My, how good we have it. To listen to live recordings by your favorite artists there’s no more waiting for your man, in some questionable locale, $27 in your hand or trying to remember what the secret code word was to get access to the “under the counter stuff” in some basement record store. These days you just download it from the smorgasbord of thousands of shows available at any given moment. Every Christmas to New Year’s, dime has their “Freeloader” days, where it’s ‘grab all you can’ and for once the pesky issue of share ratios can be forgotten. This year, I was going to take maximum advantage of the opportunity and I was all set up. I didn’t over-eat or drink during the holidays but i sure binge downloaded like dime would go away from January 2nd.
The stars have to be material that you really want, so that you don’t just download for the sake of it, filling up your hard drives with material you never listen to, and you need to have a good connection, best to someone with a “fat pipe”, where 1.3 GB dl’s take a mere 20+ minutes (I’m super jealous as my upload speed is capped at about 80kb/s and I can’t get more from my current provider for nagging phone calls or $$). It’s most ideal, if there is a whole serious of shows you want and for me this year it was the complete The Who’s 1979 winter US tour in hi-rez (except Chicago), perfectly timed for Freeloader days. I love the Who but I have to laugh at myself too for going so “deep” on a band that basically gave you the same night after night – but what they did give you, safe for Keith Moon collapsing on first US dates (not in ’79, thankfully), “Why do our tours always start like this?”, Roger could be heard onstage in Boston in 1976. I do love how the band decided in the early 70’s that there was no better way to start a Who show than with “Can’t Explain/Substitute” and they stuck to that in an extreme case of “it’s the singer, not the song”.
I also found two shows by another band – 19 years and an ocean and a continent apart, that I had actually attended, which is rare because I really haven’t seen that many shows. The joy of finding those carried me all through Christmas day and, surprisingly, it was even bigger than actually hearing the first older recording. Interesting how that can go. When selecting torrents, I usually start with the classics and then branch out. So, The Who as the (big) main course, then two Led Zeppelin needledrops from Japanese OG label bootlegs (gotta have those!), a Rainbow live in Japan Mr. Peach, Pink Floyd – Boston 1975 in hi-rez [there are so many variations of that show out there, I’m sure some downloaders have to think hard, which version it is that they have (the Steve Hopkins source?, the Lampinski one? (those two sound quite alike, don’t they?), the matrix?)], a few 80’s bands, some new stuff (FMs by Lenny Kravitz and Coldplay, who tend to win me over despite my brain trying to find reasons that they shouldn’t, for some reason) and – important – giving an artist a chance I had not previously not considered. This year it was Warren Haynes.
Then there are the ones I’d love to download but don’t as I know I will not really get into them, save for the technical aspects, perhaps. I’d have loved to give the newly discovered Mike Millard Dylan tapes a listen but I know I’d never pull them out for pure enjoyment later. Unless you have unlimited resources, there has to be some discipline in this. Coming back to Led Zeppelin, I discovered that they bring me to a state after a while I call “Led Zep live fatigue”. I really like the idea of listening to yet another Led Zeppelin concert but in reality, I find I can only take so much of it. This was made worse when I tried to sit through a live version of “Moby Dick” – basically a 40+ minutes drum solo – on a CDR copy of their professionally mixed Madison Square Garden 1975 gig. I’m sure you had to have been there, as they say.
What I look for is a certain sound/mix/ambiance that really engages me, it’s hard to describe it. This can be found more often in audience recordings, although once in a while I find an FM recording with the right amount of “oomph”, without too much compression and high frequency whine or a soundboard that isn’t too dry and sterile. Billy Joel live from London 1990 with his dramatic intro to “Storm Front”, comes to mind, for example. Many of the famous tapers ended up achieving the desired ‘sweet sound’ on their captures. Other recordings that come to mind are Queen live at the Boston Garden in 1977, taped from the edge of the stage and Peter Gabriel live in San Francisco & San Jose at the very end of his 1982 North American Tour.
So, there I was furiously “A&R-ing” samples, calculating and taking chances with torrents that had as few as 1 seed left (I ended up getting them all completed, not a fate every hopeful downloader meets). Also, having to learn all over how to reseed like a noob; it’s so rare that someone wants a show you actually have, well, at least for me. I do hope to resume uploading in 2015 with a few choice projects but finding older tapes is hard. I do envy the JEMS team for being able to locate all these rare source tapes.
I would like to express thanks to all the uploaders and all their hard works and wish you all a Happy New Year.