Cleveland Trip 1/11-13/09

After NY, we flew to Cleveland, where I grew up. This is the view out the back window for four months out of the year, thanks to Lake Effect snow. This is why I don’t like Cleveland:

But this is why I do:

And of course:

Both of our families are full of funny-facers.

Hokusai, the famous Japanese painter, went by several aliases throughout his career. Towards the end, he often signed his paintings with a name that meant “picture-crazy old man”. You might notice that behind my dad, in the dark, there are quite a few canvasses hanging on the wall. The entire house is covered in my dad’s paintings, and some of them are actually good. He is a picture-crazy old man, and something tells me that some day, I will be too.

The next day, I took my mom and Heather out for sushi. I was a bit concerned about eating sushi in the Midwest, but it was actually very good. The chef was quite skilled at carving interesting things out of the garnishes.

My two favorites ladies at lunch. Don’t mind the hat hair.

I wouldn’t have believed that my mom liked wasabi this much unless I saw it with my own eyes. She doesn’t know how to use chopsticks, but she does know how to order extra wasabi. She put this much on every piece.

Then while Heather did some window shopping, I took some photos of the only outdoor mall in Ohio- which happens to be 5 minutes from the house.

Heather’s Heat and Flavor
keeps it spicy. All spices/hot sauces/mardinades, and free samples of lots of other hot stuff I have no business putting in my mouth.

We also visited Jason and Jodi, and said hello to their newest addition, Jamie.

Jamie’s big sister, Jenni, is an incredibly friendly and outgoing 2-year old. However, on this, the occasion of her first “cheers”, she knows to cast a suspicious eye on older men who buy her drinks.

The next day, it was time to head back home. When we left Cleveland at 7am, it was 11 degrees.

When we arrived in San Diego (20 hours later), it was 76.

New York, Part 1- 1/8-9

We went to Long Island, NY a couple weeks ago so that Heather could celebrate her birthday in NYC with family and friends.

After our lunch with Heather’s sister, Donna (who always makes funny faces, even without a camera pointed at her)…

…our first stop was the Black Forest BrewHaus in Farmingdale. This was the bar we used to go to for happy hour when we first started dating almost 8 years ago. Every Friday, they’d put out a 10 foot sub, as well as some German sides, and 2 for 1 beers. mmm…..

They serve beers brewed on site, and their amber is the absolute best one I’ve ever tasted in terms of flavor, aroma, and color. It’s like drinking honey made by drunken bees.

Bud greeted us at the door when we came home.

The next day, Friday the 9th, was Heather’s birthday, so we went to NYC for some sightseeing.

Can you call a store a “mecca” if it’s run by Orthodox Jews?

I played in a metal band back in NY, and the singer’s landlord owned the Blue Point Brewery. When he got married, we had his bachelor party inside the brewery. It was my first time in an actual brewery, and my first time at a bachelor party. They make a great combo. I like this label and the image-related pun, someone should make a band sticker like that….

The beers warmed us up for more walking.

That’s my brother. He works in Manhattan at a job where you can drink at your desk, lives in Brooklyn, drives a Vespa, and is very… confident. As you’ll see later, I look just like my mom, but I’ve always said that Robert looks like our mailman. The only thing he’s not good at is picking a decent restaurant for dinner. This was the best part of our meal:

I’m keeping the photo-tech stuff short for this post, but I would like to point out that you’ll always see a beer in an American ad being backlit, like above (using the candle at the table, in this case). For some reason, Americans prefer seeing their beer all lit up. European ads don’t do this. Europeans also don’t serve beer with lemon wedges, not Hefeweizens, not Hoegaardens, not anything. We Americans have a strange relationship with beer, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Doves and Desperados, Zodiac Death Valley, Scarlet Symphony at the Soda Bar 1/23/09

Before shooting Breaker Breaker One Niner, we found ourselves at the Soda Bar. This was my first time there, and it has a good look to it. It was fairly busy this night, so next time I hope to get a booth and enjoy a drink there. But that’s another night, tonight I’m standing up front.

Doves and Desperados have a horn section, but the last 2 songs were just the backing band, and those were the only two songs I shot.

They’re dirty, sweaty rock and roll. With keys.

Zodiac Death Valley
were up next, pretty much the same kind of music, but a bit more refined.

A bass clef tattoo I get, I’d probably have one too if it weren’t for the whole no-tattoos policy of Judaism, but a paper airplane tattoo is not something I would have thought of. It does look artistic. I actually do have a bass clef in plain sight on me at all times, but no one has ever noticed it without me pointing it out.

The first time I saw Scarlet Symphony, I was impressed by how a good a show they put on.

They liked my photos enough to be the first band to put a bunch of them on their myspace, which was flattering, but it was during my first month with my camera and I felt like I could do a better job with a bit of experience.

The lights at the Soda Bar are weird, which is why I processed mostly in B&W. They’re mostly purple and green, not very pleasing colors.

It was tough to get a normal looking skin tone.

Not only are these guys really tall and expressive, but they bring an energetic crowd. I think I get better crowd shots with these guys than anyone else so far. These light have some sort of stroboscopic element I can’t decide if I like it or if it’s incredibly annoying.  When I feel this way about a band, that usually means they’re a few weeks away from being my favorite band, for at least a few weeks.

Breaker Breaker One Niner at the Radio Room 1/23/09

Friday night, my buddy Ron called me up and said he was in the mood to see some music. I was planning on relaxing at home, but I haven’t had a show partner in quite a while, so it didn’t take much convincing for me put some shoes on.

We headed to the Radio Room first to say hi to Ziggy before walking down the street to the Soda Bar. He drums for Breaker Breaker One Niner. I’m not a punk fan, but I’ve been meaning to get him in front of my camera for some time.

It’s very british-inspired punk, lots of attitude, but the guys weren’t too snotty to smile.

Anyone who has played at the Zombie Lounge, Radio Room, or O’Connells
knows Ziggy and his Another Zeke Productions. I’ve played several shows
under his booking, and it’s always been a good time. The shows go off
without a hitch and he treats the bands with respect. Even when I
hadn’t seen him in over a year he remembered my name, and he meets a dozen
new people every night. He’s always able to give a touring band a
last-minute slot, as he did this night for a rapping duo out of

A few years ago, my old rock band was playing at the Zombie Lounge, and we were having a bit of an off night. As soon as we started, my cable started cutting out due to a worn out connector. My bass amp was set up right next to what passed for the Zombie Lounge P.A., so Ziggy ran sound with his left hand while pushing my cable into my amp input with his right hand- for our whole set. That’s someone who cares, and I wish there more people in this world like that.

After that show, I got a Mogami cable and never had another problem. A $50 cable is worth it when you know you’ll never have to buy another one.


Hialeah, Fever Sleeves, By Sunlight, Marasol at the Radio Room 1/17/09

I was planning on going down to the Radio Room with a friend on Saturday night and taking it a bit easy on the shooting. I was looking forward to just relaxing and having a good time, since I’ve already shot a couple of the bands recently. But when he canceled on me at the last minute, it wasn’t going to stop me from going out having some fun.

I only saw the end of Marasol’s set when they played at the Casbah last month, and didn’t have a chance to grab both a beer and photos of them, and I chose beer. I liked what I heard though, and I’m glad I got to catch their full set this time. I even heard some guitar soloing in their indie punk songs. Sorry, I can’t describe how music sounds with words, just click on the links and hear them for yourself.

As you can see, they brought some of their own lights, which made post processing a fun challenge. I chose to leave it natural and keep their white backlights white instead of the spotlights, but I’m not all that happy with how the red spots turned out. But, desaturation helps.

Their drummer told me later that he’d like to see a photo of himself smiling, instead of his usual scowl. 

You’re welcome, Jim.


By Sunlight is from Seattle, and I definitely heard a similarity in their melancholy guitar strums and sunny vocal melodies to their city-mates, Minus the Bear.

I went for a totally different look for these guys, since their music is has a bit more of a polished sound than Marasol’s, aggressive, contrasty style.

I love it when I can catch a tattoo in a music shot. It’s just as characteristic of the person as his face.


Had my buddy actually made it to the show, I would have put my camera away at this point and the rest of my shots that night would have been done at the bar. But since he wasn’t there, I didn’t have enough to drink to suppress my compulsive need to hear the shutter click. I *always* drive home sober. So, I’m sure the next two bands are sick of seeing my lens in their faces, but, oh well.

I decided to leave Fever Sleeve’s shots pretty red, just to see if I could make it work.

Now that I have a whopping 3 songs of theirs to listen to, I want to hear more. Hopefully they’ll push their CD out soon.


Hialeah’s got a new CD coming out at some point in the future too. Since they are Black Box Studios, it’s a case where the cobbler’s kids have no shoes where they spend all their time working on other people’s music and don’t leave time to work on their own. Staying too busy with work isn’t the worst problem you could have in this economy, I guess.

Not only is their first CD in regular rotation on my Zune and not only are they expressive subjects, but they also are trying to help foster a sense of community by standing in the front and support the bands playing before them by paying attention. It kinda bugs me that some bands don’t care to listen to each other when they share the same bill. These guys do it right- support each other!

Time to get those NY/Cleveland photos done!

Peter Sprague and Leonard Patton at the Serra Mesa Library 1/18/09

Peter Sprague and Leonard Patton played at my library yesterday afternoon. It’s amazing to me that it’s possible to see this type of music in a family friendly time and setting, although I do hope to catch them in a club setting at some point. There’s only so much I can do to make a whisper-quiet library setting look like a stage.

I’ve mentioned before how the standard singer/songwriter fare bores me, but that’s not at all what they do. Peter and Leonard play full compositions, thanks to guitar loops, effects, and seriously astonishing musicianship. I could only stay for a few songs before going on my way to band practice, but I could have easily sat through 2 sets of this in rapt attention.

Earthless, Hostile Combover, Demasiado at the Casbah 1/6/08

We got back from the east coast a couple nights ago after 20 hours of travel time. I’ll have the highlights up in a few days. I’ve got a rock show tomorrow and a jazz show on Sunday to go to, so it’s looking like a really busy weekend!

The night before I left, I went to the Casbah to see Hostile Combover, primarily. I didn’t really care if I’d be sleepy for work the next day, they always put on a good show.

But first, Demasiado played to a rapidly filling room.

The singer’s very energetic on stage, almost -ahem- too much.

One of his rare calm moments.

Ummm, for the kids? wtf?

Maybe it’s because it’s been over a week since this show, but I don’t have much of an impression of the music they played. I must have liked it enough to shoot them or I wouldn’t have pulled my camera out, like for the openers of the night.

Hostile Combover ALWAYS brings it.  The next time you have a chance, go see these guys!

They are all about intensity. Ben Johnson plays his drums from a low-riding seat just so he has to work that much harder to pound them mercilessly. 

I’m almost scared to go see him as a vocalist in his other band. He probably rips the heads off the people in the front row.

The fierceness even comes through on their lo-fi recordings. Their twin vocal assault is scream-o-rific. They’ve got a new album coming out soon and they played mostly newer stuff, with no songs off their last album so I couldn’t sing along.  Boo… I want my Coitus Infirmus next time!


I saw Earthless the first time from the back of a packed show at the Ken Club a couple years ago. It was just as packed here, so I wasn’t able to get any shots of all three of them- I couldn’t move from where I was standing. I think they played the same opening song though.

And by that, I mean it was at least half an hour long.

Everybody knows Earthless, so I don’t feel like I have to say what they’re all about, but briefly, the bassist is just a utility player, the real action is the creative drummer and one of just a few guitarists who can keep up with him in the imagination department. I’d enjoy these guys a lot more if there was some actual songwriting, but I know it’s not what they’re going for. 

Given the nature of the music, I thought some zoom blur would be appropriate. This is music for smokin’ a doobie in the back of a Camaro.

The next song they played was some Led Zeppelin song which i don’t know the name of (never been a huge fan of 70’s rock, except for King Crimson). After a couple minutes, it led to a long drum solo. So long, that the other two guys left to go smoke a cigarette. Mario is an incredible drummer, and he can sustain interest by reinventing the groove over and over again. In the hands of a lesser drummer, this would be painfully boring, but he can keep it fresh. So here is what a 10 minute drum solo looks like:


One thing I try to do is give a taste of what it was like being in the front row at the shows I shoot. I think it’s time to talk a bit about how I do that. With Hostile Combover, I didn’t go overboard with the post processing because their music is so single-minded in its intent- to exact revenge on an unnamed  instigator.The cliche of chainsaw guitars works, but even more so, they’re chainsaw drums. So I left the white balance mostly as-is with just some high contrast black and whites for balance.

With an instrumental band like Earthless, there’s less of a personal connectionsince there’s no vocals to relate to. I felt as though a more neutral white balance and less emphasis on faces made sense, so that’s how I approached shooting them.

I think I’ll have to do a “What I Do- part two” post soon.