In many ways, taper culture these days resembles the situation the Samurai found themselves in following the fall of feudal Japan. Having formerly played an essential role as the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan, the decline began in the late 1800s when Emperor Meiji stripped the Samurai of their right to wear the katana in public and replaced them with a more modern, western-style, conscripted army. Many of the once-great Samurai warriors became lost souls, wandering towns in search of work, unsure of their future in modern Japan.
Lots of cities these days have one or two local tapers that resemble these lost Samurai. Many have come from the Grateful Dead or Phish scenes and now carry on their once fanatical passion by taping the odd show for fun. These individuals are a lot like local musical archivists who capture some of their city’s live happenings and share the recordings on their websites. The sound quality is generally good, not great—it’s more about capturing the moment. These tapers aren’t smuggling pieces of taping rigs into shows and seeking out the ideal positions to achieve maximum sound quality like the Bob Menke and Louis Falanga team. No, these tapers are merely continuing a hobby that they love.
Having grown up a major Deadhead, I always felt I would somehow find my way back to that scene in some other form. There’s been signs along the way, but perhaps the biggest one came earlier this year when I saw a Woods tape being offered “for trade only” by someone from the Sacred Bones family flying under the name of Grateful Bones. Then, just a few weeks back I received word of a new series of releases titled Live in San Francisco being put out by Castle Face Records. The first installment in that series captures one of the best live bands on the scene, White Fence, over two nights at the Bay Area’s Amnesia, while the second catches new stoner-psych band Fuzz tearing down the walls on their drummer Ty Segall’s recent birthday. Both of these recordings were taped on a Tascam 388 and engineered by Chris Woodhouse, Eric Bauer, Bob Marshall, and Castle Face’s John Dwyer. You can hear cuts from both shows below.
White Fence Live in San Francisco is available on cd and vinyl with the option of a special lenticular cover, which creates magical movement through print-wizardry. Purchase it via Castle Face.