All Songs At 15: The Near Disaster Of Our First Live Concert Webcast : All Songs Considered On this week's throwback Thursday, we look back to the year 2005 and the first time we ever tried to webcast a live concert. The band was Bright Eyes; things did not go exactly as planned.
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All Songs At 15: The Near Disaster Of Our First Live Concert Webcast

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All Songs At 15: The Near Disaster Of Our First Live Concert Webcast

All Songs At 15: The Near Disaster Of Our First Live Concert Webcast

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes in January, 2005. Cara Bloch/The Hell Gate/Corbis hide caption

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Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a personal memory about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

Bob Boilen is an ideas kind of guy, so back in 2005, when he saw that the band Bright Eyes would be playing the 9:30 Club, he said, "What if we broadcast the whole show live on the web?"

I know, right? Imagine! It would be audio-only and it'd require a substantial investment of time and resources and a lot of planning to pull it off. But in our hearts and minds it was worth it because it meant fans in more remote areas, who might otherwise never get a chance to see Bright Eyes play, could tune in and be a part of it. We obviously take webcasts like this for granted now, but even ten years ago this was a rare opportunity.

So Bob managed to convince the suits that it was worth the investment and we set everything in motion.

On the night of the show, we had a lot of important people at NPR listening. We'd promoted the heck out of the thing and expected people from literally all over the world to be tuning in at the same time to hear. It would be another one of those moments when NPR showed how forward-thinking it was while delivering a stellar production, with artists carefully curated and vetted to meet the network's highest editorial standards.

This is what happened, right at the very start of the show (it is NOT safe for work, so you'll want headphones):

All Songs At 15: The Near Disaster Of Our First Live Concert Webcast

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That's the band that opened for Bright Eyes, Tilly And The Wall. They had a tap dancer for a percussionist, for crying out loud! How could we have imagined they'd start their show with a string of f-bombs?

Bob was at the 9:30 Club and I was back at the NPR offices making sure everything went off without a hitch. The moment the first f-bomb dropped, I entered a state of pure panic. I had no idea what to do and there weren't any real options. I couldn't bleep it out or pull the plug on the show or even post an apology online. All we had figured out at that point was how to get the audio from the 9:30 Club to NPR, then out to the world.

The truth is, after the initial shock wore off, the rest of the night went well and no one got into any trouble over it. The Bright Eyes performance, which you can still hear in our archives, was incredible (Bob still thinks it's the best Bright Eyes show he's ever seen). The whole thing was beloved enough that we kept doing live webcasts. We've done hundreds in the years since and, at some point, expanded them to include live video. We've also got a live concert podcast you can subscribe to and download many of the shows.

By the way, for some reason I had the presence of mind to keep the original set lists to that first webcast. Here's the one from Bright Eyes:

The Bright Eyes setlist from our first-ever live concert webcast in January, 2005. The backwards handwriting you see bleeding through the other side of the page is Coco Rosie's setlist, another band on the bill that night. NPR hide caption

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The Bright Eyes setlist from our first-ever live concert webcast in January, 2005. The backwards handwriting you see bleeding through the other side of the page is Coco Rosie's setlist, another band on the bill that night.

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And Tilly & The Wall's:

Tilly And The Wall wrote their setlist on a paper plate. NPR hide caption

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