Wilco @ Coney Island : Donate And Get It.

Keyspan Park on Coney Island
Keyspan Park on Coney Island

In an effort to encourage people to donate to the relief effort in Haiti, Wilco posted 2 shows on their website in exchange for a donation (its the honors system, they link to a few charities, don’t screw your karma here!) Of course, we shouldn’t need incentives to help those in need…but a few live concerts is a nice touch. One of the recordings is this summers show from Keyspan Park in Coney Island. It was a beautiful summer evening, outdoor small stadium, free ice cream trucks in the parking lot, Nathans hot dogs, Feist and the dude from Grizzly Bear sat in, all good things. But listening back, as is often the case, the energy doesn’t translate as well. A live album is a tricky and mysterious thing. For every “Live At Budokan” there are hundreds of “Kiss Alive XXVII”.

Tweedy and Feist in Brooklyn
Tweedy and Feist in Brooklyn

In my earliest days of audiophile aspirations, I traded cassettes of live shows. This was in the early days of the Internet, we still mailed cassettes, CD burners were not commercially available…and you could barely send a jpeg…UPHILL IN THE SNOW BOTH WAYS! Recently when my parents moved from their house, I found all these original cassettes in the basement in several racks. There were hundreds of them. Sometimes you would get lucky, as in the case of The Black Crowes, i believe it was the Palace Theater, in Syracuse 1996. Someone leaked a soundboard recording of the show, I still remember the insert card on the case, it was bright pink photocopied, with some Fillmore style text on it. Even on that crappy inconsistent speed of the cassette, probably 9th generation, you could feel the incredible multiple drug infused energy of this band at their peak. On the other hand, pick any one of thousands of Grateful Dead tapes from XYZ Arena, and you have the opposite effect.

As far as official live releases go, the classic AC/DC life is pretty near flawless.  The Stones live classic “Get Yer Yayas Out”  Is a perfect picture of a sloppy burnt out bunch of English rockers at their best, just about to fall apart and create a masterpiece in the studio.  It seems like back in the day, more thought was put into a live album, since so much preparation had to be taken in order to make it happen.  With remote recording rigs so readily available, I would venture to say that most larger bands record nearly everything they do. Sometimes they all get released- as is the case with the Live Phish series, as well as current Black Crowes shows. Others, as in the case with Wilco, they filter the releases a little more. The Keyspan Park show probably suffers in the technical mix a bit, maybe we were just distracted by the beautiful surroundings of Coney Island at the time, who knows. But in some cases, I think my new philosophy will be to live in the moment as far as shows go, and not seek recordings after the fact.