Virtual Self’s First Performance
If I said the name Porter Robinson, more than likely, you’re going to know EXACTLY who I’m talking about. He’s the dj/producer who may or may not have left you sobbing in the crowd when seeing him play a live set at your last festival as his hit-you-right-in-the-feels nostalgic melodies consume you entirely. Yeah, him. Although we already know and love Porter Robinson, he wanted the world to see a different side to him. Late October, he released his first single titled “EON BREAK” under an alter ego name Virtual Self. His 5 song self titled EP was released November 29th, not leaving much time for the shock of it all to settle in before performing live for the first time in Brooklyn, New York on Friday, December 8th. I was lucky enough to be there.
If you’ve already listened to the EP, you’re well aware the music styles are extremely different, which is the point in its entirety. But, just listening to the songs doesn’t even begin to fully encompass the true essence that is Virtual Self. I went to the show with absolutely no expectations. I was a fan of the EP, but admittedly I was also a bit hesitant to fully immerse myself into the new style, as I am such a huge fan of Porter.
As Virtual Self was performing, it was blatantly obvious this was exactly what he was meant to do. He looked so happy. He looked so free. The production was incredible. At times it was dark, at times the lights were basically hitting us right in the face and at times there were lights that just dropped down on the stage making it look like a rain shower focused solely on him. Each song told a different story, but all with the same underlying message: ultimate freedom. These songs were loud, fast paced, heavy and mesmerizing. At one point, a song was hitting me so hard, when it was over I put my hand over my heart to feel it practically beating out of my chest. It was overwhelming in the most welcomed way.
Only releasing a 5 track EP, we only got a small glimpse into the new world of Virtual Self. But, actually being at the first live show, I couldn’t believe how much material he actually had to offer us. The set went on for just about two hours, so you can imagine how long this has been in the making. I’m sure keeping that secret was equally frustrating as it was exciting.
As Virtual Self, there were still some similarities to Porter Robinson, where a glimpse of that side of him shined through. He still wore a beanie, the backdrops and visuals portrayed lots of anime and in between songs there were very calming and trans like melodies that you’d expect from Porter himself. There was one song in particular that was being transitioned into another, and I swear it sounded like “Sad Machine” was going to start as part of the transition. Although that wasn’t the case, I felt a sense of comfort having that feeling.
Just after 3 AM, when the set ended, Virtual Self had a few heart warming words for those of us who accompanied him in his incredibly special and memorable night. “I never planned on saying anything on the microphone ever as Virtual Self, but this was so special to me. For the last two years I’ve been wanting to play all this music and I had it all- all this time and I wouldn’t play any of it in a Porter Robinson DJ set, I was really waiting for this so it could be all one thing, and, just like, it’s been a really, really, long time coming and it’s my favorite thing in the world! Thank you guys so much for being here with me! Thank you so much, New York!”
I admire his honesty. I admire his bravery. I admire how he’s so true to himself and will share that with all of those willing to be a part of it. I think it was absolutely genius to do a new project under an alias name. When an artist expands their music genre, experiments with new sounds, or branches out beyond their “typical sound” a lot of times ‘fans’ are so quick to point it out in a negative light criticizing how the artist has ‘changed’ and is no longer who they’re a fan of. By creating an alias, he has complete control over his creativity and can put music out under the name the particular music fits best under. Artists aren’t meant to stay in one box and play and preform the same thing over and over forever. They’re supposed to experiment, take chances and grow. Virtual Self did just that.
Prior to the show, many of my friends asked me if I thought he was going to play any Porter Robinson hits and while I did bounce around the thought in my head a few times, I ultimately decided I truly did’t think he would. I think coming out as Virtual Self was extremely purposeful with full intentions to let Porter Robinson fans know these are two completely different sets. Porter Robinson is Porter Robinson and Virtual Self is Virtual Self, and that’s exactly how it played out.
I’m so excited for 2018 to see what else he comes out with! I’m most excited to see Virtual Self’s name on some festival line ups, so that everyone who wasn’t so lucky to catch his debut set in New York can be impacted as well. My only fear is that with the focus on Virtual Self, there will be less on Porter Robinson, and my heart might truly break if we don’t get any more from him for a while. Since the show I’ve wondered many things: Will there be more Porter Robinson music coming? Will it just be Virtual Self music from here on out? When will the music he played in New York be released? What festivals will Virtual Self be playing? Will Porter Robinson be on any festival line ups? Can they both get booked at the same festival? WHAT IF there was a Porter Robinson back to back Virtual Self set? I’m ready for whatever’s next.