As the internet moves ever closer to bringing virtually everything that ever existed to our fingertips, the anxiety and animosity within the music industry directed toward recordings of live concerts is dissipating. The Grateful Dead patched together the Deadheads of the world in part by permitting taping of their shows, which led to tape trees that facilitated distribution of live shows (and a certain amount of obsessive behavior). But the prevailing attitude during the 70’s, 80’s and 90s was mostly one of antagonism by artists—I recall seeing Tommy Stinson in a used record store in Atlanta bending a Replacements bootleg backwards until the vinyl cracked.
And although artists today still have various levels of resistance to disseminating live recordings, the internet age has enlightened many artists, particularly on the indie side of the block, who see the cash-free exchange of live music as a gift for the rabid fan who could probably download the artist’s studio work for free just as easily but hopefully won’t.
Numerous blogspots of varied repute exist to circulate live recordings obtained legitimately or illegitimately, often with little regard for the quality of the files and rarely with any concern for the artists’ opinions about the process. I’m not here to talk about these sites. I am here though to celebrate NYCTaper. Like a handful of other taping sites, NYCTaper has rules (they inform and get permission from the venue and artist prior to taping) and process (high-quality audience recordings to capture the ambience of the venue, meticulous notation of taping machinery and audio processing). For over six years, NYCTaper has been making shows from venues mostly around New York available for free download in lossy (mp3) or lossless (FLAC) formats.
So let’s raise a glass to NYCTaper tonight. I wrote a bit about one of my favorite NYCTaper shows, Waxahatchee/Katie Crutchfield’s February 2013 show in Brooklyn. Here are a few more of my faves:
Robert Forster, September 15, 2008 Joe’s Pub, NYC: Two years on from the death of his life partner, saintly Grant MacLennan, Forster was touring in support of his solo album cum tribute The Evangelist, The crowd this night seems to be in the low double digits, but the gasps and then whoops as Forster starts up the MacLennan-penned “Quiet Heart” can evoke a tear. Forster shouts out to NYC with a Velvets cover but the remaining 16 songs are a stately stroll through his entire career.
Wilco, June 21, 2013, Solid Sound Festival: The first evening of a festival that they curated, Wilco almost brought Twitter to its knees with this set of 25 songs, only one of which, “Kingpin”, is an original. Starting with “The Boys Are Back In Town” and finishing with the Massachusetts-appropriate “Roadrunner”, with stops along the way for a “Waterloo Sunset”/”Waterloo” diptych, a shredding “Marquee Moon” (Nels Cline! Nels Cline!), and a Tommy Stinson cameo. John Hodgman provides color commentary. And a good time is had by all.
Yo La Tengo, December 22, 2011, Maxwell’s: With shows each night of Hanukkah, YLT have a lot of ground to cover, and 2011’s were especially poignant due to Ira Kaplan’s health scare that year. The set on the 22nd starts out with Ira strumming gently in a chair, and although he never stands up, he definitely revs up, shredding apart Sonic Youth’s “Mote” and 13 minutes of “Pass the Hatchet” with Lee Renaldo himself joining in.