MAGFest, the annual celebration of music and gaming, never fails to impress, but MAGFest X was particularly incredible. A lot of factors played into this, such as thousands of like-minded fans, a gargantuan new venue at the National Harbor Gaylord hotel, a 24-hour game hangar loaded with arcade cabinets, and an endless barrage of amazing bands rocking their hardest. However, one addition to the lineup sent the experience careening into outer space.
Nobuo Uematsu, legendary Final Fantasy series composer, headlined the Saturday night festivities with his band, Earthbound Papas. The energy was electric, the sound pitch perfect, and the action on stage… well, let's just say Uematsu and his crew of merry men were visibly rocked just as hard in reciprocation courtesy of a very hungry crowd.
Uematsu came out lookin' like Ramses. The whole gang got in "costume" before the show
After a weekend of watching amazing video game cover bands and chiptune artists perform—highlights included minibosses, Bit Brigade, Year 200X, Autoscroll, temp sound solutions and more—it was particularly wild to see the major league pros come out with the same level of excitement for what they do as everyone else. Earthbound Papas, for those who haven't heard them, were formed after Uematsu's former band, The Black Mages, disbanded. They mostly perform arrangements of Final Fantasy tunes, with some originals and non-FF covers thrown in for good measure. The lineup (from the official MAGFest page) is:
Nobuo Uematsu - Keyboards - Composer for most of the Final Fantasy Series
Michio Okamiya - Guitar - Performer/arranger on several Square Enix soundtracks, and former Black Mages member
Yoshitaka Hirota - Bass - Shadow Hearts trilogy composer
Tsutomu Narita - Keyboards and Guitar - Composer for UnchainBlades ReXX
Arata Hanyuda - Drums - Performer on the More Friends, and Final Fantasy III (DS) albums, and former Black Mages member
When introducing everyone in English, Uematsu confessed he would need to refer to a "cheat paper"
The Papas are technically tight as can be, and each member took the time to address the crowd after being introduced by Uematsu. They also downed some refreshing Samuel Adams beer, joined in on an impromptu "USA!" chant, and spent the entire time looking like they were having the time of their lives. That enthusiasm wasn't just a polite act, either. According to Nick Marinelli, who is in charge of MAGFest's Promotions and Public Relations, the band said it was their best-sounding concert ever, and remarked that they don't get that kind of energy from audiences back in Japan.
At one point one of the Papas proclaimed "You are ROCK!" to the crowd. I'm inclined to agree
After downing some nice, cold beer, Uematsu let it be known: "I... like... Sam Adams!"
Yours truly can be spotted front and center in this pic... go ahead, take a wild guess
It's tough to convey the feeling of seeing a living legend perform the songs that shaped the childhoods of many present. It could be felt from the moment they started playing Final Fantasy V's battle theme all the way to the roof-rippin' rendition of FFVI's "Dancing Mad." Hopefully these images help channel some of those good vibrations, however slightly. But hey, don't let my words and these photos paint the full picture for you. Those who weren't able to attend can watch the entire set on YouTube, starting with part 1 here:
Many thanks to Jeff Roberts for providing photographs. Check out his website, and be sure to stop by Arecibo Radio to listen to his Open Circuit show on Saturdays, which covers everything from indie rock and electronic music, to chiptunes and video game jams.