Jumping up and down at a concert is a commitment. You need to make sure you check your pockets every once in a while, to make sure that your phone/wallet/drugs/etc. haven’t fallen victim to gravity or anyone with loose hands. You want to make sure that you’re jumping in line with the rest of your sweaty concertgoers. And, if you’re like me and not the most in shape, you want to make sure not to expend all your energy throughout the night. On Friday, I had none of those concerns, since all I had to do to go wild was hit the spacebar of my laptop.
That’s because I wasn’t really at a concert. I was, but not quite. I attended 100 gecs’s “Square Garden” concert and fundraiser, a multi-artist event hosted completely on Minecraft. Featuring a who’s who of cutting-edge hyper-pop artists including Kero Kero Bonito and Charli XCX, the concert lasted about four hours front to back and raked in thousands of “attendees.” I was fortunate enough to be one of them, logging on around 8 p.m. Unlike some “real life” concerts I’ve been fortunate enough to attend, I didn’t have to pay for parking, split a Lyft or even sprint after a subway. The commute was two floors up from my kitchen to my office. The event itself was free, with a $5 VIP access tier for anyone who wanted a special in-game tag and private Discord to hang with the artists. And of course, you would need to have Minecraft, which I bought almost a decade prior to the event for around $15.
Minecraft has been one of the most influential multiplayer games for quite some time now, and it’s not surprising to see thousands of players on a server at once. Unfortunately, Minecraft isn’t built for virtual concerts — it’s a game about breaking blocks with tools and killing skeletons. There is no platform uniquely created for hosting virtual concerts, although considering these unique times, it may be in development as I type this. 100 gecs’s server had trouble hosting the 5,000ish who tried to be there “in person,” instead of watching on Twitch or YouTube. I was one of them, trying futilely to lag my way towards the open pit the server designers had made for the event. Within my 15 minutes of earnest attempts to persevere through the server and my laptop’s shortcomings of this strange situation I had presented them with, I was booted from the server several times due to latency issues. By that point, I didn’t want to miss any of the marquee artists, and I turned on the Twitch stream.
The stage itself was fairly unassuming considering the global fanbase of Charli. If it existed in real life, it may have seated two to three hundred, magnitudes short of the arenas that she would sell out in an ordinary spring. That was by design, as the club-style setup gave all of us watching from all parts of the globe a density that we haven’t had in quite some time. I’ll never know the stories of the thousands of others in the chat and on the dance floor, other than the safe assumption that they were viewing from their homes. I don’t know how many of them have a family member struggling with COVID-19 right now and just wanted one night of virtual ecstacy to take their mind off their grim reality. Statistically, dozens were living that story, or something similar to it. Between the usual Twitch spam you’d catch in any major stream (it peaked at around 12,000 viewers during 100 gecs’s set), people were giving their gratitude to the electronic music duo for pulling this event out of thin air and improving their minimized lives.
Life feels like we’re stuck in this one monstrous news story that we can’t escape. On Friday night, myself and thousands of others did, through an impossible fever dream that called itself a concert. It was a bright light in these dark times, and for the first time in my life, I was able to jump around without tuckering myself out.
Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.