Knowing what's happening at a major music festival is easier than ever. Bloggers post daily recaps, people tweet updates round the clock, and Instagram provides a world of images for those that can't afford to make the trip.
Even better are the live video streams that many of the major festivals have started to provide. From the live stream that brought the world hologram Tupac at Coachella to the stream that allowed my friends to see this humble blog writer rocking out to Big Freedia at Fun Fun Fun Fest, these streams take the festivals into the digital realm and turn them into a global celebration.
If you were following Rocks Off over the weekend, you've seen our on-the-ground coverage of the Austin City Limits Festival. While Craig, Brittanie, and Marco did the real work covering the show in person I decided to take a look at what the ACL experience was like for those who could only make the trip through the Internet.
1:30 p.m.: There are technical problems right at the start of the day. After enjoying a few minutes of First Aid Kit on channel 1, I decide to switch over to channel 2 to catch a bit of He's My Brother, She's My Sister. While the band look good I have no idea how they sound; channel 2 is mirroring channel 1's audio. Maybe someone at YouTube just really likes First Aid Kit.
1:43 p.m.: The singer from First Aid Kit yells out, "this goes out to freedom of speech and Pussy Riot!" The live stream goes down seconds later. It comes back just as the song is finishing. That certainly was an interesting technical difficulty;- I'm sure more conspiracy-minded individuals think it was on purpose.
4:32 p.m.: Finishing up my work day while listening to Tegan and Sara. The feed looks good other than the occasional bit of pixilation and but the sound leaves much to be desired; not only is it pretty low but the band is mixed weird. I can't complain too much: it looks hot outside and I'm sitting in the A/C listening to "Hell". This is pretty much a win for me.
8:09 p.m.: A decision to experiment with streaming the fest through my phone and into my car radio leads me to driving home while listening to Florence + the Machine. The feed takes a while to load but once it does it's sturdy. Without the video, it's glorified radio but that doesn't stop me from taking the long way home so I can listen to all of "Shake It Out."
1:33 p.m.: The singer from Civil Twilight is trying to tell me one last thing before he goes while I sit outside of a corn maze. For those curious, this isn't even the most rural thing I did Saturday; earlier, I watched a turkey race. It's nice to know that even in the middle of nowhere, in this case Moulton, Texas, I can still watch the show. Corn mazes are the past, but this is the future.
3:47 p.m.: Back home, I spend 15 minutes trying to watch Big K.R.I.T. before throwing in the towel. While the Oberhofer performance on channel 1 streams just fine, channel 2 seems dead in the water. Someone at YouTube isn't down with that country shit, it seems.
7:23 p.m.: It is dark and damp when I arrive in Austin. Tonight is family night for my dad and I: I'll be catching the chilly post-rock of MONO while he rocks out to Suicide Commando because my dad is much cooler than me. I watch highlights of Bassnectar's set while walking along Red River Street. At Stubb's, people are lined up around the block to see Civil Wars. No one is watching the live stream, as far as I can tell.
8:52 p.m.: According to the director of the live stream, the keyboard player for Jack White is just as or more important than him; she's getting more airtime on the stream than he is. No clue what any of it sounds like as I forgot my headphones and the Mohawk is loud. A group of us sit at a bar by the window antisocially staring at our phones. I wonder how much damage this is doing to my phone's data plan.
1:05 p.m.: On my television is a man about to jump from space. On my computer the live stream is showing interviews from yesterday and something about Frisbees.
1:21 p.m.: Freelance Whales break into "Land Features" as the space-jump montage comes on. "Lucia I am hovering over river bends," he sings to me as I watch a man fall to Earth. It's not Boards of Canada, but it'll do. It's a wonderful day for mankind and people who have to live vicariously through Internet video.
4:24 p.m.: I listen to Two Door Cinema Club while working on this blog because channel 2 still refuses to play on my computer. With no end to this problem in sight, I take my leave of the live stream for this year; I have no need for Red Hot Chili Peppers in my life.
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In Conclusion: While the live stream isn't perfect, it's much better than not being able to watch the show at all. When you consider how many people are likely tuning in at a given moment, it's pretty amazing they can keep the stream looking as good as it does.
Plus I didn't have to sweat or get rained on unless I wanted to.