Rockage Grows Up
Indie Music Festival Joins Video Games and Music
Main players in the video game industry are housed in the Bay Area, a few being Nintendo, Sony, Atari, and Electronic Arts, which, by itself, create a market for video games in Silicon Valley. Although the Bay Area has a sizable market, the interest in video game music in the South Bay music scene rose just within the past few years. Part of the credit for this popularity surge goes to San Jose music booking agent Eric Fanali.
For seventeen years under his own booking company, Grand Fanali Presents, Fanali handpicks local and touring bands for all sorts of unique shows in the Bay Area, from hosting the Daydream Nation series at San Pedro Square Market to producing chiptune-inspired shows at Café Stritch. His biggest accomplishment, however, is running his own annual retro video game combo music festival, titled Rockage. The third Rockage will take place at the brand new Student Union at San Jose State University from February 7 to 9.
Fanali found his passion in event planning at an early age. He first got into event planning as co-head of his high school Spirit Commission team and by managing a high school friend’s student board campaign. This led to him pursuing a degree in Public Relations at San Jose State University. Since then he’s actively booked and hosted all sorts of indie, punk, folk, and ska shows and festivals.
“When I was 15-16 years old, in class, I mostly had my calendar out to plan events,” says Fanali. “Even at San Jose State I would be planning events during class. PR was pretty natural for me.”
As Fanali networked with musicians over time, he discovered they also shared an affinity for classic arcade and modern games that he had grown up experiencing. This inspired him to further share his passion for both music and video games by setting up shows that catered to both crowds, along with starting Rockage as an annual games and music festival.
“We’re not all hardcore gamers, but we have this shared experience that connects us,” explains Fanali. “A lot of people from this music scene are really into video games. I thought it would be great (to have Rockage) to bring rockers and gamers together.”
Not all aspects of Rockage, however, are catered strictly to video game fans. The local and touring bands he books covers all sorts of genres, from traditional and modern indie rock bands to some that incorporate both video game music samples (known as chiptune) and Japanese anime in their songs. One band that combines both aspects best is Bit Brigade, who plays classic video game music in sync with a live speedrunner (one who takes the fastest route possible to beat a video game by skipping obstacles that are absolutely unnecessary). Their performance of said video game tunes goes at an incredibly fast pace that gets crowds seamlessly energetic for both their songs and their speedrunner’s success. Some bands don’t have music that relates so directly to gaming, but they fit right into the Rockage bill (some examples are indie rock bands Cartoon Bar Fight, Shinobu, and Picture Atlantic) as they share an affinity for video games.
“The idea was bands would play on stage whom you get to talk to afterwards and they’ll say ‘Hey! Come play Tetris with us!’” Fanali says. “That’s the heart and soul of Rockage, (meeting people) based on the love of video games and music. It’s like social gaming in person.”
Initially setting up Rockage was not an easy feat, especially since Fanali financed the festival out of his pocket. Rockage’s first year took four years of advance planning, booking and gathering people before it could even take place in downtown San Jose. Fanali secured the San Jose Woman’s Club for Rockage’s first two years which, in its development stage, catered to his eclectic vision of housing classic arcade games, gaming tournaments, and live music under one roof. This year, however, Rockage will move to the newly expanded Student Union at San Jose State in order to accommodate the festival’s rapid growth. Segmented rooms within the new Student Union will cater to all the different aspects of Rockage, from video game lounges, arcade rooms, and the live music stage.
While planning year-round for Rockage, Fanali constantly books local and touring music talent for all sorts of local music shows and festivals. Small venues that specially cater to the South Bay’s local music scene, such as Homestead Lanes, Café Stritch, The Blank Club, San Pedro Square, and more, hosted multiple bands booked directly through Fanali. Most recently he was one of the main talent bookers for the inaugural C2SV (Creative Convergence Silicon Valley), a music festival combo tech conference in downtown San Jose.
Fanali plays an active part in the South Bay’s music scene as a booking agent year round. His inspiration lies in connecting people face-to-face through his two passions, music and gaming.
Article by Amulya Datla
Rockage Indie Music and Retro Video Game Celebration
Returns To Downtown San Jose for the Third Year
Friday, February 7, through Sunday, February 9
Friday: 3 p.m.-midnight
Sunday: Noon-8 p.m.
San Jose State University, Student Union Ballroom, One Washington Square, San Jose
Tickets: $30 for a three-day pass or $20 for one day, at the door.
For three days, music and video game fans will experience some of the most cherished old school video games in a celebration of independent music, digital nostalgia, and retro bliss as Rockage 3.0 returns to Downtown San Jose.
More than 25 dynamic indie rock bands, chiptune artists and DJs will perform over the weekend in front of a classic free play arcade backdrop of more than 50 rare classic cabinets and pinball.
In addition to the live music and arcade, die-hard fans can meet the composers of many modern independent game soundtracks and learn how to make their own chiptune music through workshops and panels. The intimate venue on the campus at San Jose State University gives fans access to meet and play their all-time favorite video games with their favorite independent musicians.
Bit Brigade, video game rock band from Athens, Ga., will headline the event. They will perform the full soundtrack and simultaneous speed run of The Legend of Zelda for the first time on the West Coast live on Saturday, February 8.