MECHAFEST: The artists you’ll be listening to next year

“Why you should attend virtual festivals” was the original title I had planned for this piece. Now, it seems redundant. We all know, to some extent, that we should be attending virtual festivals. Obviously, there are plenty of artists who need support, with home concerts to watch on Instagram, merchandise to purchase and virtual events to attend. Awareness of this issue has spread, but sometimes it’s difficult to find and participate in these opportunities. For music listeners, there remain those who have attended virtual events over the course of the pandemic and those who know they need to but have never found the time. I, regrettably, fell under the latter. 

That is, until I attended my first virtual festival last weekend, nearly a year after the COVID-19 lockdown began. MECHAFEST was a four-day virtual festival, spanning from March 25 to March 28, with five different stages and nearly a hundred artists. The festival was organized by independent labels No Agreements, Dismiss Yourself, New Motion and music blog The Flying Lugaw.

The virtual event was organized to raise money and benefit the charitable organization NIVA, an independent association that works to support music venues through funding and passing legislation. NIVA previously organized the “Save Our Stages Fest,” which included headliners like Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters and The Lumineers. Yet the fight to support closed music venues hasn’t ended, as the pandemic has forced stages to remain closed. That is why NIVA worked with legislators to pass the Save Our Stages Act and why MECHAFEST was organized to help NIVA continue gathering funds and resources to support these small business venues.

Taking a quick glance at the stage lists might overwhelm you with names of artists and bands you’ve never heard of before. It certainly overwhelmed me when I first read the artists announced for the festival. In fact, I initially heard about the fest when I learned the internet-cult band Panchiko was performing, being among the few names I actually recognized. This unfamiliarity was quickly forgotten once I heard the acts play — the names of these artists will be etched into my mind as a listener and lover of music for years to come.

Typically for a music festival, labels and artists create a centralized promotional campaign in order to attract festival-goers who will purchase tickets and fill up venues. This exchange is purely transactional — you “attend” in a way that is observational. The artist is a spectacle for attendees to appreciate at a distance.

However, this year MECHAFEST bridged the gap between artist and audience. The hype for the festival centered on both artists and listeners interacting with each other on social media, sharing posts, articles and promotional information in order to build excitement for the festival. Artists and listeners worked in tandem to promote the event and help support their communities. 

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