You Won’t Steal My Tape Recorder

hw7As we are making the final preparations for Phish Thought’s “No Spoiler Hampton Downloads,” the steep evolutionary curve of audio technology and distribution has really struck me.  Within ten years or so, we have moved from analog B & P trades where you waited weeks to hear a show to Hampton, where you should be downloading the show within an hour of its ending.  If Phish was cool with it, some tapers even have the technology to stream the show live- gimme a break, right?  If you’re on the west coast, you should be listening to the show from Phish Thoughts  around 9pm- the night it happened!  But it wasn’t always this easy and there was a long road traveled to arrive at this destination of Hampton 2009.

First there were tapes.  Analog tapes; veritable dinosaurs of a bygone era.  Ninety minutes- no longer.  Any longer and the tape got too thin and possible quality and/or longevity issues could arise.  Quality was everything, and certainly never a given!  In this vein, if you casetteswere a heady collector, you had two single decks (preferably Nakamichis) instead of the common dual-deck setup.  It was all about deck-to-deck taping.  High speed dubbing?  Psshaw- that was the devil’s technology!

You really needed to stay within the first three generations to have a truly listenable tape- but I sure had plenty of “unknown” generation with that  snake-like hiss- that dreaded hiss!  Some of the tapes we all listened to at some point were laughable by today’s standards- like having you ear pressed toa foam wall trying to hear something in the next room.  But those were the first bricks in this yellow brick road.  And without the ability to skip from track to track, most people listened to sets straight through, getting better acquainted with songs and growing relationships with them- one beauty of the bygone era of analog.

sonydat_largeAnd then there were DATs.  The hiss was gone!  But DAT players were expensive.  Yet anyone who invested in a DAT player had a leg up in the game.  There was no more generational loss, simply digital clones- it’s amazing what a bunch of 1s and 0s could do.  If you had a portable DAT, it was on- as long as you had some friends in the taper’s section.  By the time late ’98 rolled around I had this dialed in.  Sneak the D8 in, hand it off to my buddy (big-ups Dreyfus!), go rage wherever seemed fit, and grab it after the show.  Sometimes I had to switch tapes at setbreak, which always added a twisted mission to the already *interesting* interludes.  We’d hop in the car to the next show, and booyah- we rocked the set while the energy still bubbled inside.

img_0361DATs provided an exact portrait of the show in pristine form, but they were still tapes; they could break or the tape could get stuck in the machine, and thus CD-Rs were born.   Christening the audio-on-computer based stage of Phish collecting, you could now burn CDs from each other and rack up Case Logic books like they were going out of style- and in fact they were- very quickly.  But during the few years of the CD-R’s reign, all of a sudden we had to deal with splitting shows in three!?  That was the worst part of it all- raging a set, and then having it stop only to have to physically switch CDs to continue- even analogs had auto-reverse!

cd_rThen came the 80-minute CD-R, upping the ante by a whopping six minutes!  Though seemingly insignificant, this advance allowed some sets to fit on on disc, and potentially allowed a show to fit onto two if you risked overburning and juggled some tracks around.  Once that started to happen, the technology outworked itself, producing disjointed discs with “Set 1 + end of set II and E.”  That was crap- talk about killing the flow of things.  I’d waste a disc just to keep the already broken flow instead of crashing into the encore after the first set ended- there was just no continuity.  It also gave you the opportunity add some filer to the end of a disc  – a popular practice of the analog age that made the jump to digital.  If you had a six-disc changer in your car, you had the capability of rolling with two shows loaded- a far cry from your whole collection in the palm of your hand these days.

But before long, CDs were all but annihilated by the IPod.  All of a sudden, instead of lugging two hundred-CD books around, you could fit two times that in your back pocket.  This is when the future finally caught up with itself.   People began to fill external hard drives with music, stocking amounts unfathomable five years before onto a device as big as a book.

original-ipodYet with this huge advancement, there was also a cultural compromise- the onset of the MP3.  With a far more convenient file size than .wavs, before long, the norm became listening to “lossy” music, or compressed files, that didn’t provide you with the *true* sound of the show.  Though with encoded bit rates of 320 kbps, the convenience began to outweigh the audiophile in me, and my countless CD binders became home fixtures.

Then, all the effort was taken out of things when with the onset of Phish 2.0 and the creation of LivePhish.  Now, anyone could download Mp3 or SHN (and later FLAC) files within a day or two of the show.  With profits eventually going all to charity, it was hard to find a flaw with their service- though many cite poor mixes and a general flat quality to these SBD releases that could be ameliorated by the use of matrix recordings (mix of SBD snd AUD recordings)- though they would obviously take more time to release.  With every give there is a take, though noticeably, there have been no pre-order offers by LivePhish for Hampton, nor any mention of the shows being released at all.

hw55For those looking to spend no money and stick with audience recordings there is BitTorrent and the world of FTP (and the largely hidden world that is DC++)- getting music directly from people’s computers all over the world.  With many sources posted within a day of any current show, the availability of these dwindling audience recordings are usually quicker than the official SBDs.  And now, with the ability to record directly to hard drives or solid state media, Phish Thoughts is bringing you the show almost immediately after it is over.

It is only a matter of time before Phish gets on their game and offers live streams of their shows.  It would be an absurd business move not to, let alone not offer webcasts.  There are plentiful options for listening to the show as it happens, and it will be interesting if the stripped down organization will offer any.  Before long, you’ll see pirate streamers at the shows, posting live streams.   I’d give at year at most before people start figuring out how to do it well if Phish doesn’t do it first.

hw2It’s been a crazy trip as we’ve progressed through each stage of these rapidly developing technologies.  From padded mailers with blanks and postage to the massive (yet low bit rate) Google Spreadsheet, the distribution of Phish has evolved as far as the technology side has.  No longer must we seek out a human being and actually- or virtually- interact with them to score music; not necessarily a good thing, as many a friendship blossomed from tape trading.  Only a search bar and a mouse is necessary- it’s completely crazy when you put it in perspective and you have lived through each technological shift over Phish’s career.  As the band enters step three and technological innovation continues to peak, one would think that these two forces will come together and emerge with something we have yet to experience, it may just be a matter of what.



All Phish Thoughts comments threads will now be split into 30 comment “pages.”  There will be options to navigate to “older comments” or “newer comments,” 30 at a time.  This will greatly decrease the amount of scrolling necessary for discussion, a feature that is long overdue.  The most recent 30 comments will appear when clicking on initially clicking on “Comments.” Enjoy the lack of scrolling! I know I will.



11.12.94 MAC Center, Kent State Univ. Kent, OH < LINK

11.12.94 MAC Center, Kent State Univ. Kent, OH < TORRENT LINK

phish-dane-county-941Here we have a classic relic from the standout month of November ’94.  The first set was vintage ’94 selection of songs, while the second set boasts the show’s gem in the exploratory “Disease > Have Mercy > Disease” landing in “Lifeboy.”  A wonderfully collaborative “Harry Hood” punctuated a top-notch show.

I: Runaway Jim, Foam, If I Could, Guyute, Maze, Stash, Esther, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Julius, Fluffhead, Down With Disease > Have Mercy > Down With Disease > Lifeboy, Rift, The Old Home Place*, Nellie Cane*, Foreplay* > Long Time*, Harry Hood, Golgi Apparatus

E: Sample in a Jar



89 Responses to “You Won’t Steal My Tape Recorder”

  1. lot rat Says:

    Here we go……about 100 or so hours until we climb into the mothership for take off.

  2. Uberchef Says:

    Just reliving the glory days with my dusty Maxell 90s over the weekend! The sound is not ideal, but the crowd energy is palpable…hard to believe those are the crackly tunes that got me on the bus!

  3. tubeopener Says:

    Thanks for the nostalgic post Miner, those analog tapes remind me of high school skipping class to rip tubes and shows to trade. We’re snowed in here in VA today and it’s a perfect day to pull out some of the old tapes and let the crackly goodness remind me of that adolescent craziness. With only four days till the obvious i’m almost constantly shaking with excitement. Oh yeah, my first tape was Amy’s Farm as well which would be a fun show to post for anyone who hasn’t heard it. Friday, Friday, Friday!

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    first phish tape was halloween 94 and it was on one of those clear pink and yellow memorex tapes!!

    first “jamband” tape was given to me by a buddy’s cousin at a high school graduation party, it was the old GD 5-8-77 set 2 and he had worn the tape right off the real – I had to open it up and tape it back together, but I still have it today!

    I hate to post a link from phantasy tour, but this “friday traffic in hampton thread” is must read info..

  5. showhe Says:

    Don’t forget about the tape covers people used to create…

    I think I still have some tapes somewhere and have over 100 shows on CD-R until I stopped trading and getting shows became alot easier to d/l over the intertubes. I miss getting those manilla padded envelopes in the mail.

  6. camman Says:

    Best wishes to everyone heading out to Hampton later this week. Have fun and be safe guys, I’ll be waiting for the no spoilers d-load. Thanks for that selfless gift Miner!

  7. Worthless Swampy Fool Says:

    Just found this blog in last couple weeks and it’s great!

    I feel like I really missed out on something never having traded tapes. However the ability to download and move shows around digitally is soooo nice! I came to Phish through A Live One and other comercially available stuff and have just recently started listening to AUDs and I have to say I think I prefer them to the SBDs. Ever since 3.0 was announced I have been downloading and listening like a fiend. Can’t believe all of the great music I have been missing out on all these years.

    Only been to one show (7-3-99 ATL) but have never stopped thinking about it. Even though it is not considered anything special it was the most incedible musical expierience ever. I am going to miss out on summer 09 but if they announce any more dates I am going to do anything in my power to make some shows.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for No Spoilers! I am so stoked for Friday night!

  8. hawkinbj Says:

    Man like all you guys do I’m sure, I still have cases and cases of CDs I collected in high school. I was one of the first guys to have a CD-R burner so I used to distribute CDs to all my friends 🙂 Napster and ftw.

    I remember when I had a book of 200 CD’s stolen :/ and how much it set me back and the pain of replacing each show. Flashforward, and now I help run a site that distributes music via the magic of bittorrent – where one can get almost any album they like in whatever audio/encoding format they prefer. My how times have changed – not only in ten years – but dramatically so in the last 5 as well – and I love it 😀

    Excellent post as always Miner.

    p.s. – any discussion thus far of a potential PhishThoughts Hampton meetup?

  9. cactus Says:

    Nice post Mr. Miner. Nostalgic is the word of the day. Amazing how quickly things have changed as far as technology goes in a relatively short period of time. One of the first tapes I listened to were some Capitol Theatre shows and a handful of horrible fourth or fifth generation tapes. It was always great when you got your hands on a good quality sounding tape. One I remember listening to alot was the Inferno, Steamboat Springs, CO. 91 I think. Probably listened to that tape so much I could repeat the stage banter to you word for word when Henrietta came out on the Electrolux.

    You’re also right on with the flow of the show though, you couldn’t advance to the next track, well, you could fast forward but why would you, you just might miss a great part of a song you never heard.

  10. Little Buddy Says:

    A buddy of mine used to tape the dead in the 70’s using reel to reel. He still has reels and we break them out once in a while when I go visit him. Can you imagine? And we think that tapes seem archaic!

  11. DBone Says:

    As much as I love the evolution of the distribution of “bootlegs” as they used to be called, I always harbored a theory that the increasing ease of access to the music in the digital download days corresponded to an increase in the jadedness and overall degradation of the scene.

    On one side, the friendships and cooperation that was a direct result of those tape trees, padded envelopes, etc. was a sort of allegory for the mindset of the scene. A group of people share a love of the music and help each other to share the music. It really was the communal aspect.

    On the other side, immediate access to every show in crystal clear quality led to a loss of appreciation (by some fans) of what the music and the scene was all about. During the hiatus many people sat around and listened only to the very best versions of songs or the very best shows. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but what happened was that there were expectations for Phish to play the best version of each song at each show. You could literally walk out of a killer show and hear people going through the setlist saying, “… but it wasn’t nearly as good as the Fluffhead from X and the YEM from X is so much better …”

    Standard Disclaimer: this is obviously over generalizing and I’m not trying to make any value judgements one way or the other. I do think, though that too much easily accessible information is not always a good thing and this is just a meaningless theory of mine.

    Fact of the matter is, I’ll be sitting in my office in Austria listening to the no spoilers and am very grateful that I can experience the music this way.

    Hey Al – German pink floyd playing guy who posted above. I went to CC a few years after you and lived in McGregor too. Ah, McGregor. Where are you in Germany?

  12. SOAM Says:

    bullshit walks-your only as good as your last set-the boys best strap their boots on…The time for talk is almost over. Them Changes.

    After Trey’s comments regarding YEM it is my bet for the opener.

    -The east coast tune caller “time has come to be alive again”. I have alot riding on the lot rat and “am praying for better weatherrr”

  13. cactus Says:

    The Curtain opener…. They closed the curtain in Coventry, and will open up again in Hampton. Mark it eight dude.

  14. SOAM Says:

    That is another good possibility

    Black Dog ??

  15. kevin are hollo Says:

    remember that there are some of us who still favor analog recordings to digital as far as PURE SOUND goes.

    if you’d like to read more about why:

    sounds are waves. digital recordings of those waves are steps, if you will. in the step, something is missing (picture two triangles, one on top, one below). give me a first generation high quality mic’d recording ANYDAY.

    ^dbone, i totally agree with your (not so far out) theory. once the archive is created, everyone wants to protect it. in earlier times, shows were liminal things, existing only in a framework of hypostasis, like a wardrobe portal, or a lookinglass, or a tree falling in the forest.

    if there’s a mic there to record it…


  16. A_Glide Says:

    I’m rolling out to Hampton without tickets, and while I still totaly think I will find away back inside the mothership, I should probably figure something out just in case so I have something to do while my friends are all inside. Is anyone here going to be ticketless in Hampton?

  17. bhizzle Says:

    @ cactus

    “Mark it eight dude”…awesome, however The Curtain…no. If so, I will stand corrected.


    theory works for me….the availability of everything online degrades personal interaction within the community.

    However, I have just been struck w/ a theory myself. I’m predicting a scene that will be what it once was due to the cost of these tix. The older scene from years of yester will be the majority of the ticket holders due to them being able to afford those astronomical costs. Also, to have loot like that most, I would think would be employed in turn making me think they’d be responsible, mature and respectful. hmmm?

  18. SOAM Says:

    we’re glide you’ve arrived.-worst comes to worst you gotta get a bribe on.-find a door with a dude who needs some dough and close the deal.

  19. Matso Says:

    @ DBone –

    I don’t think that’s a meaningless theory at all. I’m actually not really looking forward to the day when we all have instant streaming access to every show ever played. As much is arguably lost as is gained with each step “forward”.

    Part of what was so much fun and so addictive about Phish and tape trading was the feeling of desire you had to amass more tapes. Until you got your hands on the tapes, you could only imagine how good a particular jam was. And when you got tapes, regardless of how average the show might have been, there was a satisfaction of adding it to the collection and seeing whether a long term relationship developed. Being limited in choice meant that you required to relisten to some shows and given the chance to love them, you did. I love stories about favourite tapes, lost and found, how they played in the car on countless trips or when driving through a particularly treacherous snowstorm. The tape itself becomes an object of affection. I think we’ll still find our favourites (SPAC 04 didn’t suffer as a choice part of my collection just because it came about at a time when I could have got anything), but I think we’ll overlook a lot of smaller moments, which as phans, we’d come to love if we gave them a second or third or fourth chance. (Luckily we got Mr Miner to draw our attention to these with this blog!)

    I think it’s right to say that as a result of all this instant access we’ve become more just a bit more jaded: we’re impatient and dissatisfied listeners, always looking for the next killer show or individual jam. We skip over the bits in between looking for a constant rush of IT moments, which I think eventually start to lose their power to thrill us. We don’t realise that part of what makes those moments powerful is what we bring to them: that sense of yearning for IT, those hours of listening patiently through another CTB or Sparkle.

    I’ve started to limit my downloading to one or two shows a week from Phishthoughts and try to listen to every track on them. I admit I skip though a YEM vocal jam every time, but I’ve heard a lot of amazing playing in songs nobody rates at all. Phish are legend not just for the epic jams, but for being amazing musicians pretty much no matter what they play.

    To use a poor analogy, do you think people would enjoy being bird watchers if they could see every bird imaginable at will?

  20. cottle Says:


    Yes and no. I have only one ticket for the three night run, and the girl who’s riding up with me has no tickets at all.

    I know how you feel. Phish says: “Don’t come to a sold-out show without tickets” and I want to oblige, but this event is too big for me to just give up on. If I stay at home on the couch and watch another Law and Order marathon (or whatever shitty tv show is on), I definitely won’t get in. I’d much rather go and try, even if I can’t get in, and know I gave it my all. I’ve only been shut out of three shows…and to this day I’m convinced it’s because I didn’t try hard enough. That was back in ’99, and I was in my “I don’t really care if I get in, I just came to party” phase. Luckily that attitude didn’t last, and I quickly remembered that there’s more to a show than the lot.

    Having said all that….I’ve never in my life seen a run before this one where tickets have sold for the absolutely ridiculous prices such as these. All weekend, Friday tickets have been $800 – $1200 on ebay. I just hope that these guys who charge out the wazzoo for tickets on the internet won’t have the moxy to try it in person, and that maybe extras on the lot (if there are any) will go for “reasonable” prices.

    Good luck to you, bro. If all else fails, Kimock on Sat/Sun in Norfolk is gonna be the heat!

  21. molemanx Says:

    Screw just the audio technology…..its time they start streaming and releasing HD video of every show.

  22. empire Says:

    i threw all of mine away a couple of months back, and now I regret it even though they were just in a box and I dont even have a tape player, I have one here at work a st.pete 10-20-94set II show.. It would be cool to make some kind of art out of the tapes for those that still have them.
    if anyone has any asheville extras after hampton..please please consider
    selling them to me…

  23. empire Says:

    Por Favor!!

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    I still listen to every show start to finish, and try not to look at setlists as I go. The quantity I’ve gotten recently has certainly harmed the relisten factor though.

  25. SOAM Says:

    I think there is potential for a flood of tickets to be around because there are people still selling them for insane money-come thursday these duchebags are going to find out there are not too many normal fans who would ever pay 500.00 dollars or more for a couple sets of phish and older fans who have a little dough but have seen plenty enough not to bend over and get rammed by these nazi ticket bastard theives.

    they will be outside trying to unload these tickets for huge dough and it might be time for a little beatdown on shakedown-

Leave a Reply