A new virtual variety show debuted last night at the Bushwick music venue Elsewhere, which aired live on the streaming platform Twitch and featured performances from New York’s own Princess Nokia and the comedian Peter Smith, who hosted.
Described by Elsewhere co-founder Jake Rosenthal as a freewheeling, improvised, absurdist comedy talk show with music, Elsewhere Sound Space is an interactive program that tells of the sci-fi misadventure of a musical artist who has been launched into outer space. The show is packed with related semi-improvised comedic skits, psychedelic musical performances, artist interviews and intermixed wellness advice for viewers watching from home.
Throughout the two-hour program, Princess Nokia performed enough songs to make up a full-length set. Although while she ended up forgetting the words to a couple of songs, viewers got to see something better: the Princess’ freestyle flow. Nothing will replace the sound quality of a live set, but Princess Nokia’s show had surprisingly good audio for a Twitch stream. But as a pro tip, listen with your best headphones.
“Elsewhere Sound Space riffs off our creative isolation during 2020’s lockdown because it was created out of it,” said Rosenthal. “With our venue closed, we feel sort of exiled from the culture we participate in every day and a deep need for it to return. The show combines the spirit of Space Ghost with the liveness of an SNL musical performance and tries to find strange or surreal common grounds with our guests. It’s the cluttered mind of a shuttered club.”
The interactivity makes it a conversation between the audience, the host and the musical guest. With live edited 2D and 3D imagery and animation, video effects, AR effects and more, Elsewhere Sound Space can feel like something between a concert, a video game and an acid trip.
The show’s origin story starts last March, when the club was forced to shut down due to COVID-19. The venue quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be able to do what it always has, showcase live music.
“After mourning about that for a minute, we started thinking about what we could do in the digital space to continue having these communal experiences for our community and for the people who follow our events,” said Rosenthal.
The first thing they did was rebuild Elsewhere inside of the video game Minecraft, and held a mini music festival inside the virtual venue. The show was such a success, receiving more than 200,000 views across all platforms, and the team at Elsewhere decided to cook up something else.
“This was a sign that people were looking to have communal experiences online,” said Rosenthal. “People were looking for experiences that weren’t just a regular live stream, experiences that weren’t just pointing a camera at the existing, old concert experience.”
Wanting to make the experience interactive for the audience, Rosenthal and his team reached out to Twitch, the service best known for live streaming video games, to talk about experimenting with the idea of a multidisciplinary, digitally animated, interactive comedy talk show.
They finished the concept for Elsewhere Sound Space in November and have been working on production ever since.
“Everyone who worked on the program was friends and family of the venue,” said Rosenthal.
Elsewhere Sound Space episodes will live-stream on every fourth Tuesday for the next six months, according to the venue. The next episode, which airs on Feb. 23, features Starchild & The New Romantic as the musical guest. On March 23, Paperboy Prince is joining the program.
In addition to Elsewhere Sound Space, the venue also features virtual live performances on select Wednesdays and virtual music sessions on Fridays and Saturdays. The full schedule and live shows can be accessed here.
Images taken (virtually) at Elsewhere Sound Space.
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