In the age of the iPhone-camera and the YouTube video, it’s endlessly easy — maybe too easy — to see your favorite band in concert, even if you can’t physically be there.
But before smartphones and streaming, music fans relied on good old-fashioned film cameras for their bootlegging action. Sometimes these videos languished in boxes in people’s basements; sometimes they disappeared into collectors DVDs or studio archives. But until yesterday, when the private archivist/memorabilia shop Wolfgang’s Vault published 13,000 live-concert videos on YouTube, they were rarely digitized and remastered — let alone released for free.
Now fans can hear Lynyrd Skynyrd sing “Sweet Home Alabama” live in 1977, or jam to Bonnie Rait, circa 1989. Wolfgang’s Vault and its live-concert subsidiary, Music Vault, claim to have amassed the largest collection in the world.
“Fans can expect a front-row seat to some of the greatest rock & roll performances of all time,” Music Vault’s content editor, Bill Antonucci, promised Rolling Stone. “These are legendary musicians captured at the peak of their powers.”
Music Vault’s archives are, to that point, unwieldy — there’s just so much material here, it’s hard to know where to start. (Music Vault has, kindly, provided some entry points: a playlist of “best live performances” and a series of genre channels, for starters.) But in the interests of further helping music fans through the maze, we’ve pulled out some other highlights below. And GIF-ed them, naturally — alas, while Music Vault has digitized its analog footage, they haven’t come quite that far yet.
Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium, July 2, 1977
Bob Marley and the Wailers at Oakland Auditorium, Nov. 30, 1979
James Brown at the Ritz, Jan. 26, 1986
The Who at Tanglewood, July 7, 1970
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at Capitol Theatre, Sept. 20, 1978]
The Sex Pistols at Winterland, Jan. 14, 1978
Deer Tick at Old Lantern Barn, Aug. 28, 2011