NEW YORK Joey Ramone performed for the first time with his brother, guitarist Mickey Leigh, while electronic experimentalist Robin Rimbaud, a.k.a. Scanner, gave a rare public performance several blocks away at the Digital Club Festival Thursday.
Ramone and Leigh (born Jeffrey and Mitchell Hyman) bashed out a set of punk songs by the former's defunct band, the Ramones, at Don Hill's, the site of Ramone's annual Cyberbash concert. They were joined by another ex-Ramone, bass player C.J. Ramone (born Christopher Joseph Ward) and members of South Carolina punk-rockers the Independents for a set that included "Rockaway Beach" (RealAudio excerpt), "I Wanna Be Sedated" and
"Blitzkrieg Bop" (RealAudio excerpt).
The show was part of a four-day festival celebrating the possibilities of music and the Internet, but it would have been hard to feel the impact of the band's hyped-up performance on a computer screen.
In front of the stage, fans flung themselves at each other and at the little cocktail tables along the sides, crashing tall-boy bottles to the floor. A large man with a shaved head collided with small patrons, knocking them over like bowling pins.
Putting shows out over the Internet is a nice touch, but performing in front of an audience is the real thrill, said Ramone, whose brother plays with a band called Stop and is a veteran of such New York rock bands as the Rattlers and late critic Lester Bangs' band Birdland.
"It's gotta be in a club," Ramone said. "It's gotta be a live situation. It's the excitement of it all."
As it happened, the Cyberbash wasn't webcast anyway, according to Digital Club Festival publicist Karen Barnes. The event was originally scheduled for Coney Island High, but was moved after the club suddenly closed down two weeks ago. Don Hill's wasn't wired for the festival, as several other clubs in the city had been.
At the Knitting Factory, J. Crew types sat on the floor for Scanner's performance, during which Rimbaud and a guitar-synthesizer player played ambient, occasionally danceable loops over electronic beats.
Despite the nature of the festival, Rimbaud said he didn't know the show was going to be webcast until he arrived at the club. "I did a show once before at the Knitting Factory and I discovered about five minutes before I went onstage that it was going to be a live broadcast," he said. That gig is a prized file among Scanner fans, and is available here and there on the Web.
Knowing that he's being cybercast doesn't change his show, Rimbaud said. He said he performs for the local audience and doesn't think about the people who will see the show on the Internet now or in the future.
However, he said after the hour-long show, "It's interesting the way that distance can be erased by this technology. Somebody can be sitting in London just having watched my concert. It's quite inspiring. It's phenomenal to realize that digital technology has not only shrunken everything, but it's also made the process of working with media, whether it's sound or visual, so much more immediate."
Rimbaud said he generally avoids performing live, but continues to do so occasionally. "There's a social aspect, a physical aspect which in a nostalgic old-fashioned way is still important," he said. "At the same time, I'd be really touched if I get home and there's a half dozen e-mails from people who enjoyed the broadcast. That has a strength of its own."
Pop band the Real Simon Pure played to a thin early crowd at Acme Underground, a small club in the basement of a Cajun restaurant off Broadway.
Guitarist Andrew Steinberg said he knew the gig was going out over the Internet, but said the band played for the people directly in front of them. Back home in New Jersey, the band runs a website loaded with RealAudio samples and MP3 files, but Steinberg conceded that it's not suffering from overuse.
"We don't have an Internet campaign or agenda," he said.
But they're trying to use the technology as best they can. Hohman, whose day job is in the recording industry, said the Internet can help small bands get new fans. "When you're out there scouting for something to hear, the hardest thing is to decide where to plop down your $8 or $9." The RealAudio clips and MP3 files help people decide, he said.
At the Lion's Den, a Greenwich Village mainstay, guitarist Todd Satterfield led his band, Tao, through a polished rock 'n' roll show. "We just love playing live," he said. "We'd play out as hard live if we hadn't been on the Net. We were here just a week ago, and we did the same thing then as tonight."
Satterfield said the year-old band is very Internet-aware, however. "There's some incredibly exciting things going on in music right now with MP3, burnable CDs and RealAudio that's causing a shift and making a bigger audience," he said. "Now you can hear music anywhere you go with a computer and an Internet connection."
So why perform live?
"You see me sweating? I don't sweat this hard when I have sex," Satterfield said. "If you're a musician, there's no better feeling than playing live and making that connection with your audience. That's the one thing the Internet doesn't have."