In the words of Tinashe, “Hey, when I get lonely, I always go up”. Or in the words of Romy Croft, “I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with”. Or in the words of Morrissey, “Take me out tonight”.
For a good number of us, the promise of the weekend kembot is what gets us through every god-awful Monday morning. Nightlife is often seen as shallow interest, but there’s more to it than people give it credit for. It’s a bustling ecosystem of owners, bartenders, bouncers, promoters, and DJs. Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has left these people scrambling for ways to keep their livelihood.
Now that bars and clubs have no choice but to remain closed, how will productions, venues, and clubs continue to earn? Worldwide, people in the service industry had to endure mass layoffs, unsure of when they can once again have a steady source of income. Owners have no means to pay rent without bar cashflow, and have to get creative with how they can take care of their employees. Today X Future and Futur:st have started a call for donations and advance orders to support their staff and keep their venue, with Manila DJ Samantha Nicole live streaming DJ sets from home to rally friends and family to #SaveOurFuture.
It isn’t just the people who run clubs struggling amid the pandemic, along with them are the performers that keep the dance floor alive. Thankfully, many DJs and musicians are still able to keep their passion going through livestreams and recordings. Music label transit records was able to hold their highly-anticipated events, Evening Breeze and Undercuts via streaming platform Twitch; all while raising funds for medical frontliners. Ikigai Radio, a platform for underground DJs and producers, has shifted to livestreaming their artists’ sets via YouTube instead of just uploading them like they used to. UNKNWN has followed suit, hosting Facebook Live and Twitch streams to pool money to support different causes, including UP-NIH research, and supplies for the Golden Gays.
Images courtesy of Club Matryoshka
Online gigs seem to be our new normal now, but they’re nothing new in the world of electronic music. Producer label BuwanBuwan Collective has been live streaming shows ever since their Fête De La Musique Bedroom Beats Stage in 2014.
In our interview, founder Jorge Wieneke (a.k.a. similarobjects) talked about how, while nothing can truly replace the intimacy of a live show, he wanted to push past the limitations of the Manila scene. “I just felt like the space I had imagined in my head hadn’t existed for Manila yet. I’ve been organizing events for eight years, and along with that comes a lot of frustrations, challenges and hurdles.” He goes on to say, “I’m a firm believer of being able to recontextualize and re-imagine our culture into something new, diverse and progressive, and I seem to look towards the internet for that.”
It’s certainly much easier to reach international artists and audiences through the web. Jorge has recently opened Club Matryoshka, a virtual nightclub held in a private Minecraft server. Club 777, its latest iteration, was headlined by five-piece Norwegian indie band Boy Pablo. People of different origins were able to rock out and even mosh a little as their blockified 3D avatars. Being in a first-person, DIY, virtual world adds a lot of charm and immersion to the experience where the only limit is your imagination.
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hey thanks to everybody who listened to my set last night and all your encouraging comments ✨💚 love you all 🖤 mix will be available for streaming sometime soon. I’ll include a track list tew if enough ppl ask. Pls consider copping something on my bandcamp page. Link in bio. Releasing my new project very soon. Anyways #dxdf2020 still going on rn on @datafruits go go go go go go go go 📡🌏💊🔋⚡️🌟🛰
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One of Jorge’s favorite things about holding online shows though, is meeting people who are open-minded towards more niche types of music like harsh noise, gabber, hardstyle, and avant garde. Online, you can find a whole community of people who are eager to experience something new.
Japan-based radio webstation and label Datafruits also keeps this idea in mind. Co-founders Allen Huang and Tony Miller started around 2014, after being inspired by UK radio stations like RinseFM. Allen shares, “[The] community is absolutely the best thing about Datafruits. A lot of work goes into maintaining the platform but it’s the people who use it and who help us make it better that make it entirely worth it.” As time went on, they eventually widened their scope to other things. Last March, they just held DXDF, an online music festival featuring talent from different countries, including several Filipino acts such as Loner, AHJU$$I, and DJ Papa Jawnz.
“It’s very exciting on one hand to see so much interest for it come up, but at the same time I feel very sad about the circumstances causing the surge of interest in streaming live music online.” says Tony. Datafruits isn’t just a temporary replacement for live shows, but a new and innovative platform for artists to thrive. Allen adds, “And when/if the world goes back to the way it was before, I hope people who had a good time with the online model can take positive lessons like community [and] accessibility and better incorporate it into real world events.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the nightlife industry in a state of uncertainty, but not of stagnancy. Artists have been finding ways to bring the gig experience to people at home, all while helping those in need along the way. Though this is an experience that is mostly free-of-charge, there has been a precedent set for paid online festivals. In Japan, Rainbow Disco Club has decided to push through on April 17, 2020 via live stream for ticket-holders. This raises a possibility for venues and productions to start charging listeners, just so they can stay afloat in the meantime.
Much more than a means to adapt to the current situation, online gigs have allowed us more creativity in how we experience music and nightlife. While it’s no small task to build a platform for artists from scratch, the payoff lies in getting to set your own rules and foster entire communities from all over the world. Even people who don’t typically enjoy drinking, crowds, or dancing can bring the nightclub to their bedrooms from a comfortable distance. No need for mean bouncers, overpriced cocktails, or random bar fights. In the end, all it really takes is music and people.
Andi Osmeña is a Manila-based writer, designer, and DJ. She currently studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. When not preoccupied with her personal Fall Out Boy album rankings, she composes essays about music, television, and queer culture. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @babyikea69.
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