Thereâ€™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. Itâ€™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.
Itâ€™s like a cool-ass thrift store: if you donâ€™t come in with an exact idea of what you want and have a little patience and sense of adventure, youâ€™ll come away into the harsh light of the afternoon with a bunch of â€śjewelsâ€ť that were liberated from sitting sad and lonesome in someoneâ€™s dusty (e-)attic for years.
Thereâ€™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 Walterâ€™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. Thereâ€™s a surprisingly large number, with the Dead topping out at a whopping 2,777 performances. Click on the band of your choice and youâ€™re whisked off to an area that shows you the concerts you have to choose from and provides links to the bandâ€™s homepage and any notes on policy and usage that the band might have included.
Once you click on a show youâ€™d like to download, youâ€™re taken to a page with a bewildering number of links that let you download the show in different formats. Donâ€™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.