There’s always a danger with big events like this of becoming a little jaded by the end of a long week – even in rl, you can become tired and weary as festivals, conferences and conventions come to the end… it’s entirely possible to become all musicked out, or pick up one too many carrier bags full of freebies and samples, and put on the smile, the friendly greeting and keep going to the very end.
This time, however, it doesn’t feel at all like that. Even though it’s been a marathon round of sightseeing and exploring, it’s been sufficiently diverse and entertaining to keep the engagement level high and there’s been so much variety that it’s actually hard to feel that any of it has been a chore. SL11B feels somehow more ‘compact’ than previous celebrations – pretty much every parcel is occupied and you get the impression that something is always going on.
Maybe it feels that way because this year the overall sim area is slightly smaller, and there are only three, rather than four main stages. However, i’d suggest that it’s very much a case of less is quite definitely more. This year has had a vitality about it that i’ve really enjoyed, there’s a definite buzz in the air, no matter when and where you turn up and people really seem to be feeling it.
From the complete stranger who wanted to dance in the street with me, to the exhibitor imploring me to make sure i didn’t miss any of the gifts on offer, right through to the screen full of clapping gestures as revellers danced away to the Happy Song on the Cake Stage, there’s an overall feeling of bonhomie and jollity – words that we rarely find ourselves using in rl, and which can often be in short supply in the virtual world too.
SL can be like that – it tends to polarise: on the dark side are the snarky comments, bitterness and bad behaviour that proliferates so readily on the message boards and Plurkages that revolve around sl; whilst, on the other side, it’s downright brilliant!
Any big event, like SLB has its centrepiece – Glastonbury has the Pyramid Stage, the World Cup has Maracanã Stadium and SL11B has Loki Elliot’s Cake Stage. Although you can’t miss it, there’s a certain degree of understatement about the exterior that belies the colour and energy to be found within. i particularly like the futuristic trackway that spans the whole width of the celebration, propelling you inward to the centre stage – very utopian, very cool!
If the cake stage is utopian, then there are echoes of dystopia in Aki Shichiroji’s Live Stage – with a Fritz Lang-esque cityscape surrounding you, you’re drawn downwards and into the central arena, whilst the performers, high above you, are cradled in the hands of a giant concrete and steel automaton. It’s awesome, overwhelming and a little bleak and discomforting. The music too is pretty good – i’ve listened in to a couple of performances and been surprised at the variety and quality of the talent – you should check it out!
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the DJ Stage by Kazuhiro Aridian – a hi-tech, heavyweight blast from the future, solidly embedded in ancient Old Red Sandstone bedrock. Is it a spaceship, futuristic bunker, alien city or cybertopian industrial complex? i have no idea, but i really, really like it! You travel into the bowels of the mountain, along metallic gangways, suffused in neon glow, until ascending a final staircase, you are plunged into the pulsating and awesome inner core – definitely the place to bust some moves!
No lake stage this year, but the Welcome Area – the creation of Donpatchy Dagostino – provides a breathtaking and eye-catching introduction to the wonders of SL11B, and gives a nod in homage to the possible future that might lie ahead for sl residents. It really is difficult to describe the concept and form of this remarkable, yet insanely bizarre structure that leads new arrivals down to ground level towards the array of time capsules from sl birthdays past. It’s one of those things you really have to experience to appreciate it.
Finally, Pygar Bu’s Auditorium is a complete departure from the futuristic slant of the stages. An oasis of calm and peace, where the natural world surrounds you and the neon and polished steel that proliferates throughout the sims is replaced by natural tones, textures and colours. It’s a lovely place to escape to, even when there’s nothing going on there – you’ll even find tea and cupcakes!
And so my epic journey around the 11 sims, of the 11th birthday celebration is concluded… well, not quite: there’s plenty more partying to be done, fun to be had and 2 more days of artists and presentations to enjoy, and after that there’s still a whole week to enjoy the exhibits at leisure, right up to 5th July.
There’s also more to this birthday thing than just the builds – it is, after all, a community celebration and in my next post, i’ll be thinking some more about the exhibitors, the facilitators, the visitors and the occasional surprise VIP guests who turn up unexpectedly; so don’t go away – unless it’s to check it out for yourself, and if you do, please come back!
I was meant for the crowd,
I was meant for the shouting.
I was meant to raise these hands
With quiet all about me. oh, oh.
The Decemberists – I Was Meant For The Stage