Los Angeles Brian Bischof plans to go to a massive music festival this weekend without wading through throngs of fans and standing in line to use portable toilets.
He'll be watching four days of free live music in front of his computer monitor as 200 bands take part in Digital Club Festival 2000, the first coast-to-coast online music festival.
The festival, which began Friday, features groups from punk band Blink-182 to rappers Wu Tang Clan to the jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. The performers will take the stage before an estimated 3 million computer users, said Andrew Rasiej, founder of festival organizer Digital Club Network. He based that number on how many hits his company's Web site has received.
"The idea of an online festival is the same as a real festival, like Woodstock or Lilith Fair," he said. "The idea is that people who can't get to a festival or who might not go can still see live performances."
Each concert will be before a live audience in venues across the country. The computer audience can tap in via the Internet. Quality will depend on viewers' modem speed.
It's a format being embraced by many bands, including Blink-182, which supports online access to music. The group recently performed a benefit concert for Napster, the computer software company being sued for copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Medeski, Martin & Wood are hoping to win over new fans, said bassist Chris Wood.
"People will actually be able to flip back and forth between concerts. ... Kind of like channel surfing," Wood said. "The downside is that they could flip away from our show to another. But it's also true they could switch to our show."
For Bischof, who lives in Pottstown, Pa., the festival allows him to see a concert he couldn't otherwise attend.
"I just don't have the time to go to Washington or Los Angeles to see these bands," Bischof said.
The festival began in 1994 as a text- and image-only broadcast and grew last year to live broadcasts of 300 bands at 25 New York City clubs. This year, the company spent $450,000 to install cybercasting equipment in 30 venues around the country.
This weekend's broadcast is expected to cost about $2 million, a fraction of what it cost to put on Woodstock, Rasiej said.
And just like a real music festival, it will have concession stands of sorts. Beer, food, T-shirts and CDs can be ordered online and delivered.
Chat rooms will give fans a chance to connect.
"Why does a band play on 'Saturday Night Live' or Leno? For exposure. So their fans can see them. This is the same kind of thing," Rasiej said.
"The only difference: It's on the Internet and those who attend can use clean bathrooms their own."
On the Net: To watch the concert: www.digitalclub network.com