Music

Classic Video Game Rock

Lame Genie turns your favorite 8-bit jingles into shredding, face-melting riffs

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According to Jeff McGowan of Lame Genie, the music from Super Nintendo’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is what turned a SoundCloud hobby into the best known local vintage video game cover band, complete with a video display at live shows and a YouTube channel that brings together die-hard gamers and aficionados of pentatonic, speed-soloed soundscapes.

In 2012, before vintage arcade games started popping up in Providence, Jeff, Mike Costigan and Kyle Sawaia started posting technical arrangements of video game music online and performing them in local venues. The result is part homage, part rock concert and part comedy show. Lame Genie does a truly admirable job of rearranging retro 8-bit soundtracks by ear for a rock format. “Jeff whistles along to the track and figures it out that way,” Mike says. “We learn everything on the fly during the recording and arranging phase,” adds Kyle.

The coupling of nostalgic video game sequences with live music has brought Lame Genie into the world of video game music, which includes performing at video game conventions – “it’s definitely a niche genre,” Jeff says.

Lame Genie plays music that speaks to a very specific, shared nostalgia that appeals to anyone with fond memories of gaming’s late-80s/early-90s golden age. Mike recalls one particular show as a favorite “based solely on the fact that some big bearded man came up to me afterwards and said that he shed a tear during the fairy fountain part of our Zelda medley.”

That kind of memory wells up in only a few specific moments. Lame Genie seems to have found the cheat code to unlock them.