From Brazil to the U.K., on Thursday night last week virtual concertgoers probably settled into swivel chairs and palmed coffee mugs, fixing their eyes on the stage hanging inside their computer monitors. Seven bands representing three continents played punk, Afro-pop, salsa, funk-blues, and Brazilian and Cuban jazz. Between performances, impromptu interviews with band members and speeches from heads of humanitarian groups tied performers that sounded good with causes that felt good. The show was virtually flawless.
Meanwhile, far away in reality, gray clouds hung above the trees and thunder rolled down Euclid Street NW into Meridian Hill Park, the actual site of Thursday’s concert. The launch celebration for One Song One Cause (OSOC), a new D.C. activist outfit, looked better via the Internet broadcast than in the soggy south end of the park.
OSOC couples D.C. bands with philanthropic organizations they endorse via a Web site—osoc.net—offering sound clips of music as well as links to nonprofit groups. Comprising a small ring of friends, OSOC wants to develop the site to market local bands’ CDs and offer broadcasts of pay-per-view live shows, splitting proceeds between the bands, the nonprofits, and OSOC. The group was founded—and so far is entirely funded—by Patrick Parodi, a D.C. telecommunications buff and director of marketing for Diginet Americas.
The crowd, which peaked at a head count of 60, consisted largely of stagehands, performers, concert organizers, and their friends. Late in the show, as a representative from the nonprofit organization Lions Well spoke on stage about water access problems across sub-Saharan Africa, rain forced a small exodus into the Josephine Butler Parks Center on the park’s northern edge. Two confused members of the African band Jolof Groove got lost en route—one never made it to the indoor performance.
At the concert, Parodi alternately talked on his cell phone and channeled performers and speakers toward the camera for Internet clips. His mantra: “The beauty of the Internet is that local is everywhere.”
The live show’s scattered audience—eventually washed away by rain—lacked the oomph to reciprocate the excitement of musicians and speakers onstage. A homeless man stood muttering to a cameraman gathering footage for the virtual gig, which more than 2,000 people attended (or at least viewed momentarily). On drier ground, presumably.—Dan Gilgoff