In previous semesters, the Community Union has hosted artists like Jason Derulo, Soccer Mommy, Pink Sweat$ and Icona Pop. Before this summer, these concerts took place live in person at Sun Devil Stadium, but summer 2020's performances marked the first time the events took place online.
“Being that we can't all be together, part of trying to plan out our fall was to make sure we were representing the diversity of ASU,” ASU 365 Community Union marketing and sales coordinator Kimberly Inglese said. “We hope that students will be able to enjoy a virtual concert experience and have an event to look forward to, we think it’s a great way to be a part of the ASU community.”
Students like Zach Radu, a junior studying computer science, appreciate the efforts made by the Community Union to continue holding performances during the pandemic.
“I’m sure it makes more people happy, so I see it as a good thing," Radu said. "People with more diverse listening genres can all enjoy the same concert."
Thursday's concert featuring Omar Apollo — a first-generation Mexican American singer — coincided with Hispanic Heritage Month, a recognition of the Hispanic community the Community Union wanted to promote.
“We were really excited that Apollo's performance fell in with Hispanic heritage and Latino heritage month, which is something ASU is really celebrating with some other really cool events,” Inglese said. “We wanted to consider that when picking an artist and Apollo was an artist we already had on our radar.”
Apollo wasn’t the only artist who had caught the organizers' eyes.
“D Smoke is another artist we had on our radar for the past year and when it came down to it, we thought he is a really great artist and would be a great performance,” Inglese said.
Inglese said these artists have complemented the organization's overall goal of becoming more diverse.
“We want to put on shows that students will like to see with artists that are getting the attention they deserve,” Inglese said.
Many students interested in the concert scene are excited to see that form of entertainment be reincorporated into campus life after months of live music largely disappearing from the community due to COVID-19.
“I’m sure it means a lot to many people. It’s a step back toward normalcy, and I know that a lot of people use music as a way to deal with the changes that have come over the last few months,” Radu said.
Radu said while the virtual concerts are a good temporary stand-in for traditional in-person events, they can't live up to the same standard.
"There’s no substitute to feeling the music and the vibrations and being at a concert in person, but this is the best we have at the moment,” Radu said.
Maria Hill, a senior studying elementary education, compared the University's digital concerts to larger ones she's seen nationally.
“Digital is a different experience, but they can still be really entertaining if done right, like the Miley Cyrus performance for the VMAs,” Hill said.
Inglese said the Community Union has taken notice of what has made other virtual concerts successful.
“I think that we’ve seen that our virtual concerts are so engaging and energizing, the performances that we’ve had so far from Jason Derulo and Icona Pop were full performances, for example Jason Derulo had backup dancers,” Inglese said.
After each show, the Community Union holds live Q&As with the performing artists. Students can submit questions via social media using #ASULive for the next Q&A with D Smoke.
“It’s always an ASU student that sits down one on one with the artist and ASU students will get to ask questions and learn about the artists writing process,” Inglese said.
While they feel the virtual concert format has been successful, the organizers look forward to a return to normalcy.
“We’ve really enjoyed doing virtual events and we’ve been really successful in creating that energy and magic that you feel when you’re at a live show, but we do look forward to one day doing in person events,” Inglese said. “The 365 Community Union is following all of the ASU guidelines to practice safety measures in response to COVID-19, as soon as the University is able to safely open up, that means our events will open up for events.”