Outside, it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. Inside, I am sitting at my computer, getting ready to ”attend” a gig by The Smashing Pumpkins. They’ll be playing at the Point Theatre in Dublin, and I’ll be on the World Wide Web, using RealAudio software that permits me to hear the music as it downloads. The event will also feature a preconcert text and audio interview with the band through the website (http://www.imusic.com), America Online, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC). In the short history of Web concerts, this is the biggest shebang to date. (I don’t know this yet, but it will also be the genre’s early Altamont.)
May 11, 2:10 p.m.: I sign on to AOL, check out the site, and try to get through to the IRC chat room. My computer crashes.
2:30 p.m.: I get into the AOL chat room but now can’t access the website or IRC, due to heavy traffic. No matter, since the Pumpkins never show up on AOL, causing a near riot among the 200 or so cyberfans.
3:20 p.m.: I get through to the IRC site. An angry crowd there did see about five minutes of a Pumpkins interview before the host computer crashed. Text of the abbreviated chat is on the site, as are RealAudio files that do not load correctly.
4:20 p.m.: The band hits the stage; we can’t hear it because the RealAudio isn’t working.
4:35 p.m.: The problems fixed, I can finally listen online. Unfortunately, even with a high-speed modem and good speakers, the music sounds as if it’s on a portable AM radio. After two songs, there’s a long break while singer Billy Corgan begs moshers to ”make sure that everybody who got injured gets up and out.” The band segues into the mellow ”To Forgive.”
5 p.m.: My computer crashes.
5:25 p.m.: I finally reconnect and hear Corgan tell the audience that if they don’t chill out, the band will stop playing. I wonder if anyone is badly hurt.
5:45 p.m.: While the RealAudio is still on, the sound just stops, as if someone had pulled a plug. I curse, turn my computer off, and go play in the sunny backyard with my baby daughter.
Two days later: I read that 17-year-old Bernadette O’Brien died of injuries sustained in the front-row crush, and that the Pumpkins left the stage as the situation worsened and canceled their remaining concert in Ireland. For all the hype, the Internet was not able to put me there. For once, I am grateful.