Not fade away
The Sacramento Music Archive’s tape collection documents local history
Shayne Stacy keeps more than 4,000 cassette recordings of live shows in his linen closet, 2,000 digital audio tapes in a dresser and 1,000 VHS tapes stacked in a walk-in closet.
Despite what evidence might suggest, however, he’s not a hoarder.
It’s all part of a larger collection dating back to 1981 that features early shows from touring bands including Operation Ivy, Green Day and Nirvana as well as hundreds of Sacramento locals, with a particular focus on the punk, metal and indie scenes—including more than 160 8-millimeter master tapes from the now-defunct Cattle Club.
Until just over a year ago, these recordings were confined to Stacy’s closets and hard drives. He started uploading them to YouTube in 2013 but hated the lack of organization. To contain that chaos, Stacy connected with a community of local “tapers” and dreamed up the Sacramento Music Archive—an online space where anyone could plunge into the free goldmine with ease. It launched in 2017 and currently hosts more than 2,400 recordings.
“The lack of structure on the internet drives me crazy,” Stacy said. “Everything is lost in a sea of content.”
Stacy brought a group of local tapers together to put old recordings online as well as create a home for the scattered live sets already strewn across disparate YouTube channels. The archive’s format allows contributors to post videos to the main hub while continuing to host the files on their own channels.
Contributors to the archive—which lets users search by band, venue, year and more—include local musicians Charles Albright and Cory Wiegert, Bat Guano Records founder Ken Doose, Sacramento Punk Shows honcho Lee Osh and Zoran Theodorovic, host of the local metal show Capital Chaos.
“I have hundreds of live sets by great local punk bands,” Wiegert said. “Not many scenes can say they have something like this.”
Stacy made his first audio recording in the summer of 1985 using a boom box he stored in his car because he couldn’t afford a stereo. On a whim, he took it out and used it to capture a set by Sacramento thrash-metal favorite Sentinel Beast at the now-defunct DIY metal festival Helvetia Park. He was surprised to find that the sound quality wasn’t bad.
That debut recording, in all of its spontaneous glory, is in the archive. Shortly after that, Stacy got a hold of his stepdad’s top-notch Montgomery Ward boom box—the first of many gear upgrades over the years.
Eventually, he squirreled away earnings from his $5-per-hour graveyard shift parcel service job until he could afford a video camcorder.
While Stacy was digging into punk and metal, another local, “Taper Jim” McLain, was discovering rock bands like Sex 66 and Jackpot at the Heritage Festival. McLain knew they routinely played Old Ironsides, so he began attending shows and recording them.
His path inevitably crossed with Stacy’s.
“When people saw me taping shows, they said, ’Oh you must know Shayne,’” said McLain, who hadn’t yet met his recording peer. “Then I was at Old Ironsides and this other guy shows up and it was him.”
Prior to tapers like Stacy and McLain, there was Mark Martin, an old-school taper who recorded local punk and metal shows. Martin eventually sold Stacy his tape collection and phased out around the mid-’80s. He and Stacy are still in touch. Martin occasionally borrows his gear to record local Americana and alt-country.
With a few of Martin’s taper contacts on hand, Stacy started trading by mail through underground networks advertised in zines like MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, Flipside and Goldmine.
“You would compile a list of what you have and swap back and forth with people,” Stacy said.
The world Stacy documented in the ’80s, however, experienced a new wrinkle in the early ’90s after bands such as Nirvana arrived on the scene. Stacy recorded the iconic grunge band at the Crest Theatre months before Nevermind landed like an atomic bomb, going platinum many times over.
Suddenly the DIY counterculture became a mainstream commodity, which of course brought other forces into the mix.
Bands that had played Cattle Club were suddenly playing large halls and arenas. Tapes that previously existed specifically for die-hard music traders suddenly had measurable market value.
“When punk rock blew up in ’91 and money started getting into it, [taping] got harder,” Stacy said.
Not only was it suddenly more difficult to bring a camera into a show; Stacy also started seeing some of his original recordings monetized by others in the form of unsanctioned bootlegs on record store shelves. It was antithetical to why he did it, but soon became rampant.
“I quit for 10 years because these things were just seen as commodities and rarities,” said Stacy, who says he’s thankful in retrospect that others continued to tape hundreds of shows during that decade.
Now, the site’s bread and butter is live video and audio recordings, but it also hosts demos, flyers and other relics of the DIY scene.
“I think what Shayne and Jim are doing to document the history of music in Sacramento is invaluable,” said Sean Hills, who puts on local shows under Punch and Pie Productions. “I’m always happy when one, or sometimes both of them, come out to one of my shows.”
While in many ways the Sacramento Music Archive is for fans, McLain said it’s the bands who often appreciate it most. For many, it’s the only chance they ever get to see or hear their own sets live or have them archived and shared—save for fleeting Instagram stories or shaky Facebook clips.
The tapers’ workmanship and technical know-how sets them apart from your standard social media shares.
“There are a million phone cameras in the rooms, and it has driven the medium down to nothing,” Stacy said. “That’s how I differentiate. I have super-tall monopods and I just shoot right over the top of them.”