In the digital age it seems quaint to have a collection of audio cassette tapes. Most of my collection was replaced by CD and then ripped to a hard disk archive years ago. But I hung on to my hundreds of Grateful Dead concert bootlegs over the years and dutifully packed them up for moves across the country and around the world.
On occasion, I plugged in an old Nakamachi deck, and played some of these old tapes to see what was on them. Many were inferior to the carefully restored digital transfers that serious traders have spruced up and put into circulation. When better copies were to be found, I chucked the tapes and was left with a 30 or so original tapes that I had made myself by “patching in” my Sony D5 into another taper’s mic setup.
I finally digitized one of my last originals and found this gem of a segment from a New Year’s Eve run in Oakland. It’s amazing how listening to something from 27 years ago can bring you right back. I’ll set the scene.
There were three or four of us daisy-chained off of a mic setup in the taper’s section which was towards the rear of the Oakland Coliseum Arena. It was the second night in a four night run and after an fairly standard first set we were just relaxing waiting for the second set to begin. I’d been chatting with one of the other tapers and we were swapping tales and discussing what might come next. The guy with the mics was named Dave and he seemed a bit nervous and was checking his equipment.
Just then, Dave’s friend came over carrying two enormous buckets of beer. He wasn’t really hip to the whole “taper vibe” and the friend was clearly annoyed because it’s not really cool to be a loudmouth in the Taper’s Section and Dave was clearly concerned that his friend was going to cause a ruckus once the music started.
Anyway, Dave’s friend tries to make his way over, climbing over the seats and is trying to watch his step as he tiptoes over all the cords and equipment below while keeping the beers from spilling over. The other taper and I are looking on with bemusement but Dave’s eyes are getting wider as his friend lumbers over to his delicately calibrated setup.
“Dave! Hey Dave! I got you some beeer!” he hollers.
Just then he trips on something and falls into the mic stand which he hits with his elbow, crumpling it in the process.
“What the hell? Watch what you’re doing?” Dave and his friend start to argue. Everything is in disarray. Dave is visibly annoyed and tries to salvage the situation by pulling out some duct tape to see if he can patch things up and get the mics pointing in the right direction.
The taper dude and I are completely at the mercy of Dave and we basically resigned ourselves to not being able to tape the second set. The argument continues with Dave muttering under his breath and Dave’s drunk friend half-apologizing but also giving Dave grief for not packing the right equipment. It’s a funny moment – two East Coasters clearly out of their element, definitely not “go with the flow” types that are the Deadhead types on the West Coast.
It’s a funny moment. I look over at the other taper and we both decide at that point to hit <Rec>
To cap things off, Dave gets everything patched up right as the lights go down and the band drops into a sweet China Cat > Rider. A slice of history.