On February 2, 2019, the battle royale game Fortnite hosted a virtual concert headlined by EDM musician Marshmello. A stunning 10.7 million players flocked to watch his avatar stand atop an extravagant stage temporarily added into the game’s arena, emoting with glee as they watched him and his backup dancers play a show like nothing else.
If you’re like me, then that should sound to you like the worst possible concert experience since Fyre Festival (and at least the attendees at Fyre didn’t have to listen to Marshmello.)
I’m not here to talk about that virtual concert; a shitty, corporate artist playing horrible music in a game built off of copying other franchises and virtual currency that has kids memorizing their mommies credit card numbers so they can make their little Fortnite character look like John Wick (but legally, not John Wick, remember.) I’m here to talk about the festival that should be known as the proof-of-concept for virtual concerts held in video games: MineGala, a music festival via Minecraft server.
Now, about a month before the Marshmello event, Fire Festival (not to be confused with the Fyre Festival) happened. And a few more months before that, there was Coalchella. These were music festivals held in Minecraft, organized by Open Pit, an “independent virtual events platform.” The previous festivals featured musicians, some of them as famous as Iglooghost and Y2K, gathering onto an exquisite music-festival-themed server to play short sets for crafters passionate about music. But what those festivals did pales in comparison to the much grander MineGala, which is probably the most bizarre festival I’ve ever been to.
I arrived to the festival on Saturday, September 14 quite late, around 10:30 PM. I joined the server, downloaded a texture pack that was strongly encouraged, and arrived at the spawn point. I immediately took notice of a towering, 3-D Hatsune Miku sculpture that seemed larger than anything I’d ever seen.
sculpture that seemed larger than anything I’d ever seen.
I knew I had come to the right festival.
As soon as I saw the chat, I saw an overwhelming flood of two different types of messages— “WHERE IS THE GECS TREE” and “GECS TREE IS -1400 64 -1110”—popping into the chat at a mile a minute. I, being a bit of a 100 gecs super fan, decided my first stop would be to visit this “gecs tree.” After some intense “W” key pushing, I found myself at a tree outside the two main stages of the festival. With a little bit of texture pack magic, two paintings showed Dylan Brady and Laura Les, the geniuses behind 100 gecs, “gecposing” at a minecraft tree, resembling the album cover to their newest release 1000 gecs. There were others there, dancing around and gecposing by the tree as well. It was quite a sight.
By now, you might be wondering, “how do you even hear the music at this festival? Minecraft doesn’t have voice chat.” I was wondering the same thing. Luckily, the MineGala website hosted a live audio stream (with adjustable volume, thank god) of all of the audio that was playing. It seemed to me that MineGala simply streamed via their website a playlist of twenty minute sets crafted (haha) for the artists to hop on stage and perform to. It was an ingenious idea, and it was surprisingly effective; a friend and I reported no difference in audio or issues with lag.
I realized that electronic artists umru & Fraxiom were about to play a set on the “Industry” stage (the other stage being cleverly titled “Plant”), so I used my compass to teleport to the stage and catch the show. I wasn’t familiar with either of their work before the event, but I had heard positive talk regarding umru’s music, so I was hoping this would be a good introduction. The first thing they played was a series of short 100 gecs minecraft parodies, and I have to say, I absolutely lost my shit after a pitched up voice sang “My boy’s got his own redstone,” into my headphones.
Umru & Fraxiom played a wonderful show, remixing songs like “Cupid Shuffle” and “Scatman” into club bangers that were as hard as they were hilarious. At one point, the entire crowd began to move to the right of the Industry stage as “To the right! To the right! To the right! To the right!” played over and over again, slowly panning to the right side of my headphones. I felt like I’d already lived the quintessential festival experience, the accidental discovery of my new favorite artist amongst a crowd of music fans going absolutely apeshit, and I wasn’t even 10 minutes into the festival.
I texted a friend of mine, telling him that I was at MineGala, and we both got onto Discord, so we could try to find each other at the show. We agreed to meet up at the gecs tree. As soon as he arrived, I noticed something.
He wasn’t there.
We were on different servers, which wasn’t a problem, as we were easily able to switch over to the server with the least amount of people on it. Soon enough, I found him, dressed in a Weezer (The Blue Album) themed skin. “I thought I should equip a music skin for tonight,” he told me. He grabbed a quick “screenie” (a screenshot of our characters facing an imaginary camera in the third-person view) in front of the tree, and decided to head over to the Industry stage to check out the show.
I left this detail out, but I never actually got to see anybody on stage (at least not the first night anyways.) Unfortunately, even though I was able to switch over to see my friends on different servers, the artists actually playing the show were on one server and one server only, which filled up at 125 members near immediately and stayed like that. I was able to get on the server with the actual concerts on the second night, and watching them was certainly cool, even if the overloaded server basically turned the show into a Minecraft-themed PowerPoint in terms of frame rate. Thankfully all of the audio was streamed from a third party site, so I still got to hear amazing sets from many different musicians.
After the umru show, Dorian Electra took to the stage. I was never a fan of their music, but I have to say experiencing it “live” made a huge difference for me. They added in crowd sounds and reproduced the songs so they’d sound like they were playing a live show, and it actually brought a little bit more energy and uniqueness into their songs that I felt was missing on their debut from earlier this year. At one point, he triggered a stock sound effect of children cheering, which made me giggle. Even though I wasn’t particularly excited for their set, I found myself presently surprised.
Up next was the obvious stars of the show, 100 gecs. As I write this, I am relistening to their set, because I simply cannot get enough of it. Every song was an original, often remixing some comically absurd source material; there was a happy hardcore-inspired take on Playboi Carti’s “Shoota,” a grimy beat spun from the laughs in the intro to “Feel Good Inc.,” and an unforgettable remix of Leonard Bernsetin’s “Appalachian Spring,” not to mention an almost wholly unrecognizable Halsey sample and a strange but wonderful incorporation of the famous “Potion Seller” YouTube skit.
Finishing off was another artist I had heard good things about, Polyphia. Their brand of EDM-mixed instrumental rock never really appealed to me, but I have to say I adored their set as well. It felt like a nice comedown after 100 gecs; a little less off the wall, but still very energetic. It was a nice way to close the night. Being a big prog rock fan, my Weezer-clad friend loved the performance. But to my surprise, he even enjoyed the 100 gecs and umru & Faxiom sets, since he was pretty averse to that sort of music pre-MineGala.
I think that’s sort of the magic of MineGala, a free event that you can attend without leaving your bedroom. It takes the inconvenience out of the festival-going experience, which makes it a lot easier to fall in love with new artists. And after all, isn’t that the beauty of a music festival anyways?
I’ve attached some photos below that documented my experience as I walked around the festival grounds on Sunday night.