“They still turn the Chicago River green on St Patrick’s Day, right?” -Dave King, Flogging Molly vocalist
I caught Flogging Molly performing at Congress Theater in Chicago, on tour to support their forthcoming studio album, Speed Of Darkness
I remember several years ago seeing Flogging Molly play outdoor summer Irish Festivals to crowds of maybe 500. Now I get to shoot them playing the first night of packed out double-header concerts at Congress Theater, one of the largest movie palaces in one of the largest cities in America.
And what better timing than to kick off St. Patrick’s Day week! The band was obviously having a great time on stage, and the crowd loved it.
I’m considering Motörhead’s sold-out performance at Congress Theater the kickoff concert for the 2011 season. And what a great show it was. It was clear from the sheer number in attendance that it was greatly anticipated, and Lemmy is not a man who disappoints. I can only hope it’s an indicator for what’s to come as Spring concerts start touring through the country.
The second band opening for Motorhead was Clutch. Although I’ve shot Clutch a couple summers ago at an outdoor street festival, it was a much better treatment this time around, in an actual live concert atmosphere. I was very happy to get the great shots I did of this band, which you can see after the jump:
I was especially excited to catch Valient Thorr open for Motörhead at Congress Theater. These guys play what can be described as anywhere between thrash and punk for people who like nerdy metal. People like me.
And they didn’t disappoint with all their token power stances while busting out wailing guitar riffs, either. All in all, this band made for great photos to accompany a heavy rockin’ sound.
It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised by an opening act you’ve never heard before, and Mayer Hawthorne and The County was an interesting band to open for Passion Pit’s show at Congress. These guys played a soulful set of throwback Motown songs, completely dressed to the part. So I took the opportunity to crack my knuckles, so to speak, to prepare for Passion Pit.
“Thanks everyone, for making this our biggest show YET!”
If selling outCongress Theater wasn’t Passion Pit’s biggest show yet — not counting last year’s Lollapalooza — I’d like to know what was. It’s hard to guesstimate just how many tickets are needed to sell out one of the largest concert theater halls in Chicago.
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.
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 got a last-minute photo pass to the I AM (Independent Arts and Music) Festival held at Congress Theater on Saturday. The festival celebrated some up-and-coming local Chicago artists, music and otherwise. There were about 25 bands that played on two separate stages, I managed to shoot 5 or 6 of them.
Most notably in my opinion were Simplistic Urge, very loud and energetic post-hardcore band. They had great stage presence, and almost made it difficult for me to keep up. At one point a guitarist inadvertently flung his guitar straight into a stage light, completely busting it.
Also of note were I Fight Dragons, who can only be described as a pop-punk interpretation of Skate Or Die meets Megaman. They wore comic book hero tshirts and actually converted NES controllers as electronic sampling instruments, creating 8-bit bleeps and bloops with each button press.
I managed a quick impromptu editorial-style shot of them in the loading area out back after their set. I wanted to evoke a kind of fun “superhero” kind of vibe, but it would have been 10 times more effective at night, not to mention that it took me 15 seconds to do: