Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bootleg Nation: David Nelson Band - 07/21/01

For years I have been collecting what I’ll call bootleg CDs. Though the term bootleg gives all kinds of wrong impressions, as if I’m selling cases of scotch under the table during Prohibition.

The bootlegs I am referring to are not only legal, but highly condoned in some circles. I’m talking about live concert recordings unreleased by the studios or the bands.

People have been recording concerts since there has been portable recording equipment. Alan Lomax was traipsing around the country recording folk and blues artists in the 1930s. Today, some bands allow fans to patch directly into the soundboard with pristine, lossless DAT machines.

The Grateful Dead were pioneers of bootleg trading. Instead of spending thousands of dollars trying to hunt down thieves and bootleggers selling live recordings of their performances, they killed the opportunity by giving their live recordings away. They set up a special taper’s section in the audience allowing anyone with a portable mike to set up shop and record every note. On many nights they would allow fans to patch directly into their soundboard. They always recorded their own shows, and often “leaked” copies to fans and allowed everyone to make copies, as long as it wasn’t sold for profit.

It became a profitable marketing adventure. Fans would turn on others to the band by sharing the live music, thus creating other fans who would then buy the bands albums and pay to see their concerts in person. Through the years other bands have seen the wisdom in this policy and have followed suite.

There is a whole underground movement of fans trading live concert recordings. It is quite an addicting hobby, let me tell you. I’ve been trading for about 8 years now and have well over 800 hours of live music CD.

My collection is more live music than I could ever listen to, and yet I am continually in search of more. With the advent of cheap, fast broadband connections there is more live music available than ever before.

Live music feeds weary ears. With the decline of actual music on the radio, and the rising prices of studio albums, finding mind moving, completely legal music available for the price of your time to download is an absolutely beautiful thing.

In Bootleg Country, I will attempt to go through my collection of live music and review every note.

David Nelson Band
Honeydew, CA

A few years back I worked with a guy named Bob. Bob was somewhere in his middle fifties, with a nice beer gut hanging over his belt loop and long, curly gray hair. He was a throwback from the 1960’s summer of love. He was a genuine hippy, and remained true to those ideals even into the year 2000.

The David Nelson Band reminds me of Bob. They are still waving their freak flags, and playing music as if it could save our souls.

A David Nelson Band show is like a picnic on a sunny day. They mix old time country music with the folk wisdom of 1960’s San Francisco and sprinkle it with psychedelic jams.

You can picture yourself sitting in a city park, spread out on a blanket, belly fully of fried chicken while listening to this band. They have the homely feel of any small town local band playing songs that you’d sing to your kids. Although they have the chops to blow any local players through the roof, they maintain that intimate, down home feel to their concerts.

It’s a band that can make a medley of “All You Need is Love” and “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” and play it without a twinge of irony.

Songs like “Panama Red” and “Ragged But Right” start off the show and they are just the type of songs I’m talking about. They are blue collar songs with the kind of lyrics that truck drivers, hippies and grandmothers could all sing along with and smile. The music is country swing that would feel at home anywhere the grass is green and the sun is shining.

As the set carried on, some of the songs mixed in try way to hard to be meaningful. Songs like “Last Lonely Eagle” just have cringe inducing lyrics like

If you go down where the lights push the nighttime
Back far enough so you can't feel the fear
Remember the boy who you left on the mountain
Who's sitting alone with the stars and his tears

The second set really scorches it up with some very stellar improvisational jams. The music jumps into interstellar overdrive with a sweet instrumental jam of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain,” sending the grandmas to the snack shack and the rest of us into twirling heaven.

The third set brings us back down to earth with the aforementioned “Love Medley” and some more silly, hokey hippy music.

I don’t suspect the David Nelson Band will ever make onto MTV, or Billboard’s Top 40 list. You won’t see them headlining a world wide stadium tour in this lifetime. But as they continue to travel the country, small venue tour at a time, they’ll continue to play real music from the heart, with the chops to back them up and keep audience of all sizes smiling and dancing through the night.

If you’d like a copy of this show, leave me a comment, and I'll try to work something out for you.

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