In the live music fan community, there’s a saying: “God Bless the Tapers.” Everyone can’t go to every show, but thanks to the hard-working taper community, many of our favorite bands’ shows get recorded and preserved for people everywhere to appreciate for years to come. Taping is a selfless hobby, a service to fellow fans and the community at large.
While live music remains on the back burner due to COVID-19, one notable taper is using the skills he applies to his usual day job to continue to help the community at large as the nation continues to rise up in protest against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the unlawful killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others.
Dan Lynch, known within the music community by his online handle, NYCTaper, is a live music archivist by night, and an “Attorney by day.” He’s not just any attorney, either. Known for his massive archive of live shows by artists like Phish, Pavement, Bob Weir, and countless others, Lynch is a civil rights attorney who has spent three decades working in The Big Apple. After working as a public defender in the 1980s, Lynch started a private practice in the early ’90s where he worked many cases involving civil rights violations on the Lower East Side. Over his career, Lynch has offered pro bono services to countless protesters. Whether it be those protesting the 2000 presidential election results, or even the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, he has been there for those arrested when exercising their first amendment right.
As the George Floyd protests spread from Minneapolis, MN to areas around the U.S. and world, Lynch, once again, made his talents available for free.
Please be aware that I am a civil rights attorney and will do pro bono work for anyone arrested in tonight’s political activity in New York. Everything in the courts is virtual right now, so PM me to get my cell number. I will make myself available for arraignments tomorrow.
— NYCTaper (@nyctaper) May 30, 2020
Lynch told Rolling Stone in a recent interview, “That’s why I became a lawyer. I do make a living defending criminal cases, but when my talents, expertise and experience can be used to benefit people who are protesting injustice, police abuse and abuse by the government, that’s what I do. I have no problem doing as many cases as I can physically for no fee.”
As the protests raged on over the past week, the PM’s rolled in and Lynch got to work. While most messages arrived from those who had not yet faced arrest, he has received word from more than 30 people who had been jailed and will take on as many as he can.
Lynch explained that most are misdemeanors and that the recent bail-reform package means that those arrested will only receive desk-appearance tickets. These desk-appearance tickets see the arrestee fingerprinted, charged, and released with a future court date.
Noted Lynch, “If the bail reform hadn’t been enacted in January, I’m not sure where we’d be [right now]. It’d be a madhouse, to be honest. If they were sending all of these people through the system, it would be insane.”
While he acknowledged that civil rights cases have declined over the years, the cases that do occur have worsened: “I’ve seen police officers do absolutely horrendous things. Cases that weren’t in the newspaper. Guys whacked over the head, clients with broken arms, broken noses… guys with faces so swollen that they could hardly see out of their eyes.” He continued, “I’ve been in court when they’ve lied, lied to my face, about things that I knew they were lying about.”
Lynch’s job as a criminal defense attorney and his hobby as a concert taper have overlapped over the years, too, giving him a unique perspective on how these legal issues manifest themselves in the music community. Back in 2010, just three years after he launched NYCTaper, the NYPD raided Market Hotel, a popular, yet illegal, venue near the Bushwick/Bed-Stuy border.
“There were like 12 different people who were arrested,” he told Rolling Stone. “Every single case was dismissed. I was so proud of that.”
As the NYPD continued to crack down on DIY music venues, Lynch continued to offer pro bono services and even helped places like Market Hotel reopen legally. While millions of people across the country continue to fight against racial injustice and police brutality, it’s comforting to know that people like Lynch exist and can use their specialized skillset to make a meaningful impact.
[H/T Rolling Stone]