To There and FLAC Again

12.31.09 (Wendy Rogell)

Once upon a time, legions of fans listened to cassette tapes to relive those magical moments from shows past. But there was a catch to this tie-dyed culture of tape trading: unless you got a tape within its first two generations from its master recording, a venomous hiss  poisoned the tape, making the nuances of the music inaudible. One might as well have had a pillow over his or her head while listening to the show. But the community continued dubbing tapes to higher generations and enjoyed the memories – however muddled. Only few people in the larger scheme of things were close enough to tapers to get quality recordings, so countless fans spun tapes that would be deemed unlistenable by today’s standards.

A Classic Dual-Deck

Then, just as everyone had accumulated at least two hundred Maxell XL IIs, the CD-R appeared on the scene, eliminating that tape hiss forever and transforming everyone’s collections into useless relics of the analog age. Burning CDs became the rage, as there was no loss of quality. Thus CD-Rs were the media of choice…for a while. They sounded the way the music should sound, with their only drawbacks being their ability to scratch and their size. One couldn’t easily travel with tons of music, though I often pushed these boundaries. Heading to Amsterdam to visit friends during the CD era, I brought 1000 CDs as carry-ons in two Case Logics. Once there, the books were unquestionably worth having as we passed through the archives in all sorts of mind-states. But walking through airports and toting them on crowded trams with luggage was hardly fun at all.

The Original iPod

One fine day, Apple came up with a solution to this sort of over-sized music conundrum: the iPod. All of a sudden, one could hold all of their  CDs in the palm of their hand or put them in their back pocket – the concept was nothing short of revolutionary. But there was one drawback: the mp3. IPods only play new-school compressed audio files – mp3s – that, even when sampled at the highest rate, compromised the true sound of the music. Lopping off the highest and lowest frequencies, mp3s sounded “close enough” for most people to make the quick conversion. But many held out, and I was one of these people.

I watched people buy generation after generation of iPod while I carried my Sony Discman to the gym because it just sounded better. Way better – especially for live music. So I kept downloading FLACs and burning them to CDs so my music remained portable. With no foresight, I routinely deleted the FLACs because they took up so much room on my hard drive. This was my method through 2004 and beyond, as I continued to build by collection after Coventry. I never caught onto to straight FLAC listening because my computer was never my main source of music – that was left to my stereo – so I stuck to CDs.

6.27.10 (G.Lucas)

But in 2005, I caved and bought my first iPod mostly for the convenience of having other music available, leaving my Phish listening primarily on disc. But at some point during the off years, a friend gave me the generous gift of a magic hard drive. All you had to do was think of a show, navigate through some folders, and it would appear on the screen. Needless to say, this hard drive changed everything for me. Any and all Phish at the click of a finger? Was I on Candid Camera? But again there was one drawback – every show was encoded in 320 kbps to mp3 . But with such an archive at my access for the first time ever, I simply didn’t care. I loaded my iPod with music I had never heard before and was as happy as a pig in shit.

When Phish returned in 2009, the audiophile in me had already been lulled to sleep by the overwhelming ease of mp3s. If I kept ’em at 320 kpbs, how much difference could there really be? This is how I rationalized my assimilation into the Apple empire. When Phish came back and began offering downloads within hours of the show, I began pulling the mp3s while on the road in order to load them onto the iPod for in-car listening. Thus when I got home, I had the entire tour on my computer and never thought about upgrading.

iTunes and ALACs

But just two weeks ago, I learned of ALAC files. When someone turned me on to Apple’s new lossless format (.m4a files), I decided to try them out. I downloaded The Greek’s third show from LivePhish, loaded the ALACs into iTunes and clicked on “Light.” As the track started, I was transported to The Greek Theatre, sitting dead center about halfway up the amphitheatre – the golden spot. The sound was impeccable and the difference from the mp3 was not only immediately apparent over my small computer speakers, it was astounding! I could actually hear each and every cymbal hit from Fishman. Mike’s countless bass nuances popped from my subwoofer, uncovering sound unattainable through mp3s. The tone of Trey’s Ocecdoc screamed out of my mini Harmon/Kardon speakers, while Page sounded far more present due to the lossless files’ most obvious improvement – their musical separation. One could choose which instrument to follow and listen note for note without any muddied tones or compromised highs and lows. The band hadn’t even finished the verses to “Light” before I was completely reawakened with the musical equivalent of the red pill.

I immediately remembered why I had toted Case Logics around the world like brief cases and sworn to never get an iPod: when listening to music I hold as sacred, mp3s simply don’t cut it. Yes, they have their time and place, and their convenience is undeniable. But when listening to Phish, a band with a multi-dimensional rainbow of sounds and effects, one is simply cheating himself of the full experience when listening to mp3s. I had always known this, but had gradually become acculturated to the world of modern convenience.

The Gorge '09 (G.Lucas)

Needless to say, it was time to upgrade my old-school iPod with a larger-than-life 160 gig device. One by one, I downloaded my favorite shows in ALAC and FLAC (which are all convertible to ALAC in a cinch on a Mac) and began loading “Lossless Larry” with pristine files at the rate of approximately one gig per show. Though mp3s provide a limitless choice of music, I decided that an ever-rotating group of 145 lossless shows should do the trick. And with a portable hard drive that holds 500 gigs and is barely bigger than the iPod itself, my updated set up has me amped while only 25 gigs into my re-conversion. Honestly, the difference in quality with standard ALACs and/or FLACs (16/44) is painfully obvious even on low-budget ear buds.

After my post-tour realization that I can carry 145 lossless shows on an iPod, it goes without saying that I’ll never be downloading another mp3. An external hard drive solves any storage issues I once imagined existed, and I’ve re-entered the lossless lounge forever. What had I been thinking?

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

And to make things even easier, the brand-new $9.95 download credit for mp3s that comes with every ticket for Fall Tour can be applied to the FLAC or ALAC files for only $3 dollars more – the best $3 dollars money can buy these days. (For those on PCs, ALACs work with all versions of iTunes and load right onto your iPods as well.)

So if convenience calls, and you want to grab a show to listen quickly or  you need that impossibly long list of choices that an mp3-loaded iPod provides, 320 mp3s offer a legitimate option – no disrespect whatsoever. But if you want to listen to 100% of the music that we travel across the country and drain our bank accounts  for in quest of life’s ultimate, maybe you should check out lossless files if you haven’t already. I realize I’m late to the game here, but my reawakening has been profound. Every time I plug my iPod into my home stereo, my car stereo, or simply throw on my headphones, each moment sounds more authentic than ever. Lossless SBD files allow you to relive the show in the best seat in the house, regardless of where you wound up on that particular evening; a priceless experience.

As they sing on the tripped-out childrens’ show Yo Gabba Gabba!:”Try it… you’ll like it!


Jam of the Day:

Limb By Limb” 12.3.99 II

A definite re-post from the past, I was reminded of this psychedelic masterpiece yesterday. Some quintessential late-’99 jamming lies within.




7.8.1998 Zeleste, Barcelona, Spain < Torrent

7.8.1998 Zeleste, Barcelona, Spain < Megaupload

Europe '98

The first night of Barlecona ’98 got going quickly with a thick “Moma Dance” and one of the more shredding, structured”Bathtub Gins” you’ve never heard. “Punch,” “Frankenstein” and “Antelope” rounded out the first-set vibe. The second set, though a bit disjointed and underwhelming for this tour, featured solid versions of some stand alone songs. This file set contains a bonus SBD recording of a soundcheck jam and a partial SBD of the first set that cuts off in “Guyute.”

I: The Moma Dance, Bathtub Gin, Punch You In the Eye, Beauty of My Dreams, Frankenstein, Guyute, Run Like an Antelope

II: Wilson, Birds of a Feather, Dirt, Piper, Sleeping Monkey*, Ghost > Johnny B. Goode

E: Julius

*w/ crowd guest, Beatrice

Source: SBD and unknown


762 Responses to “To There and FLAC Again”

  1. yematt Says:

    yes, this is all good stuff! thanks bb

  2. KWL Says:

    sumo, some of those hotels (including ramada) have shuttles to the casinos, which is what i was planning on doing

    still, might be worth the extra cash to stay in a nice place and walk everywhere, not to mention the BB contingent there & at the trop

    we’ll see

    i’m done in CO and driving cross country straight to AC (32 hours!) before heading back home, so with the move i might be pretty strapped for cash

  3. sumodie Says:

    torrenting question

    Once I’ve deleted a torrent file (not the actual music file folder) from uTorrent, is there an easy way to re-link the music folder I downloaded with the original web url seed at etree?

    Doesn’t look like I’ll be re-seeding 7/2/98 tonight unless there’s an easy solution to my question

  4. KWL Says:

    ::sets multiple reminders and alarms to be in office at 3pm tomorrow::

  5. KWL Says:

    sumo, just re-download the torrent file, and open it

    make sure the music folder is in the same place as your torrent download location and that you haven’t re-named it

    the torrent client should recognize the folder/files, check all the data, and start seeding

  6. sumodie Says:

    @kwl: hard to say if the Chelsea is that much better than a Ramada, except for the location

  7. phoammhead Says:

    Aren’t the tickethorse tix paperless and you have to have credit card and id to enter on the order?

  8. butter Says:

    whats up guys

    foggy, cool and wet till noon

    then it burned off here and was a gorgeous afternoon, 72 degrees, clear not a cloud in the sky, got a round of golf in

    time to check out this l x l , from 99

  9. KWL Says:

    you have to have the credit card they were purchased on

    no other id required. meaning it doesn’t have to be your card.

  10. butter Says:

    just the credit card phoam, so you can use someone else’s card

    the scalpers just send one of those disposable debit cards
    they have it figured out better than the fans, for us they make trading a bitch

  11. KWL Says:

    well, calling it a night. gonna go spin darien 00, 10 years ago today

  12. phoammhead Says:


  13. Selector J Says:

    @ tela’s
    re: Yellowman
    Ah okay… Thought you meant Yellowman did underground stuff with On-U and was thinking, “How the hell have I not heard that?” (Glad I don’t have to track that down and buy it tonight!) As awesome as Yellowman was in ’82-84, I just can’t get into the production of his late 80s stuff. Bad synth galore.
    And yes, Yellowman was definitely The Don for a time (not entirely original though… like everyone else back then, half of his stylings were copped from the sparsely recorded Brigadier Jerry). However, lots of great artists came after his heyday with sounds just as original: Macka B, Admiral Bailey, Peter Metro, Ninjaman, Buju, Sizzla, Capleton, Busy Signal, Elephant Man, Chezidek, Tarrus Riley, just to name a few from the last 20+ years off the top of my head.

    i’m not hating on later 80′s reggae, but just commenting on how i think it’s a difficult genre to stay relevant and keep new ideas coming.

    I thought I was the one hating on late 80s reggae… or at least late 80s Yellowman 😉
    As to the second part of that statement, it sounds kinda like you’re saying, “There are very few ideas left for 70s and early 80s style reggae.” I think the answer to that is: that’s why they’re in the 70s and early 80s.
    You could say the same thing for disco, or soul, or punk, or whatever else from the same time period. Reggae changed an incredible amount in that very short time and then moved on to new stuff, for better or worse, just like everything else.

  14. tela'smuff Says:

    alright. hopefully this works for those looking for some Mad Professor and a few other reggae/dub albums.


  15. tela'smuff Says:

    funny timing Select!

    how dare i forget Macka B!!! he’s the shit. agree with you, nice points through and through.

    let’s try this link again.

  16. tela'smuff Says:

    nice. should be good to go. now i’m out.

  17. Selector J Says:

    Yea, very on point with the timing there, tela!
    When I hit submit, I was thinking how you probably turned in for the night and weren’t even going to read that…

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    “You could say the same thing for disco, or soul, or punk, or whatever else from the same time period.”

    yup. true of so many period genres..

    haven’t spun the Sept ’76 Dicks Pick in a long time. A mistake. Very nice stuff, starting to build to that ’77 energy but with fluid ’76 sound. Much better than any 6/76 shows IMO…some nice jamming even, with one real sick open jam segment in the second show…kind of a sleeper release

  19. fLippingBackward Says:

    Miner, thanks for the topic today. Oddly enough, it seems to be ever-present in my life at the moment. So much so, I was compelled to share with the group for my first ever BB post.

    I have always been a huge proponent of FLAC files and lossless music, even with the drawbacks of large file size and inability to add them to my iPod. And as you mentioned, external hard drives are a lifesaver. My practice has always been to store lossless on my external and lossy on my portable music player. It doesn’t make for the best musical experience in the car but I jam just the same (Until I try these m4a’s. Sidebar… Can’t wait for that!). However, the life saving and life improving technology has reared its ugly head into my life recently and everyone should know what I wish I did a few months ago. If I can save 1 person the frustration, money, and tears (oh yes there were tears), then this post is worth a few karma points at the very least.
    A few months ago, my very large external was getting nearly full of my years and years worth of downloading lossless Phish SBDs and consolidating my life’s pictures into one location. Shortly after buying another, my older (~1.5 years old) full external crashed and ALL the files became corrupt and were unable to be accessed. In tears, I drove to Best Buy out of pure desperation in hopes they could help (sidebar 2… I confirmed my hatred for that store). But because of the advice of an amazing random stranger at the customer service counter who consoled me as my life seemed to be ending, and as the Best Buy asshole basically told me that I was f*ed and they couldn’t help me, mentioned this had happened to her and to Google data restoration for help. I was able found various data restoration companies in my area and obtained quotes to get my music and pictures back. Let me tell you, this is NOT CHEAP and it was a huge hard drive. But my life’s pictures were irreplaceable, and my life’s lossless Phish seemed the same.

    Long story short (yes, this is indeed the abbreviated version), I was told that the mechanism externals use to fix themselves takes memory. When the external approaches its memory capacity, it no longer has the ability to make those basic repairs and they crash and burn just like computers. RULE #1 When your external gets to 70% full, stop and buy another. RULE #2 Back up important things that can not be re-downloaded (pictures, documents, etc) in multiple places. CDs are still our friends.

    P.S. I was told I can get my files back and should get them in a few weeks 🙂
    P.S.S. I want to thank my Best Buy angel lady wherever she may be… 1,000,000 karma points to her.

  20. BTB Says:

    skip about 1 minute into this…

    PH with Soul Train dance moves…I think I’ve pulled a few of these moves in my day!

  21. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    the breakfast must be in te top 5 most talented jam bands of all time, i mean that with all my heart. they deserve to be playing msg….

    see: cantina theme 10.29.05…
    RIDICULOUS Reba cover. incredible jam…. 12.29.07. (whole show too)

    give that reba a chance if you havent heard it.

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Nice BTB, I still throw those moves when I am not hand dancing. though they don’t flow anymore and I need a day of recovery.

  23. garretc Says:

    Hahahaha BTB, that’s fucking awesome!

    Take some notes for NYEMSG…

  24. brother Says:

    Ha! soul train phish funk kicks ass. i have no moves like that unfortunately.

  25. BTB Says:

    I got no shows coming up…so pissed.

    Listening to a pretty dope recording earlier at work – Jaco Pastorius sitting in with Herbie Hancock. Unbelievable tightness for a “sit in” performance from Jaco. But that’s how those guys roll

Leave a Reply