On the weekend of July 24-25, Australia’s Splendour XR music festival, formerly Splendour in the Grass, which has been around since 2001 and takes place in Byron Bay Australia, stepped into the world of virtual reality and allowed its guests to traverse the festival grounds all through the comfort of home.
From mobile phones to PC’s, or through casting onto the television, Splendour XR was fully available online as an interactive online festival where the grounds were full of mesmerizing visual treats to behold.
After a year of being away from live music, this approach to a music festival was entertaining and ultimately rewarding, as my only other experience with a home-based music festival was Outside Lands in San Francisco, which tried a streaming version around the time of their usual festival in 2020, and even though that lacked the virtual reality elements and had only a few new and live performances (it went with the greatest hits of the festival’s past decade or so), the idea of watching a concert live with others, even just at home on television or on your phone or VR enabled headset, still has a sense of revelatory connection and the fact that you can follow along through the live chats to fuel that sense of social bridge certainly helped have a strange and fun time.
For the two days, comedians, children’s activities, and even wellness activities amplified what most people came for, the music. Audiences were able to tune into performances from such acts as: Khalid, The Killers, Charli XCX, CHVRCHES, Phoebe Bridgers, Kaytranada Denzel Curry and more.
Within the Global Village a lot of interesting and profound activity could be found. In one area, one could celebrate First Nations wisdom by learning about the native bush tucker of the region, “seek meditation to connect to country, decolonization, rewilding, storytelling, sound healing and spirituality.”
In The Forum, speakers roamed to tingle the brain with actors, journalists, educators, writers, politicians, poets, scientists and even a former Federal Police Commissioner. Again, all of this was only accessible through the ticketing for the weekend which allowed users to travel throughout the virtual festival, interact with other avatars in the world, and for an extra fee, purchase dance moves to have your personal avatar show some pizzaz out in the digital realm of Byron Bay, Australia.
Additionally, Splendour XR had a replay option after the festival called Splendour Relive, where access to the 60+ hours of performances were available on demand for 7 days. This was only for the performances though, access to the virtual grounds was only available through the concerts initial two-day festival.
It seems a festival like this, even beyond the restrictions of a pandemic, would be a great alternative to not being able to travel to some of the most popular music and arts festivals in the world, as we teeter with how to assess and handle the COVID pandemic. If all goes well in the world, Splendour in the Grass is slated to return as a live festival in November of this year.
Beyond that, I had fun in my digital romp to Australia, it makes me want to travel there IRL (In Real Life).
More info available at https://splendourinthegrass.com/.