CUMBERLAND — Making audio recordings of bands at festivals across the country is a passion for the audiophiles known as “tapers.”
The area designated for recording at concerts, called the taper's section, can be easily found. Where you see the elaborate microphones on stands shooting into the air, you’ll find the tapers' community.
The DelFest bluegrass and Americana festival, currently underway at the Allegany County Fairgrounds, is no different. The tapers, about 12, set up directly in front of the band to access the best sound.
Tapers combine their deep passion for music with their love of audio recording techniques and equipment.
“Going to shows is a hobby and taping is another hobby so it’s two of my hobbies combined,” said Tom Fakete, a taper. Fakete, from outside Philadelphia, is back for DelFest. He has been at DelFest each of the 10 years of the festival.
The taper's section is not only a good place to find high quality live recorders, but it also is a place where love can be found — just ask the tapers where they met each other.
Fakete and wife Suzanne Franks met while Tom was taping a show.
“We met at a music festival,” said Suzanne. “It was 1994 in Penn’s Landing (Philadelphia) at a JazzFest. It was on May 22, so DelFest is like our anniversary weekend.”
Suzanne said she and Tom hit it off quickly.
“I went by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me,” said Suzanne. “He went with a friend but the friend was not hanging out with him. I said something to him. A blues band was playing. I said, ‘It’s a big sound coming out of such a small guy.’ He agreed and we started talking about the music and we spent the rest of the day together and we’ve never been apart since.”
Jamie Burks, a taper, had a similar story of love found while taping a show. Jamie and his wife Amy met at a concert by the band Donna the Buffalo in 2002. Donna the Buffalo is also playing DelFest this weekend.
“You do the things you do and you will meet the people you like to hang with,” said Jamie.
“We’ve been married 12 years,” said Amy. “I had never heard Donna the Buffalo. I went to the show and I was dancing and this guy kept asking me to dance. I didn’t really like him. Then, I saw him (Jamie). I decided I wanted to dance with him.”
“I’m not a good dancer,” said Jamie. “I was taping.”
“We had a connection,” said Amy. “We starting dating and we married in 2005.”
These days you can find Amy and Jamie as well as Tom and Suzanne at concerts most weekends through the summer. All of the tapers, which range from 12 to as many as 35 or 40 for some concerts, hang out with each other.
“All these people you see here, we all know each other,” said Jamie. “We are all friends.”
Most of the tapers trace their beginnings in the hobby to the Grateful Dead.
“I always liked high fidelity equipment and recording equipment,” said Tom Fakete, who began taping in 1983. “I was into the Grateful Dead and the Grateful Dead was one of the first bands that allowed people to tape. They actually had a taping section area. But I was taping before they had a taping section. We do it to trade the music and have access to their shows.”
Jamie Burks said he only listens to a few of the tapes multiple times.
“Of all of the tapes I have, I can listen to the Grateful Dead show from Cornell University in 1977 anytime,” said Jamie. “I can listen to that one over and over.”
The tapers began with cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes and graduated to CDs and ultimately digital files. The tapers often communicate online at taperssection.com and post shows to livemusicarchive.org.
“It’s all about archiving the music,” said Jamie.
The tapers enjoy seeing the groups develop.
“The taper section is a real community,” said Suzanne. “When we come back to DelFest it’s like a reunion. There are some people we only see here. A lot of tapers come to this festival. They have an online community, but this is a place were they can meet face to face. You see what kind of rig you are running this year. We talk to each other and be with other people that share their interest. It is a micro-community within DelFest.”