Pinch Me

Pinch Me

“Pinch Me.”  That was the first song I ever saw live in concert.

I was 11 or 12 years old.  Can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I’ll always remember going to my first large-scale concert.  The band playing was Barenaked Ladies, a Canadian band, famous for their hit songs, “If I had $1,000,000,” “One Week,” and summertime favorite “Pinch Me.”  The concert was such a blast!  We sat in the upper decks (nearly in the nosebleed section) and watched them perform both on stage and also on the large LCD screens hanging down from the Meadowlands Arena ceiling.

Driving to the arena, I remember being excited, but not exactly what for.  Going to a ‘big time’ concert seemed to me just be something that was a good idea if you liked a band’s music.  At the time, I was waiting for blink-182, my favorite band then, to tour nearby so I could see them.

Nearly 20,000 fans crowded into the area, buying sodas and pretzels and popcorn.  I’m sure there was beer for sale as well, though I was too young to realize what that was at the time.  I was overwhelmed by how many people were in the arena.  My small head could barely see the stage over the throngs of people, even though I sat near the back.

Fast forward ten years and I had a different appreciation for concerts.  Having seen many of my favorite acts live, including bigger names Pearl Jam, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, The Allman Brothers, O.A.R. and smaller groups like The Kooks, Death Cab, Phil Lesh & Friends, Iron and Wine, The Knocks, Florida Georgia Line, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, and Filligar, I loved nothing more than to see a great show with thousands of screaming fans.  Eighty thousand people or so attended Bonnaroo the same year I went – words can’t describe swaying and singing along with a massive audience to a jam that everyone knows.  For those of you who have been to EDC, Coachella, Ultra, Fuji Rock, or Glastonbury, you probably know what I’m referring to.

So imagine my surprise when speaking with a friend over the Chinese New Year holiday and hearing of a concert he attended with ten million fans.  Ten million?!  I called ‘B.S.’ immediately, not believing the laws of sound and electricity would allow ten million people to be in a single location at any given time to actually hear the music or enjoy themselves.

Boy, was I wrong.  About so much.

Marshmello, an-up-and-coming DJ (or maybe he’s already peaked, for those of you in the know – I’ll leave it for you to decide), held a concert two weeks ago inside of Fornite.

Yes.  The same game that many of our students play on their phones while waiting for debate class to start.  That Fortnite.

Though the DJ set was only ten minutes long, which hardly constitutes a real concert, in my mind, this event was unprecedented.

The concert was available to those using mobile, computer, and VR interfaces.   With many Electronic Dance Music (EDM) concerts, the focus of many attendees is often the visuals, rather than the DJ her/himself.  These visuals can be replicated easily without being physically present in the concert environment.

I cannot believe how different my first concert experience and the experience of some of students, who undoubtedly attended the Marshmello concert, was.  Students growing up with this technology so integrated into their experiences will be in a far different place than we are in terms of what mediums will be native for enjoying experiences.

Let’s not forget where our attention needs to be focused: the student experience.

It’s going to change faster than we realize, even in a ‘traditional’ industry like ours.  No dream to wake up from here.  This is the ‘new normal’ for not just concerts or video games, but for everyone.

Maybe Fortnite isn’t so bad after all.