Virtually There
Sound & Vision|December 2020 - January 2021
With large-scale live events still in a holding pattern, attending VR and AR concerts online could be the next best bet for diehard concertgoers.
MIKE METTLER

Picture yourself in a boat on a river. Floating downstream, you eventually arrive at a beautiful island locale, where upon its shores awaits your favorite band. After you disembark, the band shows you a potential setlist that you approve, albeit with a few tweaks and additions. You want them to play some of your personal favorite deep cuts, and they’re more than happy to comply. The band commences a long set just for you, an audience of one, and it’s absolute paradise to your ears. Indeed, this is the kind of live experience you’ve been craving for months—and you didn’t even have to leave your home theater to enjoy it.

Pure fantasy, you say? Well, not entirely. Welcome to the burgeoning world of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) concerts. As the live performance industry continues to wrestle with pandemic related restrictions, musicians have gravitated toward sharing some sort of socially distanced live experience with their fans, whether it be all-request livestreams, drive-in shows, parking lot concerts, and/or with audience space bubbles in tow (hello, The Flaming Lips!). More recently, VR and AR performances have re-emerged as a viable, creative alternative to being there in person.

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