Since COVID-19 turned live music and the entire music industry upside-down last March, virtual events have been a main source of entertainment and creativity for both musicians and fans. Often these events – also referred to as live streams – are broadcast on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, often by using a smartphone. Usually the content that’s broadcast consists of a musician playing a guitar in either their bedroom, their basement or their back porch, or even in the desert or someone’s backyard. Starting at 5 p.m. on April 9, there will be a virtual concert happening in extraordinary fashion that will create a unique experience for a great cause. It’s titled the “Galactic Federation of Musicians & Allied Workers” and it’ll be broadcast via YouTube while taking place within a setting created with the sandbox video game Minecraft to benefit the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers.
Providence hip-hop artist B. Dolan played a major role in the creation of the show through his affinity for the video game, having put on a festival through the platform last year called #Netherrap. He became aware of the union through another Providence-based musician and figured he would use a similar model to raise funds and support.
“I started playing Minecraft to keep in touch with my eight-year-old nephew last March as a way to keep hanging out virtually while quarantined and sidelined from touring,” Dolan said about the origins of the virtual event. “In the process, I became aware of the building and multiplayer possibilities of Minecraft, and decided to try and throw a show in the game with my Patreon supporters. It worked incredibly well and we raised enough to pay all the artists involved more than I guaranteed them. Once I realized the possibilities, I decided to try a benefit show and work on upping my streaming hardware. I got hired by Brown University to throw two events for them this spring, which allowed me to upgrade the computer I use to broadcast the shows.”
“I’d been aware of the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers via Joey Defrancesco,” he added. “Joey is a current member of the punk act Downtown Boys and former member of the brass street band What Cheer? Brigade. That’s how the origins of the show came about.”
One of the musicians taking part in the “Galactic Federation of Musicians & Allied Workers” is indie rock icon and Wakefield resident Ted Leo. Sadie Dupuis from the Philadelphia via Boston-based alternative rock act Speedy Ortiz approached him about the show and the meaning behind it, and that’s how he got involved.
“I’m mainly aware of what the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers is doing by keeping up with Damon Krukowski’s writings and work,” Leo said about the organization. “Organizing around safer working conditions and fairer deals for artists and allied workers is (always) important, but, obviously, especially now that we’ve all lost significant ability to earn during the past year.”
As far as the Minecraft aspect of the show goes, you’re talking to a Generation X musician. So, like with many things online, and since we pioneered some of this stuff, I absolutely understand how it works. I also know why people use it and think it seems fun; but I’ve never actually set a virtual foot inside Minecraft itself, so I’m perfectly content to let the Millennials tell me what I have to do and follow them where they lead. I enjoyed prepping a ‘behind the curtain’ set in anticipation of the organizers actually animating the avatars and it’ll be fun to see how it shakes out.
Dupuis also got the New York indie rock power trio Palberta involved in the virtual event after approaching them about it. They’re looking forward to being part of something that isn’t your typical online music live stream.
“We’re psyched to be involved in this, because the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers is absolutely something we stand behind,” multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nina Ryser said. “They address super important issues for musicians and performers, such as demanding fairer deals from streaming services, ensuring musicians receive royalties they’re owed and fairer treatment by record labels and venues. I think people are feeling weary of watching online and virtual shows through Zoom or Instagram Live these days, so the whole concept of using Minecraft as the platform for this show appealed to us. It’s a super creative and fun way of approaching live music virtually.”
Other bands and musicians involved in the “Galactic Federation of Musicians & Allied Workers” include Black Pus featuring Brian Chippendale from the Providence noise rock duo Lightning Bolt, ‘90s alt-rock stalwarts Eve 6, Seattle anti-folk artist Kimya Dawson, nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot, electropunk act Pictureplane and New Brunswick, New Jersey post-hardcore pioneers Thursday, among others. The event will be broadcast via Dolan’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/BDolanVideo and people can donate to a link that’ll be provided during the virtual show. For the exact details on the entire thing, log on to netherrap.com. For more information on the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers, log on to the organization’s website at unionofmusicians.org. There will also be physical merchandise and in-game VIP packs that’ll be for sale, so make sure to clear up your plans for this weekend and tune into an experience that’ll surely be one-of-a-kind.