How to Rave at Home, Away From the Crowds | OZY

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Your next favorite show might happen in your living room.

In early January, American dance music producer and DJ Jauz kicked off his new headlining world tour, “Dangerous Waters,” and premiered his new EP in front of a huge screen and a wall. A pair of black gloves and a cutting-edge console were all that connected his virtual reality avatar to close to 85,000 fans around the world –– who danced away in the comfort of their homes and even asked him questions after the show. The cost to these ravers? A VR headset, a high-speed computer and the Wave app, developed by Los Angeles-headquartered entertainment tech company Wave. 

A few weeks later, superstar R&B artist Tinashe did her first VR show –– or Wave, as these concerts are called –– in LA, her avatar dancing across the virtual stage to tracks from her album Songs for You. Decked from head to toe in simulation gear, she moved, sang and danced her way around a small room while thousands of avatars of her fans did the same wherever they were.

Companies like Wave and VRJAM are trying to bridge the distance between listeners and performers by creating virtual entertainment worlds to make real-time concerts more accessible. And today, in our coronavirus reality, these streamed experiences seem like the perfect answer for immersive yet crowd-free entertainment.

More and more artists are experimenting with VR raves –– dubstep producer Xilent played a real-time DJ set at the Unite Copenhagen conference in October, while Canadian DJ Rezz debuted her new EP Beyond the Senses via a real-time VR concert in July, where the ambience reflected the actual look and vibe of her upcoming tour. And they swear by its novelty and reach.

“There’s huge potential for VR livestreaming, especially once it’s more accessible to everyone, as it allows people to enjoy a concert while comfortably staying at home,” says 24-year-old Irish DJ and producer Jay Pryor. Last fall, Pryor did a real-time VR gig for Fnatic, the esports platform, in collaboration with Virgin EMI.

Last August, a Wave for American acclaimed electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling drew more than 400,000 “participants.”

For the performer, the format definitely takes getting used to. “At first, I was a bit confused, because it felt so strange and I had to get used to how to move around and to all the commands,” Pryor recalls, but he found it fun after getting the hang of it. When he first started playing his set to the “room,” he says he wasn’t sure if he was just playing for himself or if others had joined. “But it turned out that others were there dancing around and interacting with me or with each other!”

Naturally, if VR gigs become more commonplace, their impact on the electronic dance music industry and concerts and festivals will be significant, especially revenue-wise. EDM culture has always been about human connection and new technologies, says Greg Marshall, general manager of the Association for Electronic Music, so VR raves feel like a natural progression. “Exposing new audiences to the genre in a safe and engaging digital space, providing new performance opportunities for DJs and enabling access to the collective joy of dance music for people who may otherwise be physically unable to attend can only be a positive thing,” he adds.

The trend is definitely catching on. Wave has already done 20 VR concerts, and more are lined up for this year. Last August, a Wave for American acclaimed electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling drew more than 400,000 “participants” –– via their Oculus Rift or HTC Vive –– from around the world.

But there is the question of social isolation, as more and more people deep-dive into the “internet of things” and flounder when it comes to real-life interaction. 

As with online gaming, “social connection and interaction still very much play a huge role,” says Pryor. “People will still want to enjoy these types of experiences with their friends. It’s always a case of knowing how to balance and most importantly distinguish social media and any kind of virtual social life from real life.”

Both Pryor and Marshall do agree that even a fully immersive virtual concert lacks the full energy and vibe of a real-life show, but the possibilities that VR presents are many. “It is debatable whether the depth of connection to the crowd and music at a VR rave event is currently close to what is possible at a high-quality physical live event,” Marshall says, “but it does provide a new opportunity for audiences to experience electronic music in a social environment in a completely new way.”  

So if you experience FOMO when it comes to your favorite artists burning up the stage, keep a lookout for a VR show. You’ll fit right in!