At the Digital Club Festival as with real club shows it helps to know somebody working the door.
As Chapel Hill, N.C., indie-rockers Superchunk played their Sunday-afternoon set from Brownies, a small New York City club, only a timely e-mail of a direct link from a festival staff member made the webcast accessible.
After streaming a performance from the same stage the previous night, singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan emerged Sunday and told the crowd, "We stayed up real late last night, 'cause the buzz of knowing we were digitally broadcasting all over the world had us up for a while. So we'll have to ease into this one." McCaughan then led the band into the melancholic "Tiny Bombs" (RealAudio excerpt), a song from last year's Come Pick Me Up, the band's most recent album.
On the third song, Come Pick Me Up's "New Low," McCaughan looked toward the digital camera perched at the back of the club and said, "Ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, this is Laura Ballance on the bass guitar." McCaughan did not again address the Internet audience or mention the webcast. Ballance and the rest of the group seemed to pay the Internet little to no heed.
Despite McCaughan's initial excitement about and support of the streaming format, Superchunk seemed aware that using a computer to watch a band perform was an experience with massive limitations. Even if listeners/viewers have computers with top speakers, high-speed access and more, there's still nothing like being there in a hot New York City club in midsummer, pogoing along with the band. Unfortunately, net congestion interrupted Superchunk's energetic 70-minute, 17-song set over half a dozen times on Sunday; an idiot spilling a beer on you in a crowded club is slightly less irritating.
When it was not being interrupted, Digital Club Network's presentation included excellent sound quality and fair-to-good visual quality. Superchunk lead guitarist Jim Wilbur was unfortunately seldom seen in the picture frame, but otherwise the image was fairly clear.
The band's usual high energy prevailed in a set that included songs from throughout its long career, including "Slack Motherfucker" (RealAudio excerpt), "Precision Auto," "Driveway to Driveway" (RealAudio excerpt), "The Question Is How Fast," "Hyper Enough" and the traditional barnstorming set closer, "Fishing." Almost a third of the band's songs came from Come Pick Me Up, but Superchunk surprised the audience with a faithful version of Springsteen's "Born To Run" in their encore.
Although it was hard to hear some things hecklers, certain between-song commentary during the webcast, the crowd's enthusiastic participation in the sing-along choruses of "Born To Run" could be clearly heard before peals of feedback segued into the propulsive "Fishing."
After "Fishing," the ever-polite quartet thanked the crowd and left the stage, while ever-inconsistent technology indicated "Net Congestion," and the visual image fractured and froze. As suddenly as it had begun streaming, this gig was over.