Feb. 24, 2005
by BOB DORAN
WHEN EAST L.A. FAVORITE SONS Los Lobos [photo above] take the stage at the Van Duzer Tuesday night, the crowd will include many devoted fans, but perhaps none as dedicated as Arcata resident Dan Gale, the band's official archivist.
Gale, who says he has been to "around 400" Los Lobos shows, also plans on attending the band's concert Sunday in Medford, and it's likely he will follow them to Petaluma where they play Wednesday. He will bring audio gear to each performance to add to his collection of "maybe 1,000" live Los Lobos recordings.
"He's a guy who's been there for us since the dawn of time," Los Lobos saxophonist Steve Berlin says of Gale, who also serves as Webmaster for loslobos.setlist.com.
Gale earns his living as a fish biologist for the Yurok Tribe, but his passion is Los Lobos. He explained that there is also an "official" Los Lobos Web site run by another fan known as Krazyfish (www.loslobos.org), but it is not updated frequently enough for serious aficionados.
"Rather than struggle with that site I made my own, one with the sorts of things the fans were clamoring for," said Gale. "I put it together over the last six years or so, starting in the late '90s. It's grown like a beast. I track all their past shows with set lists, photos, ticket stub scans and other things people like to check out. I also list future shows, how to get there, where to buy tickets, who else is playing with them, that sort of thing. And I have a big discography section with all their albums, side projects, lyrics."
A parallel site, loslobos.net, dubbed "The Neighborhood," borrows its name from a Los Lobos album. It offers "a forum where people talk about what a great time they had at a show or whatever is on their minds, the typical fan-related discussions."
A subdivision of the forum, "Everybody Loves a Trade," facilitates the exchange of live recordings, a tradition that began among followers of the Grateful Dead who traded show tapes. While the technology has advanced, shifting to digital recordings, those making recordings are still known as tapers.
Tapers typically post want-lists and lists of shows available, or they offer what are known as B&Ps (short for blanks and postage) for a specific show. Someone who wants a copy sends blank CD-Rs and a stamped self-addressed envelope to a taper, who burns the discs and sends them back. No cash is exchanged. Strict rules prohibit anyone turning a profit on a trade; even asking for extra CDs is forbidden.
Why do they do it? As Redstrat, a frequent poster on loslobos.net explained in a note online, "In the end, a taper goes out to record a show usually because they enjoy the music and want to have a record of the show they attended. There's a certain camaraderie that develops as well; and sometimes it's a bit of a competition with other tapers ... to see who pulled the `best' recording or even who pulled a recording when no one else was able."
Tapers have become an integral part of the rock scene, particularly among jambands, most of whom encourage the practice. At any given concert you will find a small forest of microphone stands connected to DAT machines and laptops. Some bands allow tapers to patch into the soundboard to make coveted "board tapes."
"I record as many [Los Lobos] shows as I can, or I organize people to record those I can't go to," said Gale. "I also chase down old recordings from the past and compile them. Those that are audience recordings, things [the band] doesn't mind people trading, I'll send them on to people who run servers, who deal with getting them out to the masses -- and they end up getting traded on the site."
"I'm gratified that fans think enough of our stuff to trade it," said Berlin. He doesn't worry that the proliferation of live recordings will cut into record sales. "Not everybody is plugged into the Web site or to trading; for many that's still a daunting task so I don't think it's that big a deal. I see it as a tool that creates excitement."
Gale explained that Los Lobos only allows audience recordings. "They don't really let people plug into the soundboard any more. I make soundboard recordings, or have people do them, but they're for archive purposes only: They're saved for posterity -- or occasionally they use them." Gale's live recording of Los Lobos playing Dave Alvin's song "Marie, Marie" is included on Ride This, an EP of cover tunes released last year in association with the album, The Ride.
Why is Gale so fanatical about Los Lobos? "I love their music and they're great people. In terms of recording them, their shows are all unique. Capturing them every night became an obsession. Unlike a lot of artists who will regurgitate the same live show night after night, with Los Lobos, you never know what they're going to come up with, where their music will go and what crazy song will come out."
He is especially jazzed about this acoustic tour. "Every time they've come to the Van Duzer before it's always been what they call, `Los Lobos lite,' five or six acoustic songs, then a [subdued] electric set, but this will be full-blown acoustic. They haven't really done that to this magnitude since the La Pistola tour in 1988, so it's been a long time."
"The acoustic trip is always refreshing," said Berlin. "When we do these tours we bring out these irreplaceable folkloric instruments, things you probably haven't seen us play before because they're very fragile and because it requires a whole new mindset when we do it. It's healthy for us to get back to the roots of what we do."
CenterArts presents an acoustic evening with Los Lobos on Tuesday, March 1, at 8 p.m. in HSU's Van Duzer Theatre. For ticket information call 826-3928. Those who miss the show may want to check out the band's new DVD, Live at the Fillmore. Go to www.loslobos.org, loslobos.setlist.com or www.loslobos.net for more on the band.
Comments? Write a letter!
© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.