Finland’s biggest online event – a gig by JVG – was ‘attended’ by over half a million but Helsinki has even more ambitious plans to become the virtual capital of the world
According to Finland’s National Police Board, this year’s Vappu Eve (the festive night before May Day, when the country traditionally enjoys public fun and frolics) was “exceptionally peaceful”. Citizens largely respected calls to stay at home. And yet … I found myself at a gig in Helsinki’s Senate Square with almost 150,000 other people. I was dressed as a giant pineapple called Temperamenttinen Satuilija (Temperamental Fabulist!), and was tossing champagne at Finnish rap duo JVG as they performed live on a stage, in front of the city’s neoclassical cathedral. Just another day in lockdown.
Though it happened in real time, the event was held in the virtual world. While Temperamenttinen – my avatar – was bopping in the Nordic twilight, I was at home, at my computer, cat on knee, finger on mouse, sending gestures and fizz-bottle emojis to the duo, who could see the feedback as they performed. I can’t say it had the buzz of being at a “proper” concert. And JVG weren’t my personal jam. But, technically, it was impressive. Without the requirement of a VR headset, I was watching humans, performing in real time, in front of an interactive audience, within a world of meticulously rendered make believe.