Dubai Diaries: How the pandemic made me a fan of virtual concerts

Filed on June 9, 2021
G0MT6Y Silhouettes of concert crowd hands supporting band performing live music on stage, young people on rock gig enjoying.

(Igor Stevanovic / Alamy Stock Photo)

But I still can't wait to jump into mosh pits and dance to live music, admits Kirsten Bernabe-Santos

When virtual concerts became a thing amid the Covid-19 pandemic, I never really bought the idea. Jumping into mosh pits; dancing to live music; waving your arms in the air as you sing at the top of your lungs with a crowd of a gazillion people — how can you ever recreate such an experience in the online world?

There’s absolutely no way. Will anyone really buy a ticket to a live-streamed concert? No one, I thought, until I bought one.

I appreciate good music, whatever the genre and generation, from Taylor Swift, John Mayer to BTS and Duran Duran.

There’s a certain band, however, that I hold close to my heart. And that’s Ben&Ben, a nine-piece Filipino folk pop band, one of the most popular in the Philippines today. In fact, my go-to playlists — which I titled Dramarama, Pick-Me-Uppers, and Anything Goes — are a potpourri of their songs, peppered with a few tunes I mostly picked up from Top 100s and TikTok.

You see, when gigs went down the drain in the year that was, I can just imagine how artists had to deal with the shock, mixed with a glimmer of hope that the situation would get better soon.

But as Covid dragged on and on — with the light at the end of the tunnel dimming farther away — artists picked themselves up. Taylor Swift, for one, surprised us with two pandemic albums. Ben&Ben had their own ‘aha’ moment and found new ways of engaging with their fans, whom they call Liwanag, a Filipino word that means ‘light’.

The nine-piece ‘chicken nuggets’, as their fans often call them, rocked the social media stage. In the middle of the lockdowns, they had the crazy idea of moving in together so they could easily work on new songs and projects. They even set up a YouTube channel and created a mini-series that went beyond music.

They shared how they make their coffee, played basketball, prepared dance performances, and acted out some iconic movie scenes. I was no longer just waiting for their next song: Before I knew it, I found myself fangirling over selfies and Facebook live sessions. They took us all behind the scenes of daily band life, and along the way, I felt like I knew them too well I could be their best friend.

And like a true friend, I made sure I was there to support them in their digital concert. True, there was nothing like the real deal. Internet issues were annoying; there were times when sound would be delayed for a second or two.

There were lags here and there. But when Miguel, one of the vocalists, said ‘Sing with us!’ Of course, I stood up from the couch and sang my heart out.

I just can’t wait for Covid to be over so I can fly home to Manila and watch them for real. I’m pretty sure the same feels are palpable across different fandoms around the world.

Time will come, the music industry will burst into a rainbow of colours and confetti and there will be nothing but pure entertainment on stage. (kirstin@khaleejtimes.com)


Video | Videos

Watch: Famous athletes who struggled with...

Video | Nation

Video: Dubai expat of 57 years recalls lone...

Video | Videos

KT Morning Chat: UAE rolls out Sinopharm jab ...