarthy, who plays speed-trial runs of NES games, viewable to the crowd on a giant screen, while the  band plays the soundtrack. It sounds super fucking nerdy, and it kinda is, but my god it’s a lot of fun.

First of all, there’s a mild feeling of jeopardy — you get wrapped up in watching McCarthy play and root for him. There’s a temptation to feel like the band needs to be very reactive, that they need to be able to respond to whatever McCarthy does, and maybe there is a mild element of that. But McCarthy clearly knows the games so well that there are going to be few diversions night to night.

The band is super-tight though, and their versions of the old bit tunes manage to sound both authentic and progressive. On Tuesday evening at 1720 (a venue that this writer had somehow never been to before but I’ll certainly be back), Bit Brigade performed the music for the Duck Tales game, followed by Legend of Zelda. With a mesmerized 11-year-old son in tow, we found ourselves massively invested in decades-old games and it was a genuine buzz.

As the band joked from the stage, the Duck Tales game sees us inadvertantly rooting for colonialism — a rich, white duck stealing diamonds from the Amazon. But still, there was much to love. If Duck Tales was musically quirky, Zelda felt appropriately epic and bombastic given the live rock treatment. The whole thing was a huge treat on both a musical and visual level.


The Megas (Brett Callwood)

Opening the show was L.A.’s own the Megas, who largely perform songs that they’ve written, or partially written, about the Megaman franchise. So they’re perfect openers for Bit Brigade, though they’re coming at the video game thing from a different angle.

In some cases, they take parts of the existing soundtrack and add new parts and lyrics. The fact they they have vocals at all differentiates them from Bit Brigade. But still, the Mega Man videos playing behind them makes them a visual treat too.

The songs come across as power metal anthems, with chanty lines such as “I MADE YOU IN MY IMAGE,” and that works beautifully here. We’ll be checking them out further.

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