The rise of virtual nightlife
The club isn’t closed, it’s just moved to your living room.
By Vanessa Vallon
Save for some round-the-block walks and occasional trips to the grocery store, life as we know it has been moved into the four walls of our homes. Like a soundstage, the same location serves as many different sets (albeit with the same interior design): gym, office, restaurant, happy hour spot, and by nighttime for some, the club.
To continue to create entertainment experiences for fans at home, artists have turned to virtual IG Live or YouTube concerts, checking in with fans and playing a few songs during a usual 30 minute to hour-long set. Beyond the guitar/vocal couch-staged stream, big-name DJs have taken it up a notch for those looking for a more sustained experience or soundtrack. D-Nice and Diplo got the ball rolling with hours-long sets, DJing in a normal fashion for faceless fans at home.
Now, existing clubs and entrepreneurial promoters are taking it even further with interactive nightlife experiences, usually via Zoom or Twitch, some complete with bouncers, dress codes and invite-only private rooms. Virtual club Quarantee is unabashedly leaning into the classic “club” experience via Zoom, with cover charges, rich-seeming dudes in hats and models bobbing their heads in “private rooms,” which translates to fewer squares in Zoom’s “gallery view” and a famous DJ or Instagram personality only a few windows away. The Zone boasts a multi-room experience, including a “Cabaret,” “Flirtation Station,” “Goddess Yurt” and more. Festive dress is verified by a remote door-person before admission is granted. Underground queer nightclub Club Quarantine, open for business nightly, featured pop-ins from Charli XCX and Rebecca Black on a recent night sponsored by PAPER Magazine.
Beloved local institutions are also getting in on the game to keep their clientele entertained and their staff compensated, usually via optional donation. Queens club Nowadays has migrated to Virtually Nowadays, having its DJs spin live from their homes or studios, while Bushwick performance bar House of Yes is hosting its own Zoom parties. LA’s Zebulon has been hosting Distant Disco, and even hand-delivered disco lights to early LA-area RSVPs to ensure a truly festive gallery view.
One virtual watering hole that isn’t new to the scene is Club Matryoshka, a private Minecraft server initially created for artists to share their music that evolved into full-fledged virtual music club before it was cool (or at least necessary).
The question remains as to how long party-goers (or stayers) will want to keep it online once going out becomes an option again. Once we can gather, do these virtual parties become a bittersweet memory, does our second-hand knowledge of gallery versus speaker view become a thankful thing of the past?
With the Zoom lexicon now second-nature, even to our parents who still have a hard time with Netflix, virtual possibilities do become more feasible. Too much traffic? We’ll zoom you into the book club. Friends and relatives from out of town now have no excuse not to virtually attend the next birthday party. And for those who wouldn’t have been able to attend certain experiences in the past and who now have been able to participate in nightlife—the underage, the remote, the disabled—do they get to continue to attend?
Can you throw a camera on the wall of the club or concert and let those at home into the party? Or does its success lie in its necessity, the 100% participation model, the fact that no one is doing the thing they wish they were?
For the time being, it works, and its applications will most likely continue to evolve until we can all pack into a club together again. And maybe even then, we’ll have some extra, unseen attendees at every event, those tuning in from home.