By Richard Gehr
Like many geezers who've been listening to the Grateful Dead for decades, my passion for America's Beatles was fueled by analog cassette tape trading via the US postal system. During those long, slow days before Al Gore invented the Internet, there always seemed to be time aplenty to dupe, package, mail, and await similar boxes of sublime audience recordings that spread like samizdat by like-minded fans.
Don't got time for that now, unfortunately. But thanks to the awesome audience recordings featured on The Grateful Dead Listening Guide, my big love of the Dead has been rekindled. Noah Weiner has been touting the joys of exemplary audience recordings since early last year. Entrusted with digitalizing the analog tapes of some veteran tapers, Weiner has taken to the Internet with detailed analyses of eras, runs, shows, and satori moments. (After telling you all about it, he points you right to the Internet Archive download.) He's an elegant writer with a sharp ear for exactly what puts a jam or a show over the top. Moreover, he's deeply attuned to the ambience captured by analog traders, right down mike positioning and the (one hopes) muted conversations of bystanders.
I wouldn't miss hearing whatever show happens to be Weiner's current favorite. But I was blown away by some perfect eighties moments he put together for the most recent of his exquisite podcasts, the latest in a nearly indispensable series for both newcomers and longtime fellow travelers. Weiner's Archive offers almost the platonic model of what a fan site should be: passion, knowledge, and communication, all at one very affordable price, with no postage necessary.