Discover an Archive of Taped New York City-Area Punk & Indie Concerts from the 80s and 90s: The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements & Many More

“For decades now,” John Coulthart writes at Dan­ger­ous Minds, “Hobo­ken has been on an implaca­ble course of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion… to the point that scruffy and leg­endary music venues can’t hack it there any­more.” One could replace “Hobo­ken” with the name of vir­tu­al­ly any US city that once host­ed a sem­i­nal live venue. You live long enough, you see the world com­plete­ly change, and all the punk and indie clubs shut down or moved to Brook­lyn. The 21st cen­tu­ry has giv­en us cities few indie artists or their fans can afford, even as it also gives us high-speed inter­net, huge servers, cheap web host­ing, and hard dri­ves that can hold ter­abytes of dig­i­tal music.

But at least the club shows of the past can live on in incred­i­bly awe­some archives like The McKen­zie Tapes, “a col­lec­tion of live audio record­ings from some of the New York City-area’s most promi­nent music venues of the 1980s and 1990s.”

Record­ed by David McKen­zie, a for­mer employ­ee of leg­endary Hobo­ken venue Maxwell’s and con­sum­mate con­cert-goer, the taped gigs come from such venues as The Ritz, Tramps, Irv­ing Plaza, The Roxy, the Cat Club, Bow­ery Ball­room, CBGB’s, the Knit­ting Fac­to­ry, and, of course, Maxwell’s.

Too many leg­endary bands to list in full show up here: some major high­lights include The Replace­ments at the Ritz in 1986, right after the release of Tim. (See them at the top in a sound­check at Maxwell’s that same year); the Pix­ies at Maxwell’s in 1988, play­ing songs from their just-released water­shed Surfer Rosa; Son­ic Youth on back-to-back nights at CBGB’s in 88, play­ing Day­dream Nation the month before record­ing the album. Hüsker Dü, Wire, John Spencer Blues Explo­sion, The Fall, The Feel­ies, Afghan Whigs, Mud­honey, Vio­lent Femmes, Mojo Nixon—the shows are a who’s who of punk and indie from the last two decades of the cen­tu­ry, with appear­ances from 70s leg­ends like Pat­ti Smith and Tom Ver­laine.

Sprin­kled through­out are sur­pris­es like a 1989 per­for­mance from Sun Ra and his Inter­galac­tic Arkestra at Maxwell’s and gigs by blues stal­warts T Mod­el Ford and R.L. Burn­side, as well as the occa­sion­al out­lier show abroad. The project is the work of Jer­sey City record col­lec­tor, archivist, event pro­duc­er, and pod­cast­er Tom Gal­lo, friend of David McKen­zie, and he has done an excel­lent job of pre­serv­ing not only the music from McKenzie’s tapes, but images of the tapes themselves—with hand-writ­ten band names and song titles and black-and-white Xerox­ed covers—as well as Vil­lage Voice list­ings of the gigs and occa­sion­al tick­et stubs, setlists, and live pho­tos.

Don’t expect much in the way of sound quality—that’s part of the charm of a taped show. These are raw doc­u­ments of the cas­sette age, a time come and gone, nev­er to come again. We might not mourn its pass­ing, but something—a spir­it of exper­i­men­tal, noisy, tune­ful, angry, rau­cous, lo-fi, ana­log indie fun—seems to have dis­ap­peared along with it. All of these dig­i­tized tapes are down­load­able. Put ’em on your phone and relive the glo­ry days, or dis­cov­er these trea­sures from the recent past for the first time at The McKen­zie Tapes here.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A His­to­ry of Alter­na­tive Music Bril­liant­ly Mapped Out on a Tran­sis­tor Radio Cir­cuit Dia­gram: 300 Punk, Alt & Indie Artists

A Mas­sive 800-Track Playlist of 90s Indie & Alter­na­tive Music, in Chrono­log­i­cal Order

Stream a Mas­sive Col­lec­tion of Indie, Noise Indus­tri­al Mix­tapes from the 80s and 90s

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Euge says:

    I recall a show at Irv­ing plaza with Dr John & Sun Ra. Dr John was car­ried onto the stage on a throne and the Arkestra parad­ed thru the audi­ence.
    Now I can’t find any evi­dence to con­firm my mem­o­ry, can you help?

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