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Not Sure Where To Begin?

The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
my thoughts on Music & Being, which guide my writing.
You could also try my current favorite show on the blog,
plus there's good reading under the trading community label.
Or, take a walk on a
Listening Trail.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ones That Get Away

This time of year always gets me thinking about its significance related to the Grateful Dead’s output in the year 1973. I’ve well documented my proclivity for everything “summer ‘73” in numerous posts, and as the last ten days of June approached, I even planned to honor certain favorite highlights in homage to this favorite time of my favorite year. While the Dead seemed to lock into their summer ‘73 vibe early in June at RFK stadium, the three show run at Universal City, CA holds a special place in my heart, even while for most people, it lives well in the shadows. For me, it’s more than simply the music, as each date has its own story in my trading travels. Interestingly, one of the stories is even seeing chapters written as we speak.

I’ve made detailed work out of the passion I hold for the closing night of this Universal City run on July 1st, 1973. It’s a tape that stands out as a shining example of all things good in audience recordings. Now, I’d like to turn our attention to some of the tapes from the rest of this stand.

June 29th, 1973 was the first date from this run I ever collected – a one tape wonder SBD/? tape that provided ample openings into that certain something going on in the summer of ’73 sound. A full review might make its way to these pages eventually, but I’ve held off for the time being. This might have to do a bit with a personal disappointment in the quality of the tape that circulates, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had more to do with the game of “hard to get” an audience tape from this date has been playing with me for nearly ten years. In fact, this date actually offers a nice window into the world of tape trading relationships, and into the story of how some tapes end up on in the first place, or sometimes don’t. For 06/29, even though there is a soundboard in ample circulation, it is marred by certain level settings and technical issues which make one thirst for an upgrade of some sort, even perhaps coming from an audience recording source.

To give you a glimpse into how the world of tape trading wasn’t (isn’t) just about finding a copy of a show, but was (is) also about constantly searching for upgrades and alternative sources, let me get you up to speed on my hunt for the June 29th, 1973 audience tape.

So, 06/29 was an early addition to my collection, and served to spark my love of this portion of the year itself. When you would run into this tape on lists, it was always roughly the same partial SBD version. Eventually a SBD “upgrade” came into circulation after Dick's passing. But it left me still lusting after some kind of complete upgrade. Adding to the mystique of 06/29 was the fact that I had never once seen an audience tape for this date show up on anyone’s list.

One day, going back perhaps 8 years ago now, I was contacted via e-mail by a person who had found my contact information off of the several info files circulating around online related to audience tapes from the 1973 era. This sort of contact had become a beautiful undertone to my tape trading experience, helping to spark my amazement at the way the Deadhead community and technology were intermingling, and assuring me that somewhere out there all tapes were waiting to be found. This fellow told me that he had taped 6/29, and wondered if I might help him out by transferring the tape to digital format. What a glorious day that was for me – as seemed to happen often enough, here was another holy grail dropped from the sky on my head. Alas, it was not meant to be…

I confirmed with him that I would obviously be interested in helping him out. Despite his stories of having to miss recording some of the songs because of tough security, I made him aware that this was quite a find, and regardless of quality, the tape yearned to get into circulation. He talked of how he found better seats for the second set, and taped much of the big jams from a pretty sweet spot in the crowd (let the drooling commence). So, I gave him my address and waited for the tapes. And waited... And dropped him an e-mail after a week or so. And waited… To cut to the chase, eventually months went by where I would send off an e-mail every 6 to 8 weeks (completely in stalker mode, I know) wondering if he had sent the tapes, or found some other means of transfer. No reply, ever. Probably three or four years later, my now annual e-mail to him eventually hard bounced off his mail server with a fatal error – his address was dead.

So close. So close!!! When I first made this connection I had shared my excitement with one or two of my trading buddies, fellow hunters who were always out on the fringes looking to fill in gaps in the Grateful Dead taping history. They shared my schoolgirl-like glee over having bumped into this guy, and eagerly awaited my getting the tapes in hand. Only they can truly know this level of frustration. I’m sure they have shared the experience of a vein drying up before the gold itself was found. It’s one of the more frustrating levels of this area of tape trading – silence from the other end of a great line on a tape. And to know that this fellow is more than likely out there somewhere with some understandable reason for not sending the tapes, and never responding to my e-mails, makes it all the more maddening. It’s an example of the both the good and the bad in online relationships: great to get them started, but sometimes falling very short in going further. Where does this guy live? What’s his phone number? Who else do I know who might know this guy?? Maddening.

While I share this story mostly for entertainment purposes, I also do so with hopes to stir that tape back into the light. We sit here at its anniversary, so perhaps getting the stars to align and talking about it will do some good. It certainly worked with the next night.

06/30/73 was a recording I seeded out on the Audience Devotional Tree back in August of 2001. Just a few weeks ago I pulled out an old old DAT version of the same recording which offered a different lineage path from the reel I put into circulation eight years ago. My ears really liked what they heard. I had decided that with this being one of my all time favs recordings, it would be fun to seed out this DAT, get it up on the archive, and then write my review on June 30th, 2009 sharing this new copy with everyone here. It all went according to plan until just three days ago.

The DAT source ( is indeed now up on But drawing this bit of attention to the date over the last week has stirred up some contact from some old friends in the community – friends who were pivotal in my seeding out 06/22, 06/26, and even that first copy of 06/30 back in 2001. And that stirring has just now shaken loose an upgrade of true proportion for this date which I am eagerly awaiting in the mail (I do know that this copy will indeed arrive). Once I have it, I will seed yet another version of this show, and after it makes it to the archive, I’ll post my review for 06/30 and link to the upgraded copy at that time. It won’t hit the anniversary exactly, but I’m okay with that. I look forward to it just the same.

What is interesting to me is that my world of tape trading, and in particular this Indiana Jones type treasure hunting, is still in motion today. And for this passage of time you all get to ride along with me just like the old days. You probably can’t resist listening to the version I posted up just last week. I can’t blame you, and I’d be shocked if you weren’t interested. It sounds darn good. And then you may stay tuned in for the new version to be made available, saving that repeat listening perhaps for the new copy coming a week or two from now. That, my friends, is the living breathing heart of trading tapes, rolling out right here on the pages of the GDLG.

And we can all collectively keep holding our breath that the 06/29/73 AUD will show up in my mailbox soon too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Quiet Allure Of Audience Tapes

Upon launching the Grateful Dead Listening Guide I brought up a somewhat understated intention that went beyond the overarching goal of helping folks navigate the endless choices of Dead concert recordings online. Early on I came clean on the point that I was particularly fond of audience recordings, and that in years past I had devoted much of my time and energy to spreading the word of audience tapes and the joys within. There was little denying that throughout my ongoing ramblings there would be a sometimes subtle, sometime outright, push to wake people up to the beauty of audience recordings and my opinion that they (yes, I’ll say it) put the soundboard medium to shame on many levels critical to enjoying the magic of the Dead’s music.

Well, I haven’t been keeping any kind of score card, but I can safely tell you that after general e-mails and comments thanking me for putting up the guide overall, nothing quite comes close to the number of people who confess to having been converted over to an appreciation of audience tapes where before they wouldn’t have given them a chance. And, with readership growing steadily, the frequency of converts continues to rise. It’s a good thing, and it seems to be happening naturally, without my wildly banging some audience tape gong.

I often look at the collective readership of the GDLG like that single person I described at the start of this project who discovered the old grizzled deadhead living across the street (still not sure why I always paint him as old and grizzled. I’d like to think that I’m not particularly either), and began borrowing tapes, listening to stories, and building a collection of music not ever to be found in the nearby record stores. So here after nearly a year and a half, the old deadhead has turned this fellow on to about 80 shows. And being careful as he has been, he has slowly let his personal preference for audience tapes whisper its way into the newcomer’s ear. And slowly, being unconcerned with succeeding, the audience tape medium has been allowed to work its magic and gain another passionate devotee.

There can be little doubt that something more than music is going on when you listen to audience tapes, and this goes well beyond the simple fact that these recordings capture the crowd noise and room ambience. As has been recently articulated by folks commenting on the passing of legendary taper, Jerry Moore, when you listen to a good audience tape you can’t help but experience a layer of gratitude for the person who saw fit to deal with all the rigmarole of taping in the first place. This gratitude quickly expands to a difficult to describe sharing of the taper’s experience as it happened, placing a certain physical layer into the soundscape where we come to discern the true scale of the live musical experience (readily displayed when listening to tapes of 1974’s Wall Of Sound. Worth checking out the podcast too). And then we also come to appreciate the fact that the audience recording is a document completely separate from the world of commercial music. It is the product of people, shared from friend to friend, not packaged onto the shelves of record stores. This most quiet social/cultural layer is on every tape, and infuses the listening experience before during and after the tape is actually playing.

It is no wonder that the Grateful Dead Listening Guide is doing such a fine job of showing people the light of audience tapes. They work on so many levels, one only needs a slight nudge in their direction. From there, the tapes themselves begin to shed light on many things, not the least of which is the actual music itself as it flowed from the stage to the audience.

I once thought that an audience tape was only bringing us a small fraction of the listening experience at a Dead show, like how a photograph is a two dimensional take away from a four dimensional experience. But, when we consider everything “coming off the tape” when listening to audience recordings in particular, they appear more akin to the experience of discovering a rich layer of complexity hiding just below the surface of something we hitherto thought we fully comprehended. There is far more within them than a surface view can reveal, like fractals within fractals, and the sub atomic universe deeper within physical matter than any microscope can see.

It’s the crazy talk of a Deadhead, I know. But I struggle to find any more concrete means to explain the experience of the Dead’s music preserved under the glass of a pristine audience recording. That it is really there defies proof, yet the effects of its being there ripple into our more discernable perceptions of the experience. We know it's there because of the impact it leaves on us. People do turn on to audience tapes. The ear does tune to the spectrum of frequencies caught on tape after a short while allowing the listening experience to unfold like a blooming flower. A slight nudge really is enough to draw in the masses.

There is an invisible pied piper playing a siren song here – crazy as any deadhead out there. I’ve been drawn in by that song for a good long time, and I’m glad to see others hear it too.

Under Eternity Blue - Psychedelic Folk

The next installment of Under Eternity Blue hits the airwaves this weekend. For those that don't know, I started a podcast side project for an online radio station (Spirit Plants Radio) a couple of months ago. Loosely structured, Under Eternity Blue explores other music that I find meaningful and satisfying - I do spend 80% or more of my time not listening to the Grateful Dead after all.

This episode focuses on the Psychedelic Folk genre. It's an easy call that most Grateful Dead fans will find plenty of inroads to this particular installment, and perhaps I'll turn you on to something you hadn't heard before.

Spirit Plants Radio
streaming live:
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, June 20th: 6pm – 7pm PST
Sunday, June 21st: 6am – 7am PST & 4pm – 5pm PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above. If you can’t tune in live, all shows become listenable via archive streaming after the show ends Sunday night.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Stories Of Jerry Moore

Jerry Moore

He Was A Friend Of Mine

I lived through the dawning of the Internet Age of Grateful Dead tape trading. I participated through our amazement that we could be so immediately in contact with other traders (by the thousands), all sharing lists and arranging trades instantaneously - so unlike "the good old days" - to the full explosion of high speed sharing which brought the real need for a trading community to its end.

While living through all of that, I built up a cassette tape collection (then CD collection) numbering in the thousands, and all the while enjoyed not only collecting the tapes, but collecting the stories. Hearing about the old days, talking to people, sharing long e-mails - this was an even more precious gift than the tapes themselves.

One of the ongoing stories was the one titled, "Jerry Moore." I call it a story, because he was no more than that to me (and pretty much my entire circle of trading partners). Yes, there were people who could referencing knowing him way back when. But after getting online in 1997, despite my own ever-widening circle, Jerry Moore was "lost."

Did he die? Had he fallen off the grid? Did someone last hear that he was battling heroin and had sold off all his tapes to pay rent? Had someone seen him retreat into a forest cave to live among the rocks? Quite literally, all of these stories were floating around, and the only thing that stitched them all together was the fact that Moore was "lost" to us; "us" being the world of obsessed tapers trying to digitally archive all the old master tapes we could find. Often were the times I pined over how very absent Jerry Moore was from our world.

And so he grew mythical. And so I found myself in possession of tape copies of many of his recordings not even knowing they were his. Tapes of 10/01/76, 11/04/77, and God knows how many others, all were more often simply "AUD - taper unknown." And this in the age of digital communication.

That all changed for me one day in 2002, when an East Coast taper I knew quietly let me in on the fact that he was acquainted with Moore himself - an old friend, and that Jerry was interested in archiving what was literally a closet full of his masters, complete with a TARDIS-like quality of holding far more music than could conceivably fit inside. A small group of us became MooresBoys, a Yahoo Group devoted to making trips to Jerry's place to help deal with the closet, and then go through the careful Analog>DAT transfers, followed by digital editing into the final drafts that would go into mass circulation.

Living half a country away from the closet, I only performed my tasks on the DAT>SHN/FLAC mastering side of the equation (though Jerry did send me his actual tapes from 10/02/76 - Jesus! He had taped the holiest of 1976 grails ever - 10/02/76!!), so I never got out to meet him in person. But that didn't stop the stories.

Jerry wrote. He wrote a great deal. He wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. We conversed in e-mail over a multi-year period back then where I was blessed to learn a seemingly endless wealth of knowledge around the life and times of Jerry Moore, the taper. Stories of how he fashioned a telescoping golf ball retrieval tool into his mic stand of choice in the 70's. Stories of how his very first recording, Grateful Dead 06/10/73 was so disappointing to his ears that he recorded over it a month or two later with a sweet recording of the New Riders. Stories of cajoling other concert goers to record with his gear because his seats sucked (07/29/74). Stories of avoiding roadies. Stories on top of stories, back and forth in e-mail.

Reading Jerry Moore is sort of like reading James Joyce or Camus, or Aristotle, or Edward Albee. He wrote thickly. He loved words, perhaps more than music. And he loved vetting out the truth in people and their actions, as much as he loved the details around nearly every facet of what it took for him to do all that taping. I always had to read his e-mails more than once to make sure I was *getting* what he was saying, sometime afraid I was catching the complete opposite meaning in his prose. And I loved that about Jerry.

An example, from the very last e-mail exchange we had between us. He begins an answer to my question related to the appearance of other old tapers more recently on the Internet scene:

yes and noah.
seems obvious.
then again,

real world answer?

It was not the first time he played on my name like that, and, of course, the e-mail went on and on from there. It pains me deeply that there will be no more e-mails going on and on from Jerry Moore. I will miss him terribly. I have him to thank for elevating my joys in tape trading to their very highest, and that had nothing to do with the actual tapes he made, but just by being a friend of mine - just by turning from myth into a person with great stories.

So, the giant Internet tubes that changed our community forever get a big tip of the hat today. We can all remember and relive Jerry Moore's master cassesttes so easily now. He is certainly forever part of our living history in music. Just a few of his recordings have made it here onto the guide so far. So many more to come.


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