One can’t begin to discuss even the cursory history of Phish without mentioning the role of tapers and the taping community. After every show and tour, hundreds of padded envelopes criss-crossed the country and helped spread the gospel of Phish in a fashion similiar to the way bits & bytes travel the Internet now. From one to one trades, to complex trading trees, to blanks & postage offers, to taping parties, Phish tapes were constantly circulating. At the root of every chain and the beginning of every trade, was a taper who selflessley put recording the shows above all else.
Initially, it was with baited breath that people waited to receive tapes to even find out what was played last week. Likewise, with the arrival of a fresh batch of tapes it was an opportunity to hear a debut, to hear what all the buzz from a particular show was about or to hear a new cover torn to shreds the first time. As time went by, and set-lists become disseminated quicker through the internet, tapes were no longer needed to know what was played but rather as the first opportunity to listen to the magic that was happening elsewhere in the country. Though tapes have long since been replaced with digital, setlists are instantly updated live-time at current.phish.net or m.phish.net, LivePhish has the show available for download within an hour of the show ending, and you can stream the show as you leave the parking lot from the Phish app, there still exists an incredibly energized and dedicated taping community.
some of the taper rigs from Mansfield, MA 'Great Woods' Picture credit: Parker Harrington
Some people may ask why? Why still tape the shows? The answer is simple: Audience recordings (AUDs) can be of stunning quality and offer a listening experience that soundboards simply cannot match. Not only can top quality AUDs match the quality of the LivePhish offerings, in many cases they can exceed them. Though weeding through all the offerings can be a daunting task, Chris Keiner from his Phish Listening Room blog listens to all of them and shares his thoughts on the best “pulls” from each show.
I had the opportunity to chat with Chris, along with Lenny Stubbe who is one of the more prolific tapers and uploaders working the Phish circuit now.
In a wide ranging interview, we discussed everything from taping in general, AUD vs SBD, technology, the past, present & future of taping, and the importance of capturing live music as a whole.
How long have you been listening to Phish and what got you interested in them? What are some of your other musical interests?
Chris Keiner (CK):I had listened to a bit of Phish starting around 1992, but I didn’t go to my first show until 1995. I spent a fair amount of time catching Dead shows from 1991 through my last one at Deer Creek in 1995. Still a big fan of the Dead. The main thing that sparked my interest in Phish was the notion that the scene was similar to the Dead, then after 3 or 4 shows, my interest was definitely more about the music than the party. 80+ shows later, it's definitely about the creativity on stage, the willingness to experiment, the whole thing. Of course, if you’re reading my blog, you already get that. Other than Phish, I’m a big fan of MMW and I really like the Wood Brothers, and I’ve been in a bluegrass band for about 10 years, though that is waning on me. More into funk grooves than the acoustic thing anymore. Bottom line, while I love music that makes me stare into space and wonder at the beauty of it all, I really just like to dance my ass off and music that makes me do that organically is what I really dig.
Lenny Stubbe (LS): I’ve been listening to Phish since around the spring of 93 when an old Deadhead friend of mine handed me a cassette of GAMH 10/18/91. Saw my first show 8/7/93 Darien after more listening and being really inspired by the release of Rift, still my favorite Phish studio work. I’m ultimately a Deadhead at heart since I was 16 in 92 though, but Phish reached that GD level with me real quick, like 94 quick. I think after Stabler Arena, then Onondaga 94 I was pretty knocked over. I was dialed in though before those shows. My first “see the light get there” moment with Phish was the 4/10/94 Hood. Just magical. I still to this day though struggle with some of the older Deadheads I know in trying to get them to give Phish a chance. I begged a few close friends to go to Clifford Ball with me, and only one of them to this day regrets it. Because of this I thought it was extra special to see Charlie Miller of GD taping fame cross the Phish lines this summer. It was cool to chat and hang out with him at Darien. Maybe some of my favorite people in the Dead scene will now think about giving the mature 3.0 Phish more of a listen now! Both scenes are intertwined for me so it’s always been a passion for me to compare and contrast the two. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it, hence the name of taping site dead-phish.com. That name came from a sticker an old Deadhead gave me in the lot at 6/30/95 because I was probably the only one wearing a Phish summer tour 94 shirt in a GD lot.
Chris, when did you start your blog & Lenny, when did you start taping?
CK: I started my blog last fall right before Fall tour started. Initially I imagined doing what I am doing, but also sitting and listening to an entire Phish show and just breaking it down, jam by jam, even note by note. But frankly, after doing that twice, I decided it took away from my enjoyment of the music to analyze it that complexly with a notepad and what not. The blog kind of made sense because I want the best sounding recording period, and chatting with folks on the Phish Thoughts blog, I realized that there were a lot of other people who wanted that too. So, I just started doing it.
LS: I was strictly a patch taper in 95 and 96, and played with some low end stage mics and Coresound stealth mics. I bought a D7 95, then a DAP1 when they were released in 96, and got to know a lot of tapers from going to shows, frequenting GD/Phish Usenet, and friends locally in Buffalo. I would go to shows and have my choice of between a half dozen rigs or more to patch from. Every time I would consider what mics to buy, I realized why bother when I’m constantly patching into friends B&K and Schoeps rigs every show, and there were plenty of them. I also got to tape and know many of the legends out there, so I was really lucky in the exposure I got and tapes I walked away with. I was also an intense tape trader from 93 on. Articles in Relix/Unbroken Chain, trading with very old school Phish tapers who got the 1st gen tapes, and then DAT trading with the guys who had the goods. So I got a real education all the way around on what was good, and how to get it. I was also intensely into the music, which sometimes I found wasn’t always the case with all tapers, but definitely some. I was submitting reviews to Deadbase and Phish.net, debate with Dirk420 and other phans online, and just wanted to hear every note they were playing. I got away from the taping scene itself to start a career and family, but still went to shows and collected music like always. I was lucky that Phish took a couple breaks during all that time, and came back strong at the perfect time for me personally.
Once 3.0 rolled around, I was blown away by the sound coming out of the PA at the shows I was attending and the AUD’s I was pulling down on etree, so it didn’t take long (August 09 after returning from a run of shows) to pull the trigger on a B&K/DPA rig. Thus my deep dive into taping again.
While by no means am I a veteran/long time taper, I have put a ton of time into the music and taping aspect of Phish over the years, and the respective cultures of each. Where not a lot of tapers dig deeply into the music, and maybe not a lot of hardcore Phans really care about the aspects of taping or making a good aud tape. These have always been two things I am really proud of and lucky to have experienced to the extreme!
Chris, how about you, have you ever taped shows yourself?
CK: A long time ago I bought a used D-5 cassette deck that I took to shows in fall ‘97 and summer ‘98. I was your basic “patch monkey” just plugging into whatever mics looked the best, sometimes in a line 10 or 12 decks long. I got some great tapes that way and that definitely sparked my interest in different setups and the differences in sound from them. Way back then I was labeling my tapes with at least the mics and preamps. Back then, I always looked for the Geffell or B&K mics and begged a patch from the taper. For awhile I had a minidisk deck and some stealth binaurals that I used to tape some jazz and bluegrass shows. I did get some great recordings from campsites at Bean Blossom, but man I’d be hard pressed to find those recordings and forget about the MD player, that crapped out a long time ago. Still got the mics, but they don’t get used much anymore.
What’s your methodology for reviewing the shows?
CK: My methodology is pretty straightforward. I look at the setlist and pick four tunes or so that show the greatest dynamic range (particularly looking for songs where Mike drops a bomb). For instance, I will almost always choose Tweeprise if it comes up because one of the ways you can tell how a tape is performing down low is when Mike drops that first bass note. I want it to hammer my subwoofer, but give me the full tone of the note. Almost every recording gets the highs pretty good, the big difference, to my ears, is the dynamic range down low. The best recordings give you good tone on the lowest notes that Mike plays without sounding boomy or conflicting with Page or Trey playing low notes. So anyway, I download those four tunes from every source I can find, then I listen to them. Usually I can eliminate 2 or 3 mics right away, either too thin, too boomy, not enough tone, etc. I go through each song, mic by mic and do a straightforward comparison. I run my system flat as I don’t want any EQ to prejudice one sound against another. Also, I listen to things pretty loud, loud enough that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have a conversation without turning it down. I also do all my listening on my stereo rather than phones. Though, after I pick ‘em they spend a fair amount of time on the iPod at the gym or in the car.
How quickly do the first sources typically appear for a show? And when do you feel there has been enough time that you can start making your reviews? Is the goal of PhishListening to review every show?
CK: The first sources are usually available by 5:00 am the following morning. However, I like to give it a week. I know if I was taping, I would be hitting the bottle or the sack after a show, not messing around on my PC...wait until I get home for that! I want to make sure there are several sources to choose from. Reviewing too early, I might miss a great sounding recording. My goal is to review every Phish show going forward. I have been toying with some kind of tape of the week, or just highlighting great sounding recordings that are popping up on etree all the time during the “off season”. With Phish not touring this fall, going to have to come up with something for the blog.
What is the typical “workflow” from getting a show recorded to getting it up on eTree?
LS: There’s quite a bit that goes into it, more than folks realize. It’s a true labor of love. One of the greatest negatives of taping by far is what it takes from the enjoyment of the show. One of the other reasons I got away from it for so long. I wanted to be on the rail, or rocking out Page-side, not tied down in the OTS (Official Tapers Section) watching levels, and being the last one out tearing down and lugging out gear.
In terms of actual taping workflow, one of the first orders of business is getting in at doors to secure the DFC (Dead Front Center) position of the OTS, or working with a fellow taper friend in advance who plans to secure and hold space for you. Setting up your gear, monitoring your levels and making any minor adjustments as the show goes on, then tearing down is the basic gist of it. Many things can go wrong though from equipment issues, to Phans who don’t understand what you’re doing and get in the way, to venue staff.
Being centered, as close as possible, and mic positioning is all very important to getting a good audience pull as well. I have found a little extra stand height has also helped a great deal in getting above any chatting and to just get up and capture the sound Garry Brown is putting out from that monster PA system.
The post production workflow basically consists of transferring the files from your recorder's hard drive or SD card, to your computer's hard drive, making any adjustments such as normalizing (boosting the levels evenly to a selected max peak), maybe adding a db or two of gain, editing any anomalies such as balloon pops, or unusual noises, and adding fades in at the beginning and end of each set.
Depending on the bit depth and sampling rate you recorded in (most tapers today recording in 24 bit high resolution quality), you may need to apply dither or convert the bit depth down for a 16 bit version, and re-sample down to 44.1 khz for CD capabilities as this is the most common format for collectors. This is definitely a huge extra step that tapers take to appease the masses, but I truly believe tapers want a CD quality version for themselves whether for CD or iPod use, so I think many of us do it anyway and then share.
You then would compress to lossless FLAC, maybe FLAC tag your files, create a text file and checksums, and get ready to torrent which includes creating a torrent file and seeding the torrent on the bt.etree.org torrent tracker, which is the unofficial home for Phish aud postings. It can be an intense, yet very fun and rewarding process in post production!
Chris, do you keep all versions of what you download or just the cream of the crop?
CK: I keep the links to everything, but for storage reasons, I really only want the best version of each show. If I find one that is better, since I store everything on an external hard drive, I just delete the previous one and replace it with the better one.
How much storage space do you have dedicated to Phish? In total for your music collection?
CK: I have two 2TB drives that run my entire music collection. Since it came out, I have transitioned to storing everything in ALAC format as I use iTunes for most of my playback. I’ve got an airport express with an optical digital out to the stereo so I can stream everything losslessly through my wifi network to the stereo. Works really well and I don’t end up with CD’s all over the place. I keep two 2TB’s as backups too just in case a hard drive fails. The Phish collection runs into around 600 GB, with around 1TB devoted to the Dead and then another 600GB or so of other stuff. Probably need to get some more drives soon.
LS: For Phish only I have a 4 TB WD external set to RAID1, and I’m using around 1.5 TB of 2.0 TB available for just Phish. Phish side projects I have with other bands and GD side projects on a separate 4 TB drive mirrored as well. In all I have 4 drives with 14 TB worth space set to RAID1, so 7 TB available, I’m currently sitting on around 5 TB of music in all. Collecting, archiving and documenting has always been a huge part of my existence with this great music we love (as well as talking about it!), so I have always put a lot of time and energy into it. As important as collecting the music, documenting what I collected is a huge part of it for me as well. There’s no way I could have this much music without a master list, so I keep an Excel doc that’s almost 10 years old now since I starting downloading music online. In addition to the show info itself, I keep taper names and etree shnid numbers, which are especially critical with Phish and Grateful Dead filesets with all the remasters and new sources abound. As a source hound, I couldn’t avoid duplicate downloads without a detailed list. I’m hoping a website steps up in the near future to offer our community a high quality standard to track our music online, but no one has yet. Etree is the standard in my mind, and I know they’re working on something new so I’m hoping that’s what works out for our community, and we can all have a common place to trade and share our music on our list easily.
What are a few top sounding AUDs from last couple of years?
CK: That’s a tough one. I really, really love the sound of the MK4v’s from Blossom 2010. The MK4v sources from Bethel this year are just electric sounding. The KM150’s from Detroit and Blossom this year are also really good. The Neumann TLM170 source from 1-1-11 has gotten a ton of spins at my place.
Is the 1-1-11 you mentioned Scott Bernstein's source?
CK: Yes, that's the one. http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=541544
Frankly, if that show hasn’t been spun a lot at your place, you aren’t doing it right.
Blossom 2010 - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=536626
Bethel 1 2011 - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=545250
Bethel 2 2011 - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=545263
Bethel 3 2011 - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=545297
DTE 2011 - http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=545537
LS: I love this question because I love collecting all the different great sources that are out there. It’s like going to your favorite restaurant and trying something different on the menu each time you go. Before I answer this though, I would like to preface and sort of modify the question for my response a bit, in that I’d like take this opportunity to list some of my personal favorite AUD’s from the past couple years as opposed to the “top sounding”, as the one thing to emphasize more than anything is, listening to a good aud in many cases is all about personal taste or preference. We have an AMAZING community of tapers in Phish scene, still! Truly amazing! Great camaraderie as you would expect in any group or club of guys. We had an amazing group of tapers as well in the old days, particularly in the mid-90’s when I started hanging out in tapers sections. From my experience, everyone does a great job of respecting each other and appreciating the common goal we are all out to achieve, which is to document, share and archive the best recording we possibly can.
Each taper comes to the show with a unique ensemble of equipment that creates the unique sound they’re going to capture. Different mics have different flavors as you can easily tell just by reading Chris’ Phish taping blog. So with most people it’s a matter of personal taste, and what you like to hear in a good aud, not necessarily what the best aud is. Sure you can tell sometimes if someone had the right equipment in the right spot at the right time, they probably got an overall “better” sounding pull that night. But ultimately if we’re all taping together in the section, each taper is brewing a different stew that night with their unique tools. That’s the real fun for tapers! If all our gear sounded the same, there would be no fun in it, and we really wouldn’t need more than one guy or gal to show up and tape the show.
With all that said, I should also say I don’t download every source for every show. There are folks like Chris, and even guys like Jason Sobel and many of the long time etree guys who have it all and seed a ton (shnfamily, Duanebase Week4paug, CrazyEd etc.) who do a fantastic job of collecting and sharing who can speak from a broader perspective on the quality of all the different sources out there. In terms of 3.0 Phish, I go after a lot of the sources I prefer, the “stew” and ingredients that I personally like the best, so when I list my favorite sources of the past couple years, I’ll be listing my personal favorites of only what I’ve downloaded. There are a TON of great sources out there 3.0, a TON. I know a lot of the guys and consider many of them friends, so I feel bad not listing a great source for everyone! But these would be my personal favorites of what I’ve downloaded and listened to 3.0 since Phish took back to the stage in order by date:
Ned Struzziero’s 4 Channel DPA 4023+Schoeps CCM41v from Camden 09
Craig Davis’ B&K/DPA 4022’s and Taylor Caine’s Schoeps MK22’s from Red Rocks 09.
Nicky C’s (schoepsnbox) Schoeps MK4 FOB from Philly 09
Brian Austin’s Schoeps MK5 from Raleigh 10
Team “Killin in the Name’s” Schoeps MK4v FOB from Alpharetta 10
Taylor Caine’s 4 channel Schoeps MK22+MK4v+Schoeps toobs FOB from Telluride 10
(we could truly do an entire round table itself on Taylor’s amazing Phish pulls. He has set the standard at the many shows he has documented 3.0)
KC Cadwallader’s Neumann AK50 from Deer Creek 10
Sonic Sound’s 4 Channel Schoeps MK41v+MK5 (omni) FOB Atlantic City from Halloween run 10
Derek Davis’ Schoeps MK4v + Schoeps toobs from Raleigh 11
Adam “Big Perm” Downs’ Schoeps MK4v + Schoeps toobs FOB from Portsmouth 11
So many more, too many to mention. Again, these are just my favorites of what I have downloaded.
Any particular microphone that you can look at and instantly know that the output will be great?
CK: There’s more a few tapers that I know bring a top recording every night. Taylorc does a great job consistently. Lenny’s DPA recordings have been great. I think some of the DPA sources tend to be a bit boomy or at least low end heavy, but Lenny’s have a great balance and keep the crisp highs. Padelimike is another guy I look for. I thought his recordings of NYE 2009-2010 were great. Some thought they lacked bass response, but I thought they were golden.
What differentiates the AUDs from the LP downloads? Pros & Cons?
CK: I have a definite preference for a good AUD recording. First of all, you get the sound that was actually in the room. A SBD is just a reproduction of what was sent to the amps. Particularly for lower frequencies, like bass and kick drums, the amps are huge, requiring less signal (relatively speaking) from the SBD, which often makes SBD’s thin sounding, compared to what actually went down in the hall. Phish has worked to improve this by having the SBD’s separately mixed after the fiasco of the 2009 sbds which are just unlistenable to my ears. The other aspect is that crowd. I like to hear that low rumble of the crowd, hear people screaming when the band is raging, it adds to the ambiance of the recording. Now, that said, I don’t want to hear a conversation about some ex-girlfriend in the middle of a song, which has happened before. Lenny is probably better able to comment on this, but I think raising the mics up higher, and keeping talkers out of the OTS has largely fixed this problem.
LS: A good audience recording puts you back in your seat! It puts you back at that place in time in your life when you were rocking out to an amazing, most memorable Phish show! Good aud’s give you wonderful feel of the sound in the room that night, the energy between the band and audience, and that complete live experience! If you crank up a good audience on a good stereo system, nothing beats it! It will truly blow you away.
The only downfalls of any audience recording would come mostly from chatter, particularly on FOB (front of board) recordings because you have to run your stand lower, closer to talking and clapping, Also sometimes the tapers sections are a bit further back than we prefer, so some aud’s could suffer from a distant sound to them. We haven’t had this issue 3.0 as much outside of maybe Alpharetta due to the location of the tapers section. But as I’ve been telling everyone, Garry Brown (Phish’s FOH sound engineer) has been delivering the sound to us in the tapers section with his amazing equipment, so we haven’t had to go up front to get it.
SBD’s are sterile, and just don’t have the life that a good audience recording does. Sure they pipe in some crowd noise to the Live Phish recordings, but those sbd’s in no way give you a feel of what was going on in that room that night. For me, I go to Phish shows for the whole experience of sharing the music with 20,000 mutual friends. When I want to relive that night, I pull out a great aud!
If you’re going to re-listen to a show on a boom box, a Live Phish sbd is your best bet, as a boom box doesn’t have the output capabilities to put out the dynamics of a good audience recording. It’s like cooking a Filet Mignon on hot asphalt. You need the right tools to get the job done! So a good stereo system, or good headphones are critical to get the most out of your audience recording listening!
And Chris does hit the nail on the head in regards to keeping talkers out of the OTS (Official Tapers Section). I have talked to tapers about this. A little extra stand height from the OTS is very helpful in getting up over the chatters. And yes, it doesn’t hurt as a taper to politely as folks near the mic stands if they’d please respect what’s going on. If you see a bunch of mic stands, common sense would tell you underneath them is not the place to hold a conversation when the music is going. Another advantage to taping OTS vs FOB, is you can crank up the stand and really get the sound. Padelimike (Mike Kutick) runs his stand higher than anyone by far. 13’ feet or so. He goes for it and he gets it! His recordings are always solid, and he never has chatters.
What does a typical taper’s gear consist of these days and what’s the range (albeit likely quite large) of what that would cost?
LS: Gear today consists of ⅔ of what it always has; mics and sometimes an outboard pre amp and/or analog>digital converter. What has changed in the past 5 or 6 years is the jump to hard drive recorders with high quality internal preamps and analog>digital converters that offer 24 bit high resolution recording. What people sometimes don’t realize is the amount of accessories that goes into a tapers gear, from shock mounts, mic clips, clamps, high quality cables and interconnects, as well as different stands and mounting options for the mic’s which can be expensive sometimes, outside of the cost of the actual gear itself.
Gear could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s like any hobby from golf to hot rod cars, you can spend as much as you want or can afford. If someone wanted to seriously get into recording Phish, they could jump in and make a nice recording by picking up some used gear and look to spend $500-$600 at minimum, for full bodied small diaphragm condenser mics and an all in one recorder. You could spend less and make good recordings with lower cost stealth mics that are available. Taperssection.com is a fantastic website with all the resources you’d need to do the needed research to get started in the hobby. It’s very user friendly, and kind to new users with its FAQ and guide for people getting started. Highly recommended. The Yard Sale forum there is a great place to pick up used gear at a great price, and will give you an idea of how much you’d need to spend to get into the gear you’re looking for.
16 Bit vs. 24 Bit. Bullshit or meaningful differences for the listener (LivePhish has started offering 24 bit FLAC sets as well as 24 bit filesets of AUDs being available on eTree for a long time)
CK: On a theoretical level, I completely understand that there is more information retained on a 24bit, 96kHz recording, however I just haven’t heard that big of a difference. I have a system that is probably on the low-end of true Hi-Fi stuff, it's better than most, but not supreme (you can check my blog for the details) Given that 24bit files can’t be played on an iPod (yet) and that they are huge, they are probably only reasonable for the person who is archiving everything. Lenny might have some better insight into that. Last fall I grabbed 24 bit wherever available, this summer, its 16 bit all the way.
LS: I don’t have the technical answers for this, but my feeling is high def is pretty cool anytime you can achieve it. It sure was with our TV’s when we went high definition. But it’s not like HDTV where you’ll see/hear a dramatic difference. Whether or not the average listener can hear a real difference is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is the format in which you are recording. The greater (higher resolution) the format the better IMO. You’re capturing more. A higher ceiling so to speak. We could also dither/take it down if needed, but you can’t take it up. So I am completely sold on recording in the 24 bit realm to preserve the audio in the highest format possible. There is no telling what the future will hold, and how we may be able to better utilize our 24 bit high res files in the future. And there couldn’t be a better endorsement than livephish.com, who recently began offering High Resolution FLAC downloads at a premium price. They obviously find value in it as they have added it to the selection of file formats available.
Do you think AUDs would be more approachable to the masses if there was a Live Music tracker that included lossy recordings like MP3 too?
CK: There are plenty of places that you can get MP3 copies of recordings, like Miner’s archive. I prefer to stay lossless (which is why I love ALAC files), but I can see the desire to have things more compressed. That said, the cost of storage is practically nothing anymore with TB drives going for $70 or less. The barriers to going lossless are disappearing every day. Broadband is now ubiquitous, storage is cheap, and most people are dropping into iTunes or some other system that can convert to lossy if you want.
LS: I don’t think so. For Phish that may seem like a good idea because Phish is not permitted on the Live Music Archive, which offers MP3’s of recordings posted. I’m still a firm believer that MP3’s shouldn’t be promoted and spread far and wide. They should be for personal use only, as they are a very inferior format. We should still keep focusing on the lossless format distribution only, and just recommend people listen with good headphones or on good stereos the same when listening to aud’s!
Do you mind if people transcode your recordings? If not, do some tapers care? And if yes, isn’t there some hypocrisy in that Phish allows the taping with limited restriction (no resale, etc) and then people slap on their own restrictions?
CK: I think that what somebody does with a recording once they download it is pretty much their business, as long as they aren’t selling it. I’ve got a buddy that runs a site called phish auds, what he does is remaster audience recordings to give them a little polish. It really makes a difference, both in terms of volume, bringing up the low-end, shimmer on the highs, etc. We’ve already chatted about a few of the recordings from this summer that might benefit from his remastering. If he does that, you can bet I’ll be linking to some of those. At the end of the day, I want a recording that best matches what was in the venue, that makes Phish sound the best, regardless of how they were playing. If that involves doing some tweaks in Cakewalk or Sound Forge, so be it.
LS: I don’t care what people do with my recordings, as long as they don’t sell them! Some tapers do mind their stuff getting decoded to MP3, and they note that in their text files. Tapers putting on restrictions is simply because they don’t want to pollute the waters too badly with MP3s, that’s all. Putting on restrictions doesn’t bother me that much, I get that they are trying to preserve a good thing. What bothers me more is tapers who don’t share! There are a lot who don’t, and that’s something I’d like to work more on changing! I have lots of thoughts on that! :)
Do you exclusively find your downloads on etree or are there others?
CK: For Phish, etree is just a great spot. Most of the tapers use it, it has enough folks to get torrents flowing fast, etc. For the Dead it's great too. I do use a few other sites that maybe don’t follow all the rules to get recordings from Dylan, Clapton, Zeppelin, Airplane, etc. Plus, I kind of dig videos too. My rule is don’t sell ‘em and don’t steal stuff that a band has officially released. That might not comport exactly with the law, but it seems to be the middle ground. I know when my band went into the studio, we dropped $5000 to record an album ourselves, I can’t imagine what it costs to make a big studio record and the bands deserve to be paid for that work.
What about you Lenny, do you upload your recordings to places other than etree?
LS: I mostly upload to etree and the Live Music Archive exclusively. I had a rare Rush show from Buffalo in 1996 that I stealthed and uploaded to a different site, but that’s about it. I am pretty loyal to etree for all that community has done to get us here.
If there was one single recording from any era that you could pick to have non-AUD believers listen to in an effort to understand how good AUDs can be, what would it be?
CK: That’s a tough question. There are sooooo many good AUD’s out there. Most shows have at least one that is really good. One of my favorites is the MK4 source of Coremagiore, Italy, 2-23-97. Really small club, the crowd is clearly into it, and frankly the 1st set is one of my favorites. When you hear a great show, not widely circulated, that sounds that good, it is hard to resist. Compare it to how dry the Hamburg show a week later (circulated in SBD) sounds in comparison.
LS: I would have to say the recordings I had the pleasure of making with my good buddy Eric Vandercar at the Clifford Ball, for sure! I was a patch taper still back then, and Eric was the first to turn me on to the glorious sound of B&K/DPA microphones. I patched out of Eric both nights (it was just he and I out of his rig), and we pulled down just incredible recordings of an incredible weekend! Very open, spacious, and beefy pulls! Not only that, but I’ve always considered the Clifford Ball the pinnacle of Phish and an end of an era kind of thing before the so-so fall 96 tour, and the first huge transformation of the band after the New Year in 97. So without a doubt, I would recommend Eric’s Clifford Ball recordings!
eTree Link Eric Vandercar Clifford Ball
Earphones or speakers? Which to you prefer when evaluating a show?
CK: For evaluating, it has to be speakers. Earphones, even the DreBeats can’t replicate the low-end the way my subwoofer can. Now, I bring my iPod with me basically everywhere, so lots of listening is done on earphones, but really, nothing compares with listening to Phish at high-volumes at home.
LS: I actually love my JBL stadiums/sub and center channel! Again, personal preference. Some like the high end monitor speakers, or good cans (headphones). I like to get a feel for the whole recording, in an open setting. I don’t do too much tinkering with it in post. And I completely agree with Chris regarding listening at home at high volumes. Easily the best way to listen to a good aud! Have a good subwoofer!
Roughly when did quality of recordings take a quantum leap?
CK: I’ve been trading recordings since the early 90’s and the best Phish auds started to come out in maybe ‘93 or ‘94, though there are certainly some good ones before that. Part of that could be the jump to larger and better sounding rooms too. After all, if the sound in the room isn’t any good, it's pretty hard to make a great recording. Certainly by summer ‘95, recordings were becoming consistently good from almost every show. Again, I think there was a transition as Paul became more comfortable making the rooms sound better as they transitioned as a band to larger venues. There’s a big difference between 2009 and 2010 recordings too, I think Gary Brown had a learning curve with both the new equipment and working with the band. Right now though, I think they sound great in person, and obviously the recordings are reflecting that.
LS: I am going to say Phish 3.0! I cannot say enough about the great job the Phish org and Garry are doing with the sound!
What’s been your favorite show this summer and in 3.0 as a whole?
CK: This summer, I think Bethel 2 has been my favorite, though the Detroit show is outstanding too. Definitely one of those two. As far as all of 3.0, I think that the Utica show from last fall and 1-1-11 are both great, but really Bethel 2 and Detroit are right there. There is no doubt in my mind that they are on top of their game right now. I’m looking forward to UIC (hit me up if you’ve got an extra floor for sale!)
LS: This summer my favorite show might be Charlotte. I wasn’t there but it was an awesome listen. Portsmouth is close but was a little over the top. Something about the energy and flow in that Charlotte show. As far as summer attended, Blossom and Darien I thought brought it to a real high level. It would probably require another round table for me to get in what I liked about those shows!
What has excited you the most about listening to Phish in 3.0? Anything that leaves you disappointed?
CK: Well, for me the most exciting thing is that they are back, clearly practicing, and clearly having a good time on stage. When you see Trey just grinning from ear to ear, it's really evident that they are having a blast. Like a lot of fans, when you hear what they are capable of on any given night (Disease Supreme from Detroit, Blossom Sally, etc.) it is disappointing when they don’t go there. However, I really appreciate the straight up fist-pumping rock that they are bringing every night. Like I said earlier, I go to a show to dance my ass off and they are delivering that in spades right now. Makes for great workout music too.
LS: The maturing of the band musically, in a very positive way has been pretty exciting in my opinion. The smoothness of their approach, the patience of some of the jams (less Trey ripcords), and their execution has been really strong since '09. What has been dissapointing has been the lack of deep exploration in the jams. I think they're lacking a little deep creativity. They seem to have time and space but they're not navigating into those deeper waters. I don't need '97 deep, but something a little more interesting then some of the things that go on. Sometimes they just meander and go no where more now than I'd like.
What are some of your favorite Phish sites or blogs?
CK: I check Mr. Miner’s site every day. I love the community that he has built there. I’ve met probably a dozen guys who are on the comments and they are all right on fellas. I like to read Dr. Pauly’s writing on Coventry Phish, he just has a real gonzo (which I’m sure he’ll love) take on the whole thing, really living it. Phishauds.com, a site I mentioned earlier has some great links to remastered phish auds, just taking some alright recordings of great shows and giving them some love. Makes a big difference. YEM Blog is a great place to see what’s new, and obviously phish.net is a great too. Oh Kee Pah blog is another one I check out, and I dig the skinny from Hidden Track.
LS: I was a junky for Andy's page circa 95/96, but otherwise I don't really use any of the blogs or pages much with the exception of Phish.net. There is no better setlist database than Phish.net and I even have reviews on there dating back to 1994. I was really pleased when Ellis gave me an early sign-up for the Phish.net beta a while ago. I have always appreciated the work Phish.net does, it's another one of those vital pieces of the community that ties everything together. I get everything else I need mostly from Twitter, etree and email updates. There's a nice little thing going on Phish wise on Twitter right now and I enjoy that. Reminds me of the time I spent on IRC years ago.
What shows have surprised you listening to where you went in with the expectation that it was a fairly standard show and was blown away with it?
CK: If you read many of the message boards, Bethel 3 has basically gotten no love. Complaints about flow, lack of big jams, etc. However, I’ve listened to it a couple of times, working out, working in the garden, and just listening to it carefully. It rocks. Might be biased because I love Light and Curtis Lowe. At this point, with few exceptions, every show has something special in it, though not every show is the best ever. I guess I would suggest that folks go into listening to recordings, especially if they didn’t attend the show, with open ears and just let it happen. Sometimes shows that felt amazing in person don’t hold up on tape, other times shows that seemed off at the time (I could swear that Mike and Fish weren’t together first set of Blossom at the show) sound great on tape (they sound good to me on the KM150 recording).
LS: One that comes to mind was that Philly 09 show with the MikeS. I listened to that one a few times after not knowing what I was getting in to. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by that Weekapaug because of how dark and scarey that jam was. I literally thought I was dreaming, then had to reach over and check the ipod in the middle of the night cause I had to see who and what I as listening to. Initially I didn't even know it was Phish, but I was in the middle of that Weekapaug. It was truly a snapshot of brilliance in 09 to helped me to realize the boys really do still have it!
What are some of your favorite AUDs from the early years?
CK: So many good ones. Really, it boils down to great show for me, rather than just a great AUD. In other words, just because a tape sounds great, it isn’t going to get spun a lot by me unless the music on it demands to be played. So, some of my favorites are Detroit ‘97, Vernon Downs ‘98, basically any of the MSG New Year's shows from '95, '97, and ‘98. I’ve heard people complain about the sound at MSG, but I’ve sat all over that place and thought it sounded great.
LS: This is a loaded question cause there’s many many great ones! Lots of great FOBs from the early days, that took a ton of effort by guys needing to avoid Amy Skelton and crew to get the job done. Knowing that when you listen to any early FOB it gives you perspective on the great deal of effort required by those tapers. It’s a team sport, and guys have gotten the tough job done on many occasions over the years.
Just to recap a off the top of my head (this question is really wide open and tough to cover with a quick answer)..... lots of great Neumann sources circulated by Kevin Shapiro from 92. There are some amazing Aug 93 aud’s, especially the FOB’s. Eliot Byron was the first consistent Schoeps contributor in the early years, many of his sources are golden and must haves! Tons of great AKG sources from 94, many from Dave Flaschner, Jeff Jordan and Linda Webster covering a lot of shows. Love the FOB AKG stuff all over 94! Big AKG sound! Fall 95 was covered almost every show by legendary Phish taper Don Wright and his trusty AT4031’s. 96 began the real consistency of seeing regular Schoeps and B&K/DPA sources popping up, so many good sources to dive into from that year. I love the 96 FOB Schoeps by Pete Ebel and Adam Gross, as well as the few they did in 97. I particularly love the November Sacramento Neumann source Jamie Lutch circulated! A must have for any Phish collection. Lastly on 96, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my old buddy Scott Bernstein’s Red Rocks 96 sources that he released as part of his BARN series and dedicated to me, after I requested them. Not only are they nice sounding Red Rocks aud’s, but Scott was the only taper of the group who in many tapers opinion at the time of the shows, got the only good pull out of windy Red Rocks that year with his large diaphragm Neumann TLM170’s! If you pull down Red Rocks 96, get Scott’s sources!
I am also really happy with the Deer Creek, Hershey and Buffalo Schoeps>Sonosax patch masters I circulated from 96 patched out of my old tape trading buddy Jeff Lazzaro from Syracuse.
Europe 97 continued Don Wrights run of shows with his new Schoeps rig, which turned out many great sources. Summer 97 also saw old Operation Everyshow pioneer James Gray putting out some great Schoeps sources. Hampton 97 Schoeps sources amongst others are pretty spectacular. I love the July 97 Amsterdam CCM41 sources my buddy KC circulated as new to the database last year. Some great 98 (and other years) Schoeps recordings were put out by legendary tapers Carrion Crow, Dan Estrin and Gary Fox, as well as my old tape trading buddy Craig Hillwig. Taylor Caine shared some real nice Schoeps recordings from 99, and 2000 that should be part of any collection. Old school etree contributor Terry Watts has also recently unleashed a barrage of incredible B&K 4011 Mark Lamke/Alan Schmidt sources. To sum it up really, some of my favorite all-time sources come from some of the legendary Phish tapers in my mind. If you look for stuff from Dave Flaschner, Eliot Byron, Don Wright, and recently Mark Lamke, to name a few, you can’t go wrong! Play them loud, and play them often! The best place to browse all the sources available is in the etree database:
Phish eTree Database 2011
The admins have done a great job of keeping it current and active, particularly Jason Sobel in 3.0. This site is vital to track down the original filesets of every Phish recording in circulation.
One of my personal favorites is one I patched from but was circulated from another master in the chain. Don Wright’s 12/7/95 Niagara Falls has always been one of my favorite sounding aud’s. The inexpensive yet VERY underrated AT4031’s turned the big Convention Center (which is now a Casino) into a venue that gave us an excellent audio recording. I shared a ton of DAT>Analogs on rec.music.phish of that one back in the day. Don had a long line of D7’s patched out of him that show and every show, and this one was as spectacular as any he recorded. Plus this show has my all-time favorite Slave to the Traffic Light. Very underrated!
Thoughts on streaming?
CK: Most of the times the streams suck and it gets infuriating. I’d rather wait a day, maybe watch the twitter feed. Technology and bandwidth really aren't there yet to do streaming proper. Now, maybe in a few years...
LS: This is a tricky question, as it’s not something Phish permits. I love streaming as much as the next phan. What scares me though about streaming is the potential for exploitation. Once donations/money enter the equation, it gets dicey. I think it’s fun, and wonderful to embrace the new technology to get it done, but it reminds of FOB, as it’s something that if it is done, needs to be kept low profile. I’m not here to say it’s wrong, I just think people need to keep the community as a whole in mind in anything we do. We as tapers have a wonderful privilege to tape Phish shows. We don’t want to jeopardize that in any way. We need to keep this in mind when we talk streaming.
Will you be at IX?
CK: I would desperately like to be at IX, but my daughter’s 5th birthday is on the 30th. I was commenting to a buddy after the blossom show at the campsite the next morning, taking some Aleve to deal with aching legs and ankles, and back from sleeping on the ground, that the sign of an aging fanbase is the number of pain relievers we take (out of necessity) and the discussions about strategies for bringing kids to shows. I told her she had to wait at least a year. I’m sure it's going to be a blast. My next shows will be UIC (if somebody wants to sell me an extra....wait didn’t I already say that?)
LS: I will be at Watkins Glen. I’m not one for the big festivals as they go a little against my idea that the live music experience should be a little bit intimate for band audience interaction, and in many ways from many vantage points at a festival you just can’t get there. But Watkins is so close to home I can’t miss it. Plus Phish is really at an amazing level right now. I have been calling them the mature Phish. There’s a real growth spurt going on right now musically and I want to be there to capture it as much as I can.
NYCTaper has really been on my radar screen a lot lately. What an incredible resource and community they have built up there. I think it shows the relevance and importance of Live Music recordings despite the immediacy and ease with which recorded studio music can circulate now. Thoughts on that site and importance of Internet Archive, etree, Trader’s Den and other music sites in capturing and securing these shows for future generations?
CK: What a cool site. Being a Midwest guy, I haven’t really checked it out. Back in the day I was in an email group called the Midwest Tapers Association. We had this crazy “conference” at the Holidome in Indy, up all night spinning crazy recordings, first time I got my hands on Coltrane bootlegs, Return to Forever, etc. This was before etree, bit torrent, etc. Live music recordings will always be a great way to turn people on to a band. If you think about it, looking at the way Phish grew with the whole Colorado thing, it was live recordings that packed the house and got them on their way. Keeping the music alive for future generations is key. While you can’t go see the Grateful Dead now, or ever again, being able to grab a great recording of a late ‘79 show and just boogie down is fantastic. And the ease of it is amazing. I remember being lucky to get my hands on a 3rd or 4th gen tape of a show 2 months after the fact. Now I’ve got the entire tour in pure digital sound, best recordings available to my ears, about a week after tour is over. Internet Archive is not just a great place for live music, there are tons of cool things archived there. Check out the universal film reels which were the news reels shows before movies from like the 30’s through the 70’s. It's like going back in time.
LS: NYCtaper is a must for any music collector. Dan and Jonas do an awesome job with that site and their taping efforts.
The Live Music Archive is one of the best things to happen to our hobby since torrenting! Enough cannot be said for that site as a resource for us all. Every show I tape for bands on that site goes up there, both16 and 24 bit.
CK: I’ve noticed (not on your recordings per se) that sometimes the identical rig, in the same room, will sound different from one night to the next. For instance over the New Years Run, the MK41v source from 12-30 and 12-31 has excellent bass response and good tone all the way to the lowest frequencies, the same source on 1-1 doesn’t have that. Do tapers tweak preamp settings from night to night or is your setup pretty much the same at every venue?
LS: I think it really varies by taper and equipment. I can tell you the way I run DPAs>Sonosax>722 I’m pretty cut and dry every show, I keep my settings the same just about every show. When you’re looking at guys with 4 channel rigs, Schoeps tubes plus another outboard pre in the chain etc., there’s a lot more going on. Mic configs could change things as well. Someone changing up to NOS from DIN or ORTF could give a different feel with the different angle. Sorry I don’t have a more precise answer to that, but guys do like to experiment. And sometimes guys experiment and change it up just for fun! It really makes this hobby more interesting and fun to try different things and match ups.
Thanks so much for your time today and all the service you provide to the Phish community. I look forward to continue hearing great Phish AUD recordings and reading your commentary about them.
CK: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my passion... Audience tapes are what got me into Phish in the first place and the quality of what's coming out right now, both the music from Phish and the sound quality from the tapers, makes them the best way to experience the band right now.
LS: I agree with Chris completely. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the tapers in the early days who provided the music to get us all going. It was a critical part of the beginning of the Phish community, and is something we should still hold in high regard and keep going strong. Community is vital with this music, and there are certain aspects of it that should always be there, and the tapers section is one of them! Another reason to remind Phans to not order Tapers Tickets if you're not actually taping the show! Thanks again for putting this discussion together. I hope to see more of this stuff moving forward.
(Editor's Note: Probably the most common BitTorrent clients are uTorrent for PC and Transmission for MAC. Both are fast, free, lightweight and easy to use. A Beginner's Guide to uTorrent on Lifehacker might answer some basic questions for you if you'd like to learn more. Likewise, there's a thread in the forums here if you have question
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25 years ago
Pima County Fairgrounds
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