Monday, April 30, 2012

Punch Brothers at Town Hall, NY 04.26.12

The Punch Brothers from left to right are: Gabe Witcher violin, Chris Eldridge acoustic guitar, Chris Thile mandolin, Paul Kowert upright bass and Noam Pikelny on banjo. As I stated in an earlier post, their music is categorized as progressive bluegrass, yeah, I know, ridiculous. What they are is a young band, all in their mid 20's to early 30's. Every single one of them is an amazing musician, and Town Hall was indeed, the perfect venue. The crowd gave them thundering applause for every solo, they clapped along to the music and it was probably the most feel good show I've ever seen. Seriously, my face hurt from smiling so much, being able to experience musicians who are the best at what they do, having a great time and sharing it with the world.

I've been having a hard time with this post. Every concert, I try to explain what it was like to be there, which, I've come to learn, is one of the hardest things you can do. Words fall flat and sometimes the pictures do, too. I'm not going to lie, there are some venues where they really don't want you to have a camera. Town Hall is one of them. Security was really tight and they kept walking around throughout the concert, telling people to put their cell phones down, that they weren't allowed to shoot video. I was as respectful as I could be, shooting 15 pictures the entire night. I shot around 400 frames at Hotel Lights and they only played for 45 minutes, and Gotye was closer to 800 and that was with a braced wrist. 15 pictures felt like a joke and it was killing me to not shoot the way I've gotten used to. It was a couple frames here, shooting through the railings there, during the encore when everyone was standing and blocking a view of me with a camera, etc, etc. This was definitely a night where I would've killed to be the photographer who was walking around with a press pass. The guy probably shot 15 or so frames and then took off; I was proud I didn't attack him and steal his gear for the night.

Anyway, the limited shots that I took were all pretty solid and even though there were so many more that I wanted to take, I feel like I still captured their energy and personality really well. I hope you enjoy!

Any time there was a solo, Chris would be there and he would counter it. The improvisational skills of the entire band is jaw dropping and I'm not even going to waste time trying to put it into words. You have to experience it.

What I loved most about the Punch Brothers is the amount of fun they are having. They are a group of young guys that are having an absolute blast making music and sharing it with their fans. Even though I shot a very limited amount of pictures, I still captured this, because it happened every single song.

In between songs, Chris joked that he was so low energy tonight, to which Noam immediately quipped, a humming bird on Ativan is still a humming bird. I couldn't have said it better.

Chris Thile rocks the mandolin as though he was busting out raging guitar solo.

I pulled out for a wide shot so you could see how intimate a venue Town Hall is and was lucky enough to capture just a fun interaction shot. The band was so appreciative to every round of applause, every shout out and they have so much fun doing it.

They closed out the night with Rye Whiskey, which has a fun audience participation bit. Everyone was clapping along and having a good time, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man running down the aisle on the left of the stage. I then noticed one of they yellow jacketed security guards following after him. I thought, huh, what's that all about? The next thing I knew, the man had jumped onto the stage and started dancing. It was completely bizarre and surreal, but the band kept going. They didn't freak, they kinda laughed. The guy dropped a jacket in front of Chris and then danced right off stage. At the end of the song, the band left as well, for a very short round of applause, before they came back.

Chris and Noam trying on the jacket the stage rusher left behind. It was a really nice elbow patched tweed suit jacket. The band couldn't stop laughing as they announced that was their first stage rush ever, and they were shocked at how respectful and subtle it was.

One of my favorite songs of the night was a cover of Just What I Needed by the Cars. Imagine that song with banjo and fiddle solos. Absolutely hilarious.

The entire band has such an amazing stage presence, and Chris really does make a lot of eye contact with the fans.

What I didn't really capture as well as I would have liked in stills is just how much Chris moves around on stage. The band would gather really close and I kept thinking, he's gonna nail one of them.

Since I couldn't get a good still of this, I did something I rarely do: shoot video. This is a snippet from Kid A, which is a Radiohead cover, interpreted blue grass style. It's really incredible as a whole, and this little piece does it no justice.

The encore was three songs, two of them being tributes to recently deceased musicians. The band unplugged and moved to the very front of the stage. The entire audience immediately hushed, respectfully to be able to listen. Noam explained that Earl Scruggs was a main influence to him growing up and was the reason he picked up the banjo. The shot below is from that song and it's my favorite of the night.

They then announced that they were going to cover Levon Helm's The Weight and they asked the audience if they wouldn't mind singing along. This was my fifth concert of the year, and I am absolutely positive I will never experience anything like this moment again in my life. It was beyond touching and heart warming. Imagine hearing an entire audience sing along at Town Hall, where the sound is just warm and carries. Having the band unplugged and singing without microphones just made it that much more special, and the crowd, myself included, had the harmonies down pat. I've been struggling to find the words to explain how awesome this was, and I've finally given up. Words can't describe it, and that's why you need to be there, seeing a live band doing what they love and connecting with their fans. 

All I can say is thank you, Punch Brothers.

Set List

Movement & Location
Who's Feeling Young Now?
Next To The Trash
Don't Get Married Without Me
Breakman's Blues
New York City
City Girls
Kid A
Wayside/Back In Time
Just What I Needed
Rye Whiskey
Patchwork Girlfriend
Earl Scruggs Cover
The Weight

And of course, here are their shoes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photo of the Week: Week 17

This wasn't the shot I wanted to take yesterday, but it's probably better. James isn't into having his picture taken any more, so I have to be stealthy. He was looking at the pictures while Grandma read to him.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Punch Brothers Teaser

Plenty of really nice shoes at this show. In fact, the Punch Brothers are a well dressed band.

A few more pictures are on the way.


Apparently, this is comfortable?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


As I stated on Facebook last night, the rumors are true! It's happening! Ben Folds Five will be touring this fall!!!

Posted on their website:

The reunited band will debut this summer in the States playing just 4 major gigs in June at Mountain Jam in upstate New York, Chastain Park in Atlanta, the Bonnaroo festival, and wrapping up at Milwaukee SummerFest. Following the upcoming August release of the album, Ben Folds Five will play a full North American tour in September-October, drop down to Australia and then begin the UK/Ireland run of dates.

New album in August, full North American tour starting September. How amazing would it be if I could catch them on my birthday?

You may now return to your regularly scheduled browsing.

Throwback Thursdays

I feel like this old scan of myself, circa 2000, epitomizes the week I had, and it was the perfect use of the Kodak Create A Print scanner at the camera shop. I sure did have a lot of hair!

So I'm going to another concert tonight. I'd bought the tickets well before I knew Hotel Lights were going to be touring, figuring I had to have something lined up in order to meet my Go to a concert every month goal. As it turns out, I'll be going to another concert next week, meeting my May quota. Tonight is The Punch Brothers at Town Hall, which might be the perfect venue to see this band.

My musical tastes are pretty diverse. The Punch Brothers are categorized as "Progressive Bluegrass." What the heck does that mean?, and this is why I hate music labels. What it means is they have this ridiculously talented set of musicians. Seriously, Chris Thile can rock a mandolin harder than a mandolin has ever been rocked before. Check this video to see what I'm talking about. Shit gets real 4 minutes in:

For those of you familiar with my blog, you know how much I adore Jon Brion. He's the other guy in that video and a brilliant musician in his own right. A question I'm asked a lot is where do I find new music to listen to? Friends are the best source of recommending new things, but if you've exhausted that outlet, take a look at who musicians you currently listen to work with; another bonus of having linear notes. Before I even listened to Jon Brion, I'd been listening to Jon Brion. He's worked with The Eels, Aimee Mann and Keane, to name a few. Pay attention to the producer who's worked with a band you like and see who else they've worked with. I'm only now starting to appreciate that role. Jon Brion produced The Punch Brothers second record, Antifogmatic, and I have such a high regard for him, I will give any artist he works with a listen. Talented breeds more talent. Need another example?

If you don't know the original song they are covering, I give you this:

(Apologies to my brother Nick for bringing up Of Montreal. I'm still trying to get over it myself) But really, it's a brilliant cover.

I think I've gone on long enough. I could get started on my unnatural obsession with the banjo, but I'm going to save that for another post.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's been one of those weeks...

Sometimes I feel like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. If the above image looks like a bunch of gibberish, you should feel lucky. It makes sense to me. This is a layout of a newspaper and all the red marks on it are changes. Normally, there are a few per paper, per week. This one is especially obnoxious. When highlighters get involved, you know things are bad.

We are highly short staffed this week in multiple departments, and that's why I haven't been posting. Luckily, today is the last deadline day of the week. I think I might make it.

I wanted to share the non-glorious side of my life. It's not all photography. At least not yet...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hotel Lights at Spike Hill, Brooklyn, NY 04.20.12

I can't get enough of small shows. Where else do you get the chance to see a band you love without having to elbow your way to the front? One of my favorite blogs, The Suburanites Guide to Somewhere, wrote a great article last week titled: Isn't Tupac Dead? Hank talks about the importance of getting out and seeing a live show. The point driven home is best said here: "But we should be stopping short of shelling out money to see a "virtual" performance.  Isn't the purpose of live music about the visceral connection between artist and performer?  An opportunity to see the flaws and imperfections of a human performance.  The bond and trust that comes with the shared vision of the artist on stage.  They may make a mistake.  They may make eye contact with you.   Maybe the guitarist will throw a guitar pick your way.  What if you want to throw your bra?  Is a virtual Tupac gonna catch it??  Hells no.   He ain't connecting with you." I think the Hotel Lights concert in Williamsburg really gave the attendees a chance to enjoy what Hank is talking about and what we all love about a live concert.

I felt incredibly fortunate to have another chance to shoot this band. Last year, I had two major issues. My camera shutter was literally dying as I tried to take pictures. I'd get one, maybe two shots before it errored out, had to remove the batteries and turn it back on. Half the time, the pictures I had taken were lost. My other mistake was that I'd only brought along long lenses. I didn't know the venue or what to expect and I used to think zoom was better, so I didn't have any full band shots. As you can see, I quickly remedied this.

Before I get into the concert review, can I just say how much I love Williamsburg? Seriously, if you have an opportunity to go there for a show, don't hesitate. Every restaurant and bar I've been to is amazing. I took my friends to Cadaques of course because I'd been dreaming about the roasted beet with goat cheese and truffle oil since the Eels concert last July. Best thing you will ever eat.

My first impression of Spike Hill was YES! I can work with that light! It wasn't anything great, but it was better than The Rock Shop last year. I've also made the switch to shooting with mostly prime lenses. It's less weight on my still recovering wrist injury and it just leads to so much more crisp images. (The wrist actually felt very strong and didn't flare up at all after shooting. Huzzah!)

Now on to the pictures.

 Drummer Miguel, didn't catch a last name. I missed Zeke!

Darren switched between keyboards, acoustic and electric throughout the night.

Bassist Jay Brown and guitarist Alan Weatherhead

Charlie Kleever and Darren Jessee

 The Kleeves had his own little fan club, who were more than happy to cheer him on.

Darren busted out a little drum solo on the face of his acoustic during Headboards and Aspirin

Although there wasn't much talking during the show, I caught this moment of banter between the band members.

I chose this shot as my photo of the week because I loved the wear and tear of Darren's guitar.

A couple more band shots. It's still very hard for me to switch over to wide angle, but I'm working on it. It really does give you a different perspective. 

The band really hit their groove in the last couple of songs off their debut album. I have always enjoyed the progression of Marvelous Truth. When Darren first started playing it live, it was a much slower, acoustic song and it has evolved into a real rocker.

The last song of the night was Anatole, which was highly appropriate considering the date of the concert. Well played, sirs, well played.

Saved the best for last. The entire band seemed much more coherent this time around and Darren really exuded a lot more passion and intensity. I take back my comment from last year where I said he was a quiet and contemplative live act. Don't get me wrong, there were subtle moments during the show, but this trio of pictures shows just how much he was rocking.

My only complaint, and this had nothing to do with Hotel Lights, was that Spike Hill had another band lined up after them. It meant that it was a short set with no encore because the next band wanted to play before Karaoke started up at midnight. As far as I knew, Hotel Lights was the headliner of the night. I just thought it wasn't cool to boot the headliner for a band that I didn't even catch the name of to play a half hour set.

Set List:
• Super 8mm
• Girl Graffiti
• Dave Sharkey to the Dance Floor
• My Own Cloud
• Small Town Shit
• Headboards & Aspirin
• Chemical Clouds
• Blue Always Finds Me*
• Falling Down
• Marvelous Truth
• Anatole

*There was a short intro to Blue Always Finds Me that I didn't recognize. Possibly a cover or new material?
P.S. The song was a cover: Rex's Blues by Townes Van Zandt

And I'm closing out with my shoe shot of the night.

Hotel Lights put on a great show; they've really come together as a live act. Although their tour
only has a few more dates, you should make the effort to see them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Photo of the Week: Week 16

I absolutely love the wear and tear on this guitar.

I also love having my SLR at a concert, which finally gave me a chance to try out my macro lens as a portrait lens. It focused fast and is dead on; it might just be my new favorite lens.

Not every show is as flashy as Gotye, so it takes a little more effort to find the shots that tell a story. I think that this story has a greater impact than the photo of the week just three weeks back. I honestly can't tell you which one I like more.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hotel Lights Teaser

I can't say for sure that Darren wore nicer shoes this time around because of my blog, but I'm gonna go ahead and think that.

Hooray, shoe shot!


I'm handing off Caturday this week to Pusheen. I had an absolute blast last night in Williamsburg and Hotel Lights were great. Now I have to sort through and process 400 pictures. Stay tuned!