There’s an oddball little corner of the Internet that houses a large and growing number of live concert recordings that are absolutely free and available to download by you and me. It’s part of the Internet Archive, where you can also find all manner of open source books, free films, and tons of other, well, stuff.
It’s like a cool-ass thrift store: if you don’t come in with an exact idea of what you want and have a little patience and sense of adventure, you’ll come away into the harsh light of the afternoon with a bunch of “jewels” that were liberated from sitting sad and lonesome in someone’s dusty (e-)attic for years.
There’s several hundred bands to choose from, listed in long and eye-glazing alphabetical order. There are bands that most people have never heard of (Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Al and the Transamericans), bands that have strong cult followings (The Toasters, Southern Culture on the Skids), and a couple of tried and true powerhouses (Grateful Dead).
A number alongside each band tells you how many live recordings you have to choose from. There’s a surprisingly large number, with the Dead topping out at a whopping 2,777 performances. Click on the band of your choice and you’re whisked off to an area that shows you the concerts you have to choose from and provides links to the band’s homepage and any notes on policy and usage that the band might have included.
Once you click on a show you’d like to download, you’re taken to a page with a bewildering number of links that let you download the show in different formats. Don’t panic though: I was able to get through the morass by choosing shows with .mp3 extension, so that might be the safe way to go for you.
Each band has a “batting average” that shows the percentage of people who downloaded a show after visiting the band’s page. There are also user comments for some bands, such as one for The Toasters’ page that states, "The Toasters placed a high energy and solid set and I'm VERY pleased with how the recording came out."
DB Jewel: My jewel came in the form of finding a live set by Chucklehead, a band I used to catch during my earliest going on in
The Live Music Archive is definitely worth a check out for lovers of live (and free!) music.