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The cassette was a little dusty, but after blowing away the age, it played like a

I have plenty of concert recordings on CD and on my computer, but on this day, a
friendly reminder of humbler collecting was turning in my tape deck, a nod to the
days of my first taped shows.

I didn’t go to my first concert until deep into my senior year of high school. So, one
of the ways I channeled an already-obvious love for live music was to craft and
create live tapes, from friends and, more often, from the radio.

It’s difficult for me to fathom now, but not long ago, the late 1990s in fact, concerts
were routinely played late night on mainstream radio. And they may still be. My
regular stop was 95.5 out of Providence, R.I., but there were plenty in the region
around that time that either played entire shows on “Bootleg Night” or subscribed
to Westwood One’s “In Concert” program.

It was through the radio that my bootleg tape collection began modestly. It became
a semi-regular ritual for me to stake out the living room with blank tapes (always
Maxell XLII High Bias), notebooks and a watch on Saturday nights with nowhere to

I had a pretty good handle on taping shows off the radio to guarantee the best
listening experience later. With each side of the cassette being 45 minutes, I kept
track of how long each side had run with my trusty watch, while marking down the
setlist as it played on a legal pad I had sectioned off specifically for this, with
pages divided into “Side One”/”Side Two” sections. As the show unraveled, I kept
an eye on the remaining tape and, hopefully during a commercial break, I sped
the tape forward to the next side when I felt that the time remaining wouldn’t equal
the next song.

Working with this method, I built a decent little collection of live tapes from some of
my favorite 90s-era bands. And I developed an understanding of the pacing of a
live show, as well as what separated a good concert from a great one.

For example, the first Pearl Jam tape I got my hands on, “Berlin, Germany
11/3/1996,” was a complete show, broadcast in real time and uncensored on a
Sunday afternoon. That show granted me my first listens to “State of Love and
Trust” and “Leaving Here,” while the thrill of listening to the show unravel — from
“Long Road” to “In My Tree” to “Blood,” “Who You Are,” “Present Tense” and finally
“Yellow Ledbetter,” never escaped me.

From there, more tapes and more bands started filling up my dresser drawers. I
had a couple of great Red Hot Chili Peppers tapes from 1991, while a couple from
Jane’s Addiction and Jimmy Page & Robert Plant remained long-time favorites.
Afterwards, I fed my classic rock sensibilities with live tapes from Led Zeppelin,
Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead.

But recently, during some sorting and cleaning as I prepare to move again, I
uncovered one these gems: a Black Crowes tape, labeled “Royal Albert Hall
1995" (most likely consisting of the guts of
this show). So, for my commute down
to work, I popped it in the cassette deck, likely the first actual tape in there in at
least a year or two.

Within the first notes of “Black Moon Creeping,” I remembered what a winner this
tape was. The sound, save for some inevitable radio static on “She Talks To
Angels,” had held up very well, and the band was a fiery as they’ve ever been. This
was also the first and only place I had the Crowes track "Waiting Guity," while the
take of "Feelin' Alright" got plenty of miles back in its time.

But with that casual listen on a random Saturday in December, all the effort made
by the 15-year-old version of myself came to fruition. The goal then was to
preserve all this music I dug for the future, and nearly 10 years later, one of the
tapes I had anally crafted was keeping me company once again.

These days the tapes are replaced by CDs, torrents and the occasional snail mail
trade, and I couldn't imagine repeating that ritual, sitting on the carpet in the living
room for the hours it took to create them. But the charm contained in those now-
archaic cassettes has never diminished, and the feeling those cassettes brought
me will last far longer than the magnetic tape could ever hope to.
I had plenty of these through high school.
Dec. 17, 2006
E-mail Nick Tavares at
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Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1995
Recorded on Maxell XLII 90,
direct from FM, circa 1998

Side 1:
Black Moon Creeping
Thick N' Thin
A Conspiracy
Hard to Handle
Waiting Guitly
Cursed Diamond
No Speak No Slave
She Talks To Angels

Side 2:
Shake Your Money Maker
Feelin' Alright
Jealous Again