Gaming, Music

Dispatches from LavaPalooza

Don’tcha just love how the “z” is rendered in that title font?

LavaPalooza was an online electronic dance music (EDM) festival hosted in Minecraft!

I think I need to break that down a bit:

EDM is a music genre that features driving beats and (mostly) energetic sounds mixed with a bit of rebellious “FU” shouts and pop-culture “clips” mixed in. EDM features artists I’ve never heard of. The “artists” in this case are, from all I can tell, really DJs that take an electronic music track of some kind (either their own or sampled) and then use a DJ Mixer (eg: the Pioneer DJ 200 which was being given away as part of this event!) to make it all sound good (?) and worth dancing to.

The EDM “culture” has a long history of festivals, large gatherings of people who dance around to the sounds being put together “live” by the DJs. I’ve never been to one of these festivals, but apparently the fans of EDM really miss them.

To the rescue – Minecraft. The block-building “game”. Here’s how it works:

Some number of people (the festival organizers recruit them and guide them) “build” a Minecraft world that includes the types of things you’d have at t real-world music festival: one or more “stages”, places to eat (this LavaPalooza had a Hooters!), places to “hang out”, fun stuff like a parkour park, water elements, fun signage, and more. It must take them a while to build this all up.

When the festival starts, the organizers “open” up Minecraft servers that host the participants. All the participants need is the Minecraft “client” / game and a computer to run it on. They then connect to the server using the Multiplayer option. For this most recent festival, called LavaPalooza, the server had a max capacity of 1000 people, but keep in mind they can easily “spin up” more servers and load-balance between them if needed. The upshot is that visitors can be “in game” in this custom-crafted world, with 999 of their friends and randos!

How does this align with EDM? Well, the organizers stream the DJs playing their EDM music over Twitch or their own LavaPalooza web site. For LavaPalooza, there were two stages, named “Cue” and “Play” (after the names of the “buttons” the DJs push to cue up music and then unleash it!

The CUE and PLAY stage entrances.

So participants just log into Minecraft, connect to the server, and listen to the music in the “background”. Unfortunately, the game of Minecraft doesn’t have any inbuilt streaming capability (it would be very cool if it did…). But the whole thing works pretty well. On Twitch, they also play the video of the perspective from the DJ looking out into the crowd, so you a participant can go to Twitch and see themselves “dancing” on the dance floor!

My Minecraft character, “Shermbo”, in front of the speaker. Check out all the randos!

LavaPalooza is the second of these festivals I have checked out. The first, called the Rave Family BlockFest, was a mixed bag. The Rave fest had a really great “world” built, including a replica of the Red Rocks concert facility in Colorado! They also had a cool way of moving around the huge festival grounds, using a series of Dr. Who Tardis “machines” that let you teleport around the different, many stages.

But the Rave fest fizzled quickly. They had a “pay” to enter model, $5 I think, which meant people had to be “whitelisted” on the servers, and that didn’t work very well. They also had huge problems getting the audio working on the MixCloud service. They were attempting a huge (20+) number of stages, and that was just too confusing and hard to navigate. The LavaPalooza fest was way more simple, two stages, easy streaming, and free. There was an option to donate and funds went to, get this, alleviating hunger for black trans people. You had me at “alleviating hunger”.

Next time one of these Minecraft fests comes along I’ll put a shout out. If anyone wants to join, let me know. I can help you set up the game, etc.

More Pictures

Yep, a Hooters and BLM banner!
Also on the festival grounds, a DJ / EDM Museum. Very educational!