Ages ago, I found this R.E.M. bootleg at a now-defunct record shop. It was wonderful, and intimate, and full of strange cover versions I had never heard. Just before launching into “World Leader Pretend,” Michael Stipe says: “We’re really happy to be here at Mountain Stage. We’re surrounded by really good people, and we’re gonna do a couple songs for you.” At the time, I had no idea where, or what, Mountain Stage was… but I wanted to be there. Years later, thanks to the magic of the Internet and NPR Music, I get to experience amazing, live concerts by an enormous array of musicians. And so can you!
Mountain Stage is a product of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and has been running since 1983. Each year, they record 26 two-hour shows, mostly in Charleston, West Virginia, and these are available via NPR Music, the Mountain Stage Website, and on iTunes. Perhaps the greatest thing about the show is its unfussy, public-media presentation. The show exists to facilitate the performances, and there is little-to-no-pressure for the artists they present to showcase their “hits.” Accordingly, what emerges is a real sense of who these artists are at the moment they perform.
And the results are just gorgeous, as I will now show you. Here are a few of my recent favorites from the site, along with two of those glorious R.E.M. tracks. You can browse the whole archive here, or here, and find an upcoming schedule of performances here. You can also find lots of interesting things to watch over on their YouTube Page. I hope you’ll enjoy them!
Here’s “World Leader Pretend” from R.E.M.’s 1991 performance:
[audio:https://www.shh-listen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/rem-boot-acoustic-cd1-01-world-leader-pretend.mp3|titles=World Leader Pretend (live)] Download
And here’s “Fall on Me:”
[audio:https://www.shh-listen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/rem-boot-acoustic-cd1-03-fall-on-me.mp3|titles=Fall on Me (live)] Download
And while we’re at it, here’s a video of “Belong” from the same session:
Next up is Billy Bragg from Nov. 26, 2008 (info here):
Here’s Great Lake Swimmers from Aug. 27, 2010 (info here):
Another great one from Or, The Whale on Nov. 25, 2009 (info here):
Here’s Erin McKeown from May 5, 2010 (info here):
Last up, the always entertaining Colin Hay from Aug. 9, 2010 (info here):