Live Streaming Isn’t Living It
Everyone has a dream festival that they’d poison kittens to get to. Glastonbury, Meredith, Falls, Coachella, Lollapalooza. One day, weekend, camping, partying.
There’s something about a festival that just drives us wild. But ask the question: is it the music or the atmosphere that makes a festival what it is? If you take away the mud, sweat, dehydration, and random strangers, is there really a difference between sitting at home for 12 hours, running album after album from your iPod dock? Of course, you’d be crazy to do that. Or would you? It’s perfectly sensible to stream a festival right into your bedroom. Oh, modern living.
The 2010 Life Is Good Festival is the first festival I can find that was live streamed to households.
Jason Mraz, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Ziggy Marley—all beamed right to your screen. In 2011, Peats Ridge Festival became the first Australian festival to stream live, beginning to end. What a break through! Music nerds, rejoice! You’ll never have to leave your sound-selective dungeons again.
From there, it snowballed as streaming technology got fancier and cheaper. Last Friday, Ladyhawke netcast her birthday celebrations (omg, it’s like you’re her bestie and right there, partying with her! Hold me; I may swoon). The whole world could watch as the Flaming Lips beat the Guinness World Record for most live concerts in different cities over 24 hours.
Who can forget Tupac’s posthumous appearance at Coachella? Everyone saw it, but who was actually there? Most of us experienced that through YouTube. And not grainy mobile footage, either, but professional film that was broadcast live across the globe (and then ripped and reposted by any amateur who wanted to cash in on the moment).
This year, Dell and YouTube partnered up to stream live some of the world’s most hotly anticipated festivals: Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Physical presences at these festivals number some 990 000 punters over nineteen days spread throughout the year. 990 000? That’s nothing compared to the millions who can tune in to performances via a live stream.
Over the weekend, Pitchfork streamed their music festival. Three days of Feist, Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend, Japandroids, A$AP Rocky, Grimes and other hip kids frolicking in the afternoon sunshine (and storms) at Union Park, Chicago.
So if you can get the music for free, in high quality cinema, why would you bother to hit the festivals at all? Well, the idea that video will kill the festival star is completely out of touch. Does it devalue the festival experience? Perhaps a little. By broadcasting, it’s no longer an exclusive event. Anyone with a net connection and the perseverance to marathon through three days of 620 x 360 pixel performances can watch every minute of what the exhausted live enthusiasts have paid for and travelled to.
However, could you really say that these people—stocked up on nibbles and bevvies, crouched over a computer screen in the dark of their lonely bedrooms for half a week or more—are really having the same experience as the dirty punters in the mosh? Not hardly.
Sure, the brawl that broke out at the end of A$AP’s set in Chicago might have been captured on screen, but unless you bashed your face against the keyboard in excitement, you’re just a spectator. You’re not involved. You didn’t make the moment, you watched it.
And while that’s super if it saves you from a broken nose, imagine if you had actually been in the crowd the first time Tupac 2.0 emerged on stage out of the darkness. Imagine if you’d been showered in confetti and glitter, coloured lights rainbowing off mirror balls as Wayne Coyne, fresh world record holder, crowd surfed over you in his inimitable hamster bubble.
While free video of festivals may technically make music a mouse-click away, and it brings the concerts to us when we can’t afford or justify a week-long vacation in the US to see a dozen bands, you can’t compare the two experiences.
Live streaming might be in the moment, but you can’t confuse it for the moment itself.
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Image via ID&C Wristbands