On Tuesday night I went to this really cool gig. It was like, 5 hours long and I loved pretty much every minute. But I wasn't hungover this morning, I'd spent no money and, in fact, I didn't even "go" in the physical sense. It was entirely URL. This was online venue SPF420's SXSW show, and the first that brought its founders and some of its longtime components together IRL, resulting in a joyous togetherness that reeked of chatroom frivolities and community spirit. Welcome to the New Generation of music.
I mentioned these guys before, introducing them in a piece I wrote for Dummy Magazine in which post-vaporwave heartthrob Saint Pepsi and SPF420 co-founder Liz lent their thoughts on the movement that they had pioneered; one that resembled a grassroots, local scene, but was totally global, wholly online. The SXSW show – a house party somewhere in Austin – marked a huge stride forward for them. Just being there, having a presence that included sponsorship from Sailor Jerry's and Crap Eyewear, seemed big but— that's not the point. The point, well, the point can be summed up in a pre-SXSW tweet earlier this month from SPF420 co-founder, Chaz Allen (who's also made music under the monikers Metallic Ghosts and DJ Sugar C):
We don't want to be celebrity we don't want to be viral we want 2 hang out and share music— CHAZZZY (@chazzzy420) 7 Mars 2014
The overriding feeling here was one of excitement, physically meeting each other for the first time, digital love translating into actual gestures: hugs, conversation, getting drunk together. Having fun and sharing music; doing the URL thing IRL. And there I sat, eating peanuts and drinking tea, soaking up this atmosphere via a YouTube stream. This was pulled shortly into the festivities thanks to, we supposed, corporate copyright butthurt (it was confirmed thx to screenshot below), so SPF420 broadcast from its steadfast Tinychat HQ. The chatroom, crucial to the whole thing from day one, was missing from the start but fate brought it into frenzied life.
The lineup was glorious: Tony Hawk Pro DJ, Bear//Face, Giraffage, Wave Racer, Beat Culture, Saint Pepsi, Ryan Hemsworth, Spazzkid, Anamanaguchi, Deebs, Different Sleep. The stream was wonderfully DIY-quality – audio and video – the set a makeshift desk and window curtained with the American flag. It was peppered with the increasingly inebriated hosts and guests at the event; Chaz and Liz shared the announcer responsibilities, screaming later on their thanks to the sponsors, their love to all watching, enjoining everyone to chant '420!' – those there shouted; we typed. A tribute to weed, music and friendship.
The chat buzzed with banterous furore the whole time, sometimes nonsensical, often hilarious, but always loving what it was hearing. Any sense of celebrity ebbed away, the chat graced at points by some of the lineup, Saint Pepsi saying hi, Ryan Hemsworth (who'd tweeted prior to the event that he was cleaning dog shit off the kitchen floor in the house at which the party was being held) popping in, Liz garbling intoxicated love to everybody. Others tuned in, too: producer and Zoom/Lens founder Meishi Smile dropped by, as well as George Clanton of Mirror Kisses, blog 1833, Claudio Gallo – the man behind Bad Panda Records, Tom Doyle (musicmaker, sometime SPF420 poster-designer, and moderator of the chat), and many others I'm sure, who either didn't talk or whom I missed in the general mad scrolling of the whole thing. Everybody was equal.
Awesomely evident was the staggering variety on offer here – trap transitioned into house into happy hardcore into J-pop into juke into 90s-pop into chiptune into drum n bass. All the while, track IDs were demanded, Spazzkid's beat improvisation techniques admired and discussed, Ryan Hemsworth dropping a remix of the Super Mario 64 menu screen music made everyone go crazy; we guessed the animé OSTs being sampled, fell for Anamanaguchi's relentless bleepery, and dismissed or soap-boxed the apparent similarities of Wave Racer and Rustie; Bear//Face's t-shirt got a mention, Tony Hawk Pro DJ [below] did the 900 (skate helmet on because safety first), Saint Pepsi rapped with Chaz. The evening, afternoon, night, early morning – whatever – rang with entertainment and internet fun for a global audience. The future.
Some might think disparagingly, "Is this not like Boiler Room?" Well, it is. Of course it is. However, as Liz explained to me a while ago in an interview on Kuala Lumpur-based GUMBALL magazine, "there are people before/during and after SPF420 that will be doing live internet performance art. Basically what I'm saying is, SPF420 should be one of the many 'channels' we turn to for internet entertainment." The most connected nation on earth, South Korea, watches most of its TV on one of four million internet channels; when the digital divide begins to close in other nations, this is where we'll be.
It's not the existence of SPF420 in itself that pushes things forward, but the existence of SPF420 in the context of today that helps us to realise the opportunities present in furthering the world of music and live performances. Tuesday's albeit deep web, punk-spirited stream didn't mark a superficial step forward for one particular entity, but the fledging of how music will eventually come to be experienced, an inspiration for others to follow suit.
- Aaron Jennings for the Tony Hawk Pro DJ screenshot
- Harrison Bennett for the YouTube copyright screenshot
- Whtebkgrnd made the the cool flyer (portion of which at top)
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