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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.


  1. "...never could reach it just slips away, when I try..."

    Thanks for sharing that story, even in this digital age there are gaping holes in the record, and tales of the one that got away. :-(

    At the same time congrats on the success with 6.30.73, thanks for your diligence, I look forward to the upgrade when you are able to share it.

    Finally, I thought of you this weekend when the upgraded 6.24.73 came to light. I know it's not an aud, but it is a beautiful copy of a beautiful show that we can all appreciate in it's glory!


  2. Awesome, Noah. I have had lots of these close-calls and almost-weres ... the thrill of the chase is definitely alive and well!


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