Sunday, January 31, 2010

update - shows now available in v0 mp3

For a more detailed explanation, click on the comments tab.


Big Cypress 12.30.99 show page

Set 1: Water in the Sky, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone[1] > Suzy Greenberg, Corrina, Limb By Limb, Che Hun Ta Mo[2], Big Alligator[2], Possum, Farmhouse, Ghost, Ya Mar, Character Zero

Set 2: Wilson, The Curtain > Tweezer -> Taste, Meat, Golgi Apparatus, Wolfman's Brother, Gotta Jibboo, Harry Hood, Good Times Bad Times

Set 3: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, Run Like an Antelope, The Sloth, When the Circus Comes, Mike's Song[3] > Simple -> I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove[4]

Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman > Tweezer Reprise

[1] Jibboo teases from Mike.
[2] Phish debut; John McEuen on mandolin, Raiford Starke on guitar, and Seminole Indian Chief Jim Billie on guitar and lead vocals.
[3] Immigrant Song tease.
[4] Light Up tease and Auld Lang Syne tease at midnight.

Notes: This was the first show of the Big Cypress festival. Light Up was played for the first time since August 13, 1988 (1,138 shows); Corrina was subsequently played for the first time since February 18, 1989 (1,095 shows).

v0 mp3 .zip file

Well folks, I've finally gone back and remastered 12.30 so that we now have a complete account of the festivities in greater clarity. All tracks are ID-tagged and include album art and source comments embedded in the files. As usual, I've also included the original text file containing the source notes. Take note of a couple minor patches that were done to Ya Mar and Character Zero, which is explained in detail in the text file and on the etree db page.

This is a FOB Schoeps mk4v recording (etree shnid 35050). Among the auds that circulate of this show, this source is considered by many (including the Phish Companion) to be the suggested one to get.

It's worth noting the oddity of how the Nuemann u89i pulls from each night sound totally different. According to the notes on the db.etree page it appears to be an identical rig (taper uncredited), with the only difference being that the taper used a 7' split for 12.30 and a 12' split for 12.31. At any rate, while the severe left-sided bias of the 12.31 u89i pull was the only thing keeping it from being perfect in its native form, I only find the u89i pull of 12.30 to be just OK. Nice volume and stereo balance, but just sounds a little too muddy for my liking. I tried tooling around with it but it just didn't come close to the mk4v's.

The first thing I noticed with the mk4v's was an overabundance of BASS. It's great to hear a festival pull with a thick low end, but this was too much in this man's humble opinion. It was also lacking in the high end. So I dropped the EQ levels quite a bit on the low end and spiked the high end. The mids already sounded just about right, but I dropped the the very middle 1k frequency down a couple db's, as I find that can sometimes give a more "open", ambient sound to a recording that might otherwise come off a bit nasal-y or flat. I also boosted the preamp a bit, as the original transfer levels were a bit low and I wanted it to be on par volume-wise with my remaster of 12.31. I've done some back-and-forth between the two remasters and while they each have their own unique sonic character, you now can enjoy a very consistent and energetic listen of the whole event.

I realized after the fact that I forgot to include a bitmap image of the EQ settings I used in the show folder (as I said I would do from now on...D'oh!), so here it is in case you're curious:

Please note the following technical observations - there is some periodic distortion with Fishman's kick drum during the latter part of the first set. I imagine this was due to the recording levels being a bit hot, because starting w/ set II the distortion is gone as far as I can tell. I thought at first that lowering the EQ levels on the left would rectify the issue, but it was still present even after dropping the low end of the EQ to its weakest point. Bottom line, I could find no way to fix that. It shouldn't be too much of a hindrance might not even notice it. I could hear it the most toward the end of the raging Ghost jam, where Fish is really pounding away on that kick. You may be thinking that my boosting the preamp may be the cause (or may be exacerbating) the distortion, but I can assure you I tried lowering the preamp way down and that still didn't affect the issue at all. Anyhoo.

ALSO - it seems the taper may have been tweaking a few things during the first half of the first set. The levels start out a bit low for the first couple songs, and toward the end of Water In The Sky, the stereo balance is way to the right channel, but then for the next few tunes it's pretty far to the left. I thought about rebalancing the L and R channels but the problems is that it shifts from side to side in the middle of a couple tracks. While it's probably possible to add stereo effects to select parts of a track and not others, that would have been a pretty big task. I'm hoping it won't bother peeps too much. It stays relatively constant and more centered starting with Limb By Limb. Point being, the first chunk of set I is not representative of how the rest of the show sounds, so keep your panties on. As mentioned earlier, there are a couple segments during Ya Mar and Character Zero where a lesser quality source was patched in.

Feel free to leave feedback by clicking on the "comments" link. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

4.23.94 Fox Theatre, Atlanta show page

Set 1: Funky Bitch, Rift, Fee > Peaches en Regalia, Poor Heart, Stash, Esther, Down with Disease, Caravan, High-Heel Sneakers

Set 2: Wilson > Run Like an Antelope, Mound, Sample in a Jar, Sparkle, Harry Hood, Ginseng Sullivan, You Enjoy Myself, Who By Fire, Golgi Apparatus

Encore: Free Bird

Notes: Antelope included Simpsons and Oom Pa Pa signals. Caravan and the Phish debut of High-Heel Sneakers featured Merl Saunders on keyboards and YEM, which included a Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Coo jam, featured Colonel Bruce Hampton on piano. The Phish debut of Who By Fire also featured Colonel Bruce Hampton on vocals. Ginseng Sullivan was performed without microphones. Free Bird was played by request after Trey asked, a la Lynyrd Skynyrd, what song the crowd wanted to hear. Listen for a distinct Caravan tease in the beginning of Esther. The tramps jam in YEM featured a guest tramp jumper due to Trey’s broken foot.

(PLEASE NOTE - the taper adjusts the levels (quieter) a few seconds into Funky Bitch. The volume stays constant after that. On a few occasions vocals are sometimes too high in the mix, creating distortion. This was present in the unaltered source and is not a result of remastering.

v0 mp3 .zip file


I thought I would feature an "under the radar" type show from earlier in the band's career, so here is 4.23.94 at the Fox in Atlanta. I'm sure for those who were at the first ever gig at this venue, there was nothing "under the radar" about this show - Saturday night taboot. But in terms of shows most often listened to by phans, this show is likely (and understandably) overshadowed by the 3-night run in November '95 at the Fox. I also chose this show because spring '94 is a tour that doesn't get as much recognition as it should.

While the jamming here is pretty contained and there is no segue soup in set II, it's a really fun, high-energy show typical of '94, with some musical guests as an added bonus. Toss in some secret language, a very early version of DWD, the verses of Fee still being sung with megaphone, the band still chanting/singing Wilson instead of the crowd (that must've changed soon after, right?), the clapping in Stash not quite yet perfected (with Fish still doing the wood block fills), a guest trampoline jumper to make up for Trey's recently broken foot...all things that bring back fond memories of that Hoist period in time when they were quickly conquering the various regions of the nation.

This is a remaster of etree shnid 22125, taped with Neumann TLM-170 mics in the OTS, taper unknown. I considered this an easy remaster candidate for the combination of two factors: as is often the case with indoor shows taped with Neumann mics, the source is bass-heavy and treble-challenged (which is easy enough to fix by way of EQ), and it has phenomenal stereo imaging. Fish's kick drum was overwhelming in the original recording, and the softer musical passages (see Esther) were difficult to appreciate with the muffled quality of the recording as it was.

I eased back the low end of the EQ spectrum a notch or two and spiked the high end considerably. Fish's kick drum still has some nice heft, while not becoming distorted as it once was. I thought about taming the low end even more, but doing that robbed the rest of the music of some warmth and depth. I hope you'll agree it now sounds much clearer and more pleasing to the ears.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

1997 @ The Paradiso, Amsterdam: 2/17, 7/1, and 7/2

For no rhyme or reason I felt like putting up these Paradiso shows, so here you go! I find these Europe (and Japan 2000) auds to be such fun listens because you get to hear the boys play small clubs during a time when they were big enough back home to be doing arena-only tours. The acoustics and crowd reactions of these recordings sound more like '91 -'93 auds than '97 auds. You can just feel the size of the room!

2/17: show page

Set 1: Soul Shakedown Party[1], The Divided Sky, Wilson > My Soul, Guyute, Timber (Jerry), Billy Breathes, Llama, Bathtub Gin > Golgi Apparatus

Set 2: The Squirming Coil -> Down with Disease -> Carini[2] -> Taste -> Down with Disease > Suzy Greenberg, Prince Caspian

Encore: Sleeping Monkey, Rocky Top

[1] Phish debut.
[2] Debut.

v0 mp3 .zip file


7/1: show page

Set 1: Ghost, Horn, Ya Mar, Limb By Limb > Ain't Love Funny, Saw It Again, Dirt, Reba, Dogs Stole Things

Set 2: Jam -> Timber (Jerry), Bathtub Gin -> Cities -> Jam, Loving Cup > Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: When the Circus Comes

Notes: Ghost began the first of two nights of the infamous "Worm" banter, with Fishman saying "I think you know where you are" and Trey responding with "You're on the back of the worm!" The "Worm" was also mentioned in Ya Mar, Saw It Again, and the jam out of Cities, which also included When the Saints Go Marching In and Santa Claus is Coming to Town teases by Trey. Dirt was introduced as "Green Grass High Tides Forever." Reba included the whistling ending. The second set began with a Fishman piano solo that evolved into a jam, as the rest of the band eventually joined the stage and Fishman moved to his drum kit.

v0 mp3 .zip file

(note: the taper was adjusting levels for the first 0:37 of Ghost on 7/1, volume does increase)


7/2: show page

Set 1: Mike's Song -> Simple -> Maze, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Vultures, Water in the Sky, Weekapaug Groove

Set 2: Stash -> Llama -> Wormtown Jam, Wading in the Velvet Sea

Encore: Free

Encore 2: David Bowie

Notes: The Wormtown Jam continued the stage banter of the night before. Portions of the narration were sung to the tune of Steve Miller’s Swingtown, as Trey warned the fans in attendance about the “killer worms” that inhabit the canals of Amsterdam.

v0 mp3 .zip file

Also interesting to note is how the three recordings sound fairly different since different mics and gear were used, giving each show its own auditory identity despite being played in the same room. The 2/17 show is a Schoeps cmc64 pull which was much brighter than the 7/1 Nuemann TLM-170 and 7/2 Schoeps cmc6/mk4 pulls. I did still bump up the high frequencies of 2/17 because while bright, it was still a bit soft in the vocals and cymbals. The latter recordings already featured great warmth and low end but were sorely lacking in the higher end. After spiking the highs in the EQ, they sound much better to me now.

NOTE - instead of pasting the 10-band graphical EQ settings here in the posts, I've decided instead to save them as .bmp files in the actual show folders. I figure in case people are curious down the road what settings I used, it would be easier to have that info in the show files rather than trying to track them down here.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

(more than) A few words about this blog...

Origins of the blog

This blog is a place to download free and legal audience recordings of Phish shows, which I have "remastered" via ghetto-fabulous processes in hopes of a more enjoyable listening experience. I do not post any copyright-protected material here (which should be obvious, since no audience recordings are copyright-protected).

I first fell in love with Phish and the ritual of zoning out to crazy Phish jams on worn-out analog cassette tapes around 1993/1994. A lot of the pre-'94 shows I got through trades were SBDs, but pretty much all the current shows I got on tape were AUDs (aside from the FM broadcast NYE shows). Even though my 4th or 5th generation tapes were full of hiss and lacking much dynamic range, I wrapped my head inside them and felt the chills down my spine as I heard the crowd roar...whether it was the 3rd triumphant peak in the 10/31/94 Divided Sky or the acoustic -> electric switch on the 10/18/94 Llama w/ Bela Fleck, hearing the crowd react made it easier for me to transport myself to the show than a SBD ever could. I'm not saying I listen more for the crowd noise than the music onstage, but as we all know a Phish show is a communal experience. There's nothing like the collective energies of thousands of phans coming together and exploding with joy/ecstasy/gleeful madness/pick your emotion as a result of what is channeling through the musical vessels onstage. Hearing that energy on the recordings brings me closer to that state when I'm stuck in the car or the train, or in my simple abode.

Flash forward to 2010 and we have instant SBDs of all shows, and even the old AUDs are available in lossless, "master" quality. We've become spoiled with audio and video quality as the technology has made quantum leaps. As a result, we may not be as pleased with the sound of many AUDs right off the bat...unless we take the time (or even have the capability) to fiddle with EQ settings or bass/treble knobs (don't try that while me), many AUDs come off sounding muffled and bass-heavy. It can be difficult enough appreciating the nuances in an AUD recorded at a huge arena; a less-than-optimal recording magnifies that quandary. The tapers have given us such a wealth of great music by doing what they do, and none of this would be possible without them. However the bottom line remains that even the best techniques possible and the best gear money can buy cannot always produce a crisp, dynamic AUD - especially when you're dealing with the size, acoustics, and taping locations of some of these venues.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is that each AUD has its own sonic quality - some louder than others, some clearer than others. It can be a pain listening to a mix of live tracks, or switching from show to show, having to constantly play with the EQ to find the best sound for each source.

Last year when I started seeing some other Phish-centric blogs popping up, I couldn't believe there weren't already a dozen doing AUD remasters. With such a rabid fan base, with such a bounty of shows to choose from, and with technology making it pretty easy, I was amazed that something like this already didn't exist.


Concept & goal of the blog

So, what I've tried to do here is share with all of you what I've been doing for myself for a while now: I take each source and search for that "sweet spot", bag it, tag it, and know that I can pop it in whatever audio player or stereo I want to and not have to search for that spot ever again. Of course, this is all subjective and will vary from person to person, but I've been told by enough friends that I have a good ear and should try to do this on a regular basis to make it a worthwhile endeavor. And if you think one of my remasters is a bit off, at least it should take smaller increments on the bass and treble knobs to "fix" it than if you were starting with the original source.

Also of note is the general rule of thumb that the better your stereo system is, the less likely you'll benefit from my remasters over the original sources.  Honestly, my remasters will likely sound a bit harsh on a great system.  That's because an audiophile-grade system will be capable of reproducing the entire frequency spectrum more naturally, and you would have less need to tweak the EQ settings to find a pleasing sound quality.  In almost all of my remasters, I have jacked the high end significantly since so many AUDs sound soft or flat to me (based on my equipment and ears, and personal preference).  This effect may come across as overtly bright and fatiguing on your ears if you have a top-shelf system.  That said, I realize the majority of phans (like myself) don't have audiophile-grade systems and have succumbed to the trends of portability and convenience while still maintaining "good enough" audio quality.  Whether size, cost, or both is the issue, most people these days listen over headphones, computer speakers, or car stereos.  I know, custom aftermarket car stereos can be high grade, but you know many Phish heads pimping those trunk-filling speaker cabinets and mega subwoofers?  Neither do I.   Bottom line, if you're listening back on more standard equipment like mine, I think you'll find my remasters an improvement both in dynamic range and volume.  At least that's my hope.

Anyway, hopefully you will be able to appreciate what I've done. Those who prefer to start with the original lossless sources themselves and find what they consider the best sound will continue to do so, and I encourage it. But I know there are a ton of folks that don't have the time, patience, know-how, etc to do that and just want to be pointed in the right direction of the best sounding source for a given show. Again "best" is subjective, but you get the picture.


What's up with this blog's name? What's this about "ghetto-fab"?

I'm glad to say I've received a lot of very positive feedback on the blog and the remasters thus far, so I'm going to keep doing more remasters for a while if people are still happy.

However, I have received a couple less-than-constructive remarks here and there, most likely coming from individuals who are much more technologically savvy than me, at least in terms of audio engineering. I knew it was inevitable that I'd get such reactions from a small few, and feel I should address it here and now in hopes of avoiding further misunderstanding.

Their biggest gripes concerned my lack of formal training (although I will note that I majored in music business and took a studio production course...many years ago) and the low-tech, basic manner of my remasters and the amateur equipment I am using for the mastering and playback of the shows. Specifically, I listen through Audio Technica noise-cancelling headphones (model ATHANC7) with a Sansa Fuze (FLAC-compatible) portable for playback and directly through my computer's headphone jack during remastering. I use Magix Audio Cleaning Lab to make the following tweaks: EQ adjustments, a preamp boost if the source is quiet, and if the recording is way one-sided I might rebalance the L/R separation. If the source contains alot of distortion/clipping/static, I may run the files through a decrackler to minimize the ill effects. The software is definitely amateur compared to the more professional mastering programs out there...but it works for what I'm trying to do.

(EDIT - as of July 2011 this is my new playback equipment/remaster setup:  the audio bypasses my laptop's sound card and goes thru the USB port of my FiiO e7 portable DAC / headphone amp combo, which then drives a pair of Sennheiser HD595 cans (scroll down for model specific info).  I also have a dock for the FiiO e7 DAC that provides a dedicated line-out which I can hook up to my Onkyo receiver, freeing up the e7 to function solely as a DAC.  While this allows for much cleaner and truer listening via loudspeakers than merely plugging in my Droid or even my WD TV media player, I still prefer doing my audio analysis and critical listening on headphones.  I feel this gives a better idea of stereo separation and balance, as well as a real immersion into the AUDs.

Of course there's the whole issue of using the term "remaster" itself. What I am doing, as well as some other like-minded folks out there recently (which I think is great!), are technically not "remasters" at all. A true remaster would require me to have the original, master audio files captured by the taper, before they have had any processing applied whatsoever. Clearly that's not what I'm doing; I'm working with the lossless sources from etree. I can see the theory behind tapers and audio guys' stance that a source that has already been processed in any way should not be further processed.

But I prefer to use my own ears rather than rely on theory. Some sources I hear that have not been processed sound amazing. Others that have tons of processing applied sound like they have major room for improvement. That's not a slight to the taper or their gear - there could be a variety of factors that results in the sound a recording has. But knowing the lineage of a source or whether it has had any processing done plays no role in what I eventually do. I try to approach each remaster with a blind eye. I seriously doubt people (other than a select few audiophiles/tapers) who are listening to their shows at home, in their car, or on the go are going to be thinking about the lineage or the processing techniques of the source. They just want to hear the show in the best, clearest quality available. That's what I'm trying to provide, at least until a further upgrade comes along.

I suppose it would be more accurate to call these "reimagined versions of previously mastered source files"...but that doesn't quite capture the basic premise to the average listener as much as "remaster" does. I don't want to say "upgrade" because that's entirely subjective. There's a very good chance you might hear one of my remasters and think "geez, he went a bit crazy with the high end there, I liked the original better". And that's totally cool.

I'd also like to add that I truly believe my simplified approach could potentially yield better results (to the naked ear, methodology notwithstanding) than a trained audio engineer using a more professional, full-featured mastering program. Specifically, I think people sometimes overdo it when they have too many tools at their disposal. Certain effects and filters can lead to a really unnatural, overprocessed sound. While I think remasters should have greater clarity and "pop" than the original source, they should still strike a delicate balance between resembling the original source and sounding different enough to warrant a remaster. So, I feel by mostly sticking to the ghetto-fab mantra of using the EQ to find that sweet spot, giving a boost the preamp if the source's levels are low, and the periodic stereo rebalancing when the sound is heavily biased to one side, it should help me steer clear of getting carried away.

I've had a couple folks offer constructive advice, or even ask me for the original files so they can work on them w/ Pro Tools and give them back. But that kind of defeats the purpose of this blog. This is just one dude's idea of "optimal sound quality" for these own little outlet for being creative and offering artistic expression with the hope that it will be an upgrade for someone. I'm not about to drop hundreds of dollars on software, and I don't have the extra time to learn a complex program. Just not in the cards for me at this point in time.

One more concern that was brought to my attention is the possibility that others could take my files and seed them to the etree, essentially "polluting" the database with amateur remaster jobs. Totally valid point, and one that I had not thought of. So consider this a genuine plea that you NEVER seed my files onto etree, out of respect to the tapers and the high-quality operation they've got going over there. I consider it extremely important to separate the true "master" sources from the remasters, tweaks, revisions etc.  Feel free to toss 'em up on Demonoid though, since pretty much anything goes there :).  For what it's worth, I think the whole "polluting the pool" discussion is a moot point these days.  While there was a time where every recording was passed down a trading tree and it was imperative to maintain the integrity of the original files, those days are gone.  You can find anything online in seconds, and you have total control over what you want and what you don't want.  It's not like by doing these ghetto-fab remasters I am ruining the files for everyone else - not only are the original sources available on etree, but I include the shnid numbers in the comment tags of every file and I also include a link to the source's db.etree page within my blog post.

You may frown upon what I am doing, and you can feel free to lecture everyday listeners on the sonic evils of post-EQ'ing and the fact that it degrades the signal and subtracts frequencies...but at least I make it clear up front what I do to the files, and tag them accordingly so that wherever they might end up there's no mystery that they are remasters.  It would be far worse if I did not bother w/ tagging the comment field and people thought they were listening to the original source.  End rant.

I hope I haven't let people down or mislead anyone into thinking I am using fancy, recording-studio quality software to do this. I've tried from the beginning to make it clear that the opposite is true. If you are a sound-guy type or a taper or just generally tech-minded, I completely understand if you can't get past the fact that I am using the hardware and software that I am. Personally, I think some people get so hung up on the technology and methods that they lose sight of the whole does it sound? If it's an upgrade over what you previously had, great! If not, better luck next time! This is a free internet and I won't be hurt if you choose never to return to my blog again.

In summing up, I decided to add "Ghetto-Fab" to the name of this blog so there would be no doubt that I realize these are by no means pro-level remasters. They are what they are, and I love the little buggers. They're my But wait, they're not just mine; they're yours too. Because in the end, I want you to be happy.

As you were...
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