Last Saturday, I stood inches from PC Music founder and wunderkind AG Cook as he DJ’d the hottest music festival of the year. The stage glowed purple, adorned by psychedelic lamps and massive speakers. Screaming fans moshed and blurted out political slogans as bass shook the dancefloor. DJ’s joined the fray during the downtime before their sets, and artists raged in support of each other from the audience. The best part? Tickets were free, and a bar off the side of the dancefloor gave out free drinks until the audience had turned into a bunch of music-thirsty zombies.
That’s right – I’m talking about Lavapalooza, the latest in a series of Minecraft music festivals. As is to be expected, there are some massive differences between Lavapalooza and your average concert, the most important of which is that it is impossible to spread COVID in the world of Minecraft. The drinks at the bar will not actually intoxicate you, and you will not feel the heat from all the bodies around you as they rage. Despite all this, I had a wonderful time at Lavapalooza. You’d be a fool to love music and not dip your toes in the virtual water. If the state of the world is any indication, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch one before safe in-person concerts kick back into gear.
While you might think that virtual festivals are simply a knee-jerk reaction to the restrictions of a post-COVID world, the organizer behind the event has been hosting such virtual festivals for a while – and it shows. Open Pit is a group of dedicated individuals that started throwing similar events last year, and Lavapalooza bore all the marks of a festival with its own identity.
The hub world of Lavapalooza is a wonder to behold. Massive Minecraft sculptures adorn the premises, and navigation is made easy through a teleportation device (compass) that all users receive upon joining the server. All you need to do to attend an event is blast the audio through the dedicated website (www.minecraft.xxx) and boot up Minecraft to join the server, whose address is the same as the website’s.
All this is to say that attending the music festival is a simple and streamlined process. I haven’t played Minecraft in years, but had no problem navigating to the right place. Once I arrived at the desired stage, I found myself in front of a beautifully crafted stage with dozens of other players. Attendees blasted the server’s chat with lyrics from the tunes that were playing and I truly felt engaged in a community of passionate strangers. For a festival completely made up of people sitting at computers all across the globe, Lavapalooza created a community mentality very similar to that felt at an in-person concert.
The moment that completely sold me on the music festival format occurred almost immediately after arriving. On stage were Riley the Musician and I’m Rylee, playing a combination of original songs alongside Minecraft reworks of familiar tunes. The best events immerse you in their own atmosphere; they feel special and singular as you wade through them. As players harmlessly set themselves on fire at a dedicated lava waterfall and raced back into the crowd to digitally rage, I found myself losing myself in the ridiculous joy of the moment. For just a few minutes, it felt like our community of young musicians and music nerds had triumphed over the onslaught of 2020. The digital world was full of rebellious joy. What more can you ask from an art festival? Lavapalooza could have felt like a gimmicky, half-baked replacement for music festivals rapidly disappearing in our collective memories. Instead, it felt like hope.
You can stay updated on future music festivals by following @OpenPitPresents on Twitter and Instagram.