Lauren Liebowitz was perhaps destined to be in a band, since her mother was a piano teacher.
But the lead singer of The Returners likely couldn’t imagine as a young girl that her dad’s video game obsession would also play into her music career.
The Austin, Texas, based band specializes in “nerdcore,” playing cover songs of the music in popular video games like Majora’s Mask, Ico and the Final Fantasy series.
“Everything we play is because one of us loves it,” Liebowitz told The OVG on Saturday. “We are doing this because we love it.”
The Returners were one of four bands to perform at The Abbey on Saturday for Ongaku Overdrive, a celebration of performers who specialize in video game music covers.
The event was an ode to the popular Final Fantasy series, with The Returners, metal band Knight of the Round, rapper Mega Ran and rock band Descendants of Erdrick performing music related to the beloved series.
It was the third time Ongaku hosted a video game concert, following Mega Man- and Legend of Zelda-themed shows.
The storyline in a video game is often propped up as the major driver but a good soundtrack can make a difference, too, Liebowitz said.
“You can take a mediocre story and put good music behind it and make someone cry,” said Liebowitz, shortly after completing a 45-minute set that included a medley of Final Fantasy VI songs.
Knight of the Round founder Justin Taylor, who named the band after the most powerful summon in Final Fantasy, said focusing on video game music often means an instant and deep connection with the crowd.
“You see a different sort of passion from the crowd,” he said. “It’s a little bit more special. It strikes a different chord with them.”
The concert was the centerpiece but those who attended could also sample three specialty cocktails mixed up just for the event: Cactuar Juice, Materia or Phoenix Down.
In addition, a speed-art competition with a Final Fantasy theme gave two participants 30 minutes to come up with art themed around Final Fantasy.
They were elements that aimed to create a complete immersion into the series for the hundreds in attendance.
Raheem Jarbo, a rapper who goes by Mega Ran, included songs from his Final Fantasy VII album “Black Materia” and included a collaboration with Orlando hip hop artist EyeQ.
“It makes us realize that what we do matters,” Mega Ran said of the crowd.
As the Descendants of Erdrick played their hard-driving set to close the show, those in the crowd banged their heads and pumped their fists.
Bassist Thad Stevens said it’s an illustration of the passion they have for games.
“The video game music crowd is the most hyped crowd you can perform for,” Stevens said. “They love everything about the games themselves. They love everything about the music. They appreciate the thought and care and the hard work that goes into the arrangements we perform.”
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