Phoebe Bridgers (and More Acts) Playing Live Sets Within Minecraft is a Perfect Statement About the State of Live Music in the COVID-19 Era

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Rock Cellar Magazine

Do you play Minecraft? Chances are, you don’t — the massively popular game, which amasses millions of users around the world, skews younger. It’s a huge deal for the younger generation, and this past weekend Phoebe Bridgers “played” a live set that aired within the game itself.

This has happened every now and then, bands and artists getting ambitious in an attempt to appeal to the huge user base of the Minecraft phenomenon, and Phoebe Bridgers used it to her advantage, helping to raise money for the Bail Fund related to the Black Lives Matter protests going on around the country.

The mini-set itself (in which Bridgers played four songs, three from her upcoming album Punisher), to anyone not familiar with Minecraft, looks disorienting and a bit bizarre:

As you see above, the singer/songwriter was one of many artists to play within the game on June 6, part of a trend that’s gone on in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s really the perfect means for an artist like Bridgers, with a strong online presence and an “army” of dedicated fans on all major social platforms, to reach new fans, as well.

It’s also a rather strong sub-set of the concert industry, with many notable examples springing up in the past few years.

There are plenty more on the horizon, too: Electric Blockaloo is an upcoming electronic/dance “festival” that will take place within Minecraft in late June:

As long as artists are unable to play physical gigs in actual music venues, which will continue for as long as the pandemic maintains its control over our sense of “normal life,” we’ll no doubt see more of these sorts of digital alternatives spring up, much as we’ve seen countless Instagram and YouTube streams for roughly the past two months.

Here are some words on “Block By Blockwest,” another recent festival-within-the-game from Insider:

“Creating an opportunity like this where we’re providing that festival experience where you’re engaging with people is why we wanted to create that festival dynamic,” Ryan Conway, Courier Club’s lead guitarist, told Insider. “We wanted it to be an interactive thing where someone can go into it for a day and play the different games and look at the art and check out all the different artists and meet people.”

Block by Blockwest delivered on that aspiration, with NME’s Ali Shutler calling it “the closest we’ve yet come to an authentic festival experience. More than just a concert, BXBW was a total experience: there were bars where VIPs could get virtual drinks like a “Starblocks Latte” or a “Blockweiser;” I stumbled across a Shrek complete with a “get out of my swamp” sign. There were virtual representations of art available for purchase in real life; I jammed to alt-rock band The Wrecks’ set by making my Minecraft avatar jump around and head bob.

These are strange times indeed, but we’re likely to see more of these sorts of performances before we can get back to “regular” live concerts.


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