Radiohead

Draco

Broken Hearts Make it Rain
Coldplayer
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Sep 27, 2014
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756
Hail to the Thief has always been my main squeeze. It's nice to see them experiment quite a bit with sound.


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Christa42

Irresponsible baby clutching onto aeroplane wing
Honorary Coldplayer
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Here is a very interesting article from Pitchfork about Radiohead's fan sites At Ease and Green Plastic and its own website being in this community of social media
http://pitchfork.com/features/article/9890-internet-explorers-the-curious-case-of-radioheads-online-fandom/?mbid=social_facebook

Internet Explorers: The Curious Case of Radiohead’s Online Fandom
For a band that’s viewed technology with a skeptical eye, Radiohead have often appealed to people who aren’t afraid to live their lives online.

When longtime Radiohead fans saw the words “True Love Waits” on the tracklist for the band’s new album, they collectively lost their shit. “TRUE LOVE FUCKING WAITS THOM ACTUALLY DID IT THE ABSOLUTE MADMAN,” one user wrote online. The song was a live favorite that had been teased for more than 20 years but never properly recorded, and the existence of a definitive version offered the closure of a long-open loop, like finally discovering what was in Pulp Fiction’s golden briefcase. “It’s been a long journey for us and the band,” reflected another fan. “I feel as if this was their way of saying thanks, thanks for it all.”

The communal release came after months of frenzied speculation on message boards and throughout social media, as followers scrutinized mysterious leaflets, the registration of a new company, and totally humdrum in-studio photos. This zealous anticipatory dance has become typical for new Radiohead albums, igniting warm reminiscences, excitement, and even a little anxiety. One diehard named Megan told me that, over the last few months, she would wake up in the middle of the night and immediately check her phone to see if the record had dropped. She even dreamed about its release—a nightmare, in fact, because her fantasy album turned out to be made up of Radiohead-penned songs performed by other artists. “I was just devastated that it wasn’t them,” she said. “It was pretty ridiculous.”

From a distance, such devotion to a bunch of middle-aged British art rockers could seem a little wild. But in the five years since 2011’s The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s reputation as an iconic band that spans generations, continents, and technological eras has only gotten bigger. These fans now have more ways to discuss the cloud of rumors that constantly surround the band’s activity, allowing for stray theories to percolate into near-certainties as sites like Twitter and Reddit exponentially speed up the spread of information. At this point, there are teenagers Snapchatting selfies with their Radiohead concert tickets as their parents get wistful on Facebook about buying OK Computer the first day it came out.

Radiohead isn’t the only band whose mere gestures get turned into news stories, of course, but they’re unique in that the underlying architecture of their internet fan network has been in place for more than 20 years. As the internet developed, so did Radiohead, and an understanding of the long-running relationship between the two helps explain why people are still willing to devote their waking hours to the pale quintet’s every move. Because once you head down the band’s endless internet rabbit hole, digital ephemera starts to gain purpose, and mistakes turn into clues that make a strange sort of sense.

Consider an Instagram picture of a red moon posted by Radiohead visual artist Stanley Donwood earlier this year, which incited much fan speculation after it was hastily deleted. And then consider the new album’s title: A Moon Shaped Pool. Suddenly, Donwood’s erasure seems like a definite—though admittedly vague—portent, a reason to believe.


Artwork from Radiohead's official website circa 2004.

Throughout the 1990s, Radiohead thought deeply about the approaching technological age in a way that presaged our modern online era, with its concerns about what all these screens are doing to our brains. “Scrolling up and down, I am born again,” Thom Yorke sang on OK Computer’s “Airbag,” which was written about a car accident, but could also describe the experience of using a message board. Their popularity took root amongst the first wave of internet users, back when the web was more anarchic and undefined, and used primarily by people who felt alienated enough to sit in front of an ugly monitor and post under a pseudonym when almost nobody else was doing it.

Nowadays, we know more than ever about our favorite bands and artists thanks to social media; 20 years ago, though, most bands didn’t even have a website. Radiohead were an exception. But their early online hub was incredibly sparse: a few pages of GIFs and seemingly random text, with little in the way of actual information. No lyrics. No tour dates. No news. It was an allusive vacuum, waiting to be filled.


Early versions of Radiohead's official website were almost comically austere and cryptic, such as this front page screen from 1997.
At the end of 1996, Adriaan Pels was 23 years old and working as a hotel manager in Groningen, Holland, where he grew up. He had an internet connection, which was relatively novel: In that year, less than one percent of the total global population had web access. Pels was looking for something to do online, so he decided to start a website. One inspiration came to mind: Radiohead, a band he’d been hooked on ever since coming across a queasy eruption of a rock song called “My Iron Lung” on the radio and hearing its oddly comforting declaration that “If you're frightened/You can be frightened/You can be, it's OK.” (The group’s breakout 1992 single “Creep” had seemed too much like a novelty to him.)

His new site needed a name. At first he called it Pop Is Dead, after an early single, but that sounded a little lame. In the middle of 1997, he thought of a snippet from “Fitter Happier,” a robo-voiced manifesto from the band’s just-released OK Computer, that seemed to fit, and At Ease went live. Considering its jittery subject, the site’s name was a relatively ironic choice. The calm of the phrase juxtaposed neatly against the profound sentiment on OK Computer that everything was definitely not at ease—that modern times were giving rise to a new sense of alienation, and that the bountiful ’90s could not last. And, practically speaking, “At Ease” was short and started with an “A,” which made it stick out among web rings that indexed fan sites.

Pels detailed his new online hub with hard facts about the band, like the particulars of their discography, which were not easily researchable in a pre-Wikipedia era. He also updated At Ease with news about Radiohead’s productivity, meticulously collecting news items and writing them up as straightforwardly as possible. Occasionally, people would e-mail tips to him. He updated the website when he could, and that was good enough.

Sitting in a Brooklyn cafe, the now 42-year-old Pels looks a bit like the lead singer of the National on an off day in a grey hoodie, beard, and square glasses. Thinking back to his site’s beginnings and how things have changed, he points to a car that drives past us outside the window. “If that car crashes, it will be on the internet five minutes later, or sooner,” he says. “That was much different at the time—it didn't go as fast as it does now.” Another cautionary lyric from OK Computer comes to mind: “Idiot, slow down, slow down.”


Radiohead fan site At Ease circa 2002.

Ironically, OK Computer’s wary read of technology may have been most engaging to those already spending more and more time online. The surge of interest in the band drove traffic to the fan sites, including one called Green Plastic, which was started by a 20-year-old named Jonathan Percy in 1997. Like Pels, Percy was attracted to the infinite possibilities of the digital era and saw the internet as the Wild Wild West, or a Choose Your Own Adventure book—an untamed space where anything could happen. And soon enough, such sites became prominent, trusted sources in the swirling world of Radiohead fandom.

In 1998, an MTV affiliate in Europe ran a news item about bands and their fan sites that included Green Plastic. (At the time, Percy’s creation didn’t have its own domain name, so MTV flashed its unwieldy AOL web address.) The attention funneled even more curious listeners to the site, as music fans in general began to migrate away from radio, TV, and magazines. “It kept growing,” Percy recalls.

Within a few years, there were dozens of fan sites devoted to Radiohead. Follow Me Around was founded by Toronto’s Beryl Tomay in the summer of 1997, when she was only 15. Her parents noticed she was spending more time in front of her computer but soon realized she couldn’t be discouraged. “The only time I wasn't really checking it was when I was in class,” she says. “I was pretty obsessed.” In 1999, Miro Bzduch started a site that exclusively catered to fans in his home country of Slovakia. “We didn't have too much exposure to the outside world, so the motivation came from being able to be a part of something bigger,” he says. By 2002, the site was popular enough to justify an English language relaunch called Treefingers.


Members of Radiohead once posted messages and responded to fans on their official message board. In this note from 2006, Thom Yorke discusses the status of the song “Morning Mr. Magpie,” which would eventually turn up on The King of Limbs five years later.

Meanwhile, the band’s official site started to flesh out. In 1999, it switched from a purposefully opaque K-hole of abstract lyrics and graphics meant to drive fans insane with speculation to a more formal, accessible destination. It was still thin on details, though, and keen to outsource the most time-consuming elements of website management. A page titled “News” read: “Well, obviously if you really wanted news about Radiohead you’d be at some other site that is actually updated more than once a decade. The simple truth is that I don't have any news. But I have found out about some people who do.”

The official site provided links to At Ease, Green Plastic, Follow Me Around, and many others. There was a sincerity and gratitude in this acknowledgment, which was something of a surprise coming from a band often heralded for its obtuse chilliness. A version of the site that came in 2000 added a personal note to its list of links: “These sites have… a flavour far superior to the ‘news’ often found elsewhere. Many thanks to the diligent humans responsible for these pages.”

The release of Kid Adovetailed with Radiohead’s intuitive understanding of the nascent internet culture. Ahead of its arrival in the fall of 2000, the record was streamed for free via a player that any website could embed—the first of its kind—further cementing the link between band and fans. Their official site also launched a message board, where band members would occasionally post, their words highlighted in verified blue.

But just because it was Radiohead’s forum didn’t mean fans would be automatically deferential. In May 2000, someone responded to a message from Yorke by mocking him as a “big star” and accusing him of no longer supporting his local music scene. After a short back-and-forth, the fan asked why he had heard stories of Yorke telling fans to “fuck off” on the street.

Yorke’s answer was grammatically curious but candid: “if i cant handle it then yes. if im fucked up in th head then yes. if i see them again then i would apologise. i am not perfect. i am not very good when people prvoke me. i react. when someone is in you face. interupting you when you are talkign to a loved one. if they are rude. insistent. arrogant and i am not in the mood i will react. if they come up to me in a club pissed out of their head and start drawling away to show off to their mates then i often cant think of much to say. this is why sometimes o dont go out. this is why i often leave the message board. like now. Goodbye.”

Today, even with all the direct avenues opened up by social media, it’s all but impossible to imagine Radiohead ever being as forthcoming about their emotional well-being. Looking back, the post might be read as an attempt to stay relatable in light of the band’s growing fame. “I have a real fucking problem with that,” Yorke once said of the mythology that comes with being in a successful rock band.

At the same time, the way they handled their success couldn’t help but stoke the collective imagination. Nearly every iteration of their official site has been marked by cryptic texts and alien imagery: They are puzzles asking to be solved. As Radiohead’s popularity grew, they never deviated from their aesthetic commitment. The internet was just one more medium for those aesthetics, giving fans more to consider in their devotion. Even their attempts to demystify the process, such as a running diary of the Kid A recording process, contributed to their myth. In acknowledging the fan sites, they teased a deeper connection: When you went to At Ease or Green Plastic, you were reading the same thing Radiohead were reading. Their presence was always known, even when the band itself was absent.


The mysterious shapes and words that made up Radiohead's official web presence served to cultivate their fervid fanbase. Here's a page from the "Imaginery Prisons" section of the band's site circa 2004.
At Ease and Green Plastic also launched message boards that became popular around the turn of the millennium. The posting environment was less exclusive than the official site’s board, where users were careful to maintain their credibility in case a band member dropped by. On the fan sites, there were close readings of the band’s lyrics and slightly conspiratorial discussions over their creative direction. Though Pels and Percy didn’t want to encourage any sense of competition between their sites, their supporters weren’t nearly as nonpartisan. Percy would post a news item and then receive a snide email from an At Ease fan about how his site had been an hour slower, which dimmed his enthusiasm for the passion project.

But such petty sniping was out of his hands and more attributable to the peculiar circadian rhythms driving the behavior of any insular online community. (Fact is, internet users have always been kind of rude.) Meanwhile, Pels and Percy became increasingly elevated as figures of importance within the greater Radiohead scene—online and off. They were approached at shows by people who recognized their photos from the internet. Occasionally, Pels was even asked for his autograph and, one time, he approached Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien at an R.E.M. show and introduced himself as the guy who ran At Ease. To his amazement, O’Brien said he knew who he was.

There were other benefits to running websites that so many fans depended on. Pels got to hear an advance copy of Kid A, owing to his friendship with a music journalist who followed At Ease. In the buildup to 2001’s Amnesiac, Percy and Follow Me Around’s Tomay were invited to design content for something called GooglyMinotaur, an AOL Instant Messenger bot that spat out Radiohead information when provoked. Their sites became partners with Ink Blot, a San Francisco-based music magazine that was developing a network of fan sites, and Percy moved out to the West Coast to become a webmaster for the company. Tomay received $20,000 for joining the network, money that went toward her college tuition. They also got VIP tickets to some shows and briefly met the actual members of Radiohead in a casual setting. Before a 2000 show in Toronto, Tomay received the ultimate call out: Before performing “Follow Me Around,” Yorke specifically mentioned her request for the song. “They knew I lived in Canada, and before the concert I put in bold letters at the top of the site’s news section: ‘RADIOHEAD PLEASE PLAY THIS SONG AT THE CONCERT,’” she says. “That was a highlight.”

A connection to the band could also function as a safety net. At one point, Radiohead’s publishing company came after a number of fan sites that hosted the band’s lyrics, threatening to sue over copyright infringement. Percy panicked and reached out to one of his contacts within Radiohead’s camp. Within a day, the issue was entirely resolved, and the lyrics remained.

Such support from an arena rock group was hardly a given in the post-Napster era, when animosity toward the internet’s drastic reinvention of fandom and music culture ran rampant. Yorke, however, loved Napster. In a 2000 interview with Time, he said it encouraged enthusiasm for music “in a way that the industry has long forgotten to do.” So while Radiohead’s songs often took a cold, hard look at technology, the band never forgot the importance of intense fandom, even as their public presence became increasingly withdrawn.


Around 2001, several Radiohead fan site creators designed content for an AOL Instant Messenger bot called GooglyMinotaur.

The anticipation for 2003’s Hail to the Thieftook root on the message boards, as traffic to the fan sites continued to shoot upward. The server bills for At Ease leapt from $15 to $700 a month, forcing Pels to put ads on the site and solicit fans for money to help with hosting fees. Around this time, Tomay stopped updating Follow Me Around as frequently. She was starting college, and the combined commitments of her course work and social life took hold. Bzduch shuttered his site, too.

At Ease and Green Plastic still flourished, but its founders’ schedules were also growing more complicated. Aside from his work with At Ease, Pels started doing graphic design for the Amsterdam label Excelsior Recordings. Meanwhile, the bursting of the dotcom bubble forced Ink Blot to kill its network of music sites, but Percy used his connections to start working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Both men were no longer bored young adults with hours to burn. They were in their early 30s. They had lives.

Radiohead have always worn a shroud of mystery, but they became even more unpredictable as the years went on. Their 2007 album In Rainbowswas released with only 10 days notice, and fans were asked to pay whatever they wanted to hear it. Around this time, Green Plastic’s traffic hit its peak, and In Rainbows eventually became the band’s best-selling record since OK Computer, moving three million copies worldwide. It proved Radiohead could release a record on the most secretive terms, basically for free, and still be wildly successful, even as industry profits continued to plummet. They were able to take that risk partly due to the fan sites and their communities, which offered a solid bedrock of support.

As social media started to expand, Radiohead continued to retreat. They did no interviews or touring in the buildup to 2011’s The King of Limbs and teased A Moon Shaped Pool only as it was about to be released. Their popularity became increasingly untethered from the typical formalities of record promotion, placing them on the same level as Beyoncé and Kanye West. They managed to avoid the frivolities of mainstream, corporate celebrity culture, too: It’s impossible to think of Thom Yorke making a cameo on “The Muppets,” or Jonny Greenwood joining in an all-star band at the Grammys.

Around 2010, Percy grew tired of maintaining Green Plastic. The message board was still active, but there hadn’t been regular updates for years. He met the woman who would become his wife in 2011, but he didn’t tell her he had once run one of the biggest websites for one of the biggest bands in the world until a couple of years into their relationship. The site remained partly as a shrine to his past, as well as Radiohead’s. “I’ve had a lot of people offer to buy it from me and I’ve always been hesitant,” he says. “It’s my baby.”

Pels continued to update At Ease regularly through 2013, drawing the site’s highest-ever single day traffic—421,971 pageviews—on February 18, 2011, the day The King of Limbs was released. But his updates ceased, too. A few years before, he had moved to New York City with his wife, who he met through the At Ease message boards. He was working full-time, and there wasn’t much new to say about Radiohead, anyway. “I’m still planning to get things running pretty soon again, but work's been crazy as well,” he told me in March. Weeks later, the site hadn’t been updated.


A blog post written by Thom Yorke in 2005 detailing the creation of "Burn the Witch," a song that was finally released earlier this month.

Even though these homegrown fan sites have largely lapsed, people are still poring over Radiohead’s every move. A general interest site like Reddit now provides a similar service for the nearly 40,000 fans currently subscribed to the band’s subreddit, and the rise of up-to-the-second news sites and social media has generally made fan sites a curio of a bygone age. Instead of a Pels or a Percy curating updates during their downtime at work, there’s a democratic network of devotees contributing what they can in real-time.

Radiohead’s own website eventually stopped linking to the fan sites. The message board remains, but its intentionally archaic drop-down format could appeal to only the most tenured users, who now mostly circulate in-jokes that are impenetrable to outsiders. In this way, the circle of life continues: I spoke with one fan who said he joined At Ease around 2003 because the band’s official message board seemed too tight-knit, while another said he preferred Reddit to At Ease because it’s far more accessible and not as prickly toward newcomers. In fact, At Ease is currently highly selective when it comes to accepting new members. (There was a recent problem with some trolls.)

Both the At Ease and Reddit forums currently contain plenty of discussion about A Moon Shaped Pool, but the difference involves a sense of history: On At Ease, there are allusions made to memorably irritating users, power-hungry moderators, deleted posts, and members who died and are remembered by their usernames. It’s a web of connections woven over nearly 20 years.

In the days preceding the new album’s release, both Pels and Percy began updating At Ease and Green Plastic to reflect the news. Percy wrote, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”


Vintage artwork from Radiohead's official site.

A week before A Moon Shaped Pool came out, Radiohead erased their internet presence, whiting out their official site and deleting their tweets and Facebook posts. The symbolism couldn’t be overlooked: It was their attempt at re-emerging from the ether, a fresh start for a band that has surely wondered how to stay restive as its legacy has grown.

But the gesture could only be symbolic. They couldn’t erase At Ease, Green Plastic, or the hundreds of thousands of connections made through places like them. It’s too glib to say Radiohead wouldn’t have become such an institution without the internet and fan sites, but their career trajectory surely would have looked a lot different had they promoted their music the traditional offline way. And even if the band disappeared completely, it’s nice to imagine the message boards continuing to thrive, adding more layers to a shared history that’s gone way beyond what Radiohead might have thought about when they made songs about the importance of staying human in an increasingly digitized world. There will always be someone on the other side of the screen.
 
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arushofjacktothehead

A Wispa, A Wispa, A Wispa
Coldplayer
Joined
Aug 27, 2015
Messages
2,529
Here is a very interesting article from Pitchfork about Radiohead's fan sites At Ease and Green Plastic and its own website being in this community of social media
http://pitchfork.com/features/article/9890-internet-explorers-the-curious-case-of-radioheads-online-fandom/?mbid=social_facebook

Internet Explorers: The Curious Case of Radiohead’s Online Fandom
For a band that’s viewed technology with a skeptical eye, Radiohead have often appealed to people who aren’t afraid to live their lives online.

When longtime Radiohead fans saw the words “True Love Waits” on the tracklist for the band’s new album, they collectively lost their shit. “TRUE LOVE FUCKING WAITS THOM ACTUALLY DID IT THE ABSOLUTE MADMAN,” one user wrote online. The song was a live favorite that had been teased for more than 20 years but never properly recorded, and the existence of a definitive version offered the closure of a long-open loop, like finally discovering what was in Pulp Fiction’s golden briefcase. “It’s been a long journey for us and the band,” reflected another fan. “I feel as if this was their way of saying thanks, thanks for it all.”

The communal release came after months of frenzied speculation on message boards and throughout social media, as followers scrutinized mysterious leaflets, the registration of a new company, and totally humdrum in-studio photos. This zealous anticipatory dance has become typical for new Radiohead albums, igniting warm reminiscences, excitement, and even a little anxiety. One diehard named Megan told me that, over the last few months, she would wake up in the middle of the night and immediately check her phone to see if the record had dropped. She even dreamed about its release—a nightmare, in fact, because her fantasy album turned out to be made up of Radiohead-penned songs performed by other artists. “I was just devastated that it wasn’t them,” she said. “It was pretty ridiculous.”

From a distance, such devotion to a bunch of middle-aged British art rockers could seem a little wild. But in the five years since 2011’s The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s reputation as an iconic band that spans generations, continents, and technological eras has only gotten bigger. These fans now have more ways to discuss the cloud of rumors that constantly surround the band’s activity, allowing for stray theories to percolate into near-certainties as sites like Twitter and Reddit exponentially speed up the spread of information. At this point, there are teenagers Snapchatting selfies with their Radiohead concert tickets as their parents get wistful on Facebook about buying OK Computer the first day it came out.

Radiohead isn’t the only band whose mere gestures get turned into news stories, of course, but they’re unique in that the underlying architecture of their internet fan network has been in place for more than 20 years. As the internet developed, so did Radiohead, and an understanding of the long-running relationship between the two helps explain why people are still willing to devote their waking hours to the pale quintet’s every move. Because once you head down the band’s endless internet rabbit hole, digital ephemera starts to gain purpose, and mistakes turn into clues that make a strange sort of sense.

Consider an Instagram picture of a red moon posted by Radiohead visual artist Stanley Donwood earlier this year, which incited much fan speculation after it was hastily deleted. And then consider the new album’s title: A Moon Shaped Pool. Suddenly, Donwood’s erasure seems like a definite—though admittedly vague—portent, a reason to believe.


Artwork from Radiohead's official website circa 2004.

Throughout the 1990s, Radiohead thought deeply about the approaching technological age in a way that presaged our modern online era, with its concerns about what all these screens are doing to our brains. “Scrolling up and down, I am born again,” Thom Yorke sang on OK Computer’s “Airbag,” which was written about a car accident, but could also describe the experience of using a message board. Their popularity took root amongst the first wave of internet users, back when the web was more anarchic and undefined, and used primarily by people who felt alienated enough to sit in front of an ugly monitor and post under a pseudonym when almost nobody else was doing it.

Nowadays, we know more than ever about our favorite bands and artists thanks to social media; 20 years ago, though, most bands didn’t even have a website. Radiohead were an exception. But their early online hub was incredibly sparse: a few pages of GIFs and seemingly random text, with little in the way of actual information. No lyrics. No tour dates. No news. It was an allusive vacuum, waiting to be filled.


Early versions of Radiohead's official website were almost comically austere and cryptic, such as this front page screen from 1997.
At the end of 1996, Adriaan Pels was 23 years old and working as a hotel manager in Groningen, Holland, where he grew up. He had an internet connection, which was relatively novel: In that year, less than one percent of the total global population had web access. Pels was looking for something to do online, so he decided to start a website. One inspiration came to mind: Radiohead, a band he’d been hooked on ever since coming across a queasy eruption of a rock song called “My Iron Lung” on the radio and hearing its oddly comforting declaration that “If you're frightened/You can be frightened/You can be, it's OK.” (The group’s breakout 1992 single “Creep” had seemed too much like a novelty to him.)

His new site needed a name. At first he called it Pop Is Dead, after an early single, but that sounded a little lame. In the middle of 1997, he thought of a snippet from “Fitter Happier,” a robo-voiced manifesto from the band’s just-released OK Computer, that seemed to fit, and At Ease went live. Considering its jittery subject, the site’s name was a relatively ironic choice. The calm of the phrase juxtaposed neatly against the profound sentiment on OK Computer that everything was definitely not at ease—that modern times were giving rise to a new sense of alienation, and that the bountiful ’90s could not last. And, practically speaking, “At Ease” was short and started with an “A,” which made it stick out among web rings that indexed fan sites.

Pels detailed his new online hub with hard facts about the band, like the particulars of their discography, which were not easily researchable in a pre-Wikipedia era. He also updated At Ease with news about Radiohead’s productivity, meticulously collecting news items and writing them up as straightforwardly as possible. Occasionally, people would e-mail tips to him. He updated the website when he could, and that was good enough.

Sitting in a Brooklyn cafe, the now 42-year-old Pels looks a bit like the lead singer of the National on an off day in a grey hoodie, beard, and square glasses. Thinking back to his site’s beginnings and how things have changed, he points to a car that drives past us outside the window. “If that car crashes, it will be on the internet five minutes later, or sooner,” he says. “That was much different at the time—it didn't go as fast as it does now.” Another cautionary lyric from OK Computer comes to mind: “Idiot, slow down, slow down.”


Radiohead fan site At Ease circa 2002.

Ironically, OK Computer’s wary read of technology may have been most engaging to those already spending more and more time online. The surge of interest in the band drove traffic to the fan sites, including one called Green Plastic, which was started by a 20-year-old named Jonathan Percy in 1997. Like Pels, Percy was attracted to the infinite possibilities of the digital era and saw the internet as the Wild Wild West, or a Choose Your Own Adventure book—an untamed space where anything could happen. And soon enough, such sites became prominent, trusted sources in the swirling world of Radiohead fandom.

In 1998, an MTV affiliate in Europe ran a news item about bands and their fan sites that included Green Plastic. (At the time, Percy’s creation didn’t have its own domain name, so MTV flashed its unwieldy AOL web address.) The attention funneled even more curious listeners to the site, as music fans in general began to migrate away from radio, TV, and magazines. “It kept growing,” Percy recalls.

Within a few years, there were dozens of fan sites devoted to Radiohead. Follow Me Around was founded by Toronto’s Beryl Tomay in the summer of 1997, when she was only 15. Her parents noticed she was spending more time in front of her computer but soon realized she couldn’t be discouraged. “The only time I wasn't really checking it was when I was in class,” she says. “I was pretty obsessed.” In 1999, Miro Bzduch started a site that exclusively catered to fans in his home country of Slovakia. “We didn't have too much exposure to the outside world, so the motivation came from being able to be a part of something bigger,” he says. By 2002, the site was popular enough to justify an English language relaunch called Treefingers.


Members of Radiohead once posted messages and responded to fans on their official message board. In this note from 2006, Thom Yorke discusses the status of the song “Morning Mr. Magpie,” which would eventually turn up on The King of Limbs five years later.

Meanwhile, the band’s official site started to flesh out. In 1999, it switched from a purposefully opaque K-hole of abstract lyrics and graphics meant to drive fans insane with speculation to a more formal, accessible destination. It was still thin on details, though, and keen to outsource the most time-consuming elements of website management. A page titled “News” read: “Well, obviously if you really wanted news about Radiohead you’d be at some other site that is actually updated more than once a decade. The simple truth is that I don't have any news. But I have found out about some people who do.”

The official site provided links to At Ease, Green Plastic, Follow Me Around, and many others. There was a sincerity and gratitude in this acknowledgment, which was something of a surprise coming from a band often heralded for its obtuse chilliness. A version of the site that came in 2000 added a personal note to its list of links: “These sites have… a flavour far superior to the ‘news’ often found elsewhere. Many thanks to the diligent humans responsible for these pages.”

The release of Kid Adovetailed with Radiohead’s intuitive understanding of the nascent internet culture. Ahead of its arrival in the fall of 2000, the record was streamed for free via a player that any website could embed—the first of its kind—further cementing the link between band and fans. Their official site also launched a message board, where band members would occasionally post, their words highlighted in verified blue.

But just because it was Radiohead’s forum didn’t mean fans would be automatically deferential. In May 2000, someone responded to a message from Yorke by mocking him as a “big star” and accusing him of no longer supporting his local music scene. After a short back-and-forth, the fan asked why he had heard stories of Yorke telling fans to “fuck off” on the street.

Yorke’s answer was grammatically curious but candid: “if i cant handle it then yes. if im fucked up in th head then yes. if i see them again then i would apologise. i am not perfect. i am not very good when people prvoke me. i react. when someone is in you face. interupting you when you are talkign to a loved one. if they are rude. insistent. arrogant and i am not in the mood i will react. if they come up to me in a club pissed out of their head and start drawling away to show off to their mates then i often cant think of much to say. this is why sometimes o dont go out. this is why i often leave the message board. like now. Goodbye.”

Today, even with all the direct avenues opened up by social media, it’s all but impossible to imagine Radiohead ever being as forthcoming about their emotional well-being. Looking back, the post might be read as an attempt to stay relatable in light of the band’s growing fame. “I have a real fucking problem with that,” Yorke once said of the mythology that comes with being in a successful rock band.

At the same time, the way they handled their success couldn’t help but stoke the collective imagination. Nearly every iteration of their official site has been marked by cryptic texts and alien imagery: They are puzzles asking to be solved. As Radiohead’s popularity grew, they never deviated from their aesthetic commitment. The internet was just one more medium for those aesthetics, giving fans more to consider in their devotion. Even their attempts to demystify the process, such as a running diary of the Kid A recording process, contributed to their myth. In acknowledging the fan sites, they teased a deeper connection: When you went to At Ease or Green Plastic, you were reading the same thing Radiohead were reading. Their presence was always known, even when the band itself was absent.


The mysterious shapes and words that made up Radiohead's official web presence served to cultivate their fervid fanbase. Here's a page from the "Imaginery Prisons" section of the band's site circa 2004.
At Ease and Green Plastic also launched message boards that became popular around the turn of the millennium. The posting environment was less exclusive than the official site’s board, where users were careful to maintain their credibility in case a band member dropped by. On the fan sites, there were close readings of the band’s lyrics and slightly conspiratorial discussions over their creative direction. Though Pels and Percy didn’t want to encourage any sense of competition between their sites, their supporters weren’t nearly as nonpartisan. Percy would post a news item and then receive a snide email from an At Ease fan about how his site had been an hour slower, which dimmed his enthusiasm for the passion project.

But such petty sniping was out of his hands and more attributable to the peculiar circadian rhythms driving the behavior of any insular online community. (Fact is, internet users have always been kind of rude.) Meanwhile, Pels and Percy became increasingly elevated as figures of importance within the greater Radiohead scene—online and off. They were approached at shows by people who recognized their photos from the internet. Occasionally, Pels was even asked for his autograph and, one time, he approached Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien at an R.E.M. show and introduced himself as the guy who ran At Ease. To his amazement, O’Brien said he knew who he was.

There were other benefits to running websites that so many fans depended on. Pels got to hear an advance copy of Kid A, owing to his friendship with a music journalist who followed At Ease. In the buildup to 2001’s Amnesiac, Percy and Follow Me Around’s Tomay were invited to design content for something called GooglyMinotaur, an AOL Instant Messenger bot that spat out Radiohead information when provoked. Their sites became partners with Ink Blot, a San Francisco-based music magazine that was developing a network of fan sites, and Percy moved out to the West Coast to become a webmaster for the company. Tomay received $20,000 for joining the network, money that went toward her college tuition. They also got VIP tickets to some shows and briefly met the actual members of Radiohead in a casual setting. Before a 2000 show in Toronto, Tomay received the ultimate call out: Before performing “Follow Me Around,” Yorke specifically mentioned her request for the song. “They knew I lived in Canada, and before the concert I put in bold letters at the top of the site’s news section: ‘RADIOHEAD PLEASE PLAY THIS SONG AT THE CONCERT,’” she says. “That was a highlight.”

A connection to the band could also function as a safety net. At one point, Radiohead’s publishing company came after a number of fan sites that hosted the band’s lyrics, threatening to sue over copyright infringement. Percy panicked and reached out to one of his contacts within Radiohead’s camp. Within a day, the issue was entirely resolved, and the lyrics remained.

Such support from an arena rock group was hardly a given in the post-Napster era, when animosity toward the internet’s drastic reinvention of fandom and music culture ran rampant. Yorke, however, loved Napster. In a 2000 interview with Time, he said it encouraged enthusiasm for music “in a way that the industry has long forgotten to do.” So while Radiohead’s songs often took a cold, hard look at technology, the band never forgot the importance of intense fandom, even as their public presence became increasingly withdrawn.


Around 2001, several Radiohead fan site creators designed content for an AOL Instant Messenger bot called GooglyMinotaur.

The anticipation for 2003’s Hail to the Thieftook root on the message boards, as traffic to the fan sites continued to shoot upward. The server bills for At Ease leapt from $15 to $700 a month, forcing Pels to put ads on the site and solicit fans for money to help with hosting fees. Around this time, Tomay stopped updating Follow Me Around as frequently. She was starting college, and the combined commitments of her course work and social life took hold. Bzduch shuttered his site, too.

At Ease and Green Plastic still flourished, but its founders’ schedules were also growing more complicated. Aside from his work with At Ease, Pels started doing graphic design for the Amsterdam label Excelsior Recordings. Meanwhile, the bursting of the dotcom bubble forced Ink Blot to kill its network of music sites, but Percy used his connections to start working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Both men were no longer bored young adults with hours to burn. They were in their early 30s. They had lives.

Radiohead have always worn a shroud of mystery, but they became even more unpredictable as the years went on. Their 2007 album In Rainbowswas released with only 10 days notice, and fans were asked to pay whatever they wanted to hear it. Around this time, Green Plastic’s traffic hit its peak, and In Rainbows eventually became the band’s best-selling record since OK Computer, moving three million copies worldwide. It proved Radiohead could release a record on the most secretive terms, basically for free, and still be wildly successful, even as industry profits continued to plummet. They were able to take that risk partly due to the fan sites and their communities, which offered a solid bedrock of support.

As social media started to expand, Radiohead continued to retreat. They did no interviews or touring in the buildup to 2011’s The King of Limbs and teased A Moon Shaped Pool only as it was about to be released. Their popularity became increasingly untethered from the typical formalities of record promotion, placing them on the same level as Beyoncé and Kanye West. They managed to avoid the frivolities of mainstream, corporate celebrity culture, too: It’s impossible to think of Thom Yorke making a cameo on “The Muppets,” or Jonny Greenwood joining in an all-star band at the Grammys.

Around 2010, Percy grew tired of maintaining Green Plastic. The message board was still active, but there hadn’t been regular updates for years. He met the woman who would become his wife in 2011, but he didn’t tell her he had once run one of the biggest websites for one of the biggest bands in the world until a couple of years into their relationship. The site remained partly as a shrine to his past, as well as Radiohead’s. “I’ve had a lot of people offer to buy it from me and I’ve always been hesitant,” he says. “It’s my baby.”

Pels continued to update At Ease regularly through 2013, drawing the site’s highest-ever single day traffic—421,971 pageviews—on February 18, 2011, the day The King of Limbs was released. But his updates ceased, too. A few years before, he had moved to New York City with his wife, who he met through the At Ease message boards. He was working full-time, and there wasn’t much new to say about Radiohead, anyway. “I’m still planning to get things running pretty soon again, but work's been crazy as well,” he told me in March. Weeks later, the site hadn’t been updated.


A blog post written by Thom Yorke in 2005 detailing the creation of "Burn the Witch," a song that was finally released earlier this month.

Even though these homegrown fan sites have largely lapsed, people are still poring over Radiohead’s every move. A general interest site like Reddit now provides a similar service for the nearly 40,000 fans currently subscribed to the band’s subreddit, and the rise of up-to-the-second news sites and social media has generally made fan sites a curio of a bygone age. Instead of a Pels or a Percy curating updates during their downtime at work, there’s a democratic network of devotees contributing what they can in real-time.

Radiohead’s own website eventually stopped linking to the fan sites. The message board remains, but its intentionally archaic drop-down format could appeal to only the most tenured users, who now mostly circulate in-jokes that are impenetrable to outsiders. In this way, the circle of life continues: I spoke with one fan who said he joined At Ease around 2003 because the band’s official message board seemed too tight-knit, while another said he preferred Reddit to At Ease because it’s far more accessible and not as prickly toward newcomers. In fact, At Ease is currently highly selective when it comes to accepting new members. (There was a recent problem with some trolls.)

Both the At Ease and Reddit forums currently contain plenty of discussion about A Moon Shaped Pool, but the difference involves a sense of history: On At Ease, there are allusions made to memorably irritating users, power-hungry moderators, deleted posts, and members who died and are remembered by their usernames. It’s a web of connections woven over nearly 20 years.

In the days preceding the new album’s release, both Pels and Percy began updating At Ease and Green Plastic to reflect the news. Percy wrote, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”


Vintage artwork from Radiohead's official site.

A week before A Moon Shaped Pool came out, Radiohead erased their internet presence, whiting out their official site and deleting their tweets and Facebook posts. The symbolism couldn’t be overlooked: It was their attempt at re-emerging from the ether, a fresh start for a band that has surely wondered how to stay restive as its legacy has grown.

But the gesture could only be symbolic. They couldn’t erase At Ease, Green Plastic, or the hundreds of thousands of connections made through places like them. It’s too glib to say Radiohead wouldn’t have become such an institution without the internet and fan sites, but their career trajectory surely would have looked a lot different had they promoted their music the traditional offline way. And even if the band disappeared completely, it’s nice to imagine the message boards continuing to thrive, adding more layers to a shared history that’s gone way beyond what Radiohead might have thought about when they made songs about the importance of staying human in an increasingly digitized world. There will always be someone on the other side of the screen.
I've seen this before. Interesting:)
 

James.

(Nice Title)
Coldplayer
Joined
Sep 12, 2011
Messages
3,630
I can't believe they're finally playing Let Down again... wish I could see them :(
 

beastwars

Light reflection to fade
Coldplayer
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
1,616
I saw them live in Lisbon almost a month ago. I'm not their best fan (but I like them), and I can only say that they're one of those bands you have to listen to in a concert once in a lifetime.

Setlist
  1. Burn the Witch
  2. Daydreaming
  3. Decks Dark
  4. Desert Island Disk
  5. Ful Stop
  6. My Iron Lung
  7. Talk Show Host
  8. Lotus Flower
  9. The Gloaming
  10. Exit Music (for a Film)
  11. The Numbers
  12. Identikit
  13. Reckoner
  14. Everything in Its Right Place
  15. Idioteque
  16. Bodysnatchers
  17. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
  18. [ENCORE 1]
  19. Bloom
  20. Paranoid Android
  21. Nude
  22. 2 + 2 = 5
  23. There There
  24. [ENCORE 2]
  25. Creep
  26. Karma Police
 

Draco

Broken Hearts Make it Rain
Coldplayer
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
756
It's a little late to say but I saw them at MSG and they sounded like angels.
I didn't expect to hear certain songs to be played, Let Down especially, but they executed it with style
 

42Escapist

You could be me, I could be you
Coldplayer
Joined
Sep 26, 2014
Messages
2,234
Wow, they are actually playing Let Down again. That's as fantastic as Coldplay doing See You Soon a few times on the current tour.

So now Let Down, Creep, Optimistic, and My Iron Lung have returned after long absences. Unfortunately they aren't touring very extensively at the moment so I still won't get to see them. Oh well, True Love Waits, right? ;)
 

I ran away

A Rush of Blood to X&Y
Coldplayer
Charity Donator
Joined
Apr 10, 2015
Messages
20,515
Here is a very interesting article from Pitchfork about Radiohead's fan sites At Ease and Green Plastic and its own website being in this community of social media
http://pitchfork.com/features/article/9890-internet-explorers-the-curious-case-of-radioheads-online-fandom/?mbid=social_facebook

Internet Explorers: The Curious Case of Radiohead’s Online Fandom
For a band that’s viewed technology with a skeptical eye, Radiohead have often appealed to people who aren’t afraid to live their lives online.

When longtime Radiohead fans saw the words “True Love Waits” on the tracklist for the band’s new album, they collectively lost their shit. “TRUE LOVE FUCKING WAITS THOM ACTUALLY DID IT THE ABSOLUTE MADMAN,” one user wrote online. The song was a live favorite that had been teased for more than 20 years but never properly recorded, and the existence of a definitive version offered the closure of a long-open loop, like finally discovering what was in Pulp Fiction’s golden briefcase. “It’s been a long journey for us and the band,” reflected another fan. “I feel as if this was their way of saying thanks, thanks for it all.”

The communal release came after months of frenzied speculation on message boards and throughout social media, as followers scrutinized mysterious leaflets, the registration of a new company, and totally humdrum in-studio photos. This zealous anticipatory dance has become typical for new Radiohead albums, igniting warm reminiscences, excitement, and even a little anxiety. One diehard named Megan told me that, over the last few months, she would wake up in the middle of the night and immediately check her phone to see if the record had dropped. She even dreamed about its release—a nightmare, in fact, because her fantasy album turned out to be made up of Radiohead-penned songs performed by other artists. “I was just devastated that it wasn’t them,” she said. “It was pretty ridiculous.”

From a distance, such devotion to a bunch of middle-aged British art rockers could seem a little wild. But in the five years since 2011’s The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s reputation as an iconic band that spans generations, continents, and technological eras has only gotten bigger. These fans now have more ways to discuss the cloud of rumors that constantly surround the band’s activity, allowing for stray theories to percolate into near-certainties as sites like Twitter and Reddit exponentially speed up the spread of information. At this point, there are teenagers Snapchatting selfies with their Radiohead concert tickets as their parents get wistful on Facebook about buying OK Computer the first day it came out.

Radiohead isn’t the only band whose mere gestures get turned into news stories, of course, but they’re unique in that the underlying architecture of their internet fan network has been in place for more than 20 years. As the internet developed, so did Radiohead, and an understanding of the long-running relationship between the two helps explain why people are still willing to devote their waking hours to the pale quintet’s every move. Because once you head down the band’s endless internet rabbit hole, digital ephemera starts to gain purpose, and mistakes turn into clues that make a strange sort of sense.

Consider an Instagram picture of a red moon posted by Radiohead visual artist Stanley Donwood earlier this year, which incited much fan speculation after it was hastily deleted. And then consider the new album’s title: A Moon Shaped Pool. Suddenly, Donwood’s erasure seems like a definite—though admittedly vague—portent, a reason to believe.


Artwork from Radiohead's official website circa 2004.

Throughout the 1990s, Radiohead thought deeply about the approaching technological age in a way that presaged our modern online era, with its concerns about what all these screens are doing to our brains. “Scrolling up and down, I am born again,” Thom Yorke sang on OK Computer’s “Airbag,” which was written about a car accident, but could also describe the experience of using a message board. Their popularity took root amongst the first wave of internet users, back when the web was more anarchic and undefined, and used primarily by people who felt alienated enough to sit in front of an ugly monitor and post under a pseudonym when almost nobody else was doing it.

Nowadays, we know more than ever about our favorite bands and artists thanks to social media; 20 years ago, though, most bands didn’t even have a website. Radiohead were an exception. But their early online hub was incredibly sparse: a few pages of GIFs and seemingly random text, with little in the way of actual information. No lyrics. No tour dates. No news. It was an allusive vacuum, waiting to be filled.


Early versions of Radiohead's official website were almost comically austere and cryptic, such as this front page screen from 1997.
At the end of 1996, Adriaan Pels was 23 years old and working as a hotel manager in Groningen, Holland, where he grew up. He had an internet connection, which was relatively novel: In that year, less than one percent of the total global population had web access. Pels was looking for something to do online, so he decided to start a website. One inspiration came to mind: Radiohead, a band he’d been hooked on ever since coming across a queasy eruption of a rock song called “My Iron Lung” on the radio and hearing its oddly comforting declaration that “If you're frightened/You can be frightened/You can be, it's OK.” (The group’s breakout 1992 single “Creep” had seemed too much like a novelty to him.)

His new site needed a name. At first he called it Pop Is Dead, after an early single, but that sounded a little lame. In the middle of 1997, he thought of a snippet from “Fitter Happier,” a robo-voiced manifesto from the band’s just-released OK Computer, that seemed to fit, and At Ease went live. Considering its jittery subject, the site’s name was a relatively ironic choice. The calm of the phrase juxtaposed neatly against the profound sentiment on OK Computer that everything was definitely not at ease—that modern times were giving rise to a new sense of alienation, and that the bountiful ’90s could not last. And, practically speaking, “At Ease” was short and started with an “A,” which made it stick out among web rings that indexed fan sites.

Pels detailed his new online hub with hard facts about the band, like the particulars of their discography, which were not easily researchable in a pre-Wikipedia era. He also updated At Ease with news about Radiohead’s productivity, meticulously collecting news items and writing them up as straightforwardly as possible. Occasionally, people would e-mail tips to him. He updated the website when he could, and that was good enough.

Sitting in a Brooklyn cafe, the now 42-year-old Pels looks a bit like the lead singer of the National on an off day in a grey hoodie, beard, and square glasses. Thinking back to his site’s beginnings and how things have changed, he points to a car that drives past us outside the window. “If that car crashes, it will be on the internet five minutes later, or sooner,” he says. “That was much different at the time—it didn't go as fast as it does now.” Another cautionary lyric from OK Computer comes to mind: “Idiot, slow down, slow down.”


Radiohead fan site At Ease circa 2002.

Ironically, OK Computer’s wary read of technology may have been most engaging to those already spending more and more time online. The surge of interest in the band drove traffic to the fan sites, including one called Green Plastic, which was started by a 20-year-old named Jonathan Percy in 1997. Like Pels, Percy was attracted to the infinite possibilities of the digital era and saw the internet as the Wild Wild West, or a Choose Your Own Adventure book—an untamed space where anything could happen. And soon enough, such sites became prominent, trusted sources in the swirling world of Radiohead fandom.

In 1998, an MTV affiliate in Europe ran a news item about bands and their fan sites that included Green Plastic. (At the time, Percy’s creation didn’t have its own domain name, so MTV flashed its unwieldy AOL web address.) The attention funneled even more curious listeners to the site, as music fans in general began to migrate away from radio, TV, and magazines. “It kept growing,” Percy recalls.

Within a few years, there were dozens of fan sites devoted to Radiohead. Follow Me Around was founded by Toronto’s Beryl Tomay in the summer of 1997, when she was only 15. Her parents noticed she was spending more time in front of her computer but soon realized she couldn’t be discouraged. “The only time I wasn't really checking it was when I was in class,” she says. “I was pretty obsessed.” In 1999, Miro Bzduch started a site that exclusively catered to fans in his home country of Slovakia. “We didn't have too much exposure to the outside world, so the motivation came from being able to be a part of something bigger,” he says. By 2002, the site was popular enough to justify an English language relaunch called Treefingers.


Members of Radiohead once posted messages and responded to fans on their official message board. In this note from 2006, Thom Yorke discusses the status of the song “Morning Mr. Magpie,” which would eventually turn up on The King of Limbs five years later.

Meanwhile, the band’s official site started to flesh out. In 1999, it switched from a purposefully opaque K-hole of abstract lyrics and graphics meant to drive fans insane with speculation to a more formal, accessible destination. It was still thin on details, though, and keen to outsource the most time-consuming elements of website management. A page titled “News” read: “Well, obviously if you really wanted news about Radiohead you’d be at some other site that is actually updated more than once a decade. The simple truth is that I don't have any news. But I have found out about some people who do.”

The official site provided links to At Ease, Green Plastic, Follow Me Around, and many others. There was a sincerity and gratitude in this acknowledgment, which was something of a surprise coming from a band often heralded for its obtuse chilliness. A version of the site that came in 2000 added a personal note to its list of links: “These sites have… a flavour far superior to the ‘news’ often found elsewhere. Many thanks to the diligent humans responsible for these pages.”

The release of Kid Adovetailed with Radiohead’s intuitive understanding of the nascent internet culture. Ahead of its arrival in the fall of 2000, the record was streamed for free via a player that any website could embed—the first of its kind—further cementing the link between band and fans. Their official site also launched a message board, where band members would occasionally post, their words highlighted in verified blue.

But just because it was Radiohead’s forum didn’t mean fans would be automatically deferential. In May 2000, someone responded to a message from Yorke by mocking him as a “big star” and accusing him of no longer supporting his local music scene. After a short back-and-forth, the fan asked why he had heard stories of Yorke telling fans to “fuck off” on the street.

Yorke’s answer was grammatically curious but candid: “if i cant handle it then yes. if im fucked up in th head then yes. if i see them again then i would apologise. i am not perfect. i am not very good when people prvoke me. i react. when someone is in you face. interupting you when you are talkign to a loved one. if they are rude. insistent. arrogant and i am not in the mood i will react. if they come up to me in a club pissed out of their head and start drawling away to show off to their mates then i often cant think of much to say. this is why sometimes o dont go out. this is why i often leave the message board. like now. Goodbye.”

Today, even with all the direct avenues opened up by social media, it’s all but impossible to imagine Radiohead ever being as forthcoming about their emotional well-being. Looking back, the post might be read as an attempt to stay relatable in light of the band’s growing fame. “I have a real fucking problem with that,” Yorke once said of the mythology that comes with being in a successful rock band.

At the same time, the way they handled their success couldn’t help but stoke the collective imagination. Nearly every iteration of their official site has been marked by cryptic texts and alien imagery: They are puzzles asking to be solved. As Radiohead’s popularity grew, they never deviated from their aesthetic commitment. The internet was just one more medium for those aesthetics, giving fans more to consider in their devotion. Even their attempts to demystify the process, such as a running diary of the Kid A recording process, contributed to their myth. In acknowledging the fan sites, they teased a deeper connection: When you went to At Ease or Green Plastic, you were reading the same thing Radiohead were reading. Their presence was always known, even when the band itself was absent.


The mysterious shapes and words that made up Radiohead's official web presence served to cultivate their fervid fanbase. Here's a page from the "Imaginery Prisons" section of the band's site circa 2004.
At Ease and Green Plastic also launched message boards that became popular around the turn of the millennium. The posting environment was less exclusive than the official site’s board, where users were careful to maintain their credibility in case a band member dropped by. On the fan sites, there were close readings of the band’s lyrics and slightly conspiratorial discussions over their creative direction. Though Pels and Percy didn’t want to encourage any sense of competition between their sites, their supporters weren’t nearly as nonpartisan. Percy would post a news item and then receive a snide email from an At Ease fan about how his site had been an hour slower, which dimmed his enthusiasm for the passion project.

But such petty sniping was out of his hands and more attributable to the peculiar circadian rhythms driving the behavior of any insular online community. (Fact is, internet users have always been kind of rude.) Meanwhile, Pels and Percy became increasingly elevated as figures of importance within the greater Radiohead scene—online and off. They were approached at shows by people who recognized their photos from the internet. Occasionally, Pels was even asked for his autograph and, one time, he approached Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien at an R.E.M. show and introduced himself as the guy who ran At Ease. To his amazement, O’Brien said he knew who he was.

There were other benefits to running websites that so many fans depended on. Pels got to hear an advance copy of Kid A, owing to his friendship with a music journalist who followed At Ease. In the buildup to 2001’s Amnesiac, Percy and Follow Me Around’s Tomay were invited to design content for something called GooglyMinotaur, an AOL Instant Messenger bot that spat out Radiohead information when provoked. Their sites became partners with Ink Blot, a San Francisco-based music magazine that was developing a network of fan sites, and Percy moved out to the West Coast to become a webmaster for the company. Tomay received $20,000 for joining the network, money that went toward her college tuition. They also got VIP tickets to some shows and briefly met the actual members of Radiohead in a casual setting. Before a 2000 show in Toronto, Tomay received the ultimate call out: Before performing “Follow Me Around,” Yorke specifically mentioned her request for the song. “They knew I lived in Canada, and before the concert I put in bold letters at the top of the site’s news section: ‘RADIOHEAD PLEASE PLAY THIS SONG AT THE CONCERT,’” she says. “That was a highlight.”

A connection to the band could also function as a safety net. At one point, Radiohead’s publishing company came after a number of fan sites that hosted the band’s lyrics, threatening to sue over copyright infringement. Percy panicked and reached out to one of his contacts within Radiohead’s camp. Within a day, the issue was entirely resolved, and the lyrics remained.

Such support from an arena rock group was hardly a given in the post-Napster era, when animosity toward the internet’s drastic reinvention of fandom and music culture ran rampant. Yorke, however, loved Napster. In a 2000 interview with Time, he said it encouraged enthusiasm for music “in a way that the industry has long forgotten to do.” So while Radiohead’s songs often took a cold, hard look at technology, the band never forgot the importance of intense fandom, even as their public presence became increasingly withdrawn.


Around 2001, several Radiohead fan site creators designed content for an AOL Instant Messenger bot called GooglyMinotaur.

The anticipation for 2003’s Hail to the Thieftook root on the message boards, as traffic to the fan sites continued to shoot upward. The server bills for At Ease leapt from $15 to $700 a month, forcing Pels to put ads on the site and solicit fans for money to help with hosting fees. Around this time, Tomay stopped updating Follow Me Around as frequently. She was starting college, and the combined commitments of her course work and social life took hold. Bzduch shuttered his site, too.

At Ease and Green Plastic still flourished, but its founders’ schedules were also growing more complicated. Aside from his work with At Ease, Pels started doing graphic design for the Amsterdam label Excelsior Recordings. Meanwhile, the bursting of the dotcom bubble forced Ink Blot to kill its network of music sites, but Percy used his connections to start working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Both men were no longer bored young adults with hours to burn. They were in their early 30s. They had lives.

Radiohead have always worn a shroud of mystery, but they became even more unpredictable as the years went on. Their 2007 album In Rainbowswas released with only 10 days notice, and fans were asked to pay whatever they wanted to hear it. Around this time, Green Plastic’s traffic hit its peak, and In Rainbows eventually became the band’s best-selling record since OK Computer, moving three million copies worldwide. It proved Radiohead could release a record on the most secretive terms, basically for free, and still be wildly successful, even as industry profits continued to plummet. They were able to take that risk partly due to the fan sites and their communities, which offered a solid bedrock of support.

As social media started to expand, Radiohead continued to retreat. They did no interviews or touring in the buildup to 2011’s The King of Limbs and teased A Moon Shaped Pool only as it was about to be released. Their popularity became increasingly untethered from the typical formalities of record promotion, placing them on the same level as Beyoncé and Kanye West. They managed to avoid the frivolities of mainstream, corporate celebrity culture, too: It’s impossible to think of Thom Yorke making a cameo on “The Muppets,” or Jonny Greenwood joining in an all-star band at the Grammys.

Around 2010, Percy grew tired of maintaining Green Plastic. The message board was still active, but there hadn’t been regular updates for years. He met the woman who would become his wife in 2011, but he didn’t tell her he had once run one of the biggest websites for one of the biggest bands in the world until a couple of years into their relationship. The site remained partly as a shrine to his past, as well as Radiohead’s. “I’ve had a lot of people offer to buy it from me and I’ve always been hesitant,” he says. “It’s my baby.”

Pels continued to update At Ease regularly through 2013, drawing the site’s highest-ever single day traffic—421,971 pageviews—on February 18, 2011, the day The King of Limbs was released. But his updates ceased, too. A few years before, he had moved to New York City with his wife, who he met through the At Ease message boards. He was working full-time, and there wasn’t much new to say about Radiohead, anyway. “I’m still planning to get things running pretty soon again, but work's been crazy as well,” he told me in March. Weeks later, the site hadn’t been updated.


A blog post written by Thom Yorke in 2005 detailing the creation of "Burn the Witch," a song that was finally released earlier this month.

Even though these homegrown fan sites have largely lapsed, people are still poring over Radiohead’s every move. A general interest site like Reddit now provides a similar service for the nearly 40,000 fans currently subscribed to the band’s subreddit, and the rise of up-to-the-second news sites and social media has generally made fan sites a curio of a bygone age. Instead of a Pels or a Percy curating updates during their downtime at work, there’s a democratic network of devotees contributing what they can in real-time.

Radiohead’s own website eventually stopped linking to the fan sites. The message board remains, but its intentionally archaic drop-down format could appeal to only the most tenured users, who now mostly circulate in-jokes that are impenetrable to outsiders. In this way, the circle of life continues: I spoke with one fan who said he joined At Ease around 2003 because the band’s official message board seemed too tight-knit, while another said he preferred Reddit to At Ease because it’s far more accessible and not as prickly toward newcomers. In fact, At Ease is currently highly selective when it comes to accepting new members. (There was a recent problem with some trolls.)

Both the At Ease and Reddit forums currently contain plenty of discussion about A Moon Shaped Pool, but the difference involves a sense of history: On At Ease, there are allusions made to memorably irritating users, power-hungry moderators, deleted posts, and members who died and are remembered by their usernames. It’s a web of connections woven over nearly 20 years.

In the days preceding the new album’s release, both Pels and Percy began updating At Ease and Green Plastic to reflect the news. Percy wrote, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”


Vintage artwork from Radiohead's official site.

A week before A Moon Shaped Pool came out, Radiohead erased their internet presence, whiting out their official site and deleting their tweets and Facebook posts. The symbolism couldn’t be overlooked: It was their attempt at re-emerging from the ether, a fresh start for a band that has surely wondered how to stay restive as its legacy has grown.

But the gesture could only be symbolic. They couldn’t erase At Ease, Green Plastic, or the hundreds of thousands of connections made through places like them. It’s too glib to say Radiohead wouldn’t have become such an institution without the internet and fan sites, but their career trajectory surely would have looked a lot different had they promoted their music the traditional offline way. And even if the band disappeared completely, it’s nice to imagine the message boards continuing to thrive, adding more layers to a shared history that’s gone way beyond what Radiohead might have thought about when they made songs about the importance of staying human in an increasingly digitized world. There will always be someone on the other side of the screen.
Very interesting. I found this website very unexpected and interesting, too:
http://archive.radiohead.com/Site2/
 

Draco

Broken Hearts Make it Rain
Coldplayer
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
756
Radiohead's sense of cynicism and sarcasm even trickles to the backdoors of the Internet
Besides the music that's probably gonna be my criteria to find good bands
 

tov1988

Coldplayer
Coldplayer
Joined
Dec 13, 2014
Messages
65
Been trying to watch pro shots of their recent shows but their aren't many (understandably)

Thom Yorke is such a character live. Not talking about his dancing - let's get that outta the way. -Talking about his interaction with the audience, which is pretty endearing and sweet. He did a lot of that for the Outside Lands performance
 

coldplayer4288

Coldplayer
Coldplayer
Joined
Nov 14, 2015
Messages
40
My Radiohead album ranking:
1. Ok Computer (classic)
2. Kid A (classic)
3. In Rainbows (classic)
4. A moon shaped pool (it's getting there)
5. The Bends
6. Amnesiac
7. Hail to the thief (it's slowly growing on me)
8. The King of Limbs
9. Pablo Honey (barely listen to it)
 

jjmor95

Livin' life in Technicolor
Coldplayer
Joined
Nov 5, 2015
Messages
165
My ranking:

01 - The Bends
02 - In Rainbows
03 - OK Computer
04 - A Moon Shaped Pool
05 - Kid A
06 - Hail to the Thief
07 - Pablo Honey
08 - Amnesiac
09 - The King of Limbs
 

getithom

Baby blue.
Honorary Coldplayer
Coldplayer
Joined
May 11, 2009
Messages
4,002
For me:

1. The Bends
2. OK Computer
3. Hail to the Thief
4. Amnesiac
5. In Rainbows
6. Kid A
7. A Moon Shaped Pool (I wanted to like it more than I do, but I just can't.)
8. King of Limbs
9. Pablo Honey
 

Revolverwin

Champion of the World
Coldplayer
Joined
Jul 13, 2011
Messages
919
For now:

1. In Rainbows
2. OK Computer
3. The Bends
4. Kid A
5. A Moon Shaped Pool
6. Hail to the Thief
7. The King of Limbs
8. Amnesiac
9. Pablo Honey
 

cp3176

Kaleidoscopes
Coldplayer
Joined
Sep 9, 2015
Messages
5,682
OK so here's my ranking:
1. The Bends
2. Kid A
3. OK Computer
4. Hail To The Thief
5. A Moon Shaped Pool
6. Pablo Honey
7. Amnesiac
8. The King Of Limbs

I might come back and post an updated version with In Rainbows once I'm more familiar with it. Not to familiar yet.
 

arushofjacktothehead

A Wispa, A Wispa, A Wispa
Coldplayer
Joined
Aug 27, 2015
Messages
2,529
OK so here's my ranking:
1. The Bends
2. Kid A
3. OK Computer
4. Hail To The Thief
5. A Moon Shaped Pool
6. Pablo Honey
7. Amnesiac
8. The King Of Limbs

I might come back and post an updated version with In Rainbows once I'm more familiar with it. Not to familiar yet.
Pablo at six? Lemme guess (Blow Out is the reason it's so high:D)
 
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