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Last Thursday I swore of basketball for the night (I more than made up for it over the weekend) and headed down to the Black Cat to check out Pree and Meredith Bragg. As I've mentioned a few times in the last week or so, Pree is the new group formed by May Tabol, formerly of Le Loup. Her new group put on a great gig showcasing her quirky folk-pop. Definitely worth checking out if you are curious about them. I was surprised at how polished they were.
Local boy and fellow Kora Records artist Meredith Bragg opened the show. Somehow I had never seen him before, despite him gigging locally all the time. The two names thrown around when describing Bragg, Elliott Smith and Ben Gibbard, are right on the money. If intelligent, sparse acoustic folk is your thing, Bragg is your man.
Pree w/ Meredith Bragg @ Black Cat
I'm a few days late on this (more on that later) but I would be remiss if I didn't comment on Saturday night's show. I was very excited about seeing Morrissey at the Warner, it's one of D.C.'s oldest concert venues, styled like a junior version of Radio City Music Hall.
Strangely, I was not nearly as nervous to photograph Moz this time around. I was pins and needles two years ago at DAR, but was strangely calm this time. That is, until the rush of people crowding the front of the stage when the lights went down. I don't think security at that venue was used to crowds like that. There was a lot of pushing and shoving at first but eventually everyone got a spot they were happy with and it was somewhat bearable.
I ended up stage right and in retrospect, it was too far from center. And due to the crowds, I couldn't move around. The lighting was coming from the sides and back of the stage with a spotlight on Moz, so I got mostly profile stuff. Overall I got some good photos, but nothing as iconic as last time.
The show itself was better than I was expecting. I'm still not a fan of Years of Refusal and I wish he would have played some songs off of Ringleader of the Tormentors (I am still bitter that he was over playing those songs by then time his tour got to the East Coast two years ago). I still don't like the alt-rock version of "This Charming Man" but "Ask" was quite nice. It was a thrill of hear Morrissey sing about the buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg. He also played a Buzzcocks cover and broke out "First of the Gang to Die"
for the first time on this tour (Reader Ken notes that Moz played this in Myrtle Beach. Don't forget to fact check, kids!). Moz hearts DC, he always breaks out something new here. I was hoping for "Reader Meet Author," but oh well. Also, "Best Friend on the Payroll" sounded surprisingly great, and "The Loop" is still BEST.
This Charming Man / Billy Budd / Black Cloud / Let Me Kiss You / How Soon Is Now? / I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris / How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel? / Ask / Seasick, Yet Still Docked / Something Is Squeezing My Skull / Death Of A Disco Dancer / You Say You Don't Love Me / It's Not Your Birthday Anymore / The Loop / Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself? / Best Friend On The Payroll / I Keep Mine Hidden / Sorry Doesn't Help / The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores / I'm OK By Myself // First Of The Gang To Die
PS - I have now photographed Morrissey, Radiohead and Oasis for the Washington Post. Jarvis, you're next.
The other day I was thinking to myself that I might be suffering from seasonal depression. I generally like winter and the cold, but all the gray days were throwing me off a bit. But now I think I was wrong. It had just been too long since I had my face melted off at a big rock show. Well, after seeing Dead Confederate open for The Whigs, I am cured.
I did not know much about Dead Confederate going in to the show. I gave their MySpace tunes a quick listen before the show and generally liked what I heard. But I was unprepared for the sheer force and heaviness of their live sound. They are this weird sonic mix of Kurt Cobain fronting Mogwai trying to play Primal Scream's Vanishing Point. It certainly didn't hurt that I planted myself front row and had the lead singer basically spitting on me for the entire set. It was intensity in ten cities!
The band wasted little time setting up and plugging in following a decent set by Trances Arc. After a quick soundcheck, we were off. Their drummer was a dynamo, he was hitting the snare and toms so hard he had the drum platform wobbling all over the place. The loud/quiet/loud thing is very overdone these days, but Dead Confederate made it all sound brand new. Seeing them brought back memories of the very first time I saw ...Trail of the Dead, at the Knitting Factory in NYC. They were this incredible ball of energy, wound up and ready to let loose, wreaking large scale havoc on a small stage.
Every so often there is an opening band that comes out of nowhere and blows me away, becoming my new favorite band in the process. Welcome to the club Dead Confederate!
I'll have the full photo set next week!
Last Thursday I headed down to the 9:30 Club for what was just the second show I've seen all year (long story). I had heard bits and bobs of Fujiya & Miyagi's work here and there and really liked their laid back, dancey vibe, so I thought they would be worth checking out. I was not wrong. Their minimalist dance pop may not necessarily jump out of the speakers at you on CD or MP3, but live, the band has a definite cheerful, festive vibe that carried over to the audience. A small but enthusiastic crowd danced the night away to songs like "Photocopier" and "Ankle Injuries." The projections behind the stage were pretty awesome as well. All in all, a pretty good show.
Fujiya & Miyagi @ 9:30 Club
As I've said before, I'm not much of a Metallica fan. I don't own any of their albums, just a promo double disc set called Madatory Metallica that I picked up from a friend at their label solely because it had their cover of "Breadfan" on it. It is, without a doubt, my favorite Metallica song.
Last week's show at the Verizon Center went a long way in making me think differently about the band. I can't remember a bigger show or band that treated photographers so nicely. There was no photo release to sign. We had full access to the stage area (they were playing in the round and we had no restrictions in the photo pit). We got three songs to shoot and other than the lazer light show for the first song, the lighting was incredible. And most importantly, the three songs we shot lasted about 25 minutes. It's rare that I get to shoot a band that long and I certainly appreciated it. Also, on a side note, their photo pass is the biggest I have ever seen.
Metallica w/ MachineHead @ Verizon Center
As you well know if you are my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, Saturday was my big night. After chasing them down for three or four years, I finally got to shoot the Noel and Liam in all of their (seemingly disinterested) glory at the Patriot Center. The cherry on top is that I also got to review the show for Washingtonpost.com (thanks guys!). Much like the concert, the review is OK, but not my finest work. Luckily there were other people people there reviewing the show, so you can read Dave McKenna's fair-handed mainstream media review or perhaps Chris Klimek's pretty spot-on casual fan review (with more photos from yours truly).
I wanted Saturday night to be pure euphoria, and for songs 2, 3 and 4, it was. But after I shot my three songs and put my camera gear away, I never got back to those heights, probably because I am a jaded old fuck that can't even enjoy his favorite band anymore. Who knows? I talked to a few friends who were also at the show and they all loved it, which is great to hear. I was also happy to see an almost full venue! D.C. hearts Oasis.
But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the show, because I did. "Don't Look Back In Anger", which has never been one of my favorite Oasis songs, was performed acoustically sounded brand new and shiny. "Falling Down" was totally mega, as was "Shock of the Lightning" and "To Be Where There's Life", one of the few songs in the set where Liam really went for it on his vocals.
It was a real thrill to finally be able to shoot Oasis. I had to drink a beer during Ryan Adams' set to calm my nerves a bit (and I never drink when I am shooting). I regret not taking some wider angle shots, but I was so focused on getting great shots of Liam and Noel I kind of threw my normal process out the window. The stage was really high and they had a wall of floor monitors on the lip of the stage, so the narrow photo pit kind of limited what I was able to do. But I got some good stuff and I ultimately walked out of the venue one happy camper.
But most importantly, I got to stand about 6 inches from Liam!
Here's hoping that rumor of a Spring tour with Weezer turns into reality.
Read the reviews:
Mine (with photos) for Washingtonpost.com's Post Rock blog.
Chris Klimek for Dcist (with more photo by yours truly!).
Dave McKenna for the Washington Post.
Quite frankly, this was one hell of a year. More about that a bit later, but let's go ahead and kick off the end-of-year-listage with the best gigs of 2008!
1) Underworld @ Virgin Mobile Festival - Baltimore, MD
What I said at the time: Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy
Not only was this the best show I saw all year, it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. Period. It was thoroughly mind blowing. My expectations for this could not have been higher but Underworld still blew me away. All concerts should be like this.
[MP3] Underworld | Beautiful Burnout
BUY: Underworld: Everything, Everything on CD
2) Oasis @ Virgin Festival - Toronto, ONT
What I said at the time: Craziness erupted at the Oasis gig in Toronto tonight when during "Morning Glory" some punter somehow got onstage, and gave Noel a mighty shove into the monitors directly in front of him before turning and going after Liam. Luckily security corralled the guy before he could do any more damage to the band and the gig.
Photo superstardom for yours truly! I was totally crushed that I didn't get to shoot Oasis from the pit, but because I didn't, I happened to have my camera out when Noel was attacked on stage. The resulting shots were published all over the world.
[MP3] Oasis | To Be Where There's Life (live Wembley Arena 10/16/08)
BUY: Dig Out Your Soul on CD
3) Radiohead @ Nissan Pavilion - Fairfax, VA
What I said at the time: It rained. Alot. A hell of a lot. More than you've ever seen. Ever. Almost four inches. Seriously, it was one of the biggest storms in D.C. history. And we stood outside during it and watched Radiohead. The "rain down" part of the "Paranoid Android" suddenly has new meaning to me.
Fuck. I don't think I'll ever forget this gig. It led to my first-ever photos in the Post and a whole bunch of other work. Oh yeah, and it rained. A hell of a lot. More than you've ever seen. Ever. I cannot stress this enough.
[MP3] Radiohead | Reckoner (live @ Nissan Pavilion)
BUY: In Rainbows on CD
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Vampire Weekend show at the 9:30 Club last week. I have pretty much stayed away from the band all year due to all the hype and the few times I have seen them perform on TV they left me less than impressed. The band always seemed detached and kind of mechanical, but that was not the case at the 9:30, where they were quite engaging and above all, crack musicians. As I stood bopping along to "A-Punk" I tried to erase the memory of every Cold War Kids and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show I have ever had the displeasure of attending. Finally, a buzz band that can actually sing in tune and play their instruments with aplomb!
That said, some of their songs are a bit too twee and precious for me - the Jackson Crowder one to start with - and I don't care how preppy they dress, a turquoise Patagonia fleece jacket is never appropriate stage wear unless you are playing outside in Colorado! Jeezy Creezy.
Vampire Weekend w/ The Teenagers @ 9:30 Club
Although I haven't mentioned them very much, I have become a big fan of The Duke Spirit. I liked a track they had on a sampler a while back and was pleasantly surprised by their latest album, Neptune, which is full of bluesy, garage rock goodness. It's one of my favorite albums of the year and it's been in heavy rotation on my iPod since February.
So of course I jumped at the chance of seeing them at the 9:30 Club, especially after Redboy gave them his stamp of approval. And they did not disappoint. They were full of vim and vigor, whipping a fairly sizable crowd into a frenzy and, best of all, they sounded spot on. While the guys in the band don't do much of anything on stage, it's hard to take your eyes off of frontwoman Leila Moss as she prowls around. "The Step and The Walk" is one of the best Bunnymen songs not written by Ian McCulloch and their other standout tunes like "Lassoo" and "You Really Wake Up The Love In Me" were straight fire. Can't wait for these guys to come back to town.
Sadly I didn't stick around for the Eagles of Death Metal. It was a school night and they weren't due on stage until 11:45.
The Duke Spirit @ 9:30 Club
(Editor's Note: I have a bunch of photos from this summer that I never got the chance to put up so I am cleaning out the archives a bit over the course of the next week or so.)
While they are not really my thing musically, Paramore are a blast to photograph. Their show is built on energy and everyone not stuck behind the drum kit spent the set running all over the stage. I'd shoot them again in a second.
Paramore at the 2008 Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore, MD