The quest for live tapes, though, has only increased, thanks to the proliferation of Internet pirate sites and more bands that allow taping at shows. Acts renowned for their jam-happy performances must make a choice either to fight bootlegging and risk the ire of their faithful or produce an acceptable alternative. With the release of live CDs this week, Dave Matthews Band and Phish both try to sate fans and eliminate the need for bootlegs.
These bands follow in the footsteps of their spiritual guide, the Grateful Dead, who, coincidentally, released Good Morning Little Schoolgirl--a Fillmore East set from February 11, 1969--this week. The Dead now have 11 live CDs available in stores, and also have nine full concerts available through their mail-order-only series, "Dick's Picks." Recently, major labels have finally begun to respond to consumer interest for live shows from other members of rock's old guard such as the Who and Led Zeppelin.
While Dave Matthews Band encourages taping, the group's also among the most bootlegged acts of the '90s. The situation irritated Matthews so much that he threatened to remove his product from stores that sold bootleg discs. He felt that he and his fans were being ripped off (a double-bootleg CD usually costs $50).
Response from the rock underground was swift--Matthews became a marked man. Readers of Live! Music Review, a monthly bootleg review magazine, called for a boycott. The reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that Matthews' management apologized to independent record-store dealers and promised an alternative.
Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95 is the band's answer, and it could serve as a model to other bands in similar situations. It restores Matthews' reputation as a fan-friendly artist, and points, hopefully, to the future of live releases. (Matthews says he'll put out a new concert every six months.)
Audio Clip: Dave Matthews Band, "Warehouse"
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Unlike Phish's truncated Slip Stitch and Pass, Red Rocks is a complete performance with no overdubs, and features tracks from all of the band's releases. The sound is spectacular and the performance inspired--offering a far different view of the band from their slick and poppy studio releases. From the jam-driven, opening "Seek Up" to the furious "Warehouse," the band has reinvented its MTV-hampered image.
"We've had some favorite shows that we've done...and this is one of them," Matthews says. "We can still satisfy the fans who want these live shows, and they don't have to gouge their pockets as deeply. And they're definitely going to get a better tape."