PAX 2007: The OneUps — What if George Clinton banged a Famicom?

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[Full disclosure time: Since I’m unwilling to fall into the same trap as some people, I should probably preface this by saying that Dale North — keyboardist for The OneUps — is one of our writers. Though, if you think my hipster elitism is going to allow me to talk his group up regardless of skill, you must be the sort who actively appreciates the post-Soundgarden work of Chris Cornell. — Nexy] 

In recent years, the recreation of gaming music has become a full-fledged genre in its own right. From its roots in the ongoing quest for ever-greater nostalgic payloads embarked upon by stoned alt-rock and metal groups too lazy to create original tracks, to the current landscape populated by everything from circuit-bent, neo-techno, rave music to Nobuo Uematsu’s gloriously soaring symphonic scores the scene is becoming more and more played out. In a year or two people will scoff at Gaming Music as the Screamo of the mid-to-late Aughts — or, they would, if that position wasn’t already firmly occupied by Screamo and its legions of middle-class, lip-pierced, melancholy preteens.

Thankfully, in a musical landscape unfortunately headed for over-saturation and redundancy there are still groups like The OneUps who provide the sort of fresh style and musical ability to elevate them above and beyond the current crop of bands pushing their oh-so-original take on the Super Mario Bros. Underground Theme through their cluttered, faux-ironic MySpace page much to the glee of Rupert Murdoch, Tommy Mottola and anyone who still reads Rolling Stone magazine.

Hit the jump for a gleeful look at a band deserving of the sort of success that makes heroin benders newsworthy events.

Any teenager looking to impress girls who long ago realized that skateboarding only leads to unfortunately intimate friendships with Bam Margera and Shaun White can pick up a guitar and in a week churn out a by-the-numbers rendition of Bloody Tears, but the sort of music put together by The OneUps goes well beyond simple rock riffs and all-too-common, malformed, Stooges-inspired showmanship. The group consists of the bandleader Mustin (Bass, Keyboard), Anthony Lofton (Saxophone, Keyboard), Greg Kennedy (Violin, Percussion), Jared Dunn (Drums, Percussion), William Reyes (Nylon and Acoustic Guitar), Tim Yarbrough (Electric Guitar) and Dale North (Keyboard, Percussion). If this lineup seems like the kind of thing you’d see in a bluegrass band or on a Dave Matthews Band video in your local fraternity, you’re not alone. I’ve always had an affinity for the addition of the more high-brow strings and wind instruments into traditionally low-brow music, and at least here, the influx of class elevates the entire thing to a level a bit to the left of our beloved Video Games Live — instead of aiming for symphonic, The OneUps land somewhere between rock, jazz and neo-funk (without the annoying, dreadlock-laden, caucazoid stoners of the latter).

The set they played at PAX was laced with the sort of fan favorites automatically guaranteed to draw screams from a crowd consisting of fanboys and girls hovering around the two decade mark of their lives. Anyone walking on stage and plinking through the first few notes of tunes from Chrono Trigger or Street Fighter II would have elicited shrieks of glee from these kids, but where The OneUps really stood out was in the tiny bits of improvizational flair they added to the tried and true tracks burned into our subconscious. Whether it was a triumphant saxophone melody attached to a particularly poignant section of a nostalgic track or a powerful drum explosion where before there was merely a simple 8-bit cadence the additional bits added the sort of excess decadence usually reserved for French pastries, the sides of French cathedrals or the boudoir of a particularly slutty French ingénue.

In short, the concert was fantastic. The other acts — MC Frontalot, Freezepop, Optimus Rhyme and the Neskimoes — all have their rabid fans and adoring legions, and The OneUps easily proved themselves as deserving of the same adoration, if not a space in every gamer’s iPod. 

Then again, what do I know? Let’s see what the Internet thought of their performance:

“After listening to some of their music, I have decided that I FAIL. What the Minibosses do for game music with rock, the OneUps do with jazz, and it’s spectacular.” — Wil Wheaton, Geek Extraordinaire

“… The OneUps put on a rock-solid show that ignited the crowd on numerous occasions. They showcased music from a treasure trove of age old games using a full seven piece band and unvieled a two piece keyboard duet called “Final Fanboy.” Plowing through a strong hour-and-a-half long set, The OneUps won the favor of the Main Theater’s near-capacity crowd.”ArsTechnica, Website

“They are, quite simply, the tightest video-game-music cover band you will ever hear.” Gamervision, Also Website 

Not enough for you? Here’s some video for corroboration:

Toejam & Earl Finale (courtesy of the lovely .tiff)

Street Fighter II

Mii Channel Theme

[Propers: Gallery photos courtesy of the Creative Commons License and the following people: Lacrymosa, DarkPhibre, .tiff, charliesuh and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.]

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Earnest Cavalli
I'm Nex. I used to work here but my love of cash led me to take a gig with Wired. I still keep an eye on the 'toid, but to see what I'm really up to, you should either hit up my Vox or go have a look at the Wired media empire.