About three weeks ago, I was supposed to be at the 9:30 Club with a drink in my hand and a grimy concert floor at my feet, bobbing my head to some slow jams courtesy of Soccer Mommy.
But, of course, I wasn’t. Things like that just don’t happen anymore. Thankfully, with a little help from Club Penguin Rewritten, this was easily remedied.
The latest iteration of the online children’s game hosted a free concert for Soccer Mommy Thursday night, attracting hundreds of fans to the winter world of virtual penguins, puffles and parties.
Although watching a “concert” from my bedroom using a pair of barely functional earbuds is an experience easily surpassed by any real-life concert venue, I must admit I enjoyed myself. Where else can you waddle into a free rock concert sporting only a tie and some bunny ears? Where else can you leave a concert with virtual versions of each band member’s instrument?
So it goes in this strange new world of quarantine concerts, where anything goes — except actual concerts. And while I must admit that I haven’t tuned into any other virtual concerts over the past few weeks, it seems Soccer Mommy has given a master class.
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Online communities like Club Penguin have become something of a respite from news of the pandemic outside, not least because, for many of us college kids, they’re a source of nostalgia. A reminder of better days, of easier ones. So, I can’t think of a better place to listen to some music.
At about 8 p.m. on Thursday, penguins started to crowd Club Penguin’s snow forts in anticipation. My evening began like any other on Club Penguin. One penguin demanded we all write the word “egg” in unison on our chat boxes (I complied), and another suggested we all visit the Iceberg and attempt to tip it over. But mostly, everyone wanted to know, “WHERE’S SOCCER MOMMY?”
It wasn’t until the clock struck 8 o’clock that we realized we had to waddle to the “stadium” in the distance — the promotional material probably could have benefitted from this information. Once inside, I was treated to more of the same classic Club Penguin banter. There was talk of Carole Baskin of Netflix fame and of throwing snowballs — a virtual penguin’s only weapon — onto the stage. A modern milieu.
The first time Soccer Mommy attempted to put on a show on Club Penguin Rewritten, the site’s servers were overloaded by fans, and the show could not go on. But this time, a purple pig-tailed penguin successfully appeared onstage beside her band members.
“Hey y’all” the penguin version of lead singer Sophie Allison said, and, with that, the first track from the band’s February release color theory started to play. With that steady thrum of an electric guitar, followed by the beginning of a shimmery melody, I was spirited away for a moment.
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I could just as easily have listened to the album on Spotify, and I’ll admit that I did expect the band to play some kind of live recording. But there was something special about listening to the album with the people who created it and the people who appreciate it.
When we made it to one of the album’s singles, “yellow is the color of her eyes,” yellow heart emojis filled the screen at Allison’s behest. When we got around to what would normally be a guitar solo, Allison wrote “jam time” in her penguin’s free-floating speech bubble. Her band members roamed about, hurling snowballs into the crowd and changing outfits as they played their guitars and drum set. It was charming, even though it was challenging to add comments as my computer lagged.
As a soon-to-”graduate” senior, some friends and I have turned to places like Club Penguin to create the final memories of our college days, the ones that were supposed to be forged on the dance floor at Turf, or packed tight into Marathon Deli, or lying on the grass on McKeldin Mall. For now, though, we’ll have to settle for memories on late-night Zoom chats, FaceTime calls and the ski slopes of Club Penguin. And maybe that’s OK.
But as my lilac penguin swayed to color theory’s final track, my computer froze for good, and, just like that, my concert was over.