Nothing like dancing your feet through a fog machine and cutting your hands through flashing neon lights to clear up your writer’s block.
I was lucky enough to learn about a show put on by MILKSHAKES in combo with Rora TEAM, an online label that deals with creative DJs and EDM composers. The event took place in the Digital Art Demo Space and featured artists from New York to California. Each performance was accompanied by customized visuals projected on a screen behind the stage, accentuating every turn and change in the music like an accompanying instrument. The team behind the visuals, lights, and smooth-running set ups of the show made the night beautiful.
At the expense of journalistic integrity, I’m going to play favorites. I couldn’t complain about any performer, but three really stood out.
First up is Brackets. When she got behind the table, I recognized her as the gal who got the crowd jumping even before her performance; her dancing was practically contagious. Her set was high-powered and loaded with variety and tons of crowd-pleasing references. Also worth mentioning: she’s a Chicago native and Rora TEAM co-founder. If Brackets can find the time, she says she’s down for an interview and a visit to UIC Radio. No clever segue here, just click the brackets for the sound cloud: 
Though a tough act to follow, Brackets had no weight on Skinny McToothpick. His white hair and neon jacket gave the impression of a radioactive cartoon character. The music only contributed. So much energy packed into each brilliantly composed song kept everyone on their toes. You know when a performer gets so pulled into their work and enjoys them self so much, it makes you feel good just watching? Skinny McToothpick was more of a performer behind the table than most instrumental musicians and singers I’ve watched. I’m surprised he had the energy to rejoin the crowd and keep dancing after his set. See for yourself!
The real reason I attended was to watch a good friend of mine, VenoSci AK(to me)A Aaron. I’m very lucky that the people I grew up with pursued their creative passions and then invite me to their performances. It’s been amazing, watching my friend improve and develop his music, but personally, I’m thankful it hasn’t changed too much since the shows he’d put on in high school.
What was that about journalistic integrity? Ah, yes. My unbiased review:
VenoSci makes chiptunes, and if you aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s well worth looking up. Here’s his Soundcloud for you to stream while finishing this article. Anyone who says DJing isn’t performance art obviously hasn’t seen this artist in action. VenoSci performs like the buttons he presses on his set up send electricity up his arms and moves with his music like he’s modeling for the crowd how to dance to his compositions. No wonder he describes performing as sweaty, exciting, and fun. During the show, he used a few pieces of Toy Box’s “Best Friend” and let the audience sing along. He even left the table and danced with the crowd to his own creation.
VenoSci rocked the house and then agreed to be interviewed for UIC Radio. What a fabulous Saturday for this blogger!
Asking him to explain how his set up works to a non-tech, non-video game savvy person was an awkward inquiry, but he managed to get his process across. He uses 2 original Nintendo Gameboys, 1 Korean GP2X handheld, and a PsP 1000. Aaron added that, “since some of this equipment is over 20 years old at this point, things often go wrong: devices crash, SD cards aren’t recognized, batteries die frequently… It’s always an adventure having to maintain a quality set and also to troubleshoot hardware on the fly.”
To make music on his Gameboy, he uses a special cartridge. Rather than containing a game, it contains a piece of custom music software. This allows the artist to control the sound card directly: “I can sequence out full songs which I then playback live. I use similar methods for playing back songs on my GP2X, but instead of synthesis, I sequence samples.”
What always amazes me is Aaron’s ability to make music feel nostalgic and classic, though it’s most at home among modern EDM genres. He credits this to the “built-in ‘nostalgic’ feel” in his software, as it’s an original Gameboy. He explained the soundcard is 100% stock, so the same soundcard has produced soundtracks to Pokemon and Zelda, two games our generation knows pretty well, even if we only got to watch our older brothers play them.
Aaron cites Japanese dance music as his biggest inspiration, mentioning Maltine Records, MadMilky Records, and artists like Tofubeats and Perfume. Combining these more complicated influences within the comforting 8-bit framework of the Gameboy is Aaron’s main challenge and inspiration. It ensures his music stands out while making his audience cheer.
I left the venue Saturday night with a hug and a promise that I’d be the first to know when he was on deck for his next show. That means you’ll be the second.
Have a VenoSci-en-tastic Day!