Mega Man, Capcom’s famous blue robot, was first introduced to gamers in 1987 and has since spawned a franchise that spans over four dozen games across several video game systems, from the original Nintendo Entertainment System to modern consoles, television shows, comic books and manga. There are action figures, novels and even energy drinks centered around the little guy. Search on Etsy, and you’ll find handmade swag galore. He’s inspired a lot of merchandise and a lot of people.
He’s also inspired some talented local musicians.
After growing up together and playing in their high school jazz band, best friends Carl Stokking, Dave Radolovic, Rob Palmay and Kevin Ragone reconvened in Philadelphia and have used their musical talents to do the only sensible thing they could: Start Close to Good, a band that covers Mega Man music.
Actually, Close to Good performs way more than just the tunes that accompany everyone’s favorite Capcom hero. Though their recent release, Volume III, covers the entire soundtrack to Mega Man III, Close to Good has created 8-bit inspired music inspired by Dracula and Slender Man, while covering game soundtrack classics like Target Test (Super Smash Bros. Melee), Song of Storms (Zelda 64) and Burning Heat (Gradius III).
When they aren’t busy playing them, the video-game-loving band spends a lot of time deconstructing programmed music so it can be performed live. But how do four young video-game obsessed dudes get into playing video-game music on actual instruments, and why release an album of Mega Man III songs? After they saw the famous video-game music group Bit Brigade perform an entire live cover of the Mega Man II soundtrack at the Music and Gaming Festival in Washington D.C., the Close to Good guys had their eyes opened.
“At that point, we were surprised it was not only possible, but socially acceptable to have such a high level of nerd-dom on an entire musical performance,” said Ragone, the band’s drummer.
Inspired from the MAGFest concert, the foursome worked nonstop to prepare a live performance of the Mega Man III soundtrack and performed it live for the first time at The Blockley in University City last Halloween. They sped through 20 songs in about 20 minutes, to a positive response from a surprised audience, and it helped Ragone realize a childhood dream.
“The Mega Man III cover had been a personal aspiration of mine for years. I grew up playing Mega Man II, III and IV as the holy trinity of Nintendo games. Every single day after grade school, I’d boot one of those up and (attempt to) take it all the way to completion before dinner time.”
Still, performing the music live wasn’t enough for Ragone and his band mates. They wanted to record a full album to share with the world and create an equally-unique experience around it. On ClosetoGood.com, there’s an interactive page for Volume III, the Mega Man III cover album, done up in glorious 8-bit. Their first LP is also available for download at closetogood.bandcamp.com.
Sat., March 16, 9pm. $10-$12. With Jimkata + Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The Blockley, 3801 Chestnut St. 215.222.1234. theblockley.com
PW's Music Issue 2014