While the outbreak of the coronavirus and the transition to online classes have led to the cancellations of many campus events, WHRW 90.5 FM is using Minecraft and Discord to bring their Moefest music festival to the computer screen.
Amber Cherichetti, a DJ at WHRW and a sophomore majoring in English, has organized the first-ever Minecraft Moefest, to be held April 25.
Cherichetti said the cancellation of this year’s Moefest, an annual music festival hosted by WHRW, gave her the impetus to take on the project.
“The reason I wanted to do it was because I knew I was missing Moefest,” Cherichetti said. “In the spirit of the radio, because I love it, I named it after the real festival.”
While the WHRW E-Board has not been involved in the event’s planning, it has shown support, promoting it on the station’s social media accounts. Laurie Azoulai, the general manager for WHRW and a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, wrote in an email that she quickly warmed to the idea of an in-game festival.
“I was a bit skeptical at first because while Minecraft is a very well-known game, it may not seem so accessible to everyone,” Azoulai wrote. “However, the aesthetics of it are pretty cool.”
Azoulai expressed some concern about the accessibility of the event, adding that not everyone has easy access to a computer or reliable internet service. However, she emphasized that the event is still well suited for making the best of an uncertain situation.
“This is nice because people can prerecord material to be aired [the] day of the event,” Azoulai said. “With a situation like this that we are living in, it is definitely well adapted.”
Cherichetti and a friend have been designing the Minecraft server where attendees will be able to interact with a virtual stage and other settings. The concert audio can be accessed simultaneously through a Discord chat, where performers can address listeners in real time while their prerecorded sets are streamed. Starting at 8 p.m., each artist will play a 20-minute set.
Student acts Roni, Julien Cubeiro, MC 469, ANACHROME and Jacob Morenberg will be playing in the festival alongside Claudia Sheffner, Onlinefriends, Naff and Saltlick. In order to fill the lineup, Cherichetti asked friends and found people on social media who would volunteer to play.
“I started out with [Binghamton University] student bands because that’s usually what Moefest is, student openers and outside headliners, but for this there really isn’t a headliner, so what I did was half BU students and half people I knew were talented and kind of outside [BU],” she said.
Eric Rothenhofer, an undeclared freshman who produces electronic music as MC 469, said this will be his first time participating in a livestream.
“Even though it’s all prerecorded, and there is that digital barrier still, I can feel the eyes watching it, and that’s kind of altering my workflow in kind of making it more listenable than I normally would,” Rothenhofer said.
Minecraft concerts were a growing trend before the coronavirus pandemic. In September 2019, Cherichetti attended Mine Gala, a Minecraft festival that featured a few high-profile acts like 100 gecs and Dorian Electra. From these festivals, Cherichetti was inspired to emulate the same atmosphere with an online Moefest.
She said the atmosphere of the concert was more interactive than one might expect.
“It was less like you’re just sitting there and watching it, and more like you’re here with a bunch of other people and you’re in the same spaces and feeling a kind of connection,” Cherichetti said.
She added that artists have taken steps to compensate for whatever was lost in the move from physical to digital stage.
“It’s not as high-energy as a real show would be, so when 100 gecs was playing, the highlight of them playing was that they were playing songs that you wouldn’t hear unless you saw them live,” she said. “So it’s not just like you’re listening to music in a group setting, there’s exclusive stuff happening as well.”
Cherichetti isn’t the only student using Minecraft to simulate the hallmarks of BU social life. Housemates Brandon Corey, ‘18, and Ryan Maloney, a fifth-year graduate student in the 4 + 1 program studying systems science and industrial engineering, started playing the game during quarantine and have been using it to build a virtual Binghamton.
“When we were [first playing Minecraft] it was a Thursday, so the normal Thursday routine is to go to Peterson’s for $5 burgers and beers, and Peterson’s was closed at that point, so we decided that was going to be the first thing we built in Minecraft,” Corey said.
So far, Corey and Maloney have collaborated with friends and housemates to build models of their current house, their old house on Walnut Street and Peterson’s Tavern. They hope to continue building Binghamton landmarks like State Street and Maryam’s Halal Food and Gyro, eventually opening the server to friends.
“We’re more in a construction mode right now, but once we’re done we can definitely get some use out of it,” Corey said.
While a virtual trek to State Street might be more of a novelty, Rothenhofer said the switch to online social events can be especially meaningful in artistic spheres.
“I’m excited to ride this wave of musical festivals where there is no geographical barrier, which then means there’s no barrier for entry,” he said. “The kids are running the asylum, the people who are producing the music are able to get it out as directly as possible to the consumer.”
Cherichetti said she hopes to put on more events, even after live music returns to basements, lawns and concert halls.
“It was already a concept that I felt needed to be opened up because the fact that it’s accessible to everyone is so, so cool, and I think that now we’re really exploring what accessibility for music events can be and taking it further because everyone’s quarantined,” she said. “I think that we should continue doing it after everyone’s allowed to go outside.”