There are more than 2,000 bootlegged concerts on the site - everyone from Rush to Floyd, Yes, The Who, Audioslave, U2, R.E.M., and even Willie Nelson. And they add new ones every day or two.
The way it works is that you find the show that you want, click on the download link and you are sent to a service called Rapidshare. You can download shows for free but the service runs intentionally slowly with many limitations, to encourage full subscription. But if you pay a few bucks for a full subscription, the download times are faster and you can grab as many downloads at the same time as your pipeline can handle.
If you want to try it for free here are the steps:
--Click the 'download' link for the bootleg you want; the Rapidshare page opens
--Click 'free user'
--Click 'download,' then 'save' or 'open.' You receive a text file with information about the bootleg. In that text file are links to Rapidshare urls where you'll access the actual audio files, in compressed WinRAR format. When uncompressed, most gigs are already in MP3 format, pre-named and in order, and come with artwork.
--You'll need a program to unlock the WinRAR files once they download to your hard drive. Info on WinRAR files is here, and the program download links are here.
--Save the uncompressed files somewhere smart (like a folder on your desktop called 'bootlegs'). Drag the songs into iTunes and wha-la, you're jamming.
Some of the gems I have found:
--Van Halen demos as produced by KISS' Gene Simmons when he was toying with the idea of being the band's manager in 1976.
--The heavy metal day of the US Festival from 1983
--Pink Floyd debuting Echoes on the John Peel Sessions in 1971
--Live AC/DC gigs from the Highway to Hell tour with Bon Scott
--The last ever Wings concert
--Black Sabbath on tour in 1983 with Ian Gillan on vocals (hearing him shriek his way through Heaven and Hell is worth the download right there).
--The A.R.M.S. concert from 1983 where Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton all shared the bill (and stage). Check out Paul Rodgers and Page busting out a version of Midnight Moonlight, pre The Firm.
--Zeppelin busting out Physical Graffiti songs in New York City in 1975 before the album came out.
The sound quality varies. Most of the audience recordings are good for a listen but are not really gigs I will likely keep. But many of these are pulled right from the soundboard or are audio feeds and are therefore fairly pristine. They have all been mastered by engineers to bring out the best possible sound.
What I learned is that these bootleg traders are pretty fanatical about making the sound as good as possible. They list methods and technology/gear used, in great detail. Polishing turds in many cases, but for example there is a 1980 Genesis live gig that rivals the official 3 Sides Live release from a couple of years later.
Anyway, have fun poking around and let me know if you stumble on any gems.