My computer decided to die on me right after Thanksgiving, so I had a lovely day braving the black friday crowds for a new system. I got a nice HP pavilion with 6GB of memory, 23 inch widescreen, and Windows 7, and am slowly bringing it back to resemble my older system. I’ll be importing my photos in a bit later today, but after a test, the edts I’ve made in Lightroom don’t carry over, so I get the original files without any of the work I’ve done to them in LR. Any LR gurus out there who can help me out? To complicate things, I used LR 1.4 on the old computer, backing up faithfully once a week to a location I haven’t been able to find, but the new computer has LR 2.5. Ugh… I can’t go back and reprocess two years worth of photos. I can’t! I won’t…
After their set, I did some group shots of the core members of Seesaw Ensemble.
They’re going to be special guests of mine at my first solo photo show early next year. I’ll be hanging selected prints of them and two other bands. Those bands will also each be performing a set. More on all that later.
Full gallery here, or just click a photo.
Seesaw Ensemble isn’t a band, it stays true to its name by absorbing different players at different times. That looseness keeps them from getting too comfortable with each other, demanding spontaneity.
Philly-sax guru Elliot Levin joined them for a couple shows and played on their excellent album. He contributes poetry as well.
Free jazz can be really good or horrendously bad. Luckily, these guys don’t make just make squawks and noise, they spontaneously write and perform compositions. Preston Swirnoff displayed a lot of patience to not start playing right away, and just listen for the first few minutes.
After the acoustic set, they rearranged for an electric one.
Kudos to the Soda Bar for bringing in something different, like Seesaw Ensemble and MutantSpaceBoy.
My parents came to visit us for a few days and to see the new house. I brought my camera out a few times, mostly to shoot the food.
My dinner at Berta’s:
Bisque at South Coast Winery:
The ladies at Wilson Creek:
And a sweet end to their trip at Extraordinary Desserts:
That was my caramel macadamia cheesecake, and it was perfect.
It’s funny how you can take members of several popular bands across different genres of music, and instead of having more people come out to hear how they sound together, you actually have less. I guess most people like their music in easily identifiable categories, so when a band tries to break out of the mold that compartmentalizes its members, people get confused.
I bring this up because Followers consist of members who are accomplished in the technical rock, jazz, and singer/songwriter genres, but this music is none of those things. I know when I first heard of the lineup, I was a bit taken aback too, but I was curious to hear what the end result would be with this group playing together. I’ll be the first one to make the observation that their name is a sarcastic comment that they don’t actually follow in anyone’s footsteps.
I’ve shot them before so I won’t bother with introductions, but if you consider yourself a local music fan, you’ve seen at least one of these guys before. In this incarnation, they take the jam band sound and turn it around.
I don’t like calling music “experimental” since a band shouldn’t be subjecting an audience to an experiment, which should be confined to a rehearsal. If you’re going to get on stage and demand a room’s attention, make sure you have something to say. These guys have something to say that wouldn’t fit in their other projects and it deserves a wider audience.
The free nature of the music gave me a bit of leeway in processing. I went for a desaturated look, trying to pull out as much color without going to total black and white.
I had some fun with zoom blur and cropping.
They’re in the process of recording a CD, so hopefully they can invite some more popular bands for their CD release to bring in some people to see what Followers are all about. All it’s going to take is one show for people to have their eyes opened to what various influences sound like when stirred together.
You know what my idea of a perfect birthday is? A sushi dinner with a small group and then a fun show with great music and a light show. And that’s just what I had last week.
We had dinner at the fabulous(ly expensive) Sushi Kaito, where they receive unique fish that no one else seems to have on the menu. I tried a couple different mackerals and amberjack for the first time. I took a few photos, but they’re not really up to par with my usual food photos, so I’m not going to show them. The sake and friends made it the most of I’ve had at a dinner out in a long time. Definitely come here if you’re into a unique sushi adventure- and someone else is paying.
For the bigger shows, the Belly Up doesn’t just let you waltz in with a camera, so I had to find a publication that would be willing to put me on assignment. Luckily, I’ve shot for Sezio before, so you should be seeing some of my photos up on their site soon. It’s funny how the free weekly papers say they support local music, but they don’t ever send photographers to shoot live shows. When they do, they’re more interested in taking photos of the crowd than the performers.
I missed the first opening act, but Zack at Sezio really likes The Antlers and told me not to miss them. They walked out on stage just as I made my way to the front.
It seems like the kind of band that I’d need to hear the album for me to enjoy them. Not being familiar with the music, it just sounded a bit shoegazy and unfocused. This is a common feeling I get from a bass-less band, I guess I just lose interest quickly. I’ve heard great things about their Hospice album, so I might just pick it up at some point.
The crowd wasn’t all that into them either, but that’s to be expected when you’re opening up for a band like Minus the Bear.
We’ve seen these guys four times now, in fact the first time I shot from a photo pit was their Soma show last year. There’s no pit at the Bellu Up, so once again I was stuck in one spot for the whole show, getting pretty annoyed with the Bro’s to my left who kept pushing into me with their hands up while I was trying to shoot. On the bright side, no pit meant no security to tell me to put my camera away after the first three songs, so I just shot the whole show. I’m such a rule-breaker.
Last year, the bass player kept throwing up double thumbs-up, but only after I finished shooting. He must be camera shy, because he didn’t throw up his thumbs almost the entire show.
Dave Knudson, the lead guitarist, is a phenomenal player. He’s got an arsenal of pedals, but he uses them to serve the music instead of just piling the sounds on. His two hand tapping and melodic sense give the music an emotional, yearning quality without taking the attention away from the vocals. I think he’s one of this generation’s guitar heros.
The drummer and I share a birthday, so just like last time we saw them on 11/2, they had the crows sing Happy Birthday to him. Just like last time, Heather stood behind me and sang it too, but to me. Aww she’s sweet.
I hope to see you guys next year at the Belly Up. It’s so much better than an all ages show!
There they are!
I participated in an art auction for the San Diego Jazz Musician’s Guild a couple weekends ago. The theme was “What does jazz mean to you?”, and I had some of my prints up for auction. There were quite a few artists displaying pieces, some of which were truly excellent and fit the theme well.
Not only did Karin Carson organize the auction, she also provided the live entertainment as well.
Karin’s having her CD release show at the Tango Del Rey in January, and as an opening act, she asked me to give a talk on my experiences photographing the San Diego jazz scene. I’ll be doing a multimedia presentation with photos and hopefully music. IF you’re interested in attending, let me know and I’ll make sure to get you more info later.
Still buzzing from my whirlwind group shoot for Polvo, I went back inside the club and camped out at the front of the stage. The show wasn’t sold out, but it came pretty close and was packed with fans. I ended up in the same position as last year when I shot them at the Casbah, so the identical vantage point would give me a good idea about if my skills have improved at all over the past year. Unfortunately, it meant that I would not be able to get any shots of all four members in the same frame.
Since I did duotones last time, I decided to try them again this time too, although I’ve moved away from this sort of interpretive style of post-processing over the past few months. For full color photos, click on an image and it will take you to the full gallery.
Just like for the openers, the sound was horrible. The vocals were totally buried under the music, and the band was visibly annoyed. It was also their last night of their tour, so they might have been anxious to get home. Touring might be fun every once in a while but I don’t think it’s any way to make a living, especially once you’re a bit older and have someone waiting for you at home.
With all the other photographers at the show, I caught a few of their flashes in my shots, but that one was the only one where it added to the image.
The new album, In Prism, is awesome! To be honest, I was hoping for a return to the frenetic style of Today’s Active Lifestyles, but this album is much more like Cor-Crane Secret. The off-kilter riffs are there, just not as overt. They sound like a much more mature band that doesn’t need to prove anything anymore, they focused on just writing the best songs they could. Polvo was always a band based on guitar interplay, and that hasn’t changed. The guitars rarely play the same thing, instead they play off of each other, and the basslines are full of imaginative chord choices under the melodies. Brian Quast is a more rock-based drummer than the original drummer, something I noted last year which was confirmed once I heard the album.
A band is defined by its drummer. Put a jazz drummer behind a rock band, and it’s going to have a jazz sound. In this case, the more straightforward drumming minimizes the stops and starts that Polvo is known for. The change in the sound resulted in an album where the guitars are more concerned with evoking emotions and a nostalgic feeling than playing to the math-rock tendencies that they always renounced int he first place. When I told Ash that this was now my favorite Polvo album, he agreed and said it wouldn’t be the last one. That’s the best thing I heard all night.
After Modern Memory’s set, I rounded up the guys from Polvo for some group shots. How did I get to do this? I’ll explain at the bottom of this post.
I did my long exposure/ multiple flash pop technique which I practiced on a couple bands a few days before. The trick is to balance the exposure time so that I can fit in a few pops without going so long that the band members can’t hold still enough to keep from blurring.
This parking lot was located right next to the club, luckily the tall tree was there to provide some background interest. I tried to not let on how nervous I was while doing this. The voice in my head kept shouting “OMG! I’m shooting Polvo!” and would drown out my ability to calculate exposure times or engage in any meaningful small talk. I know I was chatting with them just before and during this shoot, but I can’t remember anything I was saying.
One thing movement does during the long exposure is to blur, but another interesting effect is the double image as above. I think it gives an almost cubist-like impression. I have ideas about how to minimize the blur and accentuate the double exposure look, but it will require a helper to hold a black card in front of the lens, moving it away just for the flash pops.
I must have spent about 15 minutes with them (it only felt like 2 or 3), but I decided to focus on getting as many long exposure shots done as possible instead of rearranging the members and shooting different locations. They were getting a bit restless by the end of it, so I quickly attached the flash to my camera and did a couple regular shots as a backup in case none of my earlier shots were to come out. I know that these aren’t the standard way of doing a promo shoot for a band, but I like to be different anyway. All four guys are easygoing and were patient with me as I ran around them and shot a flash in their faces, and for that I am very thankful to them. I hope they find that some of these shots made it worth it.
My first major post to this blog was last summer’s Polvo show at the Casbah. I posted a link to those shots on the Polvo myspace page, which I thought was run by the band, but it turned out it wasn’t. The way I found out was that a month later, singer/guitarist Ash Bowie emailed me to say that he happened to see my shots and that he liked them. A few months after that, he asked if he could use some shots for the In Prism artwork. So, if you have the CD, you’ll see one of my shots in there, and two in the vinyl version. Needless to say, I am overjoyed to be even a small part of this album. Ash agreed to let me do these group shots for them, and got me and a friend in to the show as his personal guests. He’s been nicer to me and more appreciative of my photography than most of the local bands I shoot.
The shots from the live show will be up in the next few days, still trying to balance new house duties with photo processing and more shooting.