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Download Festival to make U.S. debut

Tickets for the American version of Britain's popular music and technology festival are set to go on sale this weekend.

A sort of Woodstock for the technological age, the Download Festival is more than a standalone music event.

The popular British rock festival is an "enhanced music experience" that creates an enduring community of music and technology enthusiasts, said Christopher Swope, a business development executive at Clear Channel Entertainment. The New York-based company is the creator of the event, which makes its U.S. debut in the Silicon Valley this October.

Tickets to the Oct. 8 event go on sale online at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday, and they buy admission to the alternative music festival featuring The Killers, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Doves, H.I.M. and Mindless Self Indulgence.

But a ticket also gives you access to the "Download Dog," an electronic mascot that helps festival-goers access concert updates, artist interviews and special offers, such as a free one-month subscription to Napster and a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

On concert day, audience members and others will be able to chat with artists backstage using their cell phones and AOL Instant Messenger. They'll be able to test a broadband-speed mobile service that's soon to be offered by Amp'd Mobile. And they can play video games in an igloo-shaped "gaming den" sponsored by GameTap, the Turner Broadcasting broadband gaming network that's set to launch in the fall, Swope said.

"They'll be able to experience cutting-edge technology," Swope said, adding that the festival builds on the proven U.K. model and "takes it to a higher level."

Participants will be able to walk away with a CD of live performances from the festival. Alternately, they can order one later from the year-round concert site, which will also offer related downloads of cell phone ring tones and wallpaper.

Selling like hot cookies
The show was just announced this week, and people are already going to the site "by the thousands," said Aaron Siuda, a spokesman for the festival's promoter, San Francisco-based Bill Graham Presents.

The Download Festival has been held annually since 2003 in the U.K., where it draws some 150,000 people, Siuda said. With all the technology tie-ins, the Silicon Valley concert venue of the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View was a logical choice, he added.

The British concerts have featured hard-rock artists such as Metallica and Audioslave. The U.S. show's alternative bent caters more to the taste of residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the local hard-rock radio station recently went under, Siuda said. Plus, the Bay Area already has a couple other hard-rock concert venues.

Tickets for the Download Festival cost $49.50 for reserved seats and $29.50 for the lawn and are available at the Shoreline box office, BGP.com and ticketmaster.com. For more information, go to the concert site at www.downloadfestival.com.