Couch Concert for — 5 May 2012

A guy named Pierre who runs a site called had seen my “Couch Concerts” on YouTube and contacted me to ask me to play a live show via webcam. So I did that last Saturday morning. I heard from Boris afterwards that the sound was pretty choppy on his end. I had recorded the whole thing. I tried my best to sync the audio recorded on my computer with actual microphones with the video I recorded from an outboard camera. So here’s the show:

The Set: Every Little Thing, We Used to Hang, You Keep Writing the Same Songs, Paige Don’t Panic, This Job Is Killing You, Frankly Mr Turner, High School Isn’t That Hard, You Have The Worst Taste in Men, Selina I’m A Wreck

My show was an experiment for them so there were bound to be challenges. I heard from my friend Boris that the sound on his end was really choppy. I assume the video was too. I ran my webcam through the app on which is presumably based in France with Pierre. That signal was then broadcast through an app on Facebook. That’s already two points of connection issues. I’m on wifi to begin with. And I was recording on my computer so that slowed me down.

Pierre and the friend who works with him, Rachel, invited me to play a regular live couch concert every month. So we’ll be able to smooth out some of the troubles.

My feelings on the show are mixed. Performance-wise, it’s weird to play for an audience you know is there but that you can’t see. Even though I think the audience was closer to 4 people than 40, I knew that at least Pierre and Rachel were there. When I record videos myself for YouTube or Vimeo, I’ll re-record if I screw something up. There was no doing that. And one weird thing I’ve noticed is that I screw up more when I’m not getting an audience reaction. Or at least it means more.

There was a chat function on the Facebook app. At one point, Pierre told me via Skype to check the chat messages because people were talking to me. What followed was a couple of thrilling moments of video of me reading and typing. And I couldn’t even see the Facebook chat. That’s something that’ll get ironed out. I edited it out of the video above because I screwed up the next two songs I played. I got knocked out of my performing zone and the music suffered. We’ll get something fixed. I don’t think it would be that odd to play and chat if I could see the messages coming in between songs.

Then there’s my feelings on the whole endeavor of playing a show on the internet… This reminded me of a time 13 years ago when I started building websites and there was such a wild west feeling to music on the internet. You could try anything. It was not insignificant that the last time I played a “webcast” was at a place with the ridiculous name “Indienet” in Nashville in 1999. Their gimmick was that they streamed the shows online. We (The Carter Administration) were playing with a band from Indiana I believe and there was literally no one there. I think our girlfriends were running late or skipping entirely. We did our best to convince the other band that this was a waste of time and effort to load in and play a show to no one. But they were “on tour” and they had people who were going to watch this over the internet. So on we went. I don’t think the webcast actually worked.

But that was the wilds of the internet before everything became so shiny and developed. It probably doesn’t help looks like it comes from 1999. My immediate reaction as a guy who builds websites was not to trust it. I’m still not convinced it didn’t dump a sack of spyware onto my computer. But I did the show because that’s what I’m supposed to do as me, as the kind of musician I am. I don’t make nice, slick videos like this. I make unpolished videos like this. I try to do things out on the fringe. I’d rather have 100s of free mp3s on my site than 1 puny album on iTunes. I’d rather experiment with a couch concert than spend days editing a video of one song.

And I think continuing to move like that is what helps me keep making stuff. That’s why this year I’ve released a shiny indie rock record and a less polished “country” record and last year I released a record of demos, a live record with a band, and a polished single.

But I recognize that marginalizes me. I guess that’s where I belong, on the margins. I liked the wild west internet.