The Stone Age

The analog.  The tyrannosaurus rex of the listening world.  They were once worth their weight in gold.  There was nothing like getting a padded mailer knowing that the most recent shows were in there, even if they were second generation, or DAUD2, if you’re labeling.  The Maxell XLII, with all its design changes.  The XLIIS if you’re that guy.  You could hear the difference.  For sure.  “The hiss.  Definitely less hiss,” one would confidently say.  That friend who had all the tapes you wanted, so you listened to his pedantic “knowledge” so you had access to his collection.  Great guy; in fact, we were all that guy in one way or another.  Even though they had developed high-speed dubbing technology; we all refused to use it.  Anything to preserve the any ever-degrading quality on the tape- it was all about the quality in those days.  Sure the mics mattered, but you had better hope you got the show within the first three generations or forget about it- might as well have had a pillow over your head.  Then you finally got to know a taper, or someone who knew a taper; then the goods started to roll in.

Is this not how we all started listening to and collecting Phish?  It was a total obsession, something that can’t quite be reproduced by CDs or digital collections.  You had to take the card out and actually write out the date, location and songs!  How fun was that?  We all had our system.  If you were like me, you tried to make it seem like each card was produced by the same Phish factory, giving your best effort to write neatly and uniformly.  Then I got creative at some point, and decided to make each tape unique; that was much later in the game.  It was so satisfying to watch your collection grow in size; constantly figuring out new ways to house all the tapes. Shoe boxes, shelves, or those wooden racks; if you had a big collection, you literally had a big collection!  Storing CDs on spools, or in books comes close to this dynamic, but not that close.  There’s not as much to do and CDs don’t degrade when you copy them.  Digital files?  You can’t even see them. I now can hold most of Phish’s entire career in the palm of my hand.  Yeah, definitely not the same ballpark.  The closest you can get to creativity these days is how you label your files.  Go crazy.

We all listened to, and heard, some of the sickest and most amazing Phish music on analogs when our ears and brains were the freshest, so many years ago.  Arrowhead Ranch 7.21.91 with The Giant Country Horns.  Amy’s Farm 8.3.91.  Stanford 4.18.92.  Crest Theatre 3.22.93-Gamehendge. Bomb Factory 5.7.94.  Red Rocks 6.11.94.  Just a few classics that we all had.  Shows most of us probably haven’t listened to since the last days of cassette players in cars.  Stored memories, logged in our personal hard drives.

Some of my own favorite analogs of all-time were Great Woods 7.1.95, Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA 10.8.94, Providence RI 3.13.92, Trax- Charlottesville, VA 3.25.92, Fox Theatre 11.11.95, The Edge-Orlando 4.30.94, Redwood Acres- Eureka, CA 4.21.92 (and any soundboard I could get my hands on).  But I’d have to give Binghamton, NY 3.20.92 The Anakin Skywalker Award for The Best Analog Ever– for the show itself, the highly circulated SBD copy, and one of the greatest Antelopes of all time. (Have a listen below)

I still have all mine stored in my bedroom at my parents house, many hundred deep. There’s no way I could throw them out- they are my personal Phish history. I drove out west with my best 150 or so when I moved here almost ten years ago, when they were still relevant.  Then I got a DAT player, and the rest is history.  Still got those two racks downstairs in my garage, and they will move with me when I move next.  Why?  You know, the same reason you have yours.



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