Monday, October 31, 2022

Arbitrary marathon of live bootlegs of The White Stripes

There's a lot of things out there people will tell you is a marathon, not a sprint. One of those marathon-not-sprints is how I decide what I'm going to listen to while I am in my office. This is, in part, because I have every modern media format you can play music on in Sansbury Hall 201: a tape deck, a CD player, and of course: my entire record collection. My office is more like a dorm room then the literal dorm rooms on the floor above mine, all I'm missing is a Pulp Fiction poster.

As Ohio Dominican is a teaching institution, I do a lot of teaching, so the three days I am on campus I am on campus all day. If I am diligent, I can listen to an album before my teaching day starts, during my mid-morning gap, and then depending on how many folks pop in during office hours, anywhere between 3 and 6 albums in the afternoon.

You might think, what great wealth of time you have to DJ your days. Wrong! It is a curse to be away from my records (and CDs, and tapes!) for 4 of the 7 days of the week so I have to budget my time accordingly. What LP can I listen to on Friday that I might be craving on Sunday? The burden of choice looms!

Playing to type I had been saving for today a 2017 Vault Exclusive release by The White Stripes: Live in Detroit 1999/2000/2021.

Contained within the above pictured slipcase are three (count 'em - THREE!) live shows each marking a distinct hometown show capturing the first albums by The White Stripes. You've got Live at the Magic Bag - Ferndale 7/30/99 playing the hits from their debut self-titled as well as previews of some later jams like "Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground". You've got Live at the Magic Stick 8/18/00 which brings De Stijl's eclecticism into the mix. Makes the case for "You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)" as a classic album opener, at least until White Blood Cells comes out, and, well, you know how that album opens:

 Finally, a rare full-album performance (in order!) of White Blood Cells on Live at the Gold Dollar Volume 4 6/7/01 which you can hear on your streaming platform of choice (or buy it you cheapasses!) because this bootleg is included in the 20th Anniversary edition of White Blood Cells that came out in 2021 (which I wrote about at length over at P*p Ma**ers).

Anyway, I got to thinking while spinning the opening LP of Live in Detroit: I have a lot of White Stripes bootlegs. At this exact moment I have over 10 within arm's reach for goodness sakes. Earlier today I was listening to a music podcast talking about how some bands' definitive statements are their live show. I'll never really know that about The White Stripes having only missed them by a few years. But, in that moment, at that red light, while Steven Hyden of Indiecast talked about King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard I thought of a "fun" exercise to "enjoy" what I listened today was born.

I had, recently, been revisiting the Stripes' studio albums anyway. That was like a sprint: listen to Elephant on the commute Thursday, rush through White Blood Cells on Wednesday, and so on. I've had a completionist's listen queued up for Jack and Meg already going, lemme take it further and shotgun as much live White Stripes as possible. So, instead of savoring my live LPs, instead of making careful decisions about what to play while I can play it, I'm just going to dive in. October 28th, 2022: live White Stripes Marathon begins.

Miles 1-13: LPs in the office

(1) Live at the Magic Bag 7/30/99
(2) Live at the Magic Stick 8/18/00
(3) Live at the Gold Dollar vol. 4 6/7/01

this one is a jam: an early, early Vault release of songs played during the day on The White Stripes final run of shows all over Canada. Great, if not a little questionable quality in recording, testament to The White Stripes' commitment to quirk.

(5) Live in Las Vegas
what can I say about Live in Las Vegas? It is a true grail of an album for collectors of The White Stripes, and while I try to not derive joy from its exclusivity, I can't help but think about how special this one copy is. My one copy, one out of maybe 30 or 40 (or maybe hundreds, this is disputed). This is one of the only rare and collectable albums I try to preserve, so each listen is special. A good one to end the vinyl run on for today.

Miles 14-16: CDs in the car

At some point in the not-so-distant past Third Man Records and made some kind of arrangement to release live recordings of The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, Jack White solo, and The White Stripes. This started a slow drip: some notable shows from the milestone birthdays of early White Stripes albums, then a Jack White solo show here and there, the digitization of a Vault album every few months. Nice stuff. This year, though, White released every single night of The Supply Chain Issues World Tour on the platform, which has been a bounty of listening treasures. This particular White Stripes show is the show before The White Stripes last ever concert. It is a hot, dirty, frenetic performance - unburdened by the weight of Live in Mississippi's finality. This is (probably) my favorite live recording

Another set from the Elephant-era, this is a great spotlight on how two kids from Detroit could fill a whole stadium with sound. Look no further than the impressive take on "The Hardest Button to Button" making a rare appearance in the lead-off spot. Shit is huge. Definitely drove above the speedlimit for this cut.

Note: this is not the exact cut but Jack plays it the same:

Okay, I am going to be honest I wasn't in the car long enough to listen to this one, but it remains an important entry in the catalogue specifically as a CD. And if I'm being really honest, about halfway through the Sloss Furnace gig it became Saturday and this became a full weekend of White Stripes bootlegs.

But in the instance of Live in Sweden, this CD has a special place on my shelf: two skinny and pink jewel cases each with a tracklist in the unmistakable handwriting of my Uncle Bill. Through my own error of transcription, I'd mislabeled the MP3s as "Live in Malvo" and occasionally would try to find clips of the show on YouTube, or read anything about it to no avail. This weekend, having extended my listening well beyond the limitations of Friday, I shot Bill a message and learned some quick facts:
  • the show was in Malmo, Sweden, not "Malvo"
  • the bootleg was hosted by a European music blog
  • the discs were burned on an office computer in Hamilton, Ohio, which I'm told worked fast and burned many CDs
The show itself is sick, and it includes a very awesome (and not altogether common) cover of Raconteur Brendan Benson's "Good to Me" and an exceptional show stopping "Jack the Ripper" but for me the real joie de vivre is how the CD was passed to me: thoughtfully made and mailed to an obsessed nephew.

Miles 16-25: MP3s

(9) Under Nova Scotian Lights (2007)
A trend I am noticing with some of the MP3s I spent time with this weekend are that they come from elsewhere: dvd and livestream audio, vinyl rips, recorded-live-to-cassette. Sheesh. I guess that's in keeping with The White Stripes' all analogue all the time ethos. Take for example the first of the "headphones era" marathon: this rip of an extra DVD in the Under Great White Northern Lights deluxe box set that captures The White Stripes' performance in Nova Scotia on the night of their tenth anniversary as a live band (later, I listen to their first-ever live headliner, you'll see). The DVD, also shot and directed by Emmett Malloy, so there's a similar aesthetic to the excellent documentary chronicling the Stripes' final jaunt through Canada. 

However, as you can imagine, the full-set on the deluxe edition captures more than the wide release of UGWNL and has the fringe benefit of being a little secret, as opposed to the last "official" release before the band broke up.

(10) From the Basement (2005)
All killer, no filler. Four from Get Behind Me Satan (my first new White Stripes release as a fan) and the excellent "Party of Special Things to Do" cover. Just twenty minutes of The White Stripes doing what The White Stripes do best: making quirky, kick-ass, blues rock music. I forget I have these saved and every time I stumble upon this humble little homemade bootleg I'm reminded what I love about this band.

Maybe thinking the venue is cool is a stupid reason to listen to a bootleg, but in Fall 2000 the early White Stripes were at the peak of their powers. This is a nasty little De Stijl tour show with an unforgettable rendition of "Cannon" sung like the Batman theme song, with Jack drawing out the titular lyric: "can-na-na-na-na-nananon."

(12) Live on Bastille Day / 9/14/97
This was the first-ever White Stripes performance, originally a Vault-exclusive 7" of the brief open-mic set, for self-titled's 20th anniversary the show was released on streaming platforms. 

Speaking of first shows and the historic Gold Dollar, here's the first headlining show the band played. Another Vault exclusive, this set was pressed in my convert-vinyl-to-mp3-era and we're better for it on weekend listening adventures. Exceptional cover of "TV Eye." 

Fans are rabid for a vinyl release of this concert film. I always underrate it, but early 2004 White Stripes are really a sight (and sound, in the case of the dvd audio rips) to behold. This morning I almost wrecked my car when "Ball and Biscuit" came on.

Note: I did not finish listening to Under Blackpool Lights, but I shuffled a good 2/3s of it on the drive in.

Mile 26: 3" singles

(15) I'll let the picture speak for itself. I couldn't do my whole set up at home, but I do not sleep under a roof unless there's White Stripes vinyl there too.

Water, a Beer, and a Cool Down
So what did we learn? First, that it is hard to listen to a lot of music in a single day. Second, each listen propelled by ear to a new thing: oh this cut of "Apple Blossom" is the best, or this "Fell in Love With a Girl" slow jam is palatable, and always: f**k I wish I'd gotten to see these guys live. Were there any surprises? Yes, two:

one, I did not get bored of only listening to The White Stripes this weekend and

two, could not discern a "best way" to listen, meaning headphones, earbuds, the car, or the office, all delivered similar audio pleasures.

Which is the best? This article is a little older (it pre-dates a few Vault albums and the Nugs partnership) but I think its a sound list. Plus, its nice to see I have all of the albums they mention ha. I think my cop out answer is all of it is the best. None of it is the best. I'm sure this is true for anybody who loves any band as much and for as long as I've loved The White Stripes, but at the end of the weekend, its

... all music to my ears.

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