Nugs.Net Opens the Floodgates to Live Hi-Res Recordings

Let’s play a quick word association game. When I say “bootleg,” you say — what? If you answered “hooch,” then let me direct you over to the land of Prohibition Aficionado for all your liquor-oriented needs. But if you said “tape traders” instead, then you’re clearly in the right place.

Bootleg live recordings were always one of the holy grails for music fanatics prior to the Internet era, back when getting our hands on unauthorized releases of our favorite artists in concert was a risky, and often quite costly, endeavor. That’s why a site like nugs.net is such a godsend for all of us sonically hungry collectors.

Among the nugs.net amenities are unlimited access to over 30,000 hours of live music, 15,000 ad-free shows, and 250,000 songs to create custom playlists, not to mention exclusive live streams and pro-shot HD video content. Following a free 30-day trial period, the nugs.net Standard Sound Quality monthly plan runs $12.99 (or $129.99 annually), while the CD-Quality Lossless Audio option goes for $24.99 monthly ($249.99 annually). Seeing how the lossless option enables 24-bit MQA-encoded streaming, selecting that plan was a no-brainer for me. (If you think these prices are steep, then you never paid 50 bucks for Led Zeppelin’s Copenhagen Warm-Ups: The Second Night 3LP set without blinking an eye.)

Naturally, I love having hi-res soundboard audio for shows I’ve personally seen, so my first order of nugs.net business was to add a number of them to a playlist I simply dubbed MM Attended Shows. Two of my top gigs on said list are: 1) Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, on May 20, 2010 (I relish Eddie Vedder’s unaccompanied vocal moments during “I Got ID,” plus I like to think I can hear myself singing along with the audience to the frenzied version of “Porch” at the end of the first encore); and 2) Metallica at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on October 22, 2004 (the abject fury of “St. Anger,” the kinetic pace of “Master of Puppets,” and the understated, secret blues of “Nothing Else Matters” all reminded me of how many different prongs are in the hybrid musical crown of these metal legends).

I really appreciate the way certain Bruce Springsteen offerings have been curated into thematic Live Series groupings.

Considering how many Brooooce boots I physically own, I really appreciate the way certain Bruce Springsteen offerings have been curated into thematic Live Series groupings. Three standouts: 1) The Boss’ stripped-down take on “Used Cars,” from November 8, 1996 in Freehold, New Jersey, on Songs of the Road (made even more stark via his harmonica and acoustic guitar accompaniment); 2) the pure grit of “The Rising,” from August 30, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Songs of Hope (most especially the chalk-and-cheese blend of Little Steven Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa’s background vocals on the choruses); and 3) the all-in, all-together-now teamwork of “Blood Brothers,” from July 1, 2000 in New York, New York, on Songs of Friendship (seven minutes of long-entrenched E Street Band intuition at work — “let’s go!”). All of them feel perfectly poignant in the pandemic era.

I also like getting hipped to shows from artists I admire dearly but never got to see live, like The White Stripes (though I did see a Jack White solo show at Roseland in NYC on May 21, 2012). Thankfully, I got up to speed on exactly where to dive in, thanks to the finely detailed nugs.net Blog posts of Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes’ official archivist. Though I did have to pony up a few extra bucks to download Stripes shows, after hearing their seminal gig at Dionysus at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio on September 16, 2000 in 24-bit/192kHz MQA, I didn’t mind the added freight.

The mindmeld between the always visionary guitarist/vocalist Jack White and his then-significant other, the ever-underrated drummer Meg White, is beyond palpable on Oberlin tracks like the twisted blues of “Your Southern Can Is Mine” (dig the echo on Jack’s all-too-brief lead vocal), the vicious crunch of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” (Meg’s insistent cymbal rides), and the quite gnarly “One More Cup of Coffee” (Jack’s mighty stabs of guitar feedback and off-mic squeals). After a few repeat listens, I must confess to now having a severe case of LSE (Live Stripes Envy).

I also sampled (and hoarded) additional live wares from the likes of Widespread Panic, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket — and like fine, er, wine, these bands only get better and jammier with age. I could go on and on (as I’m wont to do), but you get the idea. Collecting bootlegs has long been a hallowed practice for many a music fan, and also one that often draws a fine line between being a collector and an audiophile at the same time. Thanks to the hi-res quality available for the breadth of live content to be found all throughout the open vaults on nugs.net, you may never cue up a scratchy old bootleg LP again.

THE AUTHOR
Mike Mettler, a.k.a. The SoundBard, is the music editor of Sound & Vision.

COMMENTS
jeffhenning's picture

Given how most of the live shows that I've been to have sounded poor at best and the fact that most live sound engineers are close to deaf, I have no interest in this collection.

When you then add to the fact that not one of the artists you mentioned are amongst the 3,100 songs on my main playlist and I'd have to say enthusiastically that, for me, this is a hard pass.

Also, "visionary guitarist/vocalist Jack White"? Really? The only thing worse than his guitar technique is his vocals. Apparently, your idea of visionary is drastically different than mine.

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