COVID19: an ephemeral quarantine paradigm
In March 2020, our societies changed in a matter of days, if not hours, from a model of abundance to a model of scarcity, from a world of innumerable and permanent incentives to a world in which the individual had to probe himself to determine quasi-instantaneously what his “basic needs” were.
We have had to abandon our passive, reactive position in the face of external demands to return to an almost reflective research approach: what are my needs, my real desires, what am I missing?
It’s within this framework of extreme external constraints that many of us found ourselves confronted with the heavy feeling of frustration. Frustration, although painful and dangerous for mental health, in the long run, can lead to epiphany: it allows us to reveal and understand the fundamental drivers of a need.
At Shotgun, at the very beginning of confinement, we were submerged by a strange feeling: we had the impression of being thrown into the complete opposite of the actual period in time. Our job is to bring together hundreds, thousands of people, from all over the world, so they can party and dance for hours, sweat, meet, touch, kiss, hug inside exclusive, safe, mostly confined places. Our mission allows everyone to come together through an event and give people the opportunity to live a moment of happiness, whether it be alone, with many people — strangers or friends — to find people who are like them, in the deepest sense of identity and meet new people. In short, the very essence of Shotgun had become a science-fiction scenario.
Of course, from this situation was born an immense collective frustration: Shotgun, but above all, party-goers, artists, event organizers. And from this frustration was born a shortage. A shortage that gradually allowed us to redefine the contours of the problem, the pillars of the subject: why events? Why do we go out?
If the COVID-confinement crisis revealed a certain number of “useless-obvious”, apparent gaps or problems that were not there (example: working from 9 am to 5 pm every day in an office), by eradicating this over long months, it above all revealed what makes the festive events so profoundly unique, and anchors their importance in modern times.
The profound nature of events
Literature and philosophy give two definitions of what is an event that are so contradictory that it’s almost amusing.
A first general definition describes the event as “anything that happens in time.” The event is defined here as the material, organic unit in the measurement of time. In this sense, it’s an “eternal” definition of the event. Making a coffee, dropping a pen, receiving a text message. The infinity of things in this world become events.
The second definition, of a more philosophical register, defines the event as a rift: the event is a pause in the causal sequence of small things. Whether it’s a Black Swan type of event or the expected result of an election or of a game, the event emerges from an ocean of insignificance, which breaks the horizontal line of the mechanical temporality of cause and effect.
These two definitions seem antithetical. What they have in common, however, is that they describe the event as structurally anchored in reality, in being: an event is above all “what happens.” The event, therefore, has an organic, material, real component. Moreover, it’s fundamentally anchored in time. To sum up, an event, whatever the definition we use, is defined by a combination of materiality and temporality.
The second definition is the most appropriate one, given what follows in this paper. It implies a crucial element: that of perception. Indeed, if we support the first idea that an event is “everything that happens,” then it exists outside of any subjective consideration. If, on the other hand, the event is a rupture, momentary destruction of causality, then it takes on the dimension of an observable, measurable object. The event becomes intimately linked to the individual or group of individuals who perceive it. And it is in this that the event is not only material, temporal, but also and above all, it is social.
The event as a creation: a gamble on the futur
Let’s zoom in on a specific type of event, namely musical events — parties, concerts, or festivals. They clearly don’t belong to the model where the event is a surprise in the “sequence of things that happen.” These events are created therefore planned, foreseeable therefore anticipated, announced consequently expected.
Beyond being a creation, the event is above all a bet on the future. First, it is a creative gamble on the feasibility of the event. It is also a gamble on the external environment: will the world allow the event to happen (typically: I bet that there will be no global scale pandemic). Finally, it’s a gamble on perception: the event I create will effectively break the course of things and will be experienced as necessary by the public who will experience it.
Multi-dimensional triptych of a festive event
Concerts, festivals, or parties are festive moments, moments of the exaltation of the senses, concentrates of social, friendly, sensory or sensual interactions. They are above all events, which do not contradict the triptych mentioned above:
Temporality: time passes through the event
An event — defining it as a human creation with a social and musical purpose — is defined above all by its beginning and its end: it is, therefore, temporary. It is this constraint that generates this unique excitement around events.
An event is temporary by essence
Moreover, an event very often takes place “after”: after the workweek, after the sunny day, after the lights go out, after others fall asleep.
The temporality of an event thus exists as much outside the event as during its unfolding:
the time of the announcement by the organizers
the excitement of sharing the news with your friends
the long wait, the rising excitement as D-Day approached.
the moment of the event, a unique moment that no one will ever be able to relive a second time
Finally, during the event, the music takes control and redefines time. The music dominates the time by imposing a rhythm on it: the tempo, the BPMs. From DJ set to DJ set, never stopping, the music keeps time alive, giving it no respite. This is a significant difference between raves — or electro parties in the broadest sense — and “simple” concerts.
Music dominates time by imposing a rhythm on it
An event is, therefore, a piece of time, a fragment of life. It is defined by a day and an hour of beginning and end. In this sense, it is a sample, an essence of life. This unique place in time gives events their exciting aspect.
Materiality: investment and sensory textures
For the person who decides to go out, the first element of the materiality of an event is its price. The price takes the form of a ticket. A ticket that gives its holder the precious right of entry. Thus, by making participants pay for a future experience, an event constitutes a real investment. Each person who decides to buy a ticket is investing in their future happiness and anticipates an emotional return on their investment. This is, of course, an unconscious process — for almost everyone. The price determines the level of expectation, therefore the a posteriori perception of the experience by those who will live it.
Beyond being a financial investment, an event is a material, a physical investment: going to an event implies “traveling”. In the age of the society of convenience, where almost everything has become accessible from the sofa (leisure, food, work, friendships, love ...), the event is a break, an opening towards the outside, an exit into the unknown.
If a beginning and an end define an event, it is also characterized by a place, a delimited, controlled space. As in a classical theatre, the place of the festival imposes a spatial unity — a unique destination for all participants. Just as there is a before, during, and after the event, there is an outside and an inside. The event is a room, a floor, walls, a front door, lights, smells…
Finally, an event is fundamentally characterized by the materiality of sound, embodied by the sound system through which artists expresses theirselves on stage. Above a certain volume, the music is no longer absorbed only by the ears, but by the entire musculoskeletal system — certain frequencies cannot be absorbed by the auditory acoustic system. During events, sound takes on a material, organic, bodily dimension.
Sociability: the event as a temporary community
By its form, its geolocation, its décor, the bias of discrimination at the entrance door, a place (pre)determines its public, chooses the valued behaviors, indicates the values that are banned. And participates in the third characteristic of an event: its sociability.
When talking to Shotgun users, here are the four essential criteria that determine where they decide to go out:
Atmosphere (type of venue, number of participants, music styles…)
Values (LGBTQ+, inclusive, peaceful, dark…)
Sound quality (sound system, sound settings)
Let’s summarize these criteria in two axes: quality and community. Quality for the line-up and the sound system. Community for the place, the emotions it conveys, the people and behaviors it values.
Beyond spatial and temporal criteria, events are, therefore, places of sociability, of community, where organizers, artists, and party-goers evolve in a common ethical-moral order. The choice at the door of who comes in or not is not a hierarchical verticality but has for sole objective the harmony within the place. Thus the public knows. The audience knows that by entering this space, they will find people who resemble them, individuals who share their values and tastes. A necessary moral security for the era of Deep Identity.
Identity is not an external pyramid anymore, it’s an individual prism
An event is a spatial, temporal, and spiritual experience. A triptych whose objective is to provide a palette of emotions to its participants through the materiality of the experience. The raw, musical, and social materiality, which, through a hormonal, organic, bodily bias, gives birth to these much sought-after emotions.