Wolfgang’s Vault is a Rock Treasure

win781231-02-fp.jpgConcert promoter Bill Graham was a well-known packrat. His collection of posters, tickets, t-shirts, backstage passes and other memorabilia sat in a warehouse after his death in a helicopter crash in 1991. In early 2004, entrepreneur Bill Sagan paid Clear Channel, then-owner of Bill Graham Presents, $6 million for the entire collection and began selling it online.

With five-figure prices for many items, the Wolfgang’s Vault website wasn’t a place for the casual fan – until the advent of Vault Radio. Introduced early last year, it offered free streams of songs from the Fillmore, Winterland and other Graham venues. In late 2006, the site began making many full-length shows available online.

The selection is a treasure trove of the classic rock era. The “Concert Vault,” as it’s now known, dates back to the first Graham-produced show, headlined by the pre-Grace Slick Jefferson Airplane. Early performances from Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cream, are presented in soundboard quality, along with vintage performances from era stalwarts the Grateful Dead, the Who, the Rolling Stones and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Wolfgang’s Vault has since added broadcasts from the King Biscuit Flower Hour, the King Biscuit-produced Silver Eagle Cross Country program and “Live from the Record Plant,” a series of radio concerts heard originally on San Francisco’s KSAN-FM.

The site currently has almost 600 shows; a small number of them can be purchased, mostly sets from B-list bands like Girlschool and Blackfoot. Apart from a 1976 Santana performance, there’s not much from the classic era. All shows, however, are unencumbered by file protection schemes, and fairly priced at $9.98 each.

The effort is not without controversy. In December, lawyers representing several performers, including the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, brought suit against Sagan, claiming that Bill Graham never intended to profit from his personal collection. Indeed, he’d discussed plans to open a museum with it.

“We have never given permission for our images and material to be used in this way,” Bob Weir said, complaining that Sagan was “stealing what is most important to us — our work, our images and our music — and is profiting from the good will of our fans.”

Wolfgang’s Vault countersued, arguing that the legal action was a ploy by the record companies to create new sources of revenue, calling it “frivolous.”

Company representatives, who did not comment for this story, claim to have artists’ interests in mind: “Based upon all the information that is available to us,” reads a statement on their site, “we believe that performers can earn between four and six times more from Wolfgang’s Vault per download than they currently receive from their record companies.”

Whatever the outcome of litigation, Wolfgang’s Vault is a must stop for serious music fans. Here are five of the best shows from their archives:

  1. The Police at Zellerbach Hall, 3/4/79 – They’d only released one album, which they played in its’ entirety this night, along with two early singles, “Fall Out” and “Landlord.” Called back for an encore, they’d run out of material, so they reprised the song they’d opened the show with, “Can’t Stand Losing You.”

  1. Pink Floyd at Oakland Coliseum, 5/9/77 – The Bay Area audience was a nice respite for the English band. Fans hung on every note and sound effect, rather than whoop during the quiet moments. Includes pristine versions of “Have a Cigar,” “Money,” and a sadly abbreviated “Us and Them” – the sound board tape ran out. Considered one of the best live Floyd shows ever.

  1. Fleetwood Mac at Capitol Theatre, 6/7/75 – One of the first live performances from the lineup that made Mac a superstar act, as they worked through soon-to-be standards like “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” along with mid-era favorites like “Spare Me A Little” and “Hypnotized,” a Bob Welch tune sung by Welch’s replacement, Lindsay Buckingham – with a nice Stevie Nicks harmony. A rare glimpse of rock royalty back when they were still a little hungry.

  1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Berkeley Community Theatre, 3/2/73 – Opening for Blood, Sweat and Tears, soon after releasing his first album, the Boss is raw and relentless. Save for a two-song contribution to the inaugural King Biscuit show a few weeks earlier, this is Springsteen’s first full-length live recording. Standout moment: the unreleased (until “Tracks”) “Thundercrack.”

  1. Little Feat at Winterland, 2/14/76 – At the time, a relatively unknown act – ELO headlined this show – the Lowell George-led group has all the pieces in place here. A 22-minute medley, “Cold Cold Cold/Dixie Chicken/Tripe Face Boogie,” doesn’t waste a second; fans at the show (and on the radio) also heard “Willin’” done the way it was intended, and a bang-up version of “Fat Man In The Bathtub.” One of the most bootlegged shows of the Seventies, it’s also one of the best available for download.

Commitment to a Breast Cancer Cure

pink_ribbon_gs.jpgThere are many reasons Pat Budnick got involved with the Susan G. Komen “Race For the Cure.” Her years as an oncology nurse, for one, and the friends she’s lost to breast cancer.

But her commitment, evidenced by her status as a “Pink” (over $1,000) donor to the charity, and her work spearheading this Saturday’s benefit concert on the grounds of her Chester motel, can be described quite simply.

She’s keeping it local.

When I found out that 75 percent of the money stays in Vermont,” she says, “I knew I’d found the right organization.”

The Komen group, says Budnick, “gives money to people that can go give somebody a ride, watch your kids, get supper for you the night you’re getting chemo – things you need right now, right this minute, the day you’re diagnosed. I thought this was a real cool use, so I’ve been doing the concert for five years.”

Budnick says she originally conceived “Music-In-The-Meadow” simply as a day of music. “I’m a child of the Sixties,” she says, “that’s the way we did things back then.” Over the years, however, the show has grown as more people signed on to help. In addition to five bands, there are crafts, a flea market, the New England Dukes Cars group – even a moonwalk for the kids.

John Taylor has been there from the start. “You do this and I’ll come up from New York and I’ll do it,” he told his old friend. This year Taylor, who works as an editor during the day, is bringing a trio to perform.

Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson, a respected Americana duo, headline the show. “It’s got pizzazz,” says Pat Budnick. “I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m excited about it.”

Julie Waters, who leads the monthly song circle at the Bellows Falls RAMP gallery, plays a solo set, and the father/son team of Tom and Scott Hitchcock, dubbed “H2O,” also perform. The John Sullivan Band rounds out the talented lineup. The show runs from 1 till 9.

It started as a brainstorm, my friends wince when I say that,” she explains. Her ‘brainstorms’ can turn into tsunamis, and friends inevitably wind up pitching in. “They say, oh no, what does she need me to do now,” laughs Budnick.

Then, she turns serious. “Having been in the field, and seen the devastation breast cancer causes, it’s heartbreaking,” she says. “Because it’s a disease that affects Mom, or a woman, it affects the whole family. Everybody is not only affected by it, but consumed by it.”

I’ve been lucky, I’ve been spared,” she continues. “I’ve watched my friends who haven’t, and their families, their kids, their grandchildren, it’s a horrible thing, and we need a cure.”

We need it now,” she says firmly.

The 5th Annual Race For The Cure Benefit, “Music-In-The-Meadow,” features Rebecca Hall & Ken Anderson, Fire On The Mountain with John Taylor, Phil White & Mike Leuci, Jule Waters, H2O – Tom & Scott Hitchcock, and the John Sullivan Band, along with special guests. There will be food, crafts and a flea market. Saturday, 1-9 PM at the Motel-In-The-Meadow, Route 11 West, Chester. $5.00 suggested donation benefits the Susan G Komen Race For The Cure, Vermont/New Hampshire.

Local Rhythms – Apple TV/YouTube Disappoints

shotinfoot1.jpgWith eager anticipation, I peeled the shrink-wrap from my new Apple TV and plugged it into the flat screen set.

Like everything Apple, it required almost no time to set up.

Sadly, it took just a little more than that for me to realize I’d been suckered.

Not seeing the value in paying for what I can Tivo free, I wasn’t all that hot and bothered when Apple announced their set-top device, since it only played iTunes clips. But news leaked recently that YouTube’s library of videos could also be streamed in wonderful high definition via the aluminum box.

So I ordered one.

And after a few days, I’m thinking about sending it back. Steve Jobs promised the Land of Oz, but instead sent me a castle in a snow globe.

YouTube is the new MTV, with pretty much any clip from every artist available via a few keystrokes. But it took forever to enter YouTube search criteria on Apple TV, and unlike the iPhone, it doesn’t remember a thing.

Worst of all, for every 10 requests I typed in, I got one hit.

Oh, YouTube will tell you they’ve got tons of stuff that’s Apple TV-ready. In fact, I contacted a company representative to find out where the good videos were, and that’s about all they would tell me. “We want to deliver the complete YouTube experience to every audience on every screen,” read the bland reply, which ignored every single question I’d asked.

It ended with a vague promise: “Our intent is to make all YouTube videos available.”

I felt like Tom Hanks talking to that carnival attraction in “Big.”

Problem is, right now there’s hardly a handful of clips ready, and way too many are vanity projects by nauseating poseurs hell-bent on being the next LonelyGirl15.

I want Apple TV to show me the new Brad Paisley and Velvet Revolver videos.

But here’s the thing – Apple charges 2 bucks apiece for those on iTunes. Would YouTube possibly hold back converting them to goose sales?

I tried to ask, but instead got the Amazing Carnac, in the form of a slick New York PR firm.

Remember – I do this so you don’t have to.

I’m telling you to save your money.

This technology may mature some day, but for now it’s a pig in a poke -albeit a very shiny pig.


What’s cool this weekend?

Thursday: Saylyn, Newbury Gazebo – There’s plenty of outdoor shows now that we’re in high season, and some of the best are at the water’s edge in Newbury. Saylyn is the area’s hometown reggae band, with a good vibe and an authentic sound. I gotta say, the best way to see them is out under the stars on a hot night. Fronted by two brothers born and raised in Jamaica, these guys are the genuine article.

Friday: Pete Merrigan, Sophie & Zeke’s – It’ an all-Pete weekend, with a set at the Newport Moose tomorrow, and his Sunday afternoon party on Murphy’s deck. Never mind the weather, whenever Pete tunes up and plays, the sun is shining. Look for dates from his All-Star Band in Sunapee Harbor in August and September. It’s Margaritaville North.

Saturday: Phil and the Fuzz, Oona’s Barn – I’m pleased to report that a cateriing business, Harvest Moon, had risen from the ashes of Oona’s. Better still, they’re throwing monthly bashes at Oona’s Barn on the Meetinghouse Road in Rockingham. Phil and the Fuzz have a bit of a Phish vibe at first listen – tasty stuff, especially combined with an evening that includes a full bar and a chance to re-visit Oona’s amazing cuisine, via former assistant chef Sarah James (Harvest Moon’s proprietor).

Sunday: Harvey Reid & Joyce Anderson, Ludlow Bandstand – The husband and wife team have played Carnegie Hall and the Conan O’Brien show, along with many spirited Flying Goose gigs. He’s a gifted picker, she’s a talented guitarist fiddler in her own right with a lovely voice. Together, they’ve lit up many a room over the years. Always a treat.

Tuesday: Marty Stuart, Iron Horse – One of country music’s great iconoclasts, he’s worked with everyone from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan. Tonight, he’s solo, which will give Stuart a chance to show off his amazing guitar chops. If you’re not familiar with him, you really should be. He’s living proof that you can’t pigeonhole a musical genre

Wednesday: Upper Valley Community Band, Sunapee Harbor – This local ensemble, ever-changing and bursting with talent, dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. Also playing Monday at Colburn Park in Lebanon, this is a concert band with members from all over the area, including a few Stevens High School kids. They play for the love of music, and a chance to share that love with other players.




Local Rhythms – Live Earth’s Local Link

blackriver.jpgLive Earth, the worldwide call to action on climate change, happens Saturday. The 24-hour concert originates from seven continents, featuring some of pop music’s biggest names – The Police, Madonna, even Spinal Tap.

Of course, massive benefit shows are old news these days. Kevin Wall, Live Earth’s founder, produced the last big one two years ago. But while Live 8 tried to send a message to world leaders, Live Earth is turning the spotlight on local solutions to global problems.

Each concert is powered by state of the art systems designed for energy efficiency. The live broadcast, beginning at 4 AM on the Sundance Channel, includes several spotlight features on ways citizens can affect their own sustainable earth manifesto. MSN is also streaming it on the Internet.

Sound government policy is a big part of stopping global warming, but if individuals don’t’ change their habits, it won’t happen. Local decisions affect global outcomes, whether it’s refusing a bag at the supermarket, or trading in a gas-guzzling SUV for a hybrid car. It all adds up.

To this end, Live Earth’s web site links to over 6,000 local events happening around the world this Saturday. There’s everything from house parties to energy fairs, all designed to illustrate how communities can make a difference.

In Springfield, the Black River Festival happens at the old Parks and Woolson shop on Park Street. Jessica Larivee says she and partner Christopher Mason “began organizing it long before Al Gore came up with his 7/7/7 idea – just so you know.”

The 12-hour festival, which begins at 2 PM, focuses on the natural beauty of the river, and how the town has balanced its industrial and environmental interests over the years. All money raised benefits the Black River Action Team, a group that’s led hands-on river beautification projects since 2000.

The event features many educational opportunities throughout the day, including walking tours of the river, demonstrations from the Army Corps of Engineers and other local groups, paddle boats and a living science exhibit dubbed “River Zoo.”

In the evening, there’s a slate of fine local talent playing until 2 AM. The Illusion, a Springfield band that’s been around for 40 years (they even gigged at the old Comtu Club), kicks things off at 6:30, followed by the eclectic White Raag, the Burlington Taiko drummers and Bad Suit, a dance band that will take things to closing time.

Good times, good cause – what else is happening?

Thursday: Dana & Susan Robinson, Canoe Club – This is something special, a North Carolina duo with a distinct Americana sound. The Guthrie ode “What Would Woody Do?” best sums up their musical philosophy. Their sound features elemental, richly textured harmonies and delicate picking. Get a table close to the stage, so you won’t miss a note.

Friday: Chris O’Brien, Bellows Falls Farmer’s Market – Boccelli’s is quiet this weekend, but in BF, the music doesn’t stop. O’Brien is the latest gem from the Passim folk scene, a singer/songwriter who caught the bug at a Shawn Colvin/Indigo Girls show, and learned his first few notes from family friend Dar Williams. O’Brien has a reedy voice, reminiscent of Steve Forbert; his debut CD, “Lighthouse,” is brilliant.

Saturday: Keith Hollis & the Po’ Boyz, Salt Hill – The Allman Brothers meet the Bayou at my favorite Irish pub – is this what you call world music? Hollis’s band features a real Hammond B3, and the stunning blues guitar styling of Rodney “BR” Millon. They lay down the funk without a bass guitarist, which is no mean feat. It’s groovalicious.

Sunday: Steve Miller Band, Vermont State Fairgrounds – I’m not a huge fan of his pop stuff like “Take the Money and Run.” But when Steve Miller gets back his roots, he’s a force to be reckoned with. This time out, he’s has harmonica ace Norton Buffalo in his band, so there will almost certainly be a few down and dirty moments. This show is part of the all-day “Summer Extravaganza,” and includes a bunch of local bands as opening acts.

Monday: Ford Daley & Elaine Gifford, Firestones – There’s a lot of music at this Quechee eatery this weekend, from blues (The Brotherhood Band on Sunday) to acoustic. Ford Daley is familiar to fans of the Fogey Mountain Boys, a bluegrass area mainstay; tonight he and partner Gifford dip into their rich song catalog for more good times.

Tuesday: Roger Waters, New England Dodge Center – Usually I wouldn’t mention this, but there were still 25-dollar lawn seats left on Wednesday – plus 12 bucks in “service” charges for each ticket, of course. Short of a (very unlikely) reunion, this is as close to a Pink Floyd show as you’ll get, with “Dark Side of the Moon” performed in its entirety, and augmented by 21st century technology.