Neon Rhode Island: More than a Synthwave music festival

In exactly one week, you will be able to participate in a 3 day incredible music festival called Neon, in Rhode Island. Neon describes itself as a cutting-edge Synthwave music festival with a massively themed video arcade, cult and genre film festival, console gaming time capsule, and iconic guests and panelists. It’s a Retrofuturism love letter to late 20th century entertainment, an aesthetically and sonically immersive experience.

What is retrofuturism, though?

According to their website, Retrofuturism is a term coined in 1983, defined as “a revived enthusiasm for depictions of the future created in the past; also, the use of a style considered futuristic in the past.”

This enthusiasm for the future in a past aesthetic, it just so happens, is a perfect home for Cyberpunk as well, although Neon makes sure to distinguish between the genre we love and Retrofuturism at Neon.

It’s essence is Stranger Things, epic synths, midnight drives, obsolete tech, hard video games, faded summer polaroids, and neon-drenched danger. It’s flickering neon, killer robots, rain-soaked pavement, eternal sunsets, cyberpunk skylines, and obsolete technology.

This festival sounds like a retro gamer or cyberpunk fan’s dream. I so wish I could go, but unfortunately I’ve left the United States already and will be out of the country for quite a while.

Neon will have seventy-five 80s and 90s restored video game and pinball arcade cabinets, for hours of fun. It’ll have non-stop screenings of weird and terrible old movies. It’ll have workshops for electronic projects so you can learn how modular synths work. It’s discussions about the genre and what’s to look forward to. There will be a retro computing time capsule, and a LAN room. It’ll also have themed shopping, vendors, and artists, as well as a Yacht Rock lounge for when you need to ‘sail away from it all’.

Musical guests will include Waveshaper, Glitch Black, Protector 101, Rolly Mingwald, Neuron Spectre, Future Holotape, Dana Jean Phoenix, Let Em Riot, and more. Guests include cyberpunk illustrator and game designer Rob Shields

I’m not personally familiar with any of these artists, but the great thing about conventions is that it gives you the chance to discover new artists!

Neon will take place in the Crowne Warwick Plaza, not far from the airport.

The Neon team is led by Grant Garvin, a veteran of immersive events who always wanted to create a festival focusing on synthwave and nostalgic things. In 2013 he created a cyberpunk Synthwave event with Arcade High and Let Em Riot. Unfortunately, only 20 people showed up, indicating that the movement was still a bit premature. However, in subsequent years when Synthwave became popular with the likes of artists such as Perturbator, things have changed.

I can’t wait to see if Neon is a success, and if so (which I hope it will), what future conventions and festivals Garvin or others have in store.

To buy tickets and learn more about Neon Rhode Island, check them out here.

To read more about news of the event, check out this article from Vehlinggo here.

The Lasting Legacy of Akira 30 years later

I was introduced to Akira relatively late, and the same could be said of when I watched Blade Runner for the first time. Both were ground-breaking, inspirational pieces of art, that wowed the viewers at the time but in my opinion haven’t aged particularly well if you’re seeing it for the first time.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to see how these older pieces of entertainment have inspired the works that are coming out nowadays. It inspired one of the main characters in the Duffer Brothers’ Netflix original, Stranger Things. It inspired director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi)’s characters in his movie Looper as well. It also was used to show the vision for the Matrix Trilogy by the Wachowski brothers.

Ironically, Akira was itself inspired from some of the visuals in Blade Runner itself.

So how is Akira doing nowadays? Warner Brothers have been trying to make a live action film of it for over a decade, but many fans are worried such a remake will ruin the film, especially after a lot of criticism of whitewashing came from WB’s choice to cast Scarlett Johannsen as Major in their Ghost in the Shell live-action film.

So nothing official is in the works yet, but I would love to see a live action film of Akira obviously. I also thought, along with many Japanese people apparently, that the casting of GitS wasn’t a big deal.

For now, I guess I’ll have to content myself with this fan-made live-action trailer of what that film could look like.

For more on the legacy of Akira, and the sources of this article, click here.


Gunship: Cyberpunk electronica with Saxophone and HQ music videos

Gunship is a British 2010 synthwave band that describes its music as “influenced by the soundtracks of 80s film, television shows, video games & cartoons” and “a neon soaked, late night, sonic getaway drive, dripping with luscious analog synthesizers, cinematic vocals and cyberpunk values, exploding from the front cover of a dusty plastic VHS case which has lain forgotten since 1984.”

The other thing that it is, other than doing an amazing job of describing its own music, is create music videos with a surprisingly high production value. The majority are stop-motion clay or cartoons, but they aren’t afraid of combining live action in their videos as well.

The fact that they have over 75,000 YouTube subscribers with only 21 videos posted is a testament to their high-quality music and visuals.

I mentioned Gunship in my post about Ready Player One, how they did a tribute video to Art3mis and Parzival. They also like to do a lot of gory, over the top music videos. So if you like that kind of thing, it’s a lot of fun. Most of their videos also have very nice vocals, which isn’t always found in most Synthwave nowadays.

Their upcoming work includes a song called Woken Furies, labeled and inspired after one of Richard K Morgan’s books and even borrowing his voice for some of the vocals. They’ve also done songs inspired by such places as Stranger Things, wrote a song for a retro documentary called “Rise of the Synths”, and wrote other songs with names such as “Cyber City” and “Drone Racing League.”

You can read a lot more all about Gunship and their inspirations in this excellent piece by The Verge.

If you like their music, keep an eye out for their album Dark All Day coming out in October 2018.