Coalchella: A Minecraft Music Festival

How a great pun became a fantastic Minecraft festival!

Who doesn’t love a music festival? Spending time in the great outdoors, meeting up with friends, and of course, the amazing live music. But there are some serious downsides too, like the crowds and the mud and the being-charged-your-entire-life-savings-for-a-bottle-of-water. And let’s not even talk about the state of the facilities...

But a recent music festival managed to strip out all of those negatives. How? By taking place entirely in Minecraft, of course! Coalchella was a virtual concert, Minecraft meetup, and basically the hottest event of the year. Even Tom, our resident pun-hater, admitted to thinking the name was coal! I mean, cool!

In fact, the name was one of the first things that inspired the event. After hosting a small birthday party in Minecraft with live performers, organiser Max Schramp knew he wanted to do something bigger and better. “We all wanted to do another one,” he tells me. “The group of us who organised and created the event are all electronic musicians and DJs, so the event being a music festival was just natural.” But it wasn’t until a friend of theirs, Sam, came up with the pun that the idea was set in stone.

"This was hands down the most fun experience. It’s been a very long time since I've been able to sit down and work on a huge Minecraft project like this with all my friends"

They started talking to other musicians, wanting to create an amazing line-up for everyone that showed up to listen. But they also wanted to give the limelight to people they knew deserved more attention. “Reaching out to artists was done based almost entirely on including people in our communities instead of focusing on trying to get the largest names,” says Robin, another organiser.

Having the foundations from Max’s birthday party meant that the organisational process wasn’t too tricky, but the previous smaller event meant that they weren’t expecting quite so many people to show up to Coalchella! “We had absolutely no idea what draw we were working with until a couple days before the event when people started tweeting about it. Minecraft Birthday Party gathered about 450 unique players across its entirety, but we had 900 people try and join Coalchella instantly when we opened it up,” yet another member of the team, Braden, tells me. I have to say, though, having 450 people turn up to your birthday party is still a lot!

Braden makes it clear that keeping a sense of familiarity and openness was really important to them: “Even now with the much larger audience we have, what we’re trying to accomplish is creating a universally accessible music event free of regional or monetary restrictions,” she says.

One of the performers that got involved was pooldad, who said it was “really exciting” to be asked to play. “Some of the other acts that had been booked to play were huge inspirations of mine so being on the same festival lineup as them was really wild,” they explain.

Pooldad also helped out with building the venues within the server, which Braden said was “hands down the most fun experience. It’s been a very long time since I've been able to sit down and work on a huge Minecraft project like this for an extended period of time with all my friends. We're all a bunch of young adults now but most of us grew up around Minecraft and being able to come back to it like this, spending the month prior – day and night – doing nothing but building and planning out the space in-game was a super huge callback to my earliest Minecraft experiences.”

After all that organisation, it was finally time for the actual event! Pooldad’s set was a collaboration with another artist, fittingly known as poolboy, where they mashed up songs by putting vocals over different instrumentals. “Most of the time they really didn't fit. We were sending the files back and forth just kind of laughing at how goofy a bunch of the juxtapositions were,” pooldad admits.

But they managed to create something magical nonetheless! “One of the songs we took vocals from was DJ Casper's 2000 track Cha Cha Slide, and we recorded our voices over it as it played, as if we were DJs telling a crowd to jump around,” they tell me.

“When it got to that point in our set, we were telling people to do the dance moves in the song, and people did. Having people enjoy themselves and be so engrossed in what we're putting out that they "dance" in a video game without it coming across as cheesy was really special to me, and also underlined to me how special it was to the people who attended.”

Coalchella did have some technical difficulties at first, since the organisers weren’t expecting quite so many festival goers. But despite being inexperienced in running such a large gathering of Minecrafters, they didn’t let the chaos last too long. “We were relatively unorganised, and it was surprising how naturally people stepped up to handle certain tasks,” says Umru, another Coalchella crew member.

You may have noticed from the number of names here that they had a whole group of organisers working together as a team, which certainly helped! But they also had a hand from server creators Hypixel. “They built and deployed an entirely new setup for us mid-event and I'm still floored by how fast they were able to bring together that much tech and fix every issue we had,” Braden explains.

Most importantly, everyone was able to enjoy themselves! “Despite the issues we had, putting the event on and then seeing it all come together and how much people enjoyed it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had,” Braden says.

As for the question on everyone’s lips… Coalchella 2019? “The only thing to do now is to make it even bigger,” she confirms. “We have solid plans for another event early next year, and when it happens, you will hear about it.”

Thanks to Max, Robin, Sam, Braden, pooldad, poolboy, Umru, Hypixel, @nolongerkai and @skydoki.

Written by
Jay Castello