Moons, Paper Planes, Grampadrew at Soda Bar, 4/17/10

Yowza, it’s been almost two weeks since this show! My memory about musical performances isn’t all that great to begin with, and it’s even worse after waiting so long and having shot Mo’ Sax right before this show.

Click on a photo to go to the full gallery.

First up was Grampadrew , kind of a strange name for a guy who isn’t old enough to be someone’s grampa.

Grampadrew at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-004

Pretty much what you’d expect from an acoustic guitar and drum duo. Songs about old times, childhood, and lost innocence. It was nice to see the drummer use mallets, as regular drumsticks can be a bit overbearing in this quiet context.

Grampadrew at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-003

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DDLC has raved to me a couple times about the next band, L.A.’s Paper Planes .

Paper Planes at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-001

They play a countrified rock n roll, a lot like a local band I used to play with, High Rolling Loners .

Paper Planes at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-006

The sound guy turned the lights deep blue and green, and I tried to keep them that way. I like this color pattern.

Paper Planes at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-003

Paper Planes at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-004

I remember that they played what seemed like a short set, so I guess that means I liked them.

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As the Moons came on, the lights went to a deep red, which did not look as good as it should. I had to mess with a lot of toning and saturation to get a look that worked for the music.

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-002

Another guitar and drum duo, but totally different than the opener. The Moons play a very bluesy, lo-fi brand of rock. DDLC is a generous guy, he lent me a flash for all my group shots for a few months while I was too lazy to buy my own.

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-012

You’ll notice that both Danny and Steve were wearing Hialeah T-shirts in honor of their farewell show here earlier that week .

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-003

Danny’s always rocking the white hat, it makes him look mysterious under the spotlights.

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-017

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-014

Grampadrew came out for the last few songs to lend another voice and harp. This should be the real version of the Moons!

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-022

Grampadrew must have had a few shots after his set because he came to raise hell. Jumping, dancing and screaming his head off. This was a fun couple songs to shoot.

Moons at Soda Bar 41710 © Michael Klayman-023

They’re an L.A. band now too, but we’ll still see them play down here plenty. Go see them!

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute, 4/14/10

It always amazes me when my camera opens doors for me that my winning personality can’t. I asked the La Jolla Athenaeum the day of this show if I could come by and shoot it, and they actually said yes! If only it was this easy to get a photo pass for a rock show.

Click on a photo to go to the full gallery.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-040

The Anthony Wilson Trio performed an almost sold out show at the Neurosciences Institute, featuring Jeff Hamilton on drums and Larry Goldings on Hammond B3 organ with dual rotating speakers.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-018

This show presented its own unique set of challenges. I was able to shoot the whole show, but wasn’t allowed to leave my seat except at intermission where I moved for a different view. It was quite a test of creativity, finding interesting shots from the same angle.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-017

One of my first vinyl records was Ray Brown Trio’s “Bam Bam Bam”, with Jeff Hamilton and Gene Harris. What a fantastic drummer Jeff is. He can play his signature drumset more melodically than anyone else I know.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-027

Larry Goldings is one of the top B3 players too, his recent album with John Scofield is a personal favorite.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-047

I’m more of an acoustic piano fan, the organ sound is a bit one-dimensional to my ears, but there’s a certain ballet that takes place when he plays the bass notes with foot pedals and is constantly adjusting the knobs and switches on his instrument.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-007

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-025

Once again, slightly longer exposures add interest when another vantage point isn’t possible.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-028

This was my first time hearing Anthony Wilson perform. As strained as he might look in these shots, his playing is very fluid and relaxed, which belies the intricacy of his solos. He tosses off interesting ideas so casually, yet they come one right after the other.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-052

Midway through the first set, who should appear but Gilbert Castellanos.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-034

Gilbert has played with Anthony for many years, and was a member in his nonet.

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-033

Anthony Wilson Trio at Neurosciences Institute 41410 © Michael Klayman-045

Another fantastic show in San Diego, and I’m just happy to be a small part of it. Thanks to Dan Atkinson at the Athenaeum for making this shoot possible.

Paul Seaforth’s Mo’ Sax at Dizzy’s, 4/17/10

Saturday night was my second double-header of the week, where I shoot both rock and jazz shows in the same night. The first double-header was Anthony Wilson trio/Hialeah, and I’ll have the Anthony Wilson set up in a couple days.

Click on a photo to go to the full gallery. These photos are straight out of my camera with no post processing done, except for a few of my favorites converted to B&W. More on this at the end of this post.

This night started off with a trip to Dizzy’s to see Paul Seaforth ‘s project, Mo’ Sax. Where does that name come from?

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-003

Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-014

I know Paul primarily as a trumpeter, but he plays several other instruments, as well as sing and whistle.

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-047

He was joined by his lovely wife, Linda, on a few tunes too.

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-031

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-013

The drummer, Larry Washington, kept a muscular groove going the whole set and kept things interesting when it came time to solo. He plays each beat with his eyebrows, just like a certain photographer you might know.

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-017

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-043

This was my first time hearing some local players who were only kind of on my radar. Rob Whitlock played keys and took on the role of the bass player too. I hate seeing a bass player lose a gig to someone’s left hand, but at least he was capable.Rob’s got some fantastic players on his CDs. I considered buying a couple despite not knowing what jazz style they were.

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-052

The horn section had a few young guys, who I’m sure I’ll be seeing around in the future.

Joe Kirby on Baritone Sax:

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-010

Jasen Cotton on Tenor Sax:

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-026

Michael Gray on Alto Sax:

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-038

And the featured soloist of the night, Chris Klich on sax and flute:

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-034

Youth is nice, but experience and maturity win out every time. Chris burned up the stage with his playing, I’m going to keep an eye out for his next gig. Same for Bill Kilpatrick, who let out some wailing solos on guitar:

Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-005

Highlights of the night were one of my favorite Oliver Nelson tunes, Stolen Moments, as well as a four-sax take on Bohemian Rhapsody. Great arrangements Paul, this is jazz with mass appeal.
 
Paul Seaforth's Mo Sax at Dizzy's 41710 © Michael Klayman-045

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Photo-geekery:

None of the photos in this set have been adjusted for exposure, cropping, color, contrast, or sharpening. A few had a one-click B&W conversion, just as a handy marker to show my favorite shots.  So why did  I choose to not post-process this set of images as usual?

Well, this show was lit evenly and so there wasn’t the need to balance out exposures, although it’s probably obvious that a few shots could use a little brightening. No surprise there, live music photography is always a struggle against dim lighting, and I purposely underexpose in order to keep my shutter speed up.  Primarily, I wanted to show that if you can get the image captured properly, you don’t need to do a lot of computer work later on in order to get good looking shots. I did the same thing with a Prize Country post last year .

I’m very centrist in my views on post-processing and the related issue of how much is too much. Some photographers don’t think that any processing is acceptable, that the image coming out of the camera is final, no matter what. At the other extreme, some folks are more photo-illustration artists than anything else, using the capture as a starting point to create a final image that bears little resemblance to the original.

In my opinion, you should do whatever it takes to reach your vision. Capture it well, and you don’t need to do very much at all later on. Cutting yourself off from technology’s capabilities is self-defeating. First of all, there’s nothing natural about photography- the digital image is heavily processed in the camera, even the RAW file, and traditional silver-halide processes require lots of work after the capture every time. With film, you make a myriad number of choices affecting how to develop and print, and if you don’t commit to each choice, you don’t have an image to show.

On the other hand, if your work always ends up looking like a painting, calling yourself a photographer is probably inaccurate and insulting to both photogs and illustrators. Now, if you you fall somewhere in the middle majority (like me), you’ve probably had the same subconscious dialogue with yourself.

To all the purists who refuse to do any manipulation at all, I ask if they ever use salt and pepper when they cook dinner, because it’s the same thing. Taking ingredients and making them taste better, but not changing the inherent flavor of the food is what I try to do, photographically.

To the Photoshop gurus, I ask if all that work is really necessary? Is it really your vision to add all those adjustment layers and filters to your shots, or are you compensating for your lack of camera skills?

There’s no clear answer to something so personal and subjective, but with this set I wanted to show that I don’t need to manipulate my images to make them look good, I just have to tweak them a bit so that they’re properly seasoned.

Hialeah, Arms Entwined at Soda Bar, 4/14/10

I haven’t seen Arms Entwined play for about a year, and they sounded as good as they could considering the bad sound mix out front.

Arms Entwined at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-001

I see Tim and Armando at shows every once in a while, and they’re nice guys. I’m not a big fan of their brand of punk-pop, but then again, I’m about 10 years older than the majority of their fans.

Arms Entwined at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-003

Tim doesn’t actually have six fingers on his right hand, I just make it look that way.

Arms Entwined at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-005

Arms Entwined at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-007

I would have done a group shot for them, but my flash just wasn’t cutting it.

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If you’ve never seen Hialeah , you missed your chance. Their final show was a low-key event happening on a Wednesday night. Most bands don’t break up in an eruption of emotional outbursts, they usually dissolve quietly as the members look ahead to other things.

As always, click on a photo to go to the full gallery.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-002

Even if you aren’t familiar with this band, they have left their mark on countless San Diego bands. Mike and Mario own Black Box Studios, where many of the bands I have shot have recorded or rehearsed over the years.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-017

Being the same age as these guys, I got their music from the first time I heard it. We share some similar tastes like DC hardcore, which permeates their music. They proudly wear their influences on their sleeves.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-004

Mario has one of the best looking screams in San Diego. Gonna miss that.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-016

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-005

Justin holds down half the drum duties in Boyscout along with Brian from Modern Rifles. How greedy of Boyscout to hog two great drummers.  I shamelessly asked Justin if he was going to start up another group, that I need to be the bass player. I’m hopeful, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-024

Towards the end, girls were throwing bras on stage, just before a dance party broke out on stage.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-015

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-025

Hialeah was around for six years but only released one album. They have a whole crop of songs that I haven’t heard, maybe they’ll come out at some point? Maybe?

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-010

It’s tough to keep a band together, especially for so long. Thanks for the great music, guys.

Hialeah at Soda Bar 41410 © Michael Klayman-013

Free copy of Ian Tordella’s new CD, Magnolia

Ian Tordella sent me a link for one download of his new album, Magnolia. Since I have a physical copy of this excellent CD, I thought I’d offer it up to the first jazz fan who lets me know they want it. You can check it out here:

(CD
Baby link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/IanTordella
; iTunes store – search “Tordella”)

www.iantordella.com />

From the band’s gig at South Park Bar and Grill last summer:

Ian Tordella Group at South Park Bar and Grill 81609 © Michael Klayman-011

Hialeah Group Shots, 4/14/10

I went to Hialeah’s final show last night and did some group shots for them. Click on the photo to go to the gallery with a bonus shot.

Hialeah Group Shots 41410 © Michael Klayman-001

I’ve been using my new 420EX flash for these, and it just doesn’t have the recycle time that Danny’s 550EX has, so I’m wondering if I might need to upgrade soon. I can get off three pops a few times, but by the fourth shot, I can really only get two pops inside of the 15-20 second exposures. It also eats batteries, so I didn’t have enough juice to do group shots for openers Arms Entwined. The live show photo will get posted once I’ve had a chance to work on them.

One thing I need to keep in mind when doing these is to keep all the lights behind the band so that they’re primarily front lit by flash. The street lights that illuminated them from the front create more blur on their faces than I’d like. I realized this the last time I shot in basically this same spot, buthopefully now I’ll remember it. Guess which member had some whiskey before this shoot and couldn’t hold as still as the others for the 20 seconds.

Kenny Werner, MIke Wofford Piano Duo at Birch North Park Theatre, 4/7/10

Seeing San Diegan Mike Wofford play in town is an all-too-rare occurrence- seeing him in a piano duo with the great Kenny Werner is a once in a lifetime event. Click on a photo to see the full gallery.

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-016

I’ve read Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery several times over the past decade, and it’s amazing how much truth is in that book. It’s aimed at musicians, but anyone engaged in a creative pursuit would find it enlightening. I apply many of its core ideas to my photography, more so than my music. I got my copy autographed too, something I never would have thought would happen.

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-011

This was my first time hearing Mike Wofford’s playing, and I hope to be able to hear him again soon in a more traditional group. I shot the soundcheck for the show which I how I was able to get so close, and the rehearsal consisted of blowing through the songs for about a minute each. I just tried to stay inconspicuous and out of the way, the whole time just giggling to myself that I’m actually here, seeing this.

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-014

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-012

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-008

Despite them both being jazz luminaries, such a short rehearsal didn’t give them a chance to really explore the intricacies of the duet format. The show itself was great, but I could still hear them feeling out the each other’s playing.

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-006

If you ever get a chance to see either one play a show, I highly recommend it. And if you weren’t at this one, you missed a unique chance at seeing two accomplished musicians at the top of their game.

Kenny Werner and Mike Wofford at Birch North Park Theatre 40710 © Michael Klayman-029

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room, 4/9/10

Every time I go to a show at the Radio Room on a Friday night, I see Sal Gallegos from 31G/Some Girls fame working the door. We always have a nice chat between bands and he’s a much nicer guy than his extremely aggressive music would suggest. He’s been telling me about a new project for a while- a heavy band that uses no distortion called Dead Ghosts . I was intrigued.

They played an opening set at the Ruby Room on Friday night, and Heather and I stopped in to check them out before going to Bar Pink to see Geezer. While they may lack distortion, they still bring the heavy.

Click on a photo to see the full gallery.

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room 40910 © Michael Klayman-001

I know Sal as a drummer for Secret Fun Club, but he’s the singer/guitarist in this band. The vocals were buried so far down in the mix they they might as well have not been there at all.

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room 40910 © Michael Klayman-010

John is the other half of Secret Fun Club, playing guitar instead of switching between guitar and bass.

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room 40910 © Michael Klayman-005

I wasn’t able to take very many photos, since we walked in about halfway through the set. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait to start shooting until the second song like I usually do, since they played one 25-minute song. I ended up having about five minutes to shoot before they were done, and Sal joked that they have two more.

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room 40910 © Michael Klayman-007

Next time I see them, I’ll be able to form a bit of a better impression of the music, where I can actually hear what’s going on and have some more time to process it. But let’s continue photo-geek week here at L&E.

The above shot is taken at my eye level, looking up at Sal who’s on a 2 foot stage or so. It’s pretty easy to see that the bottom of his guitar is at the same height as the camera, and that by looking up, the guitar takes a more prominent role in the image. Let’s compare that with the shot below.

Dead Ghosts at Ruby Room 40910 © Michael Klayman-009

Yes, it’s a bit blurry, but it’s also shot with me holding the camera over my head and composing by using the LCD preview in live view mode. Now the camera is at eye level, and has a different feel. Sal’s head and guitar still occupy the same basic space in both shots, but by shooting at his eye level, it’s more personal and feels closer since the camera is actually closer to his face, even though I’m standing in the same spot. As a photographer I make that choice about what’s in the frame and how I want to represent it. The first shot is a bit more dramatic since you’re looking up at him, but the second shot feels closer. He’s less of a rock star and more of a person. You’re standing next to him, not looking up at him on a stage.

Not every shot has to be at the same height. By choosing your angle, you choose what you want to say.

Fever Sleeves Group Shots at Soda Bar, 4/8/10

While at the Soda Bar, I ran into Fkenal friend Dan Brennan, a fellow photographer and someone whose work I admire. We had a nice chat and I told him a bit about what I’m doing with this series of band group shots. I’ll illustrate with these shots of Fever Sleeves, who were headlining.

Fever Sleeves Group Shots 40910 © Michael Klayman-002

I’m popping a flash 2-3 times from different places in each 20 second exposure. This way I can mimic a multiple light setup, only I have to create it around the subjects during the long exposure. And recreate again for each shot, adjusting this or that to get a certain effect.

I have to keep a lot of technical stuff in mind while I’m doing this, but I’m practicing at visualizing where the lights need to and just let it happen without too much thought. Hopefully after a year of doing this, the mechanics of this method will become as automatic to me as they are for shooting live shows. NOT that shooting them is something that comes effortlessly, but the effort is in the composition and timing, not how to set my camera. When I see the first preview on the LCD, my fingers are automatically adjusting the settings to get a better shot, and that’s where I’d like to be for group shots too. 

I see a lot of people who call themselves “music photographers”, but they don’t shoot live shows. They shoot musicians in a studio, which is really just portraiture. It’s important to be able to light someone well and I’ve done a lot of that in my time, but it doesn’t call for a tremendous amount of creativity. Once you know the basic formula, you can just crank out shot after shot. In fact, just by using one flash pop from the left, it’s easy to get a standard looking group shot.

Fever Sleeves Group Shots 40910 © Michael Klayman-001

But everyone does that. I want to do something different.

I don’t think you can capture a band’s look without shooting them live, while they’re in the process of creating music- the very thing a band exists for. Playing music is trancendant activity, the true self can shine through all of the proper demeanors and little inhibitions we construct in order to be polite members of a society. During the act of making music, you can see how they move when they’re too busy to keep up the emotional façade of appropriateness. Some people are nice and calm until they get on stage and you can see exactly who they are inside. This is when you should take their picture.

But a set is only about 45 minutes, so for the other  23+ hours of the day, they are just regular people who aren’t on a stage. But that spirit is still what I’m trying to capture. All these locations are just right around the corner from the venue. I’m not just shooting them, but their environment, a quiet urban landscape. I’ll show them where to stand and move them around to cover up as many streetlamps in the background as possible. I don’t really pose them, though. I want to see what they choose.

The long exposures smooth out time, so there’s no cars on the street or people walking through the shots. In a group shot, long exposures also add in the same element of unpredictability that comes from shooting someone on stage. Someone moves a little too much and gets blurry, I might pop a flash from a slightly different spot- it all adds to the uniqueness of each image.

Fever Sleeves Group Shots 40910 © Michael Klayman-003

When you ask someone to pose for a photograph, they make a choice about what person they want to present to the world. Some people smile, some people freeze, and there’s always one joker who makes goofy faces. But we make that choice to be the person who gets frozen in time.

Or melting a bit, if they can’t stand still enough for 20 seconds at a time.

Fever Sleeves Group Shots 40910 © Michael Klayman-004

And that’s what “You don’t take a photograph, you make it” means to me.