I was super excited to catch an opportunity to shoot GWAR at House Of Blues. Known more for their stage theatrics than for their actual music, I knew they’d make for great photo opportunities. I made sure to bring a poncho and wrapped my camera in a plastic bag, knowing that I had front row seats for spraying and splattering of fake blood. I kept laughing the whole set. These guys know how to put on a ridiculous show.
Every time the opening bass riff for Joy Division’s “Transmission,” or New Order’s “Age Of Consent” starts to play, I always have compulsion to smile. Hook, the man behind that infectiously twangy bass guitar stopped through Chicago to DJ at Smartbar, with backing support from Dark Wave Disco. He was on his way through for a Q&A and book signing in support of his new release The Haçienda: How Not To Run A Club, his memoirs about the infamous (and now-defunct) Manchester club built by founders of Factory Records and resident band New Order.
Hook’s musical prowess spans 30 years, and he knows a thing or two about clubs. So to dance 5 feet away while he spins Joy Division remixes, I had compulsion to smile.
Last Wednesday, crossover thrash band Municipal Waste played Subterranean, which was packed door-to-door and floor-to-floor with people literally spilling on the stage, thereby having nowhere to go but to dive off back into the crowd. I took most shots either from up above or on the side of the stage to avoid a knee flying into my lens.
If you haven’t heard Municipal Waste yet, go do yourself the favor. Be sure to prepare for a full face-melting.
“Black Wednesday” is a (mostly) Chicago colloquialism used to refer to the day before Thanksgiving, to symbolize a Homecoming-Of-Sorts. And this year’s Homecoming Queen was Kid Sister, stopping in at Chicago’s House Of Blues while on tour to promote her debut album, Ultraviolet. She was backed by duo Flosstradamus, with whom she started as MC in the Chicago club circuit years ago.
While it was a fun time, I do want to casually mention that the “Ultraviolet” stage lighting theme made my job challenging. Red and Magenta stage lights are a concert photographer’s worst enemy. However, House Of Blues is a really fancy venue with good sound, and Kid Sister knew how to take advantage of that to get a full house dancing.
So I spent All Hallow’s Eve Eve at Congress Chicago, which was throwing a monster Halloween bash starring Crystal Castles, Chromeo, and Boys Noize.
Crystal Castles opened with a blinding, chaotic set that included lots of strobes. Though I didn’t catch many shots due to the maddening strobe lighting, they put on a high-energy set that didn’t disappoint.
Chromeo was next to lay down some funk-infused electro. During an encore performance, each member came out donning their Halloween costumes: Dressing like the other!
And though Chromeo was the headliner, Boys Noize wrapped up the evening spinning nonstop electro dance jams that had the entire theater jumping.
Bottom Lounge held host to a Monster Bash with Flosstradamus to help ignite the long Halloween weekend. Two DJ booths were set up on either side of the dance floor for a kind of back-and-forth audio assault. I was one of very few not wearing a costume or covered in fake blood.
I was so STOKED to land a nail-bitingly-last-minute press pass for Riot Fest at Congress Theater. Truth be told, while there are some cool bands on the roster, I wasn’t too interested in shooting any of them aside from headliners Murder City Devils.
I remember catching them on their farewell tour in 2001, and after an ear-bleeding show, me and a couple friends vied to get a video interview with them as part of an art project. They agreed, and allowed us onto their tour van to sit and chat with singer Spencer Moody, and bassist Derek Fudesco.
My friends encouraged me to conduct the on-camera interview, and it was one of the nerdiest coolest thing I’d ever done to that point in life. That video I believe is since lost, but that night was the distinctive moment I knew I wanted to put to use all I had learned in my high school photo classes and pursue music journalism. I subsequently carried my Minolta film camera to all sorts of dive and basement shows, getting a little better each time.
And so, after all these years, I can get right up front and take photos I can be proud of:
I love abandoned buildings. There’s nothing more exciting to me than exploring places long forgotten, or unknown, or just plain not allowed.
Actually, there is: Taking photos while doing it. This is an abandoned mental asylum out in the middle of rural Ohio. I took along one of my favorite models — the lovely Sophie King — and we spent the day shooting away.
So I really hit my stride come Day 3. I kind of think the festival as a whole did too. Even after every muscle in my body ached from lugging around camera gear the previous two days, it was kind of a Custer’s Last Stand to get great shots on Sunday.
Boys Noize really got a huge crowd warmed up for MSTRKRFT.
I didn’t get more than a few shots of MSTRKRFT because some stage manager had a bone to pick with me and didn’t let me shoot them. Which turned out to be a good thing because I just decided to leave and camp out for Jane’s Addiction instead.
I’m glad I did, since they only allowed the first handful of photographers to enter the pit.
And that band knows how to end a weekend festival. So I got the best photos of the whole weekend out of them. Dave Navarro was back in the saddle on guitar backing Perry Farrell’s screeching vocals:
And by the end of the show, when I was about to put my camera away, I was at the right place at the right time to catch this:
Lastly, thanks go to www.urchicago.com for providing press credentials for the weekend. Check out the well-written full reviews of the weekend there.
The weather completely 180′d on everyone for Day 2 of Lolla. In fact, it almost threatened to break 100 degrees! I was commenting with a fellow photog about how irritating it is when sweat drips in your eye when trying to shoot. It was almost oppressively hot. But I say again, nevertheless, the bands didn’t give up, so neither did I.
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s put on a great closing set, but the stage lighting was awful because it required a lot of blacklight which, while visually appealing, doesn’t translate well on film. So it was difficult to get good shots of them, especially amidst the most photographers I’ve ever seen gathered in a single photo pit, elbowing for a decent shot. Next time I think I’ll rent a longer lens. That way I can beat them down with it and then get a good close-up :)