Coverage of the
1999 Digital Club

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Digital Club Fest 2000: About As Rockin' As a Six-pack of O'Doul's

Freeheat (new band from Jim Reid and Ben Lurie of the
Jesus and Mary Chain) performed two nights (July 24, 25)
at Brownies, NYC, for the Digital Club Festival
by Jeanne Fury
I love live music. I love going to see live music. And I'm really thankful that I live in a place where I can see live music whenever the hell I want. Imagine if I lived in Siberia, where live rock and roll music was as mythical as a microwave. That would suck. But wait. An answer to my prayers? It's Digital Club Festival 2000. It promises that I can experience rock music just as if I were really there. All I need to do is log on to the Internet and I'm in. (Of course, I have the Internet in Siberia. I may hunt and kill my meals, but come on, everyone’s online).

Get the idea? In theory, Digital Club Fest is brilliant. It's bringing live music in real time to anywhere on Earth. Got shut out of the Superchunk show? (I did.) A few clicks, and you're in. Love Blink 182 but can't exactly rush to San Diego to see their show? DigiFest has you covered. Well, sort of.

There are some major technological glitches that come along with the viewing process. Common ailments include "requested path not found," "server has timed out" and "HA, you shmuck!" The quality of the streaming video isn't so hot, either. Some shots look like they were filmed in a giant strobe light. You know what I'm talking about. Like, when the image on your screen goes from fully-clothed to buck-nekkid in one frame. Hi, we obviously missed something. But what we missed was something greater than a striptease.

Live music. Live music. Not "virtually" live. But live live. See, I have a huge love/hate relationship with all this technology, in general. Real human contact is being chopped up into confetti and thrown over our heads. Party time? It depends, really. I'm concerned that technology is going to be chosen over physical experience as the preferred path of human existence. My mouth's been kept shut until now. But live music is something thou shalt not fuck with.

I wouldn't be writing this if the DigiFest press release didn't say the following: "Whether you want to surf a virtual mosh pit or visit a virtual beer pavilion, Digital Club Festival 2000 promises to make even the underage – who are always 'caught behind the ropes' – feel like they are in the middle of the action."

What action? There's no action to feel. I'm staring at a block of metal and plastic, for crying out loud. Virtual mosh pit and virtual beer pavilion? Are they kidding? Have they ever surfed a live mosh pit, feeling all those hands toss you over like a torch? I'm not going to start a pit in my bedroom and think it's cool. And a virtual beer pavilion? What the hell is that? Will I get virtually drunk? Will I virtually vomit? If only the person writing this release didn't use the word "promises," I'd be much less of an asshole. Maybe.

Wait, there's more. Andrew Raseij, President of Digital Club Network says, "It also points artists to a future where performing live on the Internet will be as natural as plugging your guitar into an amp."

There is nothing natural about that. It's about as natural as Nutra-Sweet or non-alcoholic beer. Tell that to a band like Metallica. Hey guys, no one is going to be in the stadium tonight, but don't worry, you're going to be cast over the Internet where millions of people will be watching! It's like enthusiastically giving those underage kids who are always "caught behind the ropes" a case of O'Doul's and telling them to rock out. The point is missing.

There's a reason we go to see these bands in person, instead of just buying their CDs. Don't tell me you saw the Mona Lisa just because you own a book on Italian Renaissance Art. Don't rent a video documentary on Sonic Youth and tell me you know how incredible Kim Gordon's live performance is. Don't jerk off and tell me you got laid. With Digital Club Festival, I get the same half-assed aftertaste in my mouth.

Watching the festival on my computer only made me want to be there in person, and that's a good thing. To be cramped in some sweltering, tiny, smoky club, the soles of my feet sweating, my hair all matted, the band I love ten feet away, and that feeling of sharing the space with the rest of the crowd – that's the point of it all. No streaming video can promise anything remotely like that.

August 2000

Editor’s Note: The Digital Club Festival is a production of the Digital Club Network. Now in its sixth year, the Digital Club Festival began as a four-day event held in New York City, cybercast on the Internet, and featuring, for the most part, underground talent. It has now wired thirty venues in twenty-five cities across the U.S. and hosts acts from the likes of Wu-Tang Clan to jazz trios.

NY Rock's coverage of the 1999 Digital Club Festival

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