West Philly house venue Luigi's Mansion releases a series of bootleg cassettes - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

At this point, it’s redundant to say that the pandemic has been difficult for musicians and live music. The unexpected side-effect, though, has been innovation in the way that we experience live music, and one of the places providing a particularly interesting listening experience is Luigi’s Mansion.

Luigi’s Mansion is a West Philly house venue that began hosting shows back in 2019. When things shut down in March 2020, they acted quickly and started hosting Instagram livestreams every other week for the first month or so of the pandemic, all of which are available on their YouTube. Although the Luigi.TV Instagram series ended, Luigi’s Mansion has been hosting occasional Luigi.TV Twitch streams in the time since. Now, they’ve announced their most exciting pandemic project to date: a series of limited run bootleg cassettes using shows from their archives.

A press release explains that the tapes will be made by recording over used cassettes for “environmental, aesthetic, and cost reasons.” Jamie Conroy, cofounder of the venue, expands a little bit on the reason they’re doing this series in an email.

This idea is something we’ve had kicking around for a while for individual sessions, but a personal experience recently motivated us to structure it as a series with a number of sessions. I had made a tape copy of one of my favorite Philadelphia artists, WR YU, on Luigi.TV (the instagram series many of these sessions come from) for personal listening, and fell in love with how the session sounded on the redubbed tape, which brought a pretty tapey sound to it. I had originally thought these tapes would only work with full band sessions, but listening to this tape made me realize the scale at which we could run this. 

But there’s more behind this series than just that. As Conroy explains, these cassettes are an homage to the long history of bootlegged cassette tapes.

There is something kind of magical about cassettes to me, where with the right fairly accessible technology you can take a tape and turn it into something different, dubbing over the existing music and customizing it with whatever you might want to hear. I think this process is under addressed in the arc of music history, from the Dead Kennedy’s encouraging bootlegging with the phrase “Home taping is killing record industry profits, we left this side blank so you can help!” on their tapes to the extensive live bootlegging of the Grateful Dead on tape. In our own small way, we want to keep this tradition alive, raising money directly for the artists at the same time. 

The plan for the series is to release three tapes on the first of each month. Once the month is over, those three tapes will be retired and another three tapes will take their place. This inaugural round of tapes includes performances by Yeah It Is What We Have, Cheem, and Stand and Wave. While there’s no announcement about what other performances will be available in the next round, checking out Luigi’s Mansion’s YouTube gives a good idea of what could be in store.

The low cost of producing the up-cycled cassettes not only means that each cassette is very affordable (only $5 each), but that all proceeds can go directly to the artists. The tape creation process also means that there’s no fear of supplies running out, but be sure to buy this round of sessions before April 1st. The Luigi.TV Bootleg Live series is planned to continue through the summer, so be sure to follow them on Instagram or Facebook to stay up-to-date on new releases.

You can take a look at the Luigi.TV sessions for Yeah Is What We Have, Cheem, and Stand and Wave below.

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