UPDATED! The Lost World and Lost Horizon Music Festivals Take Place July 3rd and 4th, 2020 in Sansar: A First Impressions Review of the Events

Please note that I am taking a vacation from the blog for the next two to three weeks, except for sponsored blogposts (with the occasional exception, like this review).


This morning, I paid a long-overdue return visit to Sansar, to check out both of the two-day music festivals that are taking place on the platform this weekend (July 3rd and 4th, 2020):

  • The Lost World event, held by an organization called Global Music Festivals, is being held in a specially-created world called Lost World, based the Incan architecture of Machu Picchu in Peru (here’s the entry in the Sansar Atlas):
  • The Lost Horizon Festival, which is associated with the real-world Shangri-La event at the Glastonbury Festival, a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in Pilton, Somerset, in England every year (which, like many other events, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic):

According to the Lost Horizon event page:

Two days. Four stages. Fifty-plus performances from a star-studded global lineup, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Jamie Jones and more. Welcome to Lost Horizon, from the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La – the world’s biggest music and arts festival in virtual reality! Join us from wherever you live, across desktop PC and VR here at Sansar.

These are extraordinary times, and we know fans everywhere are hurting. Which is why we’re thrilled to offer a FREE TICKET to any and all affected by this current crisis.

If you can contribute, we’re also offering a PREMIUM TICKET that helps benefit two important causes – Amnesty International and the Big Issue – and includes some amazing goodies: an exclusive piece of art from Lost Horizon creatives, Instruct Studio; a virtual shirt from Instruct Studio; and more.

While you have to buy a ticket (a free one, or the US$10.00 Premium ticket) to get into the Lost Horizon events, anybody can pop in to visit the Lost World event, which is smaller and feels more intimate.

Lost World (by Global Music Festivals)

The Lost World event features more than 20 live DJs performing sets over two days. The two 12-hour streams will be live broadcast on Twitch and into the Lost World in Sansar especially built for this event. Deejays will play EDM, Trance, Goa, Techno, Psy, House, and Nu Jazz.

When I dropped by this morning there was an appreciative crowd of about 20 avatars gathered, dancing in lockstep to the light show. I found that if I stopped playing my own dance animations and stood still, eventually I, too, would start dancing with the rest of the crowd! I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about a world imposing its dance moves on me, though. (I would have preferred a choice!)

Saturday Night Fever moves in front of an Inca God!

Unfortunately, there is no lineup of artists on the Global Music Festivals rather bare-bones website, but there is a poster located in the stone building to the right of your spawn point. with the day’s lineup (there’s also a quest you can do as part of the festival):

Lost World Festival Schedule and Quest Giver

Lost Horizon Festival (by Glastonbury’s Shangri-La)

It’s clear that most people in Sansar this weekend are here for this festival, as this snapshot of the attendance figures (taken from the in-world Codex) indicates:

When I visited, the Gas Tower had over 100 avatars present, while the Freedom Stage and the Landing Zone had about 60 each, and the Nomad Stage about 40.

The Landing Zone makes a great first impression

This being Sansar, I expected the visuals would be top-notch, and they certainly are! You can use your Codex to hop from stage to stage, or start off at the Landing Zone, which features teleporters to take you to the various stages and exhibits:

The Info Booth at the Lost Horizon Festival’s Landing Zone
(I think the woman in the pink fringe boots is trying to steal my wallet!)

In addition to the stages, there is an art exhibit called ShangrilART, and a television studio called SHITV, broadcasting films and videos relating to the event. Both spaces were less crowded, giving you the opportunity to take a breather from the much busier music stages.

A documentary on transgenderism at the SHITV studio

At the Freedom Stage, the performers were a flat projection onto the stage rather than embodied avatars (the organizers used a green screen to erase the background). While I was a bit disappointed (I was really hoping for some sort of full-body tracking suits on the performers, like the one that electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling wore to animate her avatar in her awesome concert in Wave last August!), I do think that this was a best choice under the circumstances, and it worked well, especially when viewing the show from the back to the middle of the room:

It was only when you got right up to the stage that the illusion was shattered, as you can see from this shot I took of the deejays behind the booth at the Nomad Stage:

The only problem I encountered was the audio quality, which was consistently choppy and extremely poor while using a VR headset, and better but still a bit choppy while in desktop. I left and revisited several Lost Horizon stages where musical performances were taking place, listening while wearing my Oculus Rift and just on desktop, and there were definitely problems with the sound quality, especially in the Rift. If you are planning to participate in this festival, you might be better off setting your VR headset aside and just using desktop.

One very odd thing that I noticed was the dozens of animated bots that were placed in various spots near the periphery of all three music stages, or under the raised platforms provided for better viewing. You could tell they weren’t other “real” avatars because when you clicked the trigger on your hand controller and looked at them, an avatar name did not appear over them. Most were uniformly dressed in drab, grey colours, and they all cycled through the same dances. It was strange, to say the least.

Lots of animated bots under a viewing platform at the Freedom Stage…but why?

In an event that was already packed full of avatars, why did the organizers feel that they needed to add dancing bots to pad the audience? Were these bots included in the user concurrency figures in the Codex listings? I found myself wondering if the poor audio quality would be improved a bit if they were shut down and removed (I mean, having to render all the real avatars in a crowded world is adding enough to the load on my computer’s graphics card as it is; why on earth would you deliberately choose to increase that load by doing something like this?).

So, if you attend either or both virtual music festivals this weekend, be advised that you might have some sound problems (which will be more likely if you are using a VR headset). These are likely not events that users on lower-end hardware, or more restricted internet bandwidth, will enjoy.

There are schedules of the performers at each of the stages, with the times in BST when they are performing, information which is unfortunately missing from the official Lost Horizon Festival website (which just lists the artists at each stage alphabetically and provides links to their Facebook pages):

The schedule of performers at the Lost Horizon Festival’s Freedom Stage

Aside from the sometimes-poor audio quality and the creepy dancing bots, I’d encourage you to pay a visit to Sansar this weekend (perhaps your first ever?) to check out the dueling music festivals and experience the platform yourself. Sansar is, still, the most beautiful social VR platform in my opinion, and it lends itself well to events such as this. I’m quite sure that Wookey (the company now running Sansar) wants these festivals to bring many more new users to Sansar—and entice them to pay return visits.

It is now somewhat out of date, but back in April 2019 I did write up a step-by-step guide for newbies to Sansar, which you might find helpful. (I do know that Wookey has updated the selection of starter avatars.)

Have fun! I will be popping in an out of these two music festivals in Sansar all weekend, so say hello if you see me!

UPDATE 1:52 p.m.: Well, I signed out of Sansar and signed back in again, and there is a crowd of 188 avatars at the Lost Horizon Festival’s Gas Tower Stage:

While it is so good to see such a large crowd in Sansar having fun (I assume they are spread among multiple instances of the stage), the audio quality is still very poor, especially in VR, but also on desktop at times. For a music festival, I consider this to be a pretty serious problem. Let’s hope that Wookey can find a way to fix this before the Lost Horizon Festival ends tomorrow!

UPDATE 2:08 p.m.: There are now a total of 287 avatars at the Gas Tower Stage, and the sound on desktop is still choppy (I have given up trying to listen in VR). And just now, my Sansar client crashed completely. It would appear that the Sansar platform is experiencing some serious scaling-up problems as more and more people join (it’s evening now in the U.K., where I would expect the bulk of the audience is from). Signing in again, crossing my fingers…

UPDATE 2:21 p.m. Back in again, and I do have one piece of advice for people experiencing audio and/or visual glitches in Sansar: make sure that the Sansar client is the only thing that is running on your computer! I just checked and it is using well over 90% of my CPU just to render the Gas Tower stage and process the sound. Normally I have WordPress open in a browser window, but even something as simple as that brings the whole experience to a crawl, and garbles the music stream.

Now at 315 avatars at the Gas Tower Stage for Fatboy Slim‘s set, and rising…

UPDATE 6:41 p.m.: Well, I decided to pay one last visit today to all three music stages at the Lost Horizon Festival, and I am very happy to report that the music stream quality is much better in my VR headset! I’m not sure what Wookey did (or even if they did anything), but for the first time, I could stand in the middle of a virtual mosh pit in the front of the stage, feel fully immersed in the colorfully and creatively-dressed crowd in my Oculus Rift, and actually enjoy the music.

However, it’s clear that other people are encountering audio problems too. One person in the crowd near me posted to the chat at the Freedom stage:

Is there a www audio stream? I’m still clipping, even in desktop mode and low render; I’ve been trying for over 2 hours now.

Once again, the minute I opened up WordPress in a browser tab to report on this, everything went bad again. (So even if that person were to open up a livestream of the concert to get better audio, his performance in Sansar would take a hit.) It would appear your sound quality is a factor of three variables: how fast your internet connection is, how powerful your computer is, and what other programs you may have running simultaneously.

Your best bet might be to catch the Lost Horizon Festival via Twitch: the Beatport Twitch channel (which gives an overview of several stages at once), or the Lost Horizon Festival channel (which was offline when I checked this evening). There are also, new mobile apps for Sansar, which I will be writing about in another blogpost.

And, as I said before, it just felt right to see so many people in Sansar. Here’s hoping that the attendance at the music festivals this weekend met Wookey’s expectations, and that there are more such events in future.

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Super Bad Transmittable Contagious Awful Virus! A Selection of My Favourite Pandemic Parody Videos (So Far)

My television died today.

Good-bye, old TV set…
(photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash)

I should hasten to add that it was an ancient, 20-inch, cathode-ray-tube TV set which I inherited from my grandmother when she passed away back in 2004, so this was hardly an unexpected development. Late this afternoon, it started giving off quite a hideous buzzing noise while I was watching various 24/7 news channels, and after turning it off, I discovered later this evening that I could no longer turn it back on. It’s gone.

I should also hasten to add that I pretty much gave up watching any sort of broadcast television years ago. I much prefer consuming TV and movies on my iPad, using various apps such as CBC Gem, Netflix, and YouTube. So really, this is not such a big loss. And it’s a sharp reminder to me, to cut back on the relentless onslaught of coronavirus news coverage.

And, speaking of YouTube, a minor cottage industry appears to have sprung up overnight: coronavirus parody videos of popular songs. I blogged about one parody video a while ago, but the trend has definitely continued, with more creators jumping on the bandwagon! So I thought I would share with you a few sterling examples of this strange but entertaining recent phenomenon.

First up is this straightforward, simple message from Robert Emmett Kelly:

Next up is singer Chris Mann, who has released a similar message to Robert, but in a much more stylish fashion! (He’s got a number of coronavirus parodies on his YouTube channel, including a cover of Adele’s Hello which is also quite funny.)

Next up is another favourite of mine, courtesy of the very talented Daniel Matarazzo:

But I have saved the very best YouTube parody video for last: a British family that has released an updated version of a very well-known song from Les Misérables, which is absolutely genius, in spite of a few flat notes near the end!

Honestly, the level of creativity all of these people have is truly inspiring!

Editorial: Somewhere Down the Road (Finding Comfort During a Coronavirus Pandemic)

Vince Gill and Amy Grant on last night’s Opry Livestream

I grew up listening to Amy Grant. I owned all of her vinyl albums in those halcyon, pre-compact-disc days, and my church youth group would always head out to see her perform whenever she came to Winnipeg. Even though I now consider myself an atheist, I still turn to her music for comfort in times of stress and anxiety, depression and despair. Her soothing alto voice in well-known songs is still a respite, an oasis, a retreat. Despite my change in circumstances, I am still an unabashed fan.

Many LGBTQ people, like myself, have complicated, convoluted, and contentious personal histories with organized religion. For example, I met my wife through that same Lutheran church youth group and, like the two well-raised Transcona Lutherans we were, we followed the dictates and strictures of our church and got married (I was 24 and a virgin). After a painful short marriage, and our separation and divorce, we both came out of the closet. (The dress my ex-wife wore for our official engagement photo was later donated to a Toronto drag queen.)

Last night, in an empty Grand Old Opry, Vince Gill and Amy Grant and their daughters put on a livestreamed performance (which you can watch here, the show starts at the 30:00 mark).

And I must admit I got chills down my spine when Amy sang her song Somewhere Down the Road, to which I know all the words by heart:

So much pain and no good reason why
You’ve cried until the tears run dry
And nothing here can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hands
And you say

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is

Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

Amy Grant, Vince Gill, and their daughters perform to a deserted Grand Old Opry

I hope that you also find some comfort in these difficult days, wherever that might be. Reach out to your friends and family, via FaceTime or Discord or Skype, to support each other. March has been a hard month, and April is going to be even harder.

I have kept my list of mental health resources during the coronavirus pandemic up-to-date as I find new items to share.

Prairie Voices: Ilus Ta Ei Ole

Sign on a Winnipeg Transit bus (source)

As I have written before, Winnipeg is a very special place with its own quirky charm and unique sense of humour. Frankly, I can’t think of any other place I would rather be during a pandemic lockdown.

Because of its relative isolation compared to other cities, Winnipeggers have developed many home-grown arts, cultural, and entertainment events and institutions. For example, the city is home to a large number of community choirs and choruses. (For ten years, I sang tenor with The Rainbow Harmony Project, Winnipeg’s LGBTQ2* Chorus, a time I remember fondly.)

Another well-known Winnipeg community chorus is Prairie Voices, a choir of 18- to 25-year-olds, which released the following music video on YouTube with the preface:

Like so many in the music community, we had to cancel our concert on March 14th, 2020. It was heart breaking. So we decided to channel that heartbreak into creating this video.

This is “Ilus Ta Ei Ole” (“It is not beautiful”) by Pärt Uusberg.

The text begins by describing things that seem ordinary and mundane. But it ends with the realization that all those same things, when put together, are actually extraordinary and beautiful.

We’ve seen this exact same thing happen with the COVID-19 pandemic: humanity is coming together with each of us doing our own small part to keep each other safe and well.

As individuals, we can only achieve so much, but together we can achieve anything.

Together, we can create beauty.

The conductor sent out a video of himself conducting the piece. The choristers recorded themselves on their phones singing their parts. The recordings and videos were compiled together and edited into this incredible video by two members of the choir.

I hope this slow-building, beautiful piece—and the way this video was constructed—inspires you as much as it inspired me tonight, at the end of a stressful, anxious day.