Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spinal Tap @ Dodge Theatre.

Ok, the proper intro would be "Unwigged and Unplugged: an evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer"... but that was a lot for a blog title I thought. Anyways... last night was the comedy geniuses behind "This is Spinal Tap" (among others) performing live, unwigged and unplugged.

This was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. Not to say I wasn't looking forward to it. But when they came on stage, it was very cool. These are three comedians known for their hilarious, if not awkward, improve skills. Their presence on stage, in a musical setting, was to say the least, unique. They would comment on people in the audience, what they we're eating, when they arrived late, etc... Actually, when I was done shooting, I was on the far side of the stage and had to make my way through to the other side of the stage, but the theatre became very quiet, so I sort of started to run to get out of people's way... when I did that Harry Shearer commented "That man is RUNNING away from us!" and the others commented on my sprint and how terrible I must have thought the show was. :)

The banter was a lot of fun to listen to. Harry Shearer would give very detailed explanations of how certain songs were written, and where the inspiration came from, while Christopher Guest would constantly try to mix him up, and could be seen laughing off to the side, away from his microphone. There were a lot of inside jokes, and running gags that made for a really fun setting.

At one point I was sitting there thinking "what a cool trio to be watching". Michael McKean, the obvious 'leader' of the band. Christopher Guest, lead guitar and brilliant filmmaker. And of course Harry Shearer, lead bass... and lets not forget the voice of Mr. Burns, Mr. Smithers, Mr. Skinner to name a few. It was pretty surreal.

Throughout the night they played songs from all their films, (This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, Waiting For Guffman) as well as songs that were previously unheard, but were written at the same time. It was a neat mix up. All done on acoustics, with the occasional mandolin or the hilariously awfully played didgeridoo. Shearer would also sometimes switch to stand up bass. It was a lot of fun. I actually got a ticket to this show, so it was nice to be able to sit and let some of it sink in. The highlight of my night was hearing "Bitch School".

From a photog stand point... it was pretty boring lighting. Just a few whites and oranges. No real change. No back drop. Just the three of them standing their doing their thing. But I'm happy I got what I got.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coachella - Day 3

My last day at Coachella 2009... I had been having a great time all weekend, but I was looking forward to being done. This day was particularly hot outside, and when I got there, there were no clouds in the sky. I walked all the way to the gate, and realized I had either dropped or forgotten my ticket! I walked back to my car, no luck. So I came all the way back to the gates and plead with the people at the media entrance to get back in. After a while of chatting, they decided to let me in. Dang.

One of my first bands today was called Friendly Fires. Sort of dancy rock. It was interesting. The lead singer had a lot of energy and sort shook his butt all over stage. The people watching were pretty entertained. But as always with being a photographer, you just shoot for the first few songs, get your shots, and get out. So sometimes its hard to really focus on the music.

Today was a hot one. My pal Jim snapped a photo of me in the middle of the day. You cant really tell how hot and tired I am, but its there. Look in my eyes.

Today's crowd was a little more subdued. I think people were partied out from the day before. I saw a number of people get yanked out of the crowd for the main stage because they were fainting or dehydrated. Everyone was feeling the effects of the sun. I don't know how some of the bands managed to play.

One other pretty cool thing I saw that I wasn't expecting, was the Lucent Dossier Experience. It was a dance troupe that performed in a sort of Vaudeville style. There were pools of water for them to splash around in, at some points they kicked water into the crowd, and even had a water hose to spray on sweaty passers-by. There was a band playing in the back ground while the dancers interpreted the music. Fun to check out.

I had seen on the Coachella website some neat 'panoramic' images... but they actually went in every direction. (Check out this link to see what I mean.) Anyways, I always wondered how they did it. I know they were stitching photos together in photoshop, but I didn't know how they got all the images at once. This photo explains it!

I was supposed to shoot The Gaslight Anthem from the stage, which would have been rad, but it didn't work out. So I shot from the pit. This was the hottest part of the day. The band went on at 3:00pm and I was pouring sweat. I just wanted to shoot, get out of the pit, and go head for some shade. But, the band was good. Pretty normal light 'rock' sound. I might have stayed for more if it wasn't so hot.

The Hand of Man, another art installation. This was was a gigantic robotic arm, that you can actually control by wearing a glove. Just like the Power Glove on Nintendo! I didn't get to try it, but I watched a guy make devil horns, then pick up a car and toss it on the ground. It was pretty cool actually.

While I was waiting for a band to start, I spotted this tattoo of Freddie Mercury! I'm a big Queen fan, so I thought this was pretty neat. Its the "Hot Space" Freddie. The girl was happy to allow a photo.

One thing Spin mentioned they wanted to see more of, was people dancing. I looked around, but it was so hot out that people were just sort of standing still. (At least during the day) But you can always count on the ravers! Any time there is a techno beat bumping, they will be there. This large dome was right by the entrance to the grounds. It had a huge pile of speakers in the center, and a DJ on top. Most people just walked by, but the select few stayed and jammed out. I was lucky to get such neat lighting on these photos. The sun was just going down, and I caught light just right. It's that "golden hour" photogs talk about. Sweet.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah's. I was probably most excited to see this band play, because I knew they would put on an interesting show. They didn't disappoint. Lead singer Karen O was dressed in a shiny, gold, sort of 70's, dress, thing. It was cool, and she was happy to show it off. She kept spreading out all the little pieces of it. Behind them was a giant eye ball. I was feeling it! It was cool. You can judge the enormity of the stage by the size of the eyeball installation. Generally speaking, the YYYs play smaller venues where that piece would fill up the entire background, but here on the main stage at Coachella, it looked a but undersized. But still neat.

My Bloody Valentine apparently reunited after 10 years. I wasn't really feeling this. I am into guitar effects and noises as much and MORE than the next guy, but this just wasn't working. Lead singer Kevin Shields was barely audible (on purpose) and there was no real light on him to speak up. I just happened to get a few shots while strobes were going off. The band ended with a headache-inducing barrage of noise. No melody, no changes... just a big wall of feedback and whooshing air. This lasted for literally about 25 minutes. It was pretty ridiculous. Sort of not the right vibe.

The last band on the main stage was The Cure. Lots of people were questioning their ability to close out the weekend. I didn't get to hear the whole set, but from what I heard, and what I read, they played for about 2 and a half hours... most of it ok, some really good. I had a band to shoot after the Cure, so I left to get them, then came back to catch a little more Cure. I have to say, hearing the songs blasting through the speakers, Robert Smith on stage, and seeing the creepy guitar player on the massive screens... it was pretty epic. Not a bad way to end it!

By the end of the night, I was totally worn out. It was a great experience, but it was a lot of work. I can only think of one time that I had more than 15 minutes to catch my breath. It was intense, but it one of those things you have to do. I think if you can just go to Coachella and just be very passive with your schedule, and not try to catch all your favorite bands, you would have a great time. It was a really cool set up, and it was pretty magical. I would definitely love to cover it again. Maybe next time Radiohead will headline and I can finally take them off my list of bands I have to shoot!

Anyways. Thanks to Spin for the opportunity. Be sure to check out Spin.com for more of my photos. Rock your face.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coachella - Day 2

Saturday started good. I didn't have a band I needed to shoot until 3:45, so I took my time getting to the festival. Had an actual breakfast. But that mean ridiculous traffic. I ended up missing the band I needed to shoot because I sat in traffic for 2 hours right in front of the entrance. That was pretty crazy... but I probably should have expected it.

Saturday turned out to be the party day. Lots more people showed up and hung out all night. This was good for me too, as I needed to get scene shots for a slide show. So I spent whatever free time I had shooting the people and scenes at Coachella in between bands. I managed to get some really great shots.

I met one guy who just showed up in shorts. No shoes, no shirt. Long blond hair, tattoos, nipple rings... just darting towards the main stage. I had to run after him to grab him, but he was really nice. Turns out he's a music video director in L.A., small world. He reminded me of Matthew McConaughey. Great picture.

This was also, in my opinion, one of the best days to shoot bands. Everything seemed to come pretty easy this day. I got a lot of great shots, all of bands I really wasn't familiar with. But that made it interesting.

Amanda Palmer was very neat to shoot. She is the singer from the Dresden Dolls. This was her solo project. I'm not that familiar with her solo stuff, but she was very energetic and animated. Face paint, a gold bustier, and hairy armpits. :) What a woman.

TV on the Radio. Now, this was neat to shoot. I shot them way back when they opened for Bloc Party. Which was my first music gig for the Phoenix New Times. So it was neat to see them on the big stage at Coachella. They've come a long way, and I thought the put on a heck of a show. The crowd was really into it. I thought the quilts were an odd touch, but I guess I don't know the full story.

Band of Horses was another I didnt know, but they had a cool vibe. I managed to get some really nice shots. Their set was back lit for a while, but it was bright, so I got some really crisp shots of the band members silhouettes. I'm really happy with how these pics turned out.

Turbonegro was another band I had shot before at a small venue in Phoenix. They also had the crowd in their pocket. I saw a number of groups of people dressed in the Turbonegro garb. These guys put on a wild show. Really high energy. Lots of great poses. They know how to sell it. And it was really cool. Again, some of my favorite pics. This was a good day!

Ok. The Killers. No one was allowed to shoot them. THEIR photographer made his photos available to the press. LAME! Just another notch lower in my book.

TRV$DJ-AM. This was more entertaining that I imagined. It could have possibly been because of the fact that Max Headroom was singing all the songs on a large screen behind them. Travis totally ruled on the drums tho. You have to give that guy credit. He was working hard, and it was cool to see the drummer showcased like that. And I thought their lights were rad. Just subtle enough.

Overall it was a really fun day of shooting. I saw a lot of interesting things. Lots of cool people. And heard some great music. I wasn't quite as worn out as the first day. If felt like I found my Coachella groove. I got a text from my wife saying that Robert Pattinson was spotted there the night before. So I was on the lookout for him. It was ironic, because we had just watched Twilight before I left, and I said off the cuff "If I see Robert Pattinson at Coachella, I will make sure to stop and talk to him." I did meet Jared Leto, "Paul Allen" from one of my favorite movies. When I stopped him, I think I came off as a paparazzi, so I didnt take his picture. Perry Ferrell was cool tho. :)

So, the night wound down and I made my way to the car. The parking lot was beginning to empty. I couldn't find my car. Jim and I wondered around for about 20 minutes looking for it. We found it, got in, and tried to get out. We were dead stopped for at least an hour and 30 minutes. It took 3 hours to leave and get to the hotel. Got in bed at 3:45am. Nuts.

For more of mine and Misha's pics, check out Spin.com. There will probably be another slide show up soon with more of my pics of people and sights. Day 3 coming soon!