Time to Live it Up with Porch Songs….Downloadable 2 Track WP Soundboards from the vault!!  Read on to find out the why, what and when…

Over the past 18 months, we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start on the Official Widespread Panic Archive Series by releasing 4 live shows…..Carbondale 2000, Valdosta 1989, Huntsville 1996 and Montreal 1997.  All but one of these releases utilized the Multi-Track (MT) process that enables individual instruments and vocals to be separately mixed during a post show mixing process.  These MT releases take a considerable amount of time and effort to create; hence, only four releases in 18 months.  While the quality of the MT recordings are incredible and certainly worth the wait, I think it’s important to give certain shows that were not going to end up making the MT cut some recognition in their own right.

Just for fun, let’s say we have 2,000 shows to consider for the official archive MT releases.  Over time, if we release 50 shows, that leaves 1,950 shows that stay on the shelf……if not for another way to get them out there.  This Porch Songs project will capture some of those shows in a soundboard versus a MT format and, as a result, will deliver more music in a more timely fashion….while we continue to work on 3-4 MT releases each year.

These 2 track soundboard recordings that Porch Songs will utilize beg for a little explanation.  For purposes of this discussion, let’s say there are 3 types of recordings…..audience, soundboard and MT.  Audience tapes are made at the shows by fans and capture the sound that comes out of the speakers. The quality of an audience tape will depend on a variety of factors including the quality of the taping equipment, the taper’s skill, microphone location, room dynamics, etc. When the variables sync, an audience tape can come off sounding awesome.  But if it doesn’t, there’s not a lot you can do about it.  A MT tape is at the other end of the spectrum in that you can remix the sound of the individual instruments and vocals to the degree that the stage essentially doubled as a recording studio the night of the show.  And it when it comes to manipulating those individual signals, there are endless possibilities with today’s technology.

Somewhere between those two recording options lies the world of soundboard recordings.  The post-mix soundboard signal that travels from the mixing board to the PA gets captured by some type of recording equipment and then onto a storage medium before it hits the speakers.  The type of recording equipment and storage is dependent on what year you’re talking about…..basically analogue cassette tapes from the 1980’s, dat tapes from the 1990’s and digital hard drives from the 2000’s forward.  Regardless of the equipment used to make the recordings and the storage medium, the soundboard signal is different from both an audience recording and a MT tape because, unlike an audience recording, the signal doesn’t have the opportunity to be muddied up by the air inside the venue.  From past explanations, you now know that the MT process captures every instrument and vocal separately….but, the soundboard feed is not separated….so, you lose the ability to dial each nuance up and down as the song or show progresses. As a result, soundboard recordings usually sound much cleaner and have a better dynamic range than audience tapes…..but will always come up short in quality when compared to the MT series.

When compared to audience tapes, a soundboard recording allows the instruments to sound a little more defined and separated and the vocals to be more clearly understood.  Sometimes though, a soundboard recording is not an improvement on an audience tape due to the board signal needing so much manipulation to account for the room dimensions and environment.  For example, if the room absorbs the drums to a negative degree, then the drum mix will be so high in the soundboard signal that the soundboard tape will sound lousy.  However, the room dynamics might provide for a great audience tape that same evening.  So, not all soundboard recordings sound the same….some are incredible, some are above-average, and some are not that great.  Most of the time however, a soundboard tape provides a listener with an improved experience over what came through the audience tapes.  Furthermore, today’s technology allows for these soundboard recordings to be touched up a degree so that some of the recording imperfections might be removed…or at least improved on….but it is certainly not a flawless process.  One needs to exercise caution in developing expectations about consistent recording quality when it comes to soundboard recordings.  Some will sound better than others…but rest assured, I’ll pick shows that are performance-worthy of making the Porch Songs cut.  And I’ll be sure to leave some heat on the shelf for the MT side of things.

With that being an introduction on the why and the what, here’s a collection of random thoughts regarding Porch Songs and what to expect show-wise, quality-wise, and other-wise…

  • I’ve spent time cross-referencing fan-based WP soundboard tape lists that will guide me to shows that have not previously been traded in a soundboard format.  I know the late 1990’s and early 2000’s need some love.  I plan on releasing shows that fill in some of those gaps, but also releasing some soundboards that are already “out there” to give fans without previous access the opportunity to download some of those shows.
  • The quality of these shows will largely be “as is” due to a number of factors previously discussed. We will touch them up to a degree, but the goal is to get this music out there and not spend an inordinate amount of production time in doing so.
  • Rather than so-called “digi noise” rendering a soundboard recording completely useless, I may from time to time decide to eliminate a track or two that might indeed be completely warped…..so we get to release the rest of the show rather than subscribing to one bad apple theory.
  • This project will allow us to release some multi-night runs right off the bat and not take the time of 2 or 3 MT releases to do so.  Obviously, some sound quality will be sacrificed, but like I said earlier….there are 1,950 shows that need a little room to fly….and some multi-night runs will certainly show up on the MT series.  All good things in all good time, right?
  • I can work together with fans over time, via email and blogs, to focus on certain tours, years, venue runs, etc.
  • One interesting avenue of this project is that it allows the MT side of things to focus on the years where MT recordings actually exist….which began in late 1994.  So, in addition to releasing a lot of the soundboards from the late 90’s and early 2000’s that never made it into circulation and won’t end up making it to a full blown MT release, Porch Songs allows us to go back to the 80’s and early 90’s and focus on some of that great music as well.
  • A basis of comparison for the Porch Songs project would be the recordings that are available from today’s shows on www.livewidespreadpanic.com.  Each show played since 2005 is categorized under the appropriate year and tour and is essentially a modern-day 2 track soundboard recording that is available for download versus being able to buy it at a store in a hard copy cd format. Porch Songs will just work backwards from 2005 in a sense…but in a random manner.
  • These Porch Songs releases will be sold for a reasonable price out on www.livewidespreadpanic.com, and given the current set up of the site, they will show up at the top of the page underneath the Archive Recording heading.
  • I’ve started with a couple of shows that I think fit pretty well into this new venture.  It’s a 2 night run from the late 90’s with guest artists and some great playing.  Given all the other 2 night runs available to put out on MT, this one probably wouldn’t have made it, but now it gets a new life in a different format.  The recording is not what I would call top shelf, but represents what I think is about an 8 or so on a potential subjective quality scale.  The goal here was to start somewhere…so I did.
  • Enlightened?  Confused?  Comments? Questions?  Send me an email….. archives@widespreadpanic.com.

Finally, the when part.  For the most part, we are pretty much good to go. So, real  soon.  As within a week or so…….Horace

UPDATE: PORCH SONGS Release #1: Mud Island ’97 RunDownload Here


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