Interview: Why Is NYCTaper So Good to Us?

09/28/2010 10:46 AM |

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  • iPhone photo courtesy acidjack

There are those of us who didn’t see Pavement five times last week, those who wish they had, and those who just want to re-live the times they did see them over and over again. No matter the case, this is where the man known as nyctaper, New York’s criminal defense lawyer by day, resident live show archivist by night, comes into play. Between him and his team at NYCTaper.com, they showed up early to all five shows, recorded the audio to each, twiddled in post-production, and uploaded them here, where they’re available for download free of charge.

The fact that these are Pavement shows we’re talking about has caused a bit of a ruckus though, causing a web server not equipped to handle so much traffic to crash numerous times these past few days. We spoke via e-mail to nyctaper and acidjack, choosing to go by their audio hoarder aliases, about their take on the shows, taping in a downpour, and how it feels to have bottled a small slice of NYC rock history.

The L: Were you personally at all five Pavement shows or did you have help archiving them?

acidjack: Yes, I was at four out of the five shows. NYCTaper was at the Thursday show, which I missed due to work. On Tuesday, Johnny (also from NYCTaper.com) was with me and was a big help setting up the mics and giving me advice on where to put them.

The L: If you had to choose one, which night was your favorite?

acidjack: I thought the first Central Park show was the best of the four I saw. The band was in a great mood. They were jokey and loose, but musically they were really firing on all cylinders. Plus I think the energy of it being the first night in Manhattan, and in Central Park, was hard to replicate. The crowd was really packed in, whereas at the Waterfront there was more space and a little less crowd energy.

The L: How about your least favorite?

acidjack: Easily Friday. The rain on Wednesday was not fun, but that actual show
was excellent. Friday’s show seemed a little strange. There was an emphasis on slower songs, and while I liked the loose feel of Tuesday, this show just felt more sloppy at times. It had to have been hard to keep their energy up for five straight nights, and I know the band members were really worn out from the Fallon taping the day before (despite that they only play one song on the show, that entails a LOT of takes).

I like it generally when Malkmus shows off his development on the guitar over the past 11 years, but I think some of the jamming was maybe seen by some as a bit foreign or not part of Pavement’s style. I’m inferring a lot there, admittedly, from when after the extended “Heaven Is a Truck,” which they for some reason subbed in for “Fight This Generation,” Bob yelled out, “Pavement and the Jicks!” I was laughing because that was exactly what it seemed like. But I am quibbling… I mean, every show by this band is awesome, and I would go to that Friday show again this week and next week and the week after that if I
could.

The L: Was there any song left out of their setlists that you really wish they would’ve played?

acidjack:: “Cream of Gold” from Terror Twilight is such a colossal rocker. I had really wanted to hear that. I’m also a huge fan of “We Are Underused,” another big, anthemic number, and I think that would have worked well in the big outdoor setting.

The L: Best stage banter moment/any particular Malkmus comment stick out?

acidjack: Other than Bob’s “Pavement and the Jicks!” comment, I thought a lot of their riffing on Williamsburg on the first night was funny. I’m one of many relatively new transplants to Williamsburg, so I think it’s hard for people like me (and a lot of the audience that night) to grasp how different it was back in the “bad old days” (or maybe “good,” depending how you look at it). The image that they mentioned of the band Biohazard stenciling the Biohazard symbol all over the neighborhood was funny; also, anything about a metal band called “Biohazard” is somewhat inherently hilarious.

I mentioned this in my review [of the show], but to me the image of Pavement — this massively influential, successful avatar of the 90s indie scene — playing a show to a young audience, facing back at Manhattan, was really powerful. Back when Pavement were starting out, there were still parts of Manhattan that were incubators of vital music the way Williamsburg and Bushwick are now. Today, other than a few of the venues, the entire scene, at least as far as indie-rock, has really migrated across the bridge. It underscored how long it had been since Pavement had been around. Heck, half the venues they played back in the day are gone.

nyctaper: I loved Malkmus congratulating the band after “Loretta’s Scars” since it was only the third time they’d ever played the song live.

The L: Was there any hesitation from Pavement’s camp in getting the go-ahead to record the shows?

acidjack: One of my friends is friendly with one of the band members and discussed with him what we wanted to do. We had an all-access pass that we used and the tour manager’s phone number if anything went wrong. Pavement has had a policy of permitting taping and trading on a non-commercial basis of their music among fans for a long time now — I recorded several shows on the Terror Twilight tour with another guy who had a big, complex rig like the one I use now.

They aren’t as up front about letting people know about the policy the way that big jam bands are, but that’s kind of in keeping with their style. Obviously, the way that our site distributes music is somewhat more sophisticated than the analog tapes and DAT decks we used to use back in the 90s to share music, but the goal and the ultimate result is the same. Except, of course, that there is no longer quality loss from making multiple generations of copies, which is nice.

The L: Is it more difficult capturing audio at a huge outdoor venue like Rumsey Playfield versus a small club?

acidjack: Absolutely. Clubs like the Bowery Ballroom, Bell House and Rock Shop, among many, sound amazing almost every single night. You have a nice, confined space with a top-quality PA system. You are almost invariably close to the sound source and there is no wind. At Central Park, we ran a tripod and mics from back at the soundboard area on two nights, but it was difficult because of the distance from the stage and the wind noise, which we can mitigate in post-production to some degree, but still becomes an issue.

That is why I chose to use a smaller mobile setup on Wednesday and Friday, because I figured I could get up close and get a stronger, more “in your face” sound, and being down lower would cut down on the wind. Of course, that means more clapping and audience sounds, but the crowds at these shows were generally very respectful and cool during the songs, cheering like hell in between, but not having lame conversations like I see at way too many club shows.

The L: What about on Wednesday during the rain storm? I imagine that got a little messy.

acidjack: Yeah, it was really bad. Luckily, the mics I were using were less expensive than the DPA mics that I usually use, so I kind of decided that if they got destroyed, I wasn’t going to lose as much money (though they are still far from cheap). My friend had a dress shirt on over his t-shirt, so he gave me that, and the mics were taped to my cap. I threw the shirt over the cap and hoped for the best in terms of the mics not getting wet and the shirt not blocking too much sound. I hope I didn’t block the view of people behind me too badly with the big shirt on my head.

The L: On the site you mention you’ve been having some server problems due to an overwhelming amount of traffic coming to download these shows. Which of the five have received the most downloads so far?

acidjack: I think the Williamsburg show has been the most popular, probably because it was first. We’ve tried to mitigate the server issues by moving the downloads to a different server and setting up the FLAC files for download from personal BitTorrents, but the site has just seen a ton of demand for these recordings. Which is a good thing. I am thrilled that people are interested in hearing Pavement, and I hope it leads younger and newer fans to go out and buy their records and find out what they’re about.

The L: Have there been any other concerts in recent memory that have drawn this amount of traffic to your site?

nyctaper: The three worst periods of downtime were the Animal Collective shows in January of ’09, the Deerhunter show from August (with new songs) that got linked at Pitchfork, Stereogum and Fader all within a few hours, and this past week with Pavement, Superchunk and Dirty Projectors all going up at once. We’ve upgraded to a private server, allocated extra bandwidth, utilized a mirror server, and now we’re doing private BitTorrents, and still the site has been down a few times today. We need a “white knight” to come and and offer us a huge server with huge bandwidth, like archive.org.

The L: I imagine going to shows, taping shows, uploading shows, etc. is extremely time consuming, yet all the downloads are completely free. Are you able to make money off of this in any way?

nyctaper: The site is completely non-profit. In fact, we lose a ton of money every year on server fees, tickets, travel, equipment, etc. But voluntary donations paid for about half the server fees this past year and we do get a lot of guest list invites. We are not in this for the money since we all have our own jobs. We do this because it can be incredibly rewarding and a great time. There are times obviously when its arduous and not so much fun, but overall its been an incredible experience at the site. We like to think that we’ve assisted in creating a very positive music scene in this city, and we archived a very fruitful time in the history of NYC live music.

The L: Did you have to buy tickets to each Pavement show a year in advance like the rest of us indie-rock nerds or were you able to get guest listed?

acidjack: Yes, I went online and bought tickets to as many shows as I could. I actually didn’t get one to Wednesday so I had to go and buy one the day of. Like a lot of folks, I ended up with extra tickets on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday I just had to leave three tickets on the fence, figuring some kid might need a miracle.

nyctaper: We all bought our Pavement tickets, but guest list invites account for more than 50 percent of our total shows these days.

The L: Now that Pavement can be checked off the list, what other band would you most like to see reunite?

The Smiths, The Replacements, Talking Heads, Husker Du and Ben Folds Five.