Monday, June 18, 2007

Digging Through the Live Music Archive

In the Live Music Archive there are basically two categories: Grateful Dead shows and non-Dead shows. Most artists in the database are dwarfed by the huge Grateful Dead Live Archive, which covers a 30-year span and has a whopping 2,800 shows. I haven’t downloaded the one and only Dead show I saw which was at RFK in ’86 but my memories of that day are still pretty vivid. It was a wild scene and unforgettable.

Out of the 128 Camper Van Beethoven shows in the archive I thought by chance one would document one of the nights I had seen them in D.C. back in the mid 80’s but most recordings were from 2003 to present - so no such luck. Ditto for the Robyn Hitchcock shows. While much of the archive is devoted to bands I’ve never heard of like the Disco Bicuits which have 700+ shows for instance, there is something here for everyone. Maybe even one of those ‘lost shows’ from your past. I did find two very different but enjoyable live sets.

While probably not new to many fans, Mojave 3’s Black Session from November 11, 1995 has a certain legendary status as being their first live show and is in my opinion on par with their official releases. A set of 8 songs slowly unwinds for the C’est Lenoir radio show in front of a small audience. A charming recording full of first-gig jitters that make it hard not to like.

On a related note, now has Slowdive’s last and hard to find out-of-print LP Pygmalion which I’d been curious about for sometime but couldn’t find a copy. Pygmalion further explores the territory of ambient textures and Eno influenced soundscapes.

Getting back to the Archive - The Minutemen were giants of their time and still stand as one of my favorites from the 80’s hardcore scene. Listening to this complete set from March 9, 1983 recorded in NYC does nothing in the way of changing my opinion. Blazing through 38 songs with hardly a pause between for fans to yell “Van Halen!” makes me want to yell "San Pedro!"


Pete Bilderback said...

The Minutemen were awesome. It makes me sad that I never got to see them live. I never saw fIREHOSE live either, though not from lack of trying. Every time I tried to see them something bad happened--a car broke down, or we got lost for 5 hours on the way to Swarthmore College, or the sky started raining toads. Guess some things weren't meant to be.

I remember that Dead show well (also the only time I went to see them). Dylan and Petty played too. Dylan was who I was there to see. It was RFK stadium, and it was about 120 degrees on the field. My friend Mike (now a venture capitalist) was with us. He was in a bad place having recently lost his older brother in a climbing accident. He tried every drug he could get his hands on (which is saying something considering it was a Dead show). I kept telling him to slow down, but he repeatedly said "Don't worry, I always come out on top." Guess he was right. That was some day.

I have since developed an affection for American Beauty and Working Man's Dead, and a few other Dead things, but I have to say I never really "got" the whole Dead cult thing. I found Deadheads pretty annoying. I was very turned off to what I perceived as an extremely rigid conformity within the "non-conformist" subculture. (The same can be said for nearly any subculture--it's also what turned me off about harDCore, although I liked that music more). I remember many conversations with Deadheads that basically amounted to "Why don't you be more open-minded and like exactly the same things as me?"

Deadheads made me want to go straightedge, and straightedge punks made me want to drop acid.

Pete Bilderback said...

There are two Robyn Hitchcock things from the Live Music Archive I highly recommend:

Live at NHK (a well recorded Hitchcock solo acoustic show from 2005)
The Soft Boys: Live at WFMU (great reunion show from 2002, also well recorded)

Thanks for posting on this, BTW.

Adam silverman said...


It's nice to see Slowdive get some attention. I always thought that they managed to rise above the shoegazer clutter at the time.

As for Pete B's comments concerning Deadheads, I think the bigest problem I had with the culture was that they simply weren't any fun. I think that arose from the participants commiting themselves to a movement that was based on honoring the halcyon days they never personally experienced ('68 in San Francisco).

Peter Hennig said...

I was never a deadhead although I must admit being keen on the deadhead chicks at the time.

Hey, it was hard to say no to those grilled cheese sandwiches!

Anonymous said...

I always thought the Dead stuff with Pigpen was awesome. Some of it sounds like the Stones. Some of it sounds like Sonic Youth. The rest of it falls somewhere in between. Really dark, eerie music. After Pigpen passed away, the group turned into an easily-confused bunch of hippies who could never be mellow enough. Yech.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post - saw the Minutemen open up for REM in '85 a few months before D Boon die... Rock On