Classical musicians have been trying for years to figure out how to hook younger generations. They might want to give Jackie Rodriguez a call.
The clarinetist and cofounder of 8 Bit Wave had a full house of Miami Dade College students during one of the school's orchestra shows. She even had to turn people away at the door. The kids weren't lining up to hear Bach or Beethoven either. No, they wanted to hear the theme song from Super Mario Bros.
"We had the idea to do it after seeing a full orchestra perform while synched to videogames," Rodriguez tells New Times. She vividly remembers the moment she saw the Symphony of the Goddesses, an orchestra dedicated to interpreting songs from the Nintendo game Legend of Zelda. "All of us liked videogames, so we tried to perform the really popular stuff — Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy. It was crazy. People were rioting outside to get in. We thought it was a lot of fun but didn't think anything of it."
But when she was contacted by the directors of Florida Supercon, the Miami Beach convention celebrating geek culture, to perform with her orchestra, Rodriguez was excited yet hesitant. "To get 60 or 70 people in such a short notice would have been too crazy," she says. So with the help of 8 Bit Wave's other cofounders — saxophonist Joe Paz and flautist Luciano D'Amico — they streamlined the group to a manageable size. The new, slimmer 8 Bit Wave included an upright bass, French horn, drums, and piano. "We wanted to have everything represented, but with a smaller group, we were able to write the music faster."
Again, they were met with a packed house. The audience at Supercon went nuts for renditions of "Chemical Plant Zone" from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and "Dearly Beloved" from Kingdom Hearts, and everyone went ballistic for a Super Smash Bros. medley that encompassed all four games.
While the group mulls over offers to play at other conventions, 8 Bit Wave is hard at work in the rehearsal studio preparing for the next performance. This Thursday, the band will play a two-hour show, with an intermission, at Open Stage Club in Coral Gables. "It's going to be really cool. There are TVs all over the restaurant, so you can sit anywhere and eat your meal while watching the videogames on the TVs and hearing the music." Rodriguez edits together video game footage to provide visual context to 8 Bit Wave's tunes.
Afterward, a photo shoot will capture all the cosplayers who show up as their favorite videogame characters. And If 8 Bit Wave's popularity continues to grow, programmers might need to add a flute, viola, and oboe to Guitar Hero.
8 Bit Wave 7 p.m. Thursday, August 20, at Open Stage Club, 2325 Galiano St., Coral Gables; 305-441-7902; openstageclub.com. Tickets cost $10 at the door or $5 online via 8bitwave.com.
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