I don’t treasure my Phish shows like I used to. I have a whole hard drive full of them, and I’ve backed them all up. I don’t want to lose them, but if I do, what of it? It doesn’t matter, all those ones and zeros still exist out there in the ether, so I can track them down again if I have to. To get tapes, let alone listenable ones, that took some doing. You had to network, both in person at shows and afterwards online. Every overstuffed bubble mailer that arrived at your door represented some sort of minor miracle.
When I was a senior in High School I got sent a pristine First Generation (remember “generations”, no more, thanks to digital) copy of 10/22/96, Madison Square Garden, within a week of it happening. That was a big damn deal! I must’ve dubbed a hundred copies of that show and made enough trips to the post office to know the clerks by name in order to spread the jams. It really took some doing.
My tape collection still has more personality than anything I’ve ever downloaded. Each package would arrive in the mailbox, and there was this moment of excitement. What could it contain? Is this the perfect show?! Some tapes would arrive with almost no information. Annoying yes, but somewhat like a game to figure out what you were listening to. Some of the best ones would come with full-on artwork that rivaled an official release. But some of those other tapes really had character! Out of the blue, there’d be god knows what, like stickers, pictures and other ephemera. It was kind of like a grab bag of Phishness.
- Aaron Hawley, excerpt from "The Relentless Communicator: A Tape Trader’s Lament" (2/1/11) on onlinephishtour.com.
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