Technology, she is incredible.
Growing up witnesses to the radical transformation from Nintendo Ice Hockey to NHLPA '93 on Sega Genesis, nobody in the neigborhood could get over the miraculous breakthrough.
But that all seems so primitive now, doesn't it? Dudn't it? I mean, would you ever have suspected that just a decade later you'd be able to watch a TiVo-ed television show without commercials while burning homemade compact discs of a 20-year-old concert on your desktop, while transferring those same files to a portable Walkman of sorts that holds 2,000 of your handpicked favorite songs, while surfing the ol' world wide web sans wires on your roommate's laptop computer, all while screening calls on a cellular telephone?
File sharing, instant messaging and electronic mail, online maps and directions and even an omniscient operator you can access with the touch of a button should you get lost on the way to Grandmama's house, free porn just a mouseclick away...
And I think to myself, what a wonderful fucking world.
For someone who "digs music" a la Russell Hammond on a Topeka rooftop, technology has provided countless Holy Grails for improving how and where we listen to music. For some reason, though, I resisted change for a long time. The year was 1999, and scores of techie Northwestern kids were burning concerts we had just seen onto discs left and right. Donnie and I were still stuck in the Maxell XL II Days, heading to Long Island's recently-deceased Prime Cuts Music Emporium for the latest shipment of Phish and Grateful Dead shows.
I didn't trust burned CDs just yet, and I had spent so much time collecting and dubbing hundreds of tapes that I didn't want to render that collection obsolete so quickly. Plus, there was a limited stock of what could be burned, mostly new shows: CD Kids weren't learning the history of the band, they were skimming the frosting off the top of the cupcake. I felt the tapes put me in the kitchen, chef's hat and all.
In the spring of 2000, this kid in my house burned me my first Phish show on disc, 12/2/99, probably my favorite show ever. And it sounded fucking awesome. No hiss. No flipping sides. The ability to skip over that Bouncin'. These things are sweet. Donnie and I decided to move on dot org. Count us on on this CD business...
Fast forward about five years and a thousand discs, and the technological advances are startling. Now you can go to any number of sites in order to download whatever the hell you're into. Just take one particular site, archive.org. Here, you can not only access hundreds of bands and tens of thousands of shows, but you can download 'em free of charge and enjoy their deliciousness for hours.
(The Archive incredibly stores nearly 2,800 Dead shows, available for listens or for keeps, any fuckin' show in the annals at your disposal. And that includes the unintentionally hilarious 9/24/88 Rainforest Benefit at MSG that featured special guests Darryl Hall and John Oates fronting for the Dead on Every Time You Go Away and What's Goin' On (best version this side of Rod Tidwell). Actually, it's pretty good music in addition to being surreal and funny...and the Man Smart, Women Smarter from that show is fantastic.)
Obviously it's been a long time since the turn of the millenium, and CDs and mp3s are now the preferred methods of most people who listen to music. But I still pine for the days of the tapes, and sometimes I get so nostalgic that I have Ace Cowboy Tape Listening Weeks, breaking out the cassettes for a fortnight of exclusive tape-driven aural pleasure inside the home.
The longstanding debate concerning tapes vs. CDs, in fact, inspired one of my best-crafted parodies (if I can say so myself). I once envisioned one of my favorite fictional military heros as the evil trader strenuously arguing the merits of discs in an e-mail to TJ in OH and Tits McGillicuty some years back. I really strive to put Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in every day situations at all costs: could be a great indie movie one day.
So, for shits and giggles, here's a bit of Kaffee v. Jessup, Tapes v. CDs (and yes, this might not make a lick of sense to 85 percent of you, but...eat shit, I don't care. This is comedy.):
"Son, we live in a world that burns discs, and those discs have to be taped by longhairs with mikes. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Languedoc? I have a greater FTP site than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the guy who yells 'in Vermont, you do what you want' into your feed and you curse the tapers. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the Tape's death, while tragic, probably spread music. And my file-sharing existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, spreads music.
You don't want fuzzy hisses, because deep down, in places you don't talk about at shows, you want my CDs in your stereo, you need my CDs in your stereo. We use words like burner, DAT, and shorten. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent improving something aurally. You use them as trade for your extra. I have neither the time nor the molly to explain myself to a spun-out wookie who rises and sleeps under the very blanket of gooballs that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said 'heady nuggets' and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a pack of 50 blanks and grab a chair. Either way, I don't give a damn, what you think you're entitled to."
"Did you order the Live Phish?"
"I did the job you sent me to do."
"Did you order the Live Phish?"
"You're goddamn right I did."