Going to a music festival and being able to hear a pin drop would be about as awkward as stepping into the downtown Oakland library and seeing Metallica ripping through a set of classics. But such strange auditory clarity is exactly what visitors can expect at San Francisco's Second Annual Global Headphone Festival this week, dubbed PLUG [:] DOS.
The festival gathers local electronic musicians including Dark Muse, Halcyon High, and Deletist for twelve hours of airtime streamed into the headphones of anyone willing to listen. You can participate in the weird experience by bringing your headphones to Bernal Heights' 5lowershop warehouse Saturday at 2 p.m. and plugging in to one of sixty provided headphone jacks. You can also stream it at home via the Internet.
The concept emerged in 1999 with Parisian musician Erik Minkkinen broadcasting the first festival from the closet in his apartment. A group of listeners in Tokyo tuned in, embraced the concept, and shot back their own performance the next day. Naming the event Le Placard ("The Closet"), Minkkinen continues these interaural experiments each year, moving the transmission locations from city to city worldwide.
This year, les Placardiens take SF with the help of local producer and Amoeba Music employee Deletist, who visited London during a previous festival. "[London's festival] completely changed the way I heard music," she says.
With 48 performers switching off sets for 24 hours, last year's event drew more than three hundred "headphone people" and was voted Best Transmission of the Year by the Le Placard organizing committee. But why would any musicians be satisfied without a frothing audience praising their every knob turn?
Deletist says, "There is nothing quite like playing to an audience that is actually listening." The method bonds listener and performer. Like last year, pirate radio broadcaster 104.1FM will handle radio transmissions and Le Placard's own global network will stream the tunes and support a live video feed and IRC chat sessions for silent comments. When asked what to expect, Deletist says, "Complete and utter involvement, self-sufficiency, mutual aid, and a severe lack of rock-star bullshit."
And remember to bring your own headphones, or all you'll hear will be the pings of chat messages.
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