Last Tuesday, eminent noise contortionist Reggie Watts performed an experiment in AltspaceVR. The setting a mix between Willy Wonka’s disorienting boat ride through the chocolate factory’s tunnel and a unicorn’s backyard, it proved a near perfect environment for Watts to lead an audience through a dreamlike soundscape powered only by his mind, a loop pedal, and the energy of the room. Anyone with a Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive could attend (AltspaceVR will even be available on Google Daydream soon!).
Long renowned for his penchant for the spectacular and partiality for the spectacle, Watts’ repeat appearances on AltspaceVR serve the artist and his audiences alike — Watts exercises his syncopated self-expression while delighting audience members, and audience members revel in the opportunity to watch a mad sound scientist at work in his lab.
Tuesday was no exception.
For a full hour, Watts improvised his witty brand of consonant dissonance, washing sweat off the audience with soundwaves as avatars shimmied and Watts’ face floated casually behind pulsing geometric shapes and lines that seemed to erase themselves.
Occasionally, Watts addressed the crowd and the crowd responded. There were giggles, there were woots. There were streams of applause hand emojis and hearts that knew no gravity. Mostly, the show was dedicated to Watts pursuing the undiscovered bounds of his creativity and showgoers glad to be along for the ride.
An artist determined to push his own limits, Watts has ardently welcomed VR as an outlet for his work. Adding to radio, TV, film, and print, VR offers a new medium for Watts to reach audiences, in a manner as inimitable as his improvisations. Paving the way for performers in virtual reality, Watts acknowledged the attendees also paving the way for participatory experiences in VR, saying, “I know there’s so many places that you could be, but you’re right here.”
And being right there? That was the best part.
Reggie Watts Live: The Musical Experiment debuted in AltspaceVR on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. Live or relive the show.