Nintendocore (3.1.08)

Posted on July 28, 2008


In 2005, the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System turned 20 years old in

America, which meant that an entire generation of bands has reached maturity raised on an unprecedented new kind of influence — video games. Did kids grow up sitting in each other’s bedrooms listening to Paul McCartney LPs anymore? No, they ate Doritos and played Contra together.

It’s unavoidable, then, that these kids would eventually form bands based on the hyper-arpeggiated, pseudo-odyssey rock that graced the games all throughout the ‘80s. Arizona’s Minibosses were one of the first to do it, self-releasing their debut record in 2000 and scoring a huge cult hit among nerds across the country. Like many bands that followed, Minibosses used a metal approach to the songs, cranking two lead guitars to simulate the ubiquitous harmonized leads in Nintendo music. Other bands like Powerglove, The NESkimos and The Advantage (featuring Spencer Seimm from Hella) followed. The Advantage released records (including 2006’s Elf Titled) on powerhouse indie label 5RC and has played sold-out shows across the country, covering big set lists of game themes from the finger-snappin’, show tunesy Super Mario Bros. 2 to the B-movie disco metal theme from Castlevania. In Japan, two pro video game composers formed Black Mages, a metal band that covered exclusively songs from the Final Fantasy series.

In 2005, Athens’ Cinemechanica began performing shows periodically as “Contra Band,” which brought the art form to its most celebratory peak yet by performing shows against a large screen projection of Contra while two expert friends play straight through the game. The band plays the soundtrack along with the game, including every stage ending fill and sampled level boss explosion sounds. Shows often end with Player 1 and Player 2 crowd surfing. The band has since performed similar sets with Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden.

[Originally published in Performer Magazine, 3.1.08)