July 3, 2007 -- Hoping to become a cool band? Play a show in Antarctica.
Nunatak, a band made up of five British scientists stationed at the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera research station, is doing just that. The band will play the first live concert on the continent Saturday. The performance is part of Al Gore's Live Earth festival, which will feature all-day concerts on every continent in order to raise awareness of climate change.
Stationed at Rothera, the band's members are researching climate change and evolutional biology on the Antarctic peninsula.
"I can't believe we've been invited to do this," said Matt Balmer, lead singer of Nunatak. "It's a fantastic opportunity to encourage people of the world to deal with climate change."
Although each band member has played in a band before, the group has only been rehearsing since October. Saturday will be Nunatak's first live performance.
Influences Range Far and Wide
Nunatak's musical influences range from local bands to novelty acts.
"Our biggest influence is the mighty Hoff," said a laughing Tris Thorne, Nunatak's fiddler, referring to "Baywatch" star and musician and David Hasselhoff. "We listen to Britney Spears a lot, too," he added.
Thorne also listens to acts from his native Scotland like Chris Dreever.
Because scientific research takes priority over the musical sort at Rothera, simply finding time to rehearse has been Nunatak's biggest challenge.
"We're a lot busier than most people expect, but we make the time," said Thorne. "Thursdays are our music nights. We often play together on the weekends too."
A Concert for Up to 2 Billion
Because of Antarctica's freezing temperatures and prolonged darkness in winter, Nunatak's audience will consist of the other 17 scientists stationed in the area. However, the concert will be viewed by up to 2 billion people via film, television and the Internet.
The Live Earth performance will be the biggest show that any member of Nunatak has played.
"It's as many people as you can squeeze into a British pub," said Thorne of his past gigs. "Having 2 billion people potentially watch your show is so staggering that we can't even comprehend it."
In order to film the show, a new HD movie camera and sound gear were shipped to the station. A high-speed data link will transmit the performance to the United Kingdom.
The brutal Antarctic conditions have also affected Nunatak's instruments. Thorne admitted that his fiddle was coming apart at the seams.
"It's not due to the cold as much as the extreme dryness of the snow and the environment," said Thorne. "The hardest part is fingers in the metal strings."
All the band's members will be performing with gloves on in order to avoid losing finger mobility.
Performing Is Welcome Change From Routine
For lead singer Balmer, the performance provides a welcome change from the routine at the Rothera research station.
"We expected to spend our Antarctic winter here at Rothera quietly getting on with our work and maybe performing at the occasional Saturday night party," said Balmer. "We could never have imagined taking part in a global concert!"
Despite the wave of publicity Nunatak has received over the Antarctic concert, it has no plans to pursue a music career.
"By the time we all get back home [in 2008 or 2009], all of the publicity from this will be forgotten," said Thorne. "We're not celebrities, and just like playing music for its own sake."
Nonetheless, Thorne did not rule out playing at pubs with one or two of his band members once he returns home.
Thorne says that the performance could be overwhelmingly positive in highlighting the issue of climate change in Antarctica.
Spotlight on Antarctica's Climate Change
"The concert has brought a spotlight to the Antarctic like nothing else," said Thorne. "People can see how global climate change affects our piece of earth."
Nunatak says that presenting the issue in the form of a music show could ultimately attract a different audience.
"Unfortunately, the issue of climate change isn't perceived to be cool among youth," said Thorne. "Music is. This public awareness of the Antarctic will hopefully attract even more talented scientists and engineers."
Nunatak's performance can be viewed Saturday at Liveearth.msn.com.