iHeartRadios’ ALTer EGO virtual music fest falls flat in its execution


Screenshot by Emmy Reckling

Billie Eilish headlined iHeartRadios’ ALTer Ego Festival alongside Foo Fighters. 2021 marks the third annual festival for ALTer ego.

ALTer EGO is an annual music festival put on by iHeartRadio. This year the performances took place on Jan. 28, however, due to COVID-19, the show was virtual. This allowed fans from all over the world to watch performances from their favorite artists safely and without needing to worry about the price of a ticket.

The lineup included artists like Foo Fighters, Cage The Elephant, The Black Keys, Billie Eilish and more. Although 12 bands were said to perform, only the sets by Foo Fighters and Billie Eilish were from this year. The other 10 artists’ performances were re-runs from previous years of the ALTer EGO festival.   

While the sets from Foo Fighters and Billie Eilish were technically live and unedited, they were pre-recorded. The exciting part of concerts is that the artists are performing in real time, but that was not the case for ALTer EGO. 

During the performances, fans could interact with each other and react to the show by using a chat box displayed on the right side of the screen. While the conversations began as a way for people to connect, it quickly turned into people copying and pasting the same paragraphs over and over again as the night went on. This function started off pleasant, but became a major distraction from the show. 

The festival was hosted by Woody from the Los Angeles-based radio show “The Woody Show.” In between performances, Woody would appear and attempt to interact with the virtual audience. These segments felt forced and awkward. It was as if he was trying to make it seem like the show was actually live, when in reality it was very obviously pre-recorded.  

On the other hand, it was refreshing to see new performances from Foo Fighters and Billie Eilish, even if they weren’t happening in real time. The camera and audio quality was professional, which is an upgrade from watching artists try to perform from their homes without the proper equipment.   

The festival ended abruptly after three short songs from headliner Billie Eilish. There were no closing remarks from the artists or the host. Instead, the show began to replay from the beginning which only confirmed that this “live” festival was not actually live. According to the chat, people believed the ending of the show was a technical difficulty and were hoping to see more from Eilish. Fans were left disappointed when they came to realize that the sudden ending wasn’t an accident and the show was actually over. 

Although ALTer EGO didn’t live up to the expectations, it did run rather smoothly. It felt thoroughly planned out, and for the most part, the performances all started and ended right on schedule. On the other hand, it would have been nice to see the two headliners play more than three or four songs.   

The idea of a virtual music festival is great in theory, but the execution fell flat. Watching musical performances on a computer screen in no way compares to physically going to concerts, but until it’s safe to congregate again, this will have to do.