Radiohead's two-night stand at New York's Roseland Ballroom in September 2011 was a major event for the band's army of super-fans. It was the first opportunity for an American audience to see the group perform with drummer Clive Deamer and the first chance to hear new songs from The King of Limbs live. Every second of both nights was filmed by people all over the club, and clips popped up on YouTube hours after the show ended.
The fans on the Radiohead site RadioHub – which hosts countless Radiohead concerts in super high-quality sound – had a vision far broader than a bunch of scattershot, low-quality YouTube videos. As was done on a handful of past shows (most notably Bonnaroo 2006, Prague 2009 and Los Angeles 2010) they decided to pull their resources and create a high-quality DVD of an entire Roseland show, utilizing as many different camera angles as possible.
The first task was picking one of the two nights. "The first night, the security was a little ambivalent about fans filming," Inez, a Radiohead fan and scientist who oversaw the project, tells Rolling Stone. (She declined to provide her last name.) "At the second night, they didn't care at all. We're all a pretty tight community and we quickly assessed what was out there."
Eleven fans provided their raw footage, and roughly 40 gigabytes were sent over to a Washington state Radiohead fan who goes by the online handle Murmurs. "I started on the project late last year and it took me well over a thousand hours," she says. Murmurs edited all the footage on a PC with Sony Vegas software. "I found the person's footage that had the most complete source, and then synchronized that with the fan audio that was provided. Then I took all of the other sources and then laid them in a timeline over the original source. Then I went through and watched each second of each track hundreds and hundreds of times to determine what was the best footage. It was an absolute pain in the ass."
As the process was winding down, Inez reached out to Radiohead's management firm. In the past, they had provided her with audio for similar projects under the condition that nobody made a profit. In fact, a fan-shot video of Radiohead's 2010 benefit for earthquake victims in Haiti raised over $23,000. After some back-and-forth, Radiohead's manager sent over lossless soundboard audio files of the Roseland show. "Radiohead isn't like any other band," Inez says. "They are really open to a grassroots approach."
The DVD was practically finished by this point, and the audio was from an extremely experienced taper. "The problem is that in venues like Roseland, the audience participation is a little over-the-top," says Inez. "The soundboard is a huge improvement, though we're offering the audience recording as an alternative audio track on the DVD."
The show hit the Internet and went viral immediately. "I thought it would be a fairly low-key release," says Inez, "but it absolutely exploded." The show can be downloaded here. Fans are encouraged to donate money to the Haiti Earthquake Fund, the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. Nobody involved with the project made a penny.
A YouTube version of the video that went up on November 25th already has over 50,000 views, but it's going to be a long time before Murmurs joins them. "I won't be able to watch it again for a very, very long time," she says. "My favorite album is OK Computer. It might have been King of Limbs, but I've just heard it too many damn times."