Since covid broke loose, games like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox—early examples of a social “metaverse,”— have been playing host to all sorts of fantastic music acts, like glitchpop duo 100 gecs, mega pop star Ariana Grande, and most recently, indie rock queen Soccer Mommy (aka singer-songwriter Sophie Allison). As a connoisseur of both albums with less than 3,000 Spotify listens and video games babies could play with their eyes closed, I have been thrilled by this totally bizarre technological advancement. And yet, I never attended a virtual concert myself. Not until today.
I knew this had to change when I learned coffee shop pop goddess Soccer Mommy was planning three days of Roblox listening parties and mini-game events for Sometimes, Forever, her gorgeously melancholy new album. I’ve been listening since her first album, 2016’s For Young Hearts, and couldn’t think of a better place to commemorate my past six years of fandom than on a server where everyone is 12 and looks like a block of cheese.
Her three days of events began yesterday, but I decided to go to today’s afternoon concert because it seemed the most low-stakes for a Roblox newbie. I made a Roblox account and quietly prepared for what horrors a Roblox concert might bring.
July 14, 10:00 a.m.: Feeling nervous, so I prep by downloading Roblox and try to get comfortable with it. I notice that a link to a “the floor is lava” mini-game is still up in the Soccer Mommy Official Roblox group, so I check it out. I don’t understand what’s going on, but the floor becomes lava quickly and I die. As my vision fades, I catch a glimpse of what seems to be Soccer Mommy’s official Roblox character. When I open my profile, I notice that I’ve unintentionally collected an official Soccer Mommy hat and shirt. I decide to wear them later today in an attempt to avoid looking like a loser. Now you know: before you die, the last thing you see is an official Soccer Mommy Roblox character.
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11:13 a.m.: I check in on Soccer Mommy Official Roblox Group, where the link to today’s listening parties will presumably be posted. There are currently 2,749 members, and some good discussion threads in the comments section: “Who to get it I go to me inventory It not,” “Hi love your new album,” “Slay mamas.”
12:20 p.m.: They posted the event link. I’m ready for this, I think, having mildly prepared. I didn’t want to attend the games—a round of the RoBeats! rhythm game, and a day out in role-playing city Livetopia—because I’m scared of getting attacked by tweens. I wait about 10 minutes for things to cool down before joining.
12:36 p.m.: My computer cannot handle listening to Soccer Mommy, playing Roblox, and having Google Docs open all at the same time. Gunshots echo from Roblox, but I tell myself I must be imagining things. I’m unable to move my avatar, but I can hear Sometimes, Forever playing in the distance. I take this to mean that the concert is near, and I try to find it. I cannot, because my computer cannot handle Roblox’s sheer power. I give up and just listen for a few moments.
12:38 p.m.: There is a giant robot. Everything is glitching to hell, and there’s a super loud acoustic guitar refrain cutting into the Soccer Mommy album audio. I haven’t been able to move since I opened the game. I’m frozen in front of the Roblox police station, but at least it will be easy to call the police on Roblox.
12:41 p.m.: I can move...I think. I’m standing in front of a pink stage, but cannot find Soccer Mommy. I must find Soccer Mommy. The music sounds pretty decent, but when I try to raise the volume, the ground starts shaking, and all the other Roblox players disappear.
12:43 p.m.: I realize that the server for the concert event was different from the one I was on. I discover this by reading the chat function that is visible in all of my screenshots. It seems like Sophie Allison, the Soccer Mommy, is actually playing Roblox along with us and talking in chat, and she tells everyone she’ll “see [us] there.” I am dumb. I find the link to the new server and start waiting in line to enter it. It says the “requested experience is full.” If I miss this concert, I am going to cry.
12:45 p.m.: I save my tears—I’m in, but the server is making me choose a job before entering. I decide to be “Hair Salon.” I click on “Hair Salon,” and it tells me I “unlocked muscle car.” I can see people talking to Soccer Mommy in the chat function, but how do I find her? I’m losing it!
12:48 p.m.: I start running with my hair salon scissors because I don’t know how to put them down, and somehow find the concert stage. I did it! Soccer Mommy’s Roblox avatar is standing in front of the mic smiling while songs from her album play loudly. Someone just tried to run into me with their car, and people keep asking Soccer Mommy what veggie korma is, because she said she had some for lunch. I can see her avatar and that she has chosen “criminal” as her profession. OK, now two cars have run into me.
12:50 p.m.: She responds that it’s “like an Indian curry,” and she’s running away from her Roblox fans, who started jumping and piling on top of her. She was hiding briefly on top of the stage, but everyone followed her, and now she’s back in front of the mic. I’m feeling much more settled now, and this experience is blowing my mind. My life is changing. I ask Soccer Mommy for a quote for this article in the chat, but she ignores me. It’s OK, Soccer Mommy, next time!
12:54 p.m.: Someone named savorydip keeps running people over. Everyone’s jumping on stage, so I, too, am jumping. Roblox makes you feel so free! Someone named Mike says “jump if you love soccer mommy,” and someone else says “Happy Jumping Time.” Yes!
12:56 p.m.: I hear gunshots again.
12:57 p.m.: OK, there’s literally someone with a gun trying to kill people. I see them standing on the stage, and little sparks keep flying out of their gun as they launch bullets. They try shooting Soccer Mommy, but I don’t think the gun actually does anything. And anyway, the show must go on. “This song is soooo good” someone says in chat about the song “Don’t Ask Me.” When the song ends, Roblox is completely silent except for the gunshots. Everyone is still jumping though, it’s chill.
1:00 p.m.: The music ends. Soccer Mommy says goodbye to us in chat, and people call her “mother” in response. Time for me to go, too. I’ve made it out alive, big time.
Some time has passed, and I’ve had a chance to reflect. Was that a good concert? Absolutely not. The audio could best be described as listening to YouTube videos on a desktop computer that’s across the room, and when you turn away from the Roblox stage, it automatically muffles. Are video game concerts good alternatives for the real thing? No, but I don’t think that’s the appeal of them. In my brief, sweet first experience with a so-called metaverse concert, I experienced a specific sort of anxiety and amusement that real life consequences make impossible.
It’s sort of funny and exciting to get hit by cars and shot at with a gun at a Soccer Mommy concert held in Roblox. The very concept is 10 levels of absurdity and apocalypse—choosing to enter a low framerate digital world where kids try to kill you for listening to music while looking like a cube. In real life that’d all be extremely alarming, but I’m glad that games like Roblox can inject a gratifying novelty into concert-going experiences. Long live indie rock, and long live the Roblox concert.