Seeing Anamanaguchi Was the Final Quest on My Post-Lockdown Concert List

Last Wednesday, the legendary chiptune band Anamanaguchi took the stage at Chicago’s Vic Theatre to transport concertgoers to the mystical, faraway land of Canada in an anniversary celebration of their soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. I’ve admittedly become somewhat of an avid game soundtrack appreciator over the past few years, so it's only fair that I jumped at the chance to cover this show for my beloved pandemic baby Ringtone, which has only housed one other concert review so far!

Disclaimer: I know Ringtone was originally founded to cover what many refer to as hyperpop, so coverage of this Anamanaguchi concertmight seem a bit out of character. However, we’re expanding our musical realm a little bit (more on that in the coming months). I’m also going to stretch a little: they've collaborated with artists like 8485, Dorian Electra and Planet 1999. Also, maybe Scott Pilgrim would like the new 100 gecs single or something? You never know…

Photo by Amelia Zollner

As I walked into the Vic that night, I was greeted by the sound of Warm Human’s indie pop, as the Chicago-based artist had already begun her charismatic set. It would be a sin to leave out Equip, who followed Warm Human with an enthralling set of what I can only describe as fantasy vaporwave music while wearing a tank top (one nipple out) and a Hautepop-worthy chainmail coif. Fashion win!

Anamanaguchi took the stage minutes later, seamlessly playing through the entire Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game soundtrack. Hearing chiptune songs originally written for a game ten years ago in a live capacity was incredible — energetic tracks like “Party Stronger” and “Another Winter” are fun on their own, but the band’s punchy drums and electrifying guitar lines truly brought them to life.

To add to the music's fast pace, Anamanaguchi also played this set in front of carefully timed projections of a playthrough of the Scott Pilgrim game. I admittedly hadn’t played the game in full before the show, so seeing how well each song melds with the game’s environment allowed me to fully appreciate these songs in context.

Photo by Amelia Zollner

After the game’s credits rolled via projection and the band made its way through the final song, they launched into another set of non-gamer (well, mostly) tracks. Porter Robinson-esque bangers like “Air On Line” and Ringtone-core tracks like “Everyday, Everynight,” held the energetic crowd, which was peppered with Ramona Flowers and Miku cosplayers, captive as we all danced.

I’m definitely biased, but I also have to say that I slightly ascended when Anamanaguchi busted out a cover of Toby Fox’s “Hopes and Dreams.” Also, they played “Miku,” their collaboration with the Vocaloid icon herself. And, to close things out, their encore featured a cover of “Black Sheep” from the Scott Pilgrim movie with Warm Human returning to take on the role of Envy Adams… can you tell I was excited about this very nerdy setlist?

I know concert reviews that talk about the pandemic are painfully cliche at this point, but I’m going to say this anyway. I’ve gratefully taken almost every opportunity to (safely and carefully) experience live music since such a devastating drought ended in the fall. I’ve seen some of my old favorite artists ranging from Alex G (who definitely does not belong on but whose show I dearly loved) to Ringtone’s favorite, 100 gecs (which was a very full-circle moment for me since Laura Les was the last artist I saw before lockdown started). Anamanaguchi, though, was like no other show I had attended before.

Despite not knowing nearly anything about Anamanaguchi when I walked in, I left the Vic that night with a new favorite post-lockdown concert appended to my list of highlights and an itch to listen to more chiptune.

Photo by Amelia Zollner

(And a few nights later, I played through the entire Scott Pilgrim game, Anamanaguchi soundtrack turned all the way up.)

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