A deep dive into what to look forward to and why we’re all excited
What is NEON RetroFest?
To truly understand what NEON RetroFest is, first we must define what it is not. NEON Retrofest is not an 80s convention. You’re not going to find a room full of stuffy self important types that believe that the 80s generation was the BEST generation all the while moving through some drab hallway collecting canned nostalgia. NEON RetroFest, instead is a celebration of the late 20th century. It is about drawing inspiration from the era, embracing it, and incorporating it into the world we live in today and beyond. NEON RetroFest is essentially a love letter to the past from the future.
Where will NEON Take Place?
Neon RetroFest will take place at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick hotel on Friday, August 24th through Sunday, August 26th, 2018 in the beautiful state of Rhode Island. As far as locations go, it is the best of the best. With the state capital of Providence only 10 miles away, it’s a location that offers a break from normal hustle and bustle of traditional festivals. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the location is that the festival and hotel are located at the exact same place. This means when your exhausted from a long day of synthraving, you can take one step into the elevator, and into your hotel room. NO walking to the corner to find a cab, NO parking tickets, and best of all NO designated drivers needed! As Jeffrey Goines from Twelve Monkeys would put it: “It’s all right there!”
Classic Arcade and Video Games
Now this is something I am particularly looking forward to! NEON’s “Golden Age” vintage video game and pinball arcade will be comprised of around 75 authentic maintained and restored original cabinets. With a collection like that there is no doubt you’re going to most certainly find what your looking for. Best of all it’s “no quarters needed!” If your into console games, don’t worry, they got you covered too! NEON will feature a fantastic retro console game room to keep those fingers busy and happy.
Why we’re excited: Seriously, no quarters needed is not just a slogan, it’s the greatest phrase you could ever say to a hard core old school gamer! My Dragon’s Lair expenses probably could have put my daughter through her first year of college! The arcade alone will makes my entire trip worth it.
RPG and Board Games
Sometimes it’s good to unplug and have some good old fashioned analog adventures. Fortunately, NEON is more than ready to provide the fun. Their “Games on Demand” section will be a great way for festival goers to have some low key casual adventures either solo or with a group of friends. Their game rooms feature some really great role playing games such as The Sprawl and Tales from the Loop. Probably the best thing about this is even if you never played a game, there will be a Game Master to guide you along the way. There will be fresh games starting every hour! Last week I did some YouTube previewing of The Spawl in action. It reminds me a little of Cyberpunk 2020 but streamlined to make things fast and fun with minimal effort and setup. You can literally dive right in!
Not into role playing and just want to park yourself in front of a pair of dice and a game board? You’re in luck! Head over to the board gaming lounge where you can dive into any one of the 300+ board games. Other than a few fan favorites like Cranium and Scrabble, the board gaming lounge is essentially a deep dive of lesser known but heavy cult favorites. Some games that caught my eye are Zombicide Prison Outbrake, and We Didn’t Playtest This at All. While I have never heard of any of those titles, one title I have heard of is Cards Against Humanity, and I’m all over it.
Cult Film Festival
Because NEON is a celebration of all things retro, things could not be complete without a legit film festival. This film festival is led up by none other than Providence’s own a cult film aficionados, Dreadphile Cinema Club. Here you will enjoy over 50 hours of cult film, all carefully curated and ready to put you the right kind of mood. Better yet, they are hoisting that beautiful footage onto a giant screen for all of your viewing pleasures.
Why we’re excited: Two of my favorite movies are going to be featured. The Running Man and Escape From New York. I’m bringing my eye patch and no one can stop me!
The Yacht Rock Lounge
There’s no way you can turn it up to 11 all day long. NEON is a marathon not a sprint and I for one will be looking for a little down time from time to time. What better than to chill out in the Yacht Rock lounge?! I know you’re saying “yacht rock what?” Here me out here. It’s really a ingenious idea if you think about it. With NEON being so full of fantastic synthwave music (more on that to come), you’re going to have so much pulse pounding fun that you’re going to need to “cleanse your palette” every so often. What better way to do this than with the chill out masterful sounds of Christopher Cross and Kenny Loggins in the Yacht Rock lounge! Once my captains hat arrives from Amazon you better believe this will be my chill destination of choice. Put a margarita in my hand and I’ll be good to go for anything that life throws at me.
And Now for the Music..
Anchoring NEON RetroFest is an impressive Synthwave lineup ranging the entire spectrum of the synthwave genre and beyond. NEON’s musical lineup will feature an overwhelming amount of great synthwave artists. Here’s who will be playing and why we are so excited to see them:
Kicking things off at NEON is a band that comes from the desert wasteland of Arizona. Neuron Spectre is a great dark synth powerhouse. With their most recent 5 track EP The Mirror hitting dark and hard, I can’t think of a better way to kick the doors in on opening night! You’re also gonna want to head to the merch table as their new t-shirts are finally in, and they look bad ass!
— Neuron Spectre (@NeuronSpectre) August 12, 2018
Bonggita has become a recent obsession of mine and also a perfect example of the true spirit of NEON. This artist will not put you in a Lamborghini but rather a spaceship on it’s way to the outer reaches of the galaxy. Their music is melodic and haunting and but also warm and intimate. Perhaps the coolest thing about Bonggita is that he hails all the way from the country of Serbia. If traveling 4349 miles to see their fans isn’t a sign of true dedication to the synthwave community, I don’t know what is! This will be a performance not to be missed!
Coming from Toronto, Ontario, Mellow Fields is a creator of gorgeous landscapes that captivate the minds eye as well as your ears. With a heavy helping of dream synth and just the right amount of that outrun sound, there’s no telling what journeys Mellow Fields will be taking us on Friday night.
Dreddd is far By far one the most prolific and most energetic artists in the lineup. Since January 2018 alone he has delivered 5 solid albums of dark, driving, melt your face synth metal. All I can say is to prepare for a nonstop, in your face, sonic explosion.. and be mindful of your relative location to the mosh pit.
FacexHugger (The X is silent) is a synth project inspired by, science fiction and horror with a little outrun mixed in to boot. Being a forward thinker and a trend setter, FaceXHugger just recently made all of his music “Name Your Price” on Bandcamp. With an offer like that, there is absolutely no excuse to not give him a listen. You certainly wont regret it.
Why we’re excited: FacexHugger recently tweeted that his set Friday night will feature a “mini Outrun The Sun fest.” Bring your shades and your sunscreen! FacexHugger hits the stage at 8:00 PM.
Keeping the streets clean from cyber scum, Street Cleaner is ready to bring the justice in the form of post-apocalyptic synthwave and high caliber drums. I’m excited to see what he has in store when he steps onstage.
Producer of dark synthwave music and cyberpunk inspired motion graphics, Glitch Black’s inter-dimensional dark force will soon envelop the entire stage Friday night. With steady stream of yearly produced albums through the years, there certainly will be plenty of songs to choose for his set. Get ready to be taken into new dimensions when he hits the stage.
Why we’re excited: Not only are we going to get a great dark synth set, but we almost guaranteed to be blown away by Glitch Black’s video effects as well. You can get a preview on his Tumblr account.
Closing out Friday night is Protector 101. A protector robot unit that has gone haywire on the city streets. Humans beware!
Why we’re excited: Protector 101 put on an amazingly cool show back at Human 2 and I certainly can’t wait to see him play again. This savage robotic stage presence is one not to miss.
Creating contemporary music with an everything 80s flair, Rolly Mingwald mashes up inspiration with anything from 80s mall rats to Kung Fu movies. If it’s 80’s, it’s in their music.
Glass Apple Bonzai
I just got introduced to the music of Glass Apple Bonzai recently and all I can say is with a name like Glass Apple Bonzai, you know they gotta be good. Glass Apple Bonzai delivers some super dark synth right to the veins. We’re talking some psyco exorcism type stuff right here. It’s dark, demonic, and great!
Why we’re excited: Glass Apple Bonzai features some of the most unique sounding vocals I have heard in a while and I can’t wait to hear them on stage.
Triangle Forest is pure locally grown synthwave that’s right from Rhode Island. There is nothing better than checking out the local talent, and by local, I mean they are great! Did I mention these guys rock a keytar?
Triangle Forest KILLING IT at our very first #Synthwave Night Live–DO NOT MISS these local Synth legends Saturday at NEON! #keytar #triangleforest #providenceri #festival #retro https://t.co/2StVTW2nR0
— NEON RetroFest (@NEONSynthwave) August 3, 2018
Why we’re excited: Triangle Forest is a local favorite and they are certainly no stranger to performing live with most recently having just recently played at the NEON takeover at the Freeplay Bar & Arcade.
L e t e m r i o t
Another recent obsession of mine. Ever since hearing their stuff on Andy Last’s Beyond Synth podcast I’ve been hooked. L e t e m r i o t has making music for many years but recently hooked with NewRetroWave to do a proper album release. With great vocals and catchy pop hooks what’s not to like?
Why we’re excited: One spin of their album The Futurist and you will know what I mean. Also considering the album has been freshly pressed on some beautiful clear wax, we might just be lucky enough to find a few physical copies at the merch table.
Tonebox has been delivering intergalactic jams since 2014. This Stockholm sci-fi sound maker will quickly send you from the dance floor, to the cosmos with your finger finally letting up from the trigger of your laser pistol. Tonebox’s sound reminds me that every now and then I need to put those thrusters on cruise control.
When the race is on and it’s all riding on the line, there’s nothing more important than having the right cassette to slap into that tape deck to push out those extra RPMs from that engine. Combining classic outrun sounds with just a touch of dark wave, Absolute Valentine has been making pulse pounding synth music since 2015. He is also the founder of the label Lazerdiscs Records that feature many of my favorite artists like Shredder 1984, and Shyguys.
Why we’re excited: Absolute Valentine has played with Carpenter Brut, Anoraak, Robert Parker, Waveshaper and more and I certainly can’t wait to see him play at NEON RetroFest.
Waveshaper is a Swedish artist as well as a sci-fi sound blender extraordinaire. Inspired by the soundtrack scene of the 80s and early 90s, Waveshaper will be twisting a shaping the most amazing sounds when he hits the stage at NEON. His latest release is fun and trippy and moves the genre forward pushing the boundaries of synthwave into the sci-fi relm.
Robert Parker’s music is a long drive on an open road. It’s classic petal to the metal outrun fun. With enough street cred and several albums under his belt, it not surprising he slid in the headliner driver’s seat. Prepare for an awesome ride!
Straplocked is another musical force that is constantly pushing the genre forward with his narrative driven music and excellent production value. Being an accomplished guitar player, Christopher Carvache will be blending his signature sound of rock and dark synth when he hits the stage to kick off Sunday night. His mixture of live guitar playing and cyberpunk beats will be something not to be missed.
Why we’re excited: Straplocked has recently dropped a whole slew of new material. You can pretty much guarantee his set will be fresh and full of energy. Also, with Dana Jean Phoenix in the house on Sunday night, I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed for some awesome live vocals on “All Day Heat”. Want to know more about Straplocked? Check out our interview with Christopher Carvache.
Not only will she be performing at the show, Mecha Maiko will also be present at what I can only see as an excellent panel on Women in Synth. She’s represents the softer side of the festival with a sound that’s warm and dreamy but at the same time dark and complex.
Why we’re excited: Mecha Maiko is big a crowd favorite. She will also be fresh off her Friday appearance at the Kung Feel Me event in Philadelphia with Betamaxx and Dana Jean Phoenix, so you know her set will be tight.
These guys get me. A hard rock band covering old school video game soundtracks. There not synthwave and I don’t care.
Why were excited: Have I mentioned that this is a rock band that covers old school video game soundtracks? Here’s just a small taste.
The Rain Within
If your new to the site you may not have noticed that I have written about Andy Deane’s powerhouse musical project The Rain Within no less than three time! With amazing synth pop melodies, live vocals, keyboards, and drums, you can expect nothing less than a stellar show. To find out more about Andy and The Rain Within check out our interview.
Why we’re excited: Did I mention he has lasers shooting out of his frickin fingers? So yeah, there’s that too.
Future Holotape is a LA Synthwave/Synthpop duo consisting of Ernest Mancia and Julie Chang. Their stage performance consists of both Julie and Ernest playing an all out synth battle that is mind blowing to watch. Their rig is a hodgepodge of synths, wires, and plugs, in other words, it looks bad ass! I know that I’m certainly going to be right up there front and center when they hit the stage.
Dana Jean Phoenix
Closing out the show at NEON is the always fun to watch Dana Jean Phoenix. Her performances are the real deal, often playing live keyboards with live singing. She is a one woman powerhouse who’s always at the top of her game.
Why we’re all excited: Dana Jean Phoenix is a class act all the way, but It wouldn’t be a Dana Jean show without her signature keytar and light up shoes. She brings so much fun and 80s energy to her shows, that if you don’t have the best time, you most certainly went to the wrong music festival.
Are you excited yet? NEON is going to be a fun filled weekend and I can’t wait. I hope that this will give you a good preview of what’s to come. Friday will been here very soon but in the meantime you should definitely check out the official NEON RetroFest mix tape to help the days pass by just a little quicker. And if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, what are you waiting for!?