In my last post I mentioned that I would be participating in a Winter Break program that my company has offered for the last couple of years. The program is such that we're allowed to request to take off up to a month of unpaid leave from work sometime in the months of December and January. Last year I did a three-week break, and during that time I completed the majority of my arrangements for The Hard Modes; this year, since last year was such a success and since I'm in a better place financially, I decided to take the whole month off.
The start was pretty much a blur. New Year's Day was spent cooking and eating at a friend's place, and on the first official day I tried to organize myself and get started on some personal habits that I wanted to get into: spend some time each day on ear training, learning another language, and coding. Didn't try to do too much, but did enough to get the blood flowing.
The second, day, well... I fit in the aforementioned habits along with getting an oil change and figuring out which jazz tunes I wanted to fill long Hard Modes sets in with right before...
MAGFest Day Zero.
Yeah, I already had a couple of paid holidays for MAGFest scheduled during the break, so off I went to National Harbor, MD, for one of my favorite weekends of every year!
I've never done a Day Zero before (coming on Wednesday when all of the activities start Thursday), but it was really great. Worth the extra $200 or so that we spent for the additional room night when I'm not making any money? Ehhh well, time will tell, but I'm leaning towards a 'yes.'
We didn't do a lot the first night--basically checked in, got our bearings, met a couple of our good friends at Nando's Peri Peri (no line! #dayzero), and crashed. But it sure was sweet to wake up in morning, go to the gym, and hit up the pool and hot tub before doing any...
The theme of this year had something to do with King Donut. I don't know what that is or what it means, but there were inflatable donuts around that we screamed at and tried to grab hold of. MAGFest is a place where you can be publicly obnoxious and it's okay because the majority of the people there are being the same in different ways (it's great).
Challenges were back for the first time since 2015, and not only were they back, they were better than ever. You had to scann your badge to sign in, the selection menu was really slick, and nearly every challenge had a bonus challenge, so you could beat the base challenge for some points and keep playing to see if you could take impossible to the next level.
My friends and I did pretty well overall, but Stephen killed it, 100-percenting every challenge except for the impossible defeat-Mike-Tyson Punch Out one. Insanity. Also, insomnia.
The rest of the weekend was spent playing games with friends and goofing around at concerts. While one of my favorite acts, Bit Brigade, wasn't there this year, we did see a number of great acts. Some hot takes:
- Kirby's Dream Band: Put on the best MAG Prom yet. High energy, great tunes.
- Super Soul Bros.: My favorite group for the music--these guys can play. They're the reason that Jen and I had Spring Yard Zone stuck in our head for a week minimum.
- insaneintherainmusic: Played at the bar/lounge across from check-in, which was a new spot for MAG groups. The sound was all over the place due to the location - it was tough to hear the saxophone - but overall, Carlos showed the stuff he displays on YouTube every week and the band was tight. The guitar player was especially good, laying down Pat Metheny licks over the arrangements.
- Master Sword: Shred city. Lead singer has the pipes for the job.
At the end of the trip Jen, Stephen, and I discussed our answers to the near inevitable question of what our favorite part of the weekend was. In the past there was almost always an immediate, tangible answer, like watching Nobuo Uematsu perform live with his band or getting down to a set deejayed by Yuzo Koshiro. But nowadays, for me, having a weekend where I, alongside of some of my best friends, can freely run around, play games, and be unabashedly stupid is what MAGFest has become primarily about. And may the days of doing that never come to an end.