I know, excuses, excuses. Last week the science was working extremely well, and there was some personal drama to be dealt with. And now I’m sick. Blech. I’m fighting it off with loads of sleep and decongestants, but one of those doesn’t leave me with much time to write, and the other doesn’t really leave me in the right state of mind to do so. Disclaimer – I’m writing this post immediately after taking some Nyquil (yes, at 8PM on a Sunday), so if it doesn’t make sense, it’s not you, it’s me.
Things that I am planning on posting in the somewhat near future:
- Damien Rice show review
- Fifty on their Heels and The New Motherfuckers show review – but for those impatient types, the photos can be found here.
- Some more science-y type posts to actually explain what I do for a living (if you can call a grad student stipend a living). I care dearly about educating the general public about science – it’s just hard to get myself to talk/write about it after actually doing it for ~10 hours a day.
Also, I’ll be at the Bright Eyes show at Soma on Tuesday with a photo pass, so that should be pretty neat. Other than that, I think I’m going to be lying low until this cold blows over. Gotta rest up for my birthday on Friday! I’ll be turning 25 – time to start thinking about what I want to do for my quarter life crisis…
I’ve been struggling to write this show review for a week. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Mono’s show at the Casbah. It’s just that it was a post-rock show coming two days after I saw Explosions in the Sky, and it was the 4th show I’d been to in as many nights. Also, the ambient electronic music of their opener kind of turned me off to the show right at the outset.
That being said, Mono put on a solid set. They played intense mathy post-rock under the dimmest lighting I have ever seen at the Casbah (which made photography pretty much impossible). Their setup was similar to EITS – two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. However, they differed from EITS, who usually have two guitar melody lines intertwining instinctively. Mono had distinct rhythm and lead guitar parts, and they worked well together, but somehow, it just wasn’t as special as the EITS show. I guess it engaged me more mentally than emotionally, which is not necessarily a worse thing. It’s just that emotional intensity is much easier to appreciate than mental intensity.
I was not very familiar with Mono before attending their show, but it seemed that I was in the minority of the crowd in that respect. I was expecting a pretty empty Casbah, as it was a Sunday night, and I was looking forward to sitting around and chilling with Brian while listening to their music. However, such was not the case. The place was jam-packed with more Asian hipsters than I have ever seen in a room together. The band never addressed the crowd, and it seemed that they didn’t have to. Most people were really into their set and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. Unfortunately, it was all a little too much for me to deal with coming off such a run of concerts and nights out, so I headed out around midnight. But like I keep saying, the band was good – if you’re into post-rock you should check them out.
According to CNN’s “breaking news,” Paris Hilton was just sentenced to 45 days in LA County Jail for her reckless driving charge.
One part of me wants to vomit at the thought that this gets the same “breaking news” coverage as the Virginia Tech shooting.
The other part just thinks that this may be the best thing to ever happen to Paris Hilton.
I was going to write a longer post at some point about how I don’t understand club photography or “internet celebrities.” But yeah, I’ll have to get to that later.
A three and a half hour lunch break is definitely NOT helping me get my thesis research done. Ugh.
Rosey suggested that I submit a photo to JPG magazine for their Are You Ready to Rock theme. Problem is, I can only submit one photo per theme, and I have sooo many ready to rock photos. So, dear readers (all ~10 of you, at this point), I need your help. Go to my 2007 Concert Photography collection on Flickr and tell me which photo you think is best. Ignore the Stephen Malkmus photos (taken with a point-and-shoot since it was two days before my digital SLR showed up in the mail) and the A.M. Vibe photos (taken with the shitty kit lens whose max aperture is 3.5 and definitely not fast enough for the Casbah). Best bets are probably from the Snowden or Thermals show at the Casbah, or anything from the shows I’ve done at the Belly Up or House of Blues.
Or, if you’re too lazy to click a link, vote on one of these photos:
The Thermals @ Casbah (I curse the Casbah’s black walls for making the awesomeness of this photo so subtle)
Submissions are being accepted for the next 34 days, which gives me plenty of time to mull it over. If my photo gets published, I get $100 and a free year’s subscription to the magazine. Neat.
Yeah. It’s Thursday and I’m just getting around to writing about what I did Saturday night. It’s been the sort of week where science takes priority over everything else.
Anyway. Saturday was a pretty lazy day for me. Didn’t get out of bed until about 11:30AM, which is pretty unheard of for me. Got breakfast at the Big Kitchen with Pete, and then headed over to Trang’s place for a BBQ/pool party. She had just gotten back from a month-long sojourn to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Luck-y! Spent a few hours lounging and catching up on stories, then headed home to clean up, charge my camera, and head down to the Casbah.
I arrived at about 10, just a few minutes before Republic of Letters took the stage. I missed all of opener Illinois, who apparantly were on tour and also pretty good. You can read what Rosey thought of them here.
Republic of Letters put on a really solid set, despite feedback issues and some tuning issues when Chris (lead singer and guitar) bumped into Adrian (lead guitar). When Chris really gets into the music, he needs a slightly bigger stage than the Casbah can afford. I’ve seen these guys a number of times over the last two and a half years, and I can honestly say that they sound better every time I see them. They’ve really grown together as a group, especially with the addition of Adrian.
There were more people out than I had expected, which is a very good thing for the local music scene here. For awhile I was standing to the side of the stage next to typical “really drunk dude” who was totally into the music and dancing in a hysterical fashion. I was amused. Towards the end of their short set I ducked in front of some people, thanks to the customary four foot gap in between the crowd and the stage, and managed to get some photos from a better angle:
After they finished their set, they invited everyone to come say hi and pick up a copy of their EP back at the merch table. As I was waiting for Dynamite Walls to set up, Heather came and tapped me on the shoulder. Heather is one of my older sister’s best friends from growing up (I think they’ve known each other since 2nd grade), and she lived out here for about 3 years before I moved out. My sister hooked me up with her contact info when I moved, and she was the first non-science person I knew in this town. She was dating Nick (drummer of Republic of Letters) at the time, so I was introduced to him as well, and I can easily say that he was the first person I knew in the San Diego music scene. Anyway, Heather had been out of town for about a year and a half traveling the world, and has only been back in town for about a month, so it was nice to catch up.
Anyways, Dynamite Walls took the stage in front of a slightly lesser crowd, since people had moved off to the patio and backroom during set change. As they played, however, most people drifted back in to check them out. I’ve only seen them once before, at the Belly Up when they opened for the Frames, and I was more impressed with their set this time around. It’s not necessarily that they played any better, but I think the more intimate setting helped them out, as well as the fact that I was ever-so-slightly more familiar with their songs. I don’t know the names of any of them, but the song that they closed with was a really nice, slightly-alt country tune. I could have done without the gaggle of girls behind me who kept screaming, “I love you, Tom!” (Tom being the lead singer, of course), but whatcha gonna do? Dynamite Walls also had some images being projected onto a white sheet that was behind them during the set. As a music fan, I’m usually a little skeptical of any band that feels they need such props, but as a photographer, I loved it. The effect was better with the photos I took at the Belly Up, but I appreciated the sheet being up while the other bands were playing, because for once I didn’t end up with photos where anyone with anything darker than platinum blonde hair blends into the black Casbah wall. I swear, if I ever own a music venue, I’m going to paint the walls light blue or green. Contrast rocks.
The rest of the photos are here.
After they played, I went and caught up with Nick for a bit, and then the boys from Dynamite Walls. Tom bought me a drink and we discussed the possibility of doing some promo shots and maybe even album shots. All the guys in that band are amazingly nice, and I will always credit their manager, Jason, for my first paying job as a photographer. As Heather said, I can now officially refer to myself as a photographer. Boo-yah. Anyway, I’m looking forward to shooting some photos at their own EP release party at the Belly Up on May 12th.
I didn’t stick around for Vinyl Radio’s set because I was meeting up with a friend at Hamilton’s, so I’ve got nothing to say about them, unfortunately.
Egads. Apparantly the Arcade Fire show Thursday night at Spreckels was not the only magically musical night in San Diego last week. Having missed that show for a clusterfuck at the House of Blues (see previous post), I’m doubly glad I trekked up to the Epicenter early Friday evening for the Explosions in the Sky show. Since the press list was small, Sarah of Motormouth Media was able to score me a plus one in addition to my own ticket, so Pete came with me. Everyone else that I knew who was into EITS was at Coachella, and well, “Fuck Coachella.”
We got there in time for opening act Eluvium. I was not really that into it. Having gotten a maximum of three hours of sleep the night before, I wasn’t really in the mood for loud droning ambient music. Maybe at another time or in another setting I would have been okay with it, but not then. All I can say is, I’m sure glad I had my earplugs with me, as anyone within a 10 foot radius of the side amp was standing with both hands pressed tightly against their ears. Kids these days – when will they ever learn?
Fortunately, the set change was short and I spent most of it trying to track down the manager of the Epicenter to get a wristband so I could take photos from the side of the stage. There was no way I was getting close to the front of the stage in that sold-out crowd. Finally got everything worked out (I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask for the wristband when I picked up the comp tickets) and abandoned Pete in the crowd while I watched the entire set from the comfort of side stage. Unfortunately, the dim lighting, combined with the fast-paced thrashing of the band members and the crappy angle afforded by the side of the stage didn’t make for such good photography conditions. In fact, I was only able to take any photos at all during the first song, because after that they dimmed the lights even more. So here’s a sampling:
Unfortunately they don’t really convey too well what was really going on onstage. Each guitarist (including the bassist) appeared to have about seven pedals each, and they were getting all Sonic Youth-experimental with them. The double guitar melody lines were bobbing and weaving all over each other and managing to sound like bells at times. The sheer emotional catharsis was intense. As far as what songs they played, I believe I heard “Welcome Ghosts,” “It’s Natural to Be Afraid,” “First Breath After Coma” (which was my introduction to this incredible band), and “Your Hand in Mine.” There were others, but the point of an EITS show is not to emphasize individual songs. In fact, there was never a clear break between songs. Even tuning changes were accomplished while music was being created. Absolutely incredible.
The only time the band addressed the audience was to introduce themselves in the beginning, which was quite unnecessary for the crowd. After playing for about an hour and fifteen minutes, the band left the stage amid the most continuous and loudest crowd encore request that I have ever had the pleasure to hear. After a few minutes, during which the clapping and yelling never died down, and in fact grew only more intense, their bassist returned to the stage with an apology and the sad news that there would be no encore. All the band members were completely exhausted, and to appease the crowd (not that they really needed appeasing – not even an encore could have made the night better), he handed out chocolates. Quite the nice end to an incredible evening. I feel extremely lucky to have witnessed it.
Alright, I’m done gushing. For now, anyway.
Thursday night, I was supposed to be reviewing the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin set at the House of Blues. But, like an inordinate amount of things having to do with the House of Blues, it got screwed up.
The way the show was billed, SSLYBY was supposed to be on second. And I remember reading somewhere that doors opened at 8 and the show started at 8:30. So Brian and I showed up around 9, expecting to miss a bit of the Cinematics and catch all of SSLYBY, and then head out before Mute Math took the stage. We thought we were all right, because when we got down to the floor, the Cinematics were just finishing their set with the song “Break.” They were good in that Brit-rocky way. After their set, I made my way up to the photo pit (which I was very thankful for, after too many concerts dodging crowds at the Casbah) and got set up. The next band came on. I was expecting Beatles-esque pop, which is what SSLYBY does extremely well. Instead, we were treated to post-rock progginess that had to be Mute Math. Not willing to walk out of the show with nothing, I spent my three songs in the photo pit taking photos of a band that I wasn’t really supposed to.
And herein lies the one redeeming factor of the House of Blues. Say what you want about all the things wrong with the venue (Cat Dirt already has), but the lighting situation is a photographer’s wet dream. For example:
That’s also a prime example why using flash photography sucks. You can’t capture that natural lighting situation if you wash everything out with an on camera flash. I’m just sayin’.
Here are a few others:
For the rest, you know the drill.
After my time in the photo pit was over, we wandered over to SSLYBY’s merch table and found out from one of the guys in the band that they had actually gone on first, and the show actuallyl started at 6:30. Goddammit. I was really stoked to see that band, and since I was so bummed about missing them, we just left. Ended up at Hamilton’s to catch up with the rest of the gang and show Jessica a good last night in town before she heads up to coast to slightly less sunny San Francisco.
No Coachella for me. Waited too long to buy a ticket, and then they mysteriously all sold out. Oh well. That’s money I can save for camera equipment. Or maybe to pay my bills.
What I do have is 4 shows in as many nights, starting tonight. I’m writing up reviews for 3 of them, and taking photos at all 4. God only knows when I’ll have time to edit the 500 or so photos I’ll probably end up with. Yikes. Anyway, here’s the lineup:
- April 26th – The Cinematics/Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin/Mute Math @ House of Blues. RIP Boris Yeltsin. And although I’m not really a fan or frequenter of the House of Blues, as a photographer I am looking forward to working with the lighting there. And I’ll have no problem with the “3 song no flash” rule. Don’t much like flash, and I rarely take pictures after the 3rd song anyway. What else is there to capture, unless the lighting changes or the band switches up instruments, or breaks out a keytar? (Thanks to Seth at Polyvinyl Records for the tix!)
- April 27th – Eluvium/Explosions in the Sky @ Epicenter. Epicenter wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I saw Ted Leo there the other week. And at least the show will be done early enough to get up to some more shenanigans, it being a Friday night and all. I can’t really emphasize how excited I am about this show. (Thanks Sarah at Motormouth Media for the tix!)
- April 28th – Republic of Letters CD release party @ the Casbah with Dynamite Walls. Haven’t seen Nick from RoL in quite some time, so I’m looking forward to catching up. Same with the boys from Dynamite Walls, who I met when I photographed them opening for the Frames at the Belly Up a few weeks back. I’m already set up to take more photos when they headline the Belly Up May 12th. This is the only show I’m not reviewing this weekend. Breather!
- April 29th – MONO @ Casbah. Another group whose tour is being managed by Motormouth Media, so Sarah suggested that I do a review of this show in addition to the Twilight Sad review that I already did, and the forthcoming EITS review. It’s good to have contacts. We’re like, BFF, or something.
On a complete side note (and photographer’s rant), Casbah, I love you, but please do something about your lighting. Like maybe add a few lights, and position them so that they don’t all fall on the stomach of the person who’s at center stage. Maybe have them fall on their face. Or on those other people in the band. They’re important too. And the red filters on the lights? They’re a photographer’s nightmare. Blue is sooo the new red, and stuff. Please. I’m begging you.
Alright, it’s Thursday afternoon and there is no one in my lab. And I’m 5 minutes late for a talk by a Nobel Laureate. Crap. No chance there’s going to be any room in that lecture hall. I might just go home and take a nap before commencing this weekend’s activities. It’s nice when the boss is out of town. Even if he is scouting out other potential jobs that would require me moving to another city.
Fresh off one tour, Menomena just announced another one. They’re hitting up San Diego’s Casbah this time around – on June 14th.
For a sample of their perfectly poppy songs and silly pictures of them with The National, head to their Myspace page. Then go out and buy Friend and Foe ASAP.
Head on over to Reviewer Magazine’s website to check out my Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and The Twilight Sad concert reviews.
More photos of the shows can be found here and here, respectively.
In other news, I need to update/revamp my photography website. I haven’t looked at it, let alone updated it in at least a month – not since I added that sweet lightbox script. If anyone has comments/suggestions/graphic design know-how, feel free to tell me what to do with it. First things first is probably to cull down the amount of images and put together a proper portfolio, now that I’ve shot more shows. Then make the website more concert-centric. Some cool design details probably wouldn’t hurt, either. And so begins the next project…
Friday: Due to an inability to make science work all week and the rainy weather, Anita and I hit up the pub on campus at approximately 2:30PM. We were joined by Pete and Nate later that evening (by evening I mean between 3 and 4PM), had some beers and some conversation, then relocated to El Torito after convincing Pete to abandon a transformation he was in the middle of (for those non-science folks, he was putting some circular DNA into bacteria). Why El Torito? Because Nate’s lab was dropping 65K on a real-time PCR machine, so the company’s sales reps bought his lab members (and friends) some food and booze. After several appetizer platters and two margaritas, I headed back home for a pit stop before going over to Anita’s to fall asleep while watching Life of Brian. An exciting evening, indeed.
Saturday: Putzed around for awhile in the morning, then headed up to LA to visit my high school friend Craig before he graduates from USC with a masters in journalism and leaves for his new job in Erie. We caught an early showing of Grindhouse at the Vista theater near his house. Awesome theater (I saw V for Vendetta there last summer), awesome movie. If you like visual stimulation at all, go see it. Then we had all sorts of plans to go out to some club called Area (I know less then nothing about trendy places to go out in LA, but apparantly Justin Timberlake frequents this place), but after finding out that it would take us about an hour to get there and that parking would be ridiculous, we bailed and just ended up hanging out at his place for the evening, which is pretty typical for us.
Sunday: Had an amazingly huge breakfast at the House of Pies, then took the subway (!) to Amoeba Records. I can’t believe I hadn’t forced him to take me there on any of my other trips. Even more amazing is the fact that Craig’s lived in LA for a year and a half and had never been there. I ended up buying six CDs (mostly from clearance) for a grand total of…$25:
- Greg Laswell – Through Toledo
- The Boy Least Likely To – Bits of the Best College Radio Party Ever (Advance)
- Peter Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block (finally…)
- The Oranges Band – On TV
- Sam Champion – Slow Rewind
- The Morning Benders – Loose Change
Two of those bands (Sam Champion and The Morning Benders) I had just heard about on Stereogum, so they were fortuitous finds. And I really like them both. Sam Champion has a sort of Ben Kweller resemblance, which makes me happy. And The Morning Benders play great Beatles-esque pop. After Amoeba, I packed up my stuff and drove home. Put in a call to an old friend on the way home and was lucky enough to be able to catch up with him. Then it was home time, which meant laundry time.
All in all, a pretty tame weekend. It was nice to get out of the city, even if it was to a technically bigger city. Craig lives in Los Feliz, though, so it doesn’t really have to feel like LA if you don’t want it to. At any rate, I’m refreshed and ready to try to make science work for me again this week.
Stopped in at M-Theory last night for the purpose of picking up a copy of The Hold Steady’s Live at Fingerprints EP, which is only available at independent record stores. After avoiding the Hold Steady on the basis of a friend’s scathing review, I eventually listened to Boys and Girls In America out of sheer curiosity. And I liked it. A lot. Maybe it has something to do with growing up Catholic in the suburbs of a small town?
I got into them right after they played at Brick by Brick last fall, so I unfortunately missed that show. Had tickets to see them at the FM94.9 4th Anniversary Bash at the 4th and B last November, but we had the mistaken assumption that they would be headlining, not opening. Once we realized our mistake (after arriving just in time for OK Go to take the stage), we stayed about 30 seconds, then left. Fortunately, they played an acoustic set in the parking lot of Lou’s the next day, so I did manage to see them play a few songs live, and to talk to them for awhile afterwards. They are all remarkably nice guys, even when completely drunk.
At any rate, their Live at Fingerprints EP is very similar to seeing them play at Lou’s. Meaning lots of accordian and jokes, and Craig Finn’s speak/sing lyrical delivery. If you like the Hold Steady at all, you’ll enjoy this stripped-down version of five of their songs.
I also picked up Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, a CD I’ve been meaning to get for awhile. I really like their sound and the orchestration on the album, which somewhat reminds me of Fleetwood Mac’s song “Rhiannon.” Or at least the first song, “Roscoe,” does.
And P.S. – the Midlake album goes great with the rainy weather.
I finally finished editing/processing the 160-odd photos I took at the Casbah Tuesday night. Let’s just say that the Twilight Sad’s singer was a very interesting subject, getting intimate with his mic stand at one moment, and then lifting it up in the air the next moment. Head here to see the photos.
Here’s the short review, before I write the official one up for Reviewer Magazine:
- A Northern Chorus – I made an extra-special effort (which involved convincing a few friends to leave dinner ASAP) to get to the Casbah early to catch their set, just based on the strength of their Myspace songs. And we were all glad that I did. In addition to two guitarists, a bass player, and a drummer, there was also a celloist and a violinist on stage. And the celloist even pulled out a trumpet for one song. I was really impressed with their songs and the way the vocals were traded off between the two male guitarists and the female celloist. They sort of sounded like a cross between indie pop (think Death Cab for Cutie) and shoegaze, with the extra bonus of a string section.
- The Twilight Sad – They played with the intensity that I expected from listening to both their EP and full-length debut. Shoegazey, with distortion and waves of white noise fuzz being generated in between songs. All coupled with emotionally angsty (but not overdone) lyrics sung in a thick Scottish accent. It was a pity that more people weren’t there to catch them. And it was also a pity that they were finished after only six songs.
- Aerogramme – I didn’t stay long for their set (maybe 1.5 songs’ worth?) – just snapped a few photos and then headed out. I might have enjoyed them more if they weren’t following up two great acts and if I wasn’t already tired. They had a bit heavier guitar sound than the other two bands, and decent vocal melodies, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was the fact that they took far too long to set up, or the fact that I had an 8:00 journal club the next morning, or that the Casbah was pretty dead at that point. At any rate, my obligation was to review the Twilight Sad show, so I was easily able to justify heading out early.
A random shoutout from schedule two on my LastFM page led me to this link. They noticed I had been listening to a lot of Thermals (it’s entirely true), and thought I might enjoy their videos. They were entirely correct in thinking so.
Six well-shot videos of a live Thermals show made me relive every minute of their amazing show in San Diego two weeks ago. I wrote up a review of that show for Reviewer Magazine (thanks Joan at Subpop for the ticket!), and photos can be found here.
There’s some other shows on that site that I’ve been wanting to check out, but that’ll have to wait until some more science gets done.
After two nights off (spent mostly under the covers in my bed), I’m going to be back out on the town again tonight. Where, you ask? Why, the Casbah, of course. Which leads to the next question – who’s playing?
First up, we have A Northern Chorus. From listening to the tracks up on their Myspace site, they sound like a great mix between shoegaze and folky-alt rock, with a bit of the trademark Explosions in the Sky crescendo blended in. I’ve been listening to a lot of this type of music lately, so I’m planning on getting to the show early to check these guys out.
The second band playing is the reason I’m going to the show – the Twilight Sad. This band hails from Scotland, and I’ve been tracking them since November when I first read about them on Stereogum. Picked up a copy of their EP, which I’ve been loving ever since. Last week I got ahold of thier debut LP, and, well, it’s even better. All sorts of majestic crescendos, combined with the lead singer’s accent, serve to ornament these tales of adolescent angst. They are the band that all the Dashboard Confessional’s out there strive to be. Check out their Myspace site for a taste of it, or snag some mp3’s (and a review of a previous show) from Chromewaves. I’ll be reviewing this part of the show for Reviewer Magazine, and I’ll be sure to post a link to it when it’s up. And thanks to Sarah from Motormouth media for setting me up with tix for the show (and also the upcoming Explosions in the Sky show).
Finally, the show’s headliners are Aerogramme. To be honest, I don’t know much about them, and I’ve got to run real soon to make an IM softball game. So here’s their Myspace page – make your own decision. I’m not 100% sure I’ll be staying for their set, as I have an 8AM genetics journal club tomorrow morning. Boo. Such is life.
On a side note, bring ear plugs. That comes from the band’s manager. Seriously.