Anamanaguchi on stage. Photo: JP
The Urban Lounge
Meet Anamanaguchi: a Brooklyn-based band who substitute amps for old-school Nintendo systems, creating a rockin’ symphony of blips and bloops that sound like what might happen if Ratatat fucked a Game Boy–but in a good way. The band has recently garnered some attention for creating the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game and has been showing up in various other nerdy places like the PAX convention and the Nerdist podcast (where I first heard them). Unlike the abhorrent “nerdcore” rap movement (seriously, don’t even YouTube that) or the clever-but-boring acoustic ramblings of Jonathan Coulton, Anamanaguchi create cool, nerdy music without trying to sound cool and nerdy. All of their songs feel like unused music from a super-secret Mega Man game released only in Japan that your nerdiest friend claims to have played (but we all know that guy’s full of shit, right?).
I had seen live videos of pasty-skinned, acne-covered kids losing their shit at Anamanaguchi shows, so I was excited to see these guys play at Urban. Two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer took the stage, introducing themselves as a Staind cover band before ripping into an 8-bit anthem filtered through one of two Nintendo Entertainment Systems on the stage. Immediately, a couple of excited nerds, one sporting suspenders and one who went shirtless to reveal a tattoo of what I’m pretty sure was a NES controller, started going crazy. The rest of the crowd, some of the nerdy persuasion and some who just like to get drunk on Sunday nights, all seemed pretty into it as well.
Initially I spent the set trying to figure out just how the fuck Anamanaguchi was creating their music. From what I could ascertain (and from what I learned after the show), the band uses NES development cartridges, programs music onto them, jams them into an old NES, somehow runs that through a laptop, plug their instruments in somehwere, and voila! The only instrument not filtered through one of the Nintendo systems was the drums, and parts of certain songs were programmed and not being created in real-time by the band onstage, but it was a pretty impressive presentation nonetheless.
The band played most of their well-known songs, including “Jetpack Blues” and “Airbrushed,” though they didn’t play any music from the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack, as far as I could tell. While a lot of the songs felt like the driving, energetic themes from video games of yore, the songs I was most impressed by were the slower and more atmospheric songs that didn’t really sound like video game music at all. The members of Anamanaguchi bounced around the stage as strobe-lights flashed behind them, and they genuinely looked like they were all having a good time. The band played for almost 45 minutes and left the audience in just the right spot: thoroughly satisfied, but still hungry for more.
A small crowd formed around the merch table as soon as Anamanaguchi’s set was over, and as confused nerds contemplated buying a slab of dead technology to own a part of the band’s performance (Anamanaguchi’s only physical release thus far is a limited 7”), I drunkenly plopped down $15 bucks and stared at the record’s lenticular cover on the whole ride home. All in all, seeing Anamanaguchi was a great way to visit my nerdy roots without going on a three-day binge gaming session or painstakingly putting together the perfect Magic: The Gathering card deck. Nerd culture is definitely a part of the mainstream now, but it’s rare that nerdiness is presented in such an enjoyable and exciting way as Anamanaguchi.