On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, the improvisational rock community lost a brilliant and generous man in Eric Vandercar. While commuting home from work to his wife, his teenage son, and young daughter, Eric’s northbound train hit a car at a crossing in Westchester County, NY. It was the deadliest train crash in the history of the Metro-North line, which is the second most-ridden commuter railroad in America (second only to the Long Island Rail Road).
For several decades, Eric taped and circulated the shows of many bands, including Phish, Grateful Dead, moe., Spin Doctors, The Radiators, and others. Copies of several hundred of the shows that he taped circulate on the Live Music Archive, for example. His love of the music so many of us share in common cannot be overstated. And his generosity in circulating that music was, and continues to be, both magnificent and inspiring.
Sue Weiand, one of our community’s most well-known (and beloved) photographers, first met Eric online through the newsgroup Rec.Music.Gdead. “We finally met in person at a Radiators show in San Francisco in 1996, and then again at High Sierra in 1998,” Sue recalls. “Eric was a world-renowned taper and, in early 1997, he advised many of his California friends to check out a band, moe., who would be playing their first west coast show soon at the Great American Music Hall. About 25 of us went on Eric’s recommendation alone. Eric was a great friend to musicians and fans alike, and he will be sorely missed.”
A well-known taper in the Phish community, Lenny Stubbe, was a friend of Eric's for many years, first meeting Eric on Rec.Music.Gdead in January 1996, and in person for the first time at the Clifford Ball, where he patched out of Eric's fantastic rig for the recordings that can be found here and here. Lenny writes: “ev was my taping mentor and a long-time friend. He set the example of how to live life while doing it to the absolute fullest. His wit, humor, generosity, and passion for anything he did, and his loyalty to everything important, was like no other. With ev, anything was possible, and he made you feel that way. He taught me a ton and challenged me to set the bar very high. From meticulous tape lists to raising kids and everything in-between, he did it all to the highest level. I will never forget my friend, and the huge impact he had on me as a person, in and outside of music. Peace, further my brother.”
Photo © Stephanie May, with thanks to The Capitol Theatre and Mike Winters
Eric taped many shows at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, not far from his home. Eliot Byron works as the Stage Manager and Crew Chief at the Theatre, and knew Eric well. “Eric was a part of my GD and Phish taping family as long as I can remember,” Eliot reflects. “We had such great conversations throughout the years... Gear, family, travel, SCUBA. I was so excited to see him every time he and Jill came to the Capitol Theatre. We all love the venue so much, and I am blessed to be a part of It, and to have Eric refer to it as one of his favorite spots was just a bonus.”
Craig Hillwig, who taped many Phish shows with Schoeps mics, including 12/31/95, also remembers Eric fondly. “You hear a lot about Eric and his taping and his relationships with moe. and the rads. But first and foremost, Eric was a Deadhead. He absolutely loved Jerry. His first show was 11/5/79 at the Spectrum, and if he ever got jaded at the end, he didn't let on. When I saw him at his last Dead shows in Albany in June ‘95, he was looking forward to getting that ‘Help on the Way’ (and we got it - the very last one). He was just getting into taping in 1995, and right before he bought his B&K's, Jerry died. Eric took Jerry's death hard. Most people don't realize it or remember it today, but Eric helped organize the Central Park memorial for Jerry, posting to Usenet and the Berkeley listserv (you can see some of the posts here http://hake.com/gordon/latest.html). We became pretty good friends after that event.
“Eric had this tag line that he used to close his correspondence: ‘peace, further ...’ It was his nod to the spirit of Kesey and Cassidy and the Grateful Dead - that life is a journey, and something to be explored, and we just have to choose to get on the bus. He used it in emails and in Rec.Music.Gdead posts. He even had cards made. Please visit his memorial page on FB: http://www.facebook.com/EricVandecarRIP."
Taper Scott Bernstein also knew Eric well. "Eric and I met back in 1995, after I'd seen an announcement on the Rec.Music.Gdead usenet group about an offshoot email listserv being started specifically for NYC area Deadheads (which was apparently started after a conversation between Eric and Rod Nayfield, who still maintains the list to this day). Shortly after joining the NYCHeads list, I'd see his email address pop up in my inbox frequently as he was voluntarily maintaining a subjective 'NYC Concert Calendar' of what he judged to be good upcoming shows and he would distribute it on the list each week. He created that calendar not because anyone had asked him to, but because he wanted to help build a community, and help promote good music. It was a time when we were all hurting from the loss of Jerry Garcia, and it felt great to feel like part of a community to enjoy great local live music with. Very quickly I started emailing him to add good shows that I knew about that he hadn't listed in the calendar.
"Our first meeting in the flesh came when I had a videotape that I needed dubbed (someone had lent me a VHS master of G. Love & Special Sauce from Tempe, AZ) and I sent out a kind of 'Hail Mary' email to the NYCHeads list, because I figured some Deadhead must have had 2 VCRs to dub tapes. Sure enough, Eric selflessly volunteered. He had no desire to make a copy for himself -- he just that had the ability to help, so he did. After that, we became very close very quickly, starting by trading lots of Grateful Dead DAT tapes in a short period of time. Both of us were always trying to collect the best sources with known lineage for our favorite shows.
Photo © 1996, Courtesy of Scott Bernstein (ev and Scott packing up ev's car at The Clifford Ball 8/16-17/1996. Note ev's GD tribute vanity license plate.)
"I had the distinct honor of introducing Eric to what would eventually become his favorite band -- moe. After getting bitten by the moe. bug myself on 7/8/95 at Wetlands (thanks to gentle pressure from their FOH soundguy at the time Brendan O'Neill -- also a major Dead/Phish head), I was really trying to spread the word. So come 12/21/95, I convinced Eric to join me at Wetlands for an Al Schnier solo show, and he wasn't especially impressed. Fortunately just a few months later Eric happened to be with friends in Jackson Hole, WY, for a ski trip and moe. just happened to be playing at the Mangy Moose that weekend (https://archive.org/details/moe1996-03-15), and they went just to have something fun to do. Since they had not planned on attending any music, Eric didn't even have his taping gear with him. Sure enough he came back from this trip raving and was now sold, attending the Irving Plaza moe. show (https://archive.org/details/moe1996-04-06dnk.shn) just about a month later! Over the years, Eric and his wife Jill became such a presence at moe. shows, they grew to have a strong personal relationship with all of the band members, their crew, and their management (not unlike their close personal relationship with the Radiators).
"We had a grand old time sharing music with each other. Eric got me to see many more Radiators shows than I would have seen otherwise, got me to join him for a number of They Might Be Giants shows around NYC (another of Eric's favorite bands), and gave me my first introduction to Anders Osborne when he put Anders' set from High Sierra '96 as filler on a David Grisman DAT from the same festival that he was trading with me. We shared a love of funk (especially of the New Orleans variety), but Eric also loved Neil Young, and indie rock like Lou Reed, The Meat Puppets, and most recently, Snow Patrol.
Photo © 2014 Erick "eaphoto" Anderson (ev, and Scott Bernstein, with Bob Mischka in the background, setting up to tape in the "FOB section" at Randall's Island, 7/13/2014)
"From that point on we attended show after show together -- moe. shows all over the northeast, Spin Doctors shows (another band that we both shared a love for), Phish concerts (including heading to the Clifford Ball and Red Rocks together in 1996), hippie music festivals, the New Orleans Jazz Festival (which he and Jill attended religiously), and numerous shows of bands like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Medeski Martin and Wood, Ani Difranco, Dan Bern, Galactic, George Porter, The Meters (+ Funky Meters), Ivan Neville and his band Dumpstaphunk, The New Mastersounds (which I introduced Eric to early on by scheduling my bachelor party at one of their very early NYC shows), Guster, Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers, Soulive, anything Warren Haynes related, and many more. The list goes on and on of the shows we saw and taped together over the years. We were also partners in crime in the occasional 'stealth' taping job at shows we were not permitted to tape or share around openly. One of the more surprising, highly sought after, and rarely circulated recordings of Eric's was from a very late night Prince show at Irving Plaza!
"I also give credit to Eric for twisting my arm in to give Phish another chance after I'd put myself on a self-imposed hiatus from seeing them after I'd been severely let down at the 2 Radio City Music Hall shows in 2000. Eric presented me with an impossible-to-get ticket for their return show (after their first hiatus) on 12/31/02. I had no intention or desire to attend (and in fact already had tickets to both the early and late Karl Denson shows at BB Kings Blues Club here in NYC), but yet he persuasively convinced me to attend after someone in his group backed out. I still didn't feel connected to the show, and it did not pull be back into the Phish sphere. It took my wife Jen to pull me back in at Jones Beach in 2009 before I decided I liked seeing them again.
"Eric's generosity and love for the music is obvious by how much music he shared on the Live Music Archive, in addition to all of the trading he did on cassettes, DATs and CDs over the years. Eric and I were instrumental in setting-up an efficient method to distribute a LOT of music quickly via the NYCHeads PTT (Permanent Tape Tree). In the old days, 'tape trees' were the most efficient way to get music out there. Someone would 'seed' the tree by sending out one DAT tape to the person at the top of the tree. Then that person would make 3 copies and send them out to people on the next level of the tree. Then those 3 people would make 3 copies each and send them off, etc., until very quickly hundreds of copies were out there. Making it 'permanent' made it much more efficient for folks to get the music out because we didn't have to waste the time elicting signups and putting the tree structure together each time after it had been set up. He and I would often alternate in seeding those trees with cool stuff that we had recorded or received in trade. I especially recall Eric being very enthusiastic about seeding a Radiators show from Irving Plaza 4/12/97 where Warren Haynes had sat in. I also recall us making a ton of copies of the famous Phish Crest Theater 3/22/93 Gamehendge show (which had already been treed elsewhere) for the NYCHeads PTT.
"Notably, Eric was one of the main contributors to the moe. DANK project. This was a project in the semi-early days of the Live Music Archive to try and get the best quality, lowest generation versions of all moe. shows in circulation up on the archive. While they didn't manage to get EVERYTHING up there, they did manage to get a nice swath of shows from the early days transferred and posted for everyone to enjoy.
"In recent years, Eric had mostly been in taping 'retirement', only pulling-out his mics and recorder when he knew that there would be no other tapers there, or when he had easy access to the soundboard feed to hook up his deck and leave it at the soundboard. I don't think it was because his love for taping had abated, but he simply didn't have time and energy for all of the 'post production' work now required of tapers: the whole process of mastering, tracking, uploading, etc. to share shows. With his busy home life, time was tight.
Photo © 2007 Sharon Shiner (ev with Scott and Jen Bernstein on the 2nd moe. cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel 1/7-13/2007)
"The last time we saw each other was for a trip with moe. to Jamaica as part of their 'Tropical Throe.down' January 8th to 14th, 2015. Eric, Jill, and Jen (my wonderful wife) and I got a TON of quality time together on the beach: sharing dinners, relaxed time on the beach (with each-other, other moe.rons, and the band and crew), diving (well, Eric and Jill dove, anyway) and, of course, rocking out to moe. with about 300 other people! We were truly blessed to have had so much time together in a beautiful environment. While it's impossible to say goodbye to one of your best friends -- we were so close, he was one of the groomsmen in my wedding party -- my grief is soothed at least somewhat by the incredible final blowout that we had together. More than just music buddies, Eric was always there with exactly the right words of advice when something went wrong in my life, words of congratulations when things went well, and a great sounding board for sensible advice when I needed it.
"I will miss him intensely, and am so thankful for the nearly 20 years of friendship that we did have together." -- Scott Bernstein
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