Saturday, December 19, 2009

Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding @ Dodge Theatre

Every year for the past 9 years Alice Cooper has put on his Christmas Pudding concert. I've never actually been to one before last night, but I knew about the idea behind it. Alice puts together a large collection of bands and performers, local and national, and they each take the stage for 10 - 15 minutes or so, and there is an MC that tells jokes and performs magic tricks between the acts.

I enjoyed the quickness and the motion of the idea... it really kept things moving, and kept the audience entertained. However, I do know it's not THE most ideal job for a band or performer, because it is so quick, you maybe can't completely get your vision across... but the experience must be a lot of fun, I'm sure no one would say no to.

The highlights of the show for me were, obviously shooting Alice Cooper... comedian and "Johnny Cash looky-like" Gary Mule Deer, and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. I'd heard a lot about Roger Clyne in the past, being a local boy... he definitely lives up the stories I've heard. Lots of energy and passion in the music.

Also on the bill was Alice's son, Dash. He's unsigned, and playing the music business game. His band was solid, not completely my cup of tea musically, but the crowd was happy to see Alice's spawn rock the house.

Once Alice and his band took the stage, the Dodge really came alive. I swear even, when the opening riff from "School's Out" started, the volume actually doubled in the venue. Alice commanded everyone to sing along and said "If this song hasn't played some part in your juvenile delinquency... well... something's wrong."

For this event, I had the rare privilege of "all access", which included backstage. After Alice's set, I ran backstage... if I had a chance to meet Alice, I had to jump on it. Being a fan of Alice and Wayne's World, I have a long standing pact with my wife that if I ever met Alice Cooper, I would ask him that immortal question: "So, do you come to Milwaukee often?"

While I was back stage I ran into Dash and his mother, Sheryl Cooper... Gary Mule Deer... Roger Clyne and Danny Zelisko. I got some time to chat with them all shortly, and took some photos. I was planning to make my way out when I ran into Alice and his family. I waited for the small crowd of people to disperse before I moved in.

I got a photo of Alice with Roger, shook his hand and asked him to sign my photo pass. The group of people surrounding Alice became a smaller, intimate group of Family and close friends... I would have felt a clot to ask Alice my silly question... so I respectfully just said thank you and passed through. It was a great time. "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!"

From a photogs stand point... my 5D again saved the day. At some points the lights on the stage of the Dodge were not quite sufficient, and backstage there was even less. Sometimes I don't know how I ever survived without it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jimmy Eat World @ Modified Arts

So I got a call around 2:30pm on Tuesday night... my editor at the New Times asked if I'd been following the news... that there would be a "secret" Jimmy Eat World show that night. He wanted me to photograph the show. I was happy to hop to.

When he told me they were playing at Modified Arts downtown, I was a little less than thrilled. I mean, it's a wicked idea on J.E.W.'s part... but Modified as a music venue has always failed to impress me. (No lighting, only 'ok' sound) All that aside, I knew this could be something special. I decided to take it one step further, and I pitched the idea of meeting up with Jim Adkins, lead singer, before the band went on for a quick interview... maybe a few Modified stories... as this show would be one of the last shows of live music at the venue, as it will be under new ownership soon.

We weren't able to get directly to Jim's people, so my plans for an elaborate interview on HD video didn't quite pan out. However, I did bring my 5D MkII with me to the show. My editor, Jon, and I got there early and went hunting for Jim... who was happy to oblige a quick interview. So we grabbed a semi-lit corner and I clicked my camera to video. We had only the on board mic to deal with and the mercy of the crowd that was piling through the door. (see below for video)

Needless to say, the show was not very secret... AZ Central had spilled the beans very early on... the show was meant to be secret for as long as possible because of the constraints of the venue, which only safely houses 150-160 people. When I arrived at 6:30pm, the line of people waiting was curled around the back of the building and down to the corner of the street, and nearly back to the door again. 3/4 of the people, if not more were turned away... simply not enough room.

The show itself was a lot of fun, 3 quick acoustic openers, and then a full electric set from Jimmy. I'm not the biggest 'fan' of Jimmy Eat World as it were, but I had a good time listening to the show. You can see how much they stand out from other local acts...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

KISS @ Arena

To be honest, I didn't know exactly how to prepare for a Kiss concert. Even up to the last minute before they came on stage I was questioning my lens/camera selections.

Right before the show started I put my 17-40mm on my Canon 5D MkII, and my 100-400mm on my Canon 20d. I felt like I would need that ultra-wide zoom lens on my full frame camera at the start. This was a good choice to start I think... It let me capture some of the incredibly energetic performances at the front of the stage.

I don't want to kill any of the illusion, but as I understand it, only Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are 'original' Kiss members. That said, the fact that they are doing what they are doing, for as long as they've done it, is a feat in itself. The platform boots these guys were wearing were just crazy! The show they put on for the people, and if I'm honest, for the photogs as well, was amazing!

There were a few times throughout the show where I had Paul Stanley, the Star Child, 4 feet from my lens, staring me right in the face. I can't believe some of the pictures I got. I really can't give them enough credit for putting on such a show, and for making it so easy for the photogs. The stage was so well lit, and the performances and poses were so over-the-top that every picture could be great. My 5D was set to 2000ISO and I fluctuated between 1/200 and 1/400 shutter speed.

Gene and Paul both had a microphone off to their respective side of the stage, and in the middle was a short cat walk wide enough for the three axe-wielding mad men to lean over the crowd and rock in unison. Unfortunately for Eric Singer, the drums were SO high up in the air that I couldn't get a shot of his face... but I'm sure his view of the arena was amazing.

Really, the only word I could think of last night was EPIC! Even if you don't know the songs, you know the band... and the show was just as crazy as you could imagine. I'm really glad I got the chance to cover this. It was really a fun time, and it still feels nothing like 'work' to me.