Live At Fi is a podcast I produce that features live recordings from The Hifi Bar in NYC. It’s part documentation of the scene, and part enticement for folks to come down to the venue and enjoy the experience in real time.
This bonus length, hour long episode (most are edited to fit into your subway commute) is great fun and features songs from HiFi’s Under Your Influence tribute series. These tribute nights are loose and fun for musicians and the crowd, but there’s no mistaking the ambition of the performers to do justice to the featured songwriters and performers.
Recording these shows is also great fun but a technical terror. Stage lineups change song by song, mics drop, cables fizzle, singers alternately whisper, then scream. I stand by the side of the stage with my recording gear and headset listening, hoping for the best, but always grooving on the performances with a nervous grin.
My goal for these live recordings has never perfection (I’ve succeeded there), but something like the live FM broadcasts I loved listening to on FM radio in the ‘70s and early ‘80s on WNEW, WPLJ, or the short-lived and lamented WPIX. Those broadcasts were more about about sharing the excitement of a venue, with an attempt at presenting a sonic impact a bit more impressive than a microphone in the crowd, and I’ve tried to make sure that the sound of the room and the crowd at HiFi is a big part of the recordings. For example, check out how the Beautiful Fear performance of XTC’s Dear God silences a talkative crowd – the musicians never chide the audience, but the music and their presence shift the audience’s attention completely.
All the performances are fun, but a few others to mention – Jessie Kilguss’ take on The Kinks’ This Time Tomorrow makes me think Fairport Convention should have covered The Kinks in their heyday, Edward Rogers slays the crowd with his twist on Pretenders’ Precious, and it warmed my heart to hear the house band go for Rockpile’s live arrangement of Nick Lowe’s Heart of The City, as featured in many vintage live FM recordings and bringing it all back home for me.
Live at Fi iTunes