Can VR Raves be just as satisfying as in-person parties?

I’m watching DJ Calvin Harris appear as an avatar on a six-inch phone screen propped up on the laptop screen on my desk. In a feeble attempt to boost the right vibe for a virtual EDM show, I turned off all the other lights in my room, leaving only two screens to set the room glowing. However, feelings of delirium are difficult to reproduce given that it is Friday noon and I am under the influence of three cups of coffee.

I twirl in my office chair as an animated Harris begins to turn the DVDs, I nod to what, for me, promises a new experience. Presented by virtual entertainment company Wave, the TikTok LIVE party wasn’t the first time TikTok hosted an event in virtual reality. In 2020, the video sharing app was hosted weekend In a live virtual concert. Not to mention that in the early days of the pandemic, a number of virtual concert startups thrived, with companies like Wave bringing in artists like John Legend and Tinashe to the digital stage. But the resurgence of live concerts hasn’t killed the online alternative — just last year, MTV introduced a Metaverse performance class at the Video Music Awards.

Technically, Harris’ show was conceived as a virtual reality concert. People with a headset from Pico, a VR company owned by TikTok’s parent company Bytedance that is only available in Europe and Asia, can see an immersive digital experience. For the rest of us though it was just six inch OLED screens.

Harris opened the show with his remix of “CUBA/You’ve Got the Love”. His avatar, which inexplicably had glowing yellow eyes, never deviated from the virtual booth. Occasionally, he would raise his arms or clap, but that was the extent of the avatar’s physical movements. These moves might work on a real stage, but in the Metaverse they are the visual equivalent of elevator music.

The crowd, which was located in a circle around the booth, was somewhat more enthusiastic. The people—users set from the Pico headphones—were depicted as characters with teardrop-shaped heads and elongated, oval bodies. But without legs, the virtual audience walked around waving their slender arms. As their hands moved, streaks of neon lights receded behind them in an apparent attempt to recreate the glow-in-the-dark atmosphere of most traditional electronic dance performances. They were clearly the priority viewers — halfway through the song “Giant,” Harris started shouting out usernames.

On TikTok, the whole action was in the comments section. Some examples included:

“Very lit.”

“Save Ukraine”

“So embarrassing”

“Rave bae where are you”

And my personal favorite is, “Maybe Calvin Harris is sweating with a bag of Cheetos by his side.”

When Harris asked everyone to put their hands in the air during the middle of “Blame,” TikTok viewers responded by flooding the comments with a variety of hand emojis. The comments section also revealed some confusion about the general concept of live broadcasting. While Harris was performing “Outside,” a user commented, “PLZ WHAT IS THIS.” Similar comments surfaced during the broadcast, as TikTok viewers wondered how and if they could get into the virtual audience Roblox It happened.

The confusion was also shown by viewership – the live broadcast that started with 15,000 viewers dropped to 11,000 viewers by the end of the forty-minute set.

Part of this decline in viewership may be due to poor broadcast quality. I can’t speak for the virtual reality experience, but people watching from TikTok have seen blurry, high-pixel graphics. Even if the effects were blunt, there was clearly no obvious aesthetic to the show: On multiple occasions, the backdrop would float above the crowd. At times, Harris’ avatar was shrouded in sparkles.

In some ways, it makes sense for EDM to venture into this scene — a genre by definition is the intersection of technology and music. But for many EDM fans, half the appeal lies in the community aspect of the genre. People love fashion and dance as much as they love music. Separating these features would probably make the group less attractive to anyone who isn’t a die-hard Harris fan.

But maybe I’m the problem. Perhaps if I was fully committed to dressing up and dancing around my bedroom, it would be easier to immerse myself in the show. But watching the group in sweatpants in my room on a Friday afternoon wasn’t exactly what most people have in mind when they think of “rave.”

Harris rounded out the set with fan favorite “Promises”. Two large hands moved around him behind the DJ booth as his avatar invited the virtual audience to join him on stage. Like Casper the friendly ghost, the floating corpses migrated their way to him. Green and blue lights followed as the avatars circled Harris.

It was an anti-climactic end to a boring set. But for some viewers, it at least succeeded in setting the tone for the night. “Now I want to go to a party tonight,” one user commented. I sincerely hope they get there.

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