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Sunday April 23, 2006

 

 

 

Oof - I'm so tired today. I"m not used to being this exhausted anymore. A couple of years ago, this would've been a normal amount of tiredness but I've actually been getting more sleep than usual lately. We didn't get into bed until around 3:30 am. I'm just not used to that anymore. It's a traveling day too, which only makes it more difficult.

I believe the weekend was successful, though. I just wish we had more time to see friends and family.

I wound up having to run errands for my Grandmother on the way out of town. The main one involved picking up her medicine from her chosen K-Mart pharmacy. It wouldn't have been so bad but I had a message when I woke up to call her BEFORE coming out. Then I tried calling for hours and never could get through to her.

When I finally did get her on the line and myself out to the pharmacy, who should come waltzing in but one of those "people" who used to be family. This one lives within a couple of miles of my Grandmother and she walked right into the pharmacy, picked up her medication and walked right back out within (literally) 2 minutes. It only underscores to me how uncaring, heartless and inhumane they are. Just seeing first hand how easy it would be for them to make so many lives easier is far more damning to them than knowing it intellectually. I must say that it was incredibly difficult for me not to at least say something about it. Instead, I had to walk away as fast as I could. Opening my mouth could not possibly have helped. Plus, if I started, I don't know if I could stop. The only comfort to me in this was seeing that this person was clearly more uncomfortable seeing us than we were with her. Yeah - our consciences are clear in this...

Screw those "people".

Oh yeah - I forgot to mention. Those "people" are also "Christians." Hmmmm....

Anyway - I got the job done again. It was difficult but not too difficult to stop me. And I don't even have anything to prove.

Oh well...at least I got to see my brother for a couple of minutes while I was in there while we waited for the prescription to be filled. And Amanda found a copy of the Country Weekly that one of my John Mellencamp pics is in. It's good to think that my work's on the shelves of home even when I can't be within a hundred miles. (Thanks, Jason for tipping me off about it being in there.)

We got on the road late and the rest of the day was a blur. When we got back to Athens, I loaded all the pictures on the computer so that I can start work fresh in the morning. Then we collapsed!

 


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Saturday April 22, 2006

On the bus with Shooter Jennings in Columbia, SC

 

 

 

 

 

 


Everyone said we were crazy. There are tornadoes all around. It's going to storm from sunup to midnight. It's a waste of time. It's a disaster.

To put it simply, the chance of disaster has never stopped me. In my opinion there's a chance of disaster in every second of life. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to live. After all, I won't have that option forever...

I went out to my Grandmother's early just to check up on her and see if there was anything I could do before I had to hit the road. Then I met up with Amanda for "lupper" at LHOP. It was a massive, massive lunch / supper combo that's meant to get us through a long festival day.

Then it was off to the festival. I'll admit, the sky looked like it was about to shatter and let loose at any second. I figured there'd be problems getting our passes, parking on top of it. But no! Beth Laderberg is the photo laison this year and I went to a McDonald's parking lot near an entrance. I called her on cell. 5 minutes later, we had our passes and were parking behind the State Museum. Thanks to Beth it was a breeze. And I have to thank Beth and Virginia for being so accomodating to Amanda and me even though we could only come in for a few hours of one day and were there to mostly focus on one act.

Once we got in, we walked across the bridge to the opposite side of the festival. There were far less stages this year. In fact, there were only 2 major ones. I went to the Miller Lite stage where Shooter Jennings was playing later. One of his managers, Scott Munn, is a friend of mine and he set it up for me to get some candid shots of Shooter. So my job today was basically to chase him around! When I got there, Shooter was off doing a radio interview so we introduced ourselves to his road manager Stephen. He made us feel incredibly welcome.

When I was walking around backstage, I ran across another familiar face. It belonged to none other than Kevin "KT" Taylor. He's another Camden boy. He and I knew each other back when I first started trying to play music. He played with a band called Head Rush while I was with one called Tanjent (Eewwww what an awful name! It's worse than Q-Sign, no?) We briefly BOTH played bass in the backup band for a guy named Larry Martin. Larry was a great songwriter. He was also a fraud and a thief who stole my first acoustic / electric. KT is one of the nicest, sweetest guys I've ever met associated with the sometimes ugly profession of music. I'd heard he'd been on the road running sound for Vince Gill and a buncha other country stars. When I asked him about it, he confirmed that for me. Tonight, he was working the same stage that I was. He's moved home to look after family. Yep, it's tough. But it was great to see him. I hope we run into each other more often.

I also briefly saw Marty Fort. He used to book the New Brookland Tavern in Columbia during the Star Zero days. And he was always great to us. His band Entreat was playing tonight on the bridge. They were setting up as we passed by. I tried to get back in time to catch him but I wasn't able.

Once Shooter got back, the chase began. I asked him if he was cool with me following him. He said, "Nah, man. You're good. You do whatever you want. I don't want approval. I don't need anything from you. You look like a cool guy. You're with us. But let me warn you. I've got ADD and at any second I might get distracted and run off. So I might lead you on a wild goose chase." And for the next few hours, that's what basically went on.

The only non-running time was sitting on the bus with Shooter, his manager, Stephen the tour manager, Leroy (guitar), Ted (bass) and Bryan (drummer). We listened to a live set the band played a few nights before in NYC with 'em. It was being broadcast on Sirius. Apparently Shooter hosts an outlaw country show on there and he decided to put his own show on for once. At the end, he aired this killer acoustic and vocal solo thing with both run through a backward delay. Ted looked at Shooter and asked "Why have I never heard this? This is cool". Shooter just smiled and said, I just did it on my Pro Tools rig. He also played an unreleased song that he did with his dad Waylon. Good stuff.

Of course, they insisted on putting beers in my hand and Amanda's. In fact, over the course of the evening I was offered much alcohol. As I don't really drink, I turned most of it down. I did take a couple of sips out of the top of the beer in an attempt to be polite but I just couldn't do it. It just does nothing for me.

It ain't that way for the rest of 'em. There was almost no time that Shooter didn't have a cup of Jack in one hand and a beer and cigarette balanced in the other. Whether he was being interviewed by WIS, watching Julie Roberts from sidestage or signing autographs, he always had some substance with him. But he was such a sweet, down to earth guy. And he seemed so sincere and genuinely into what he was doing. He was like a big kid living his dream (and that's a compliment). He was generous with hugs and smiles. When he went out to visit with some senior friends of his parents, it was so touching to see the way he interacted with them. These people genuinely loved him and the feeling was clearly mutual. He went out of his way and had a special place for them reserved during the gig. They brought the band a cake and when we got back on the bus, Shooter told the tour manager to help him find a special cane. He wanted to have one custom made for the older guy. He wanted to make a cool one. "He needs one but he won't use it. Maybe if we get him a cool one with Dad's logo on it, he'll use it." And the plans were set in motion right there.

Later, Julie Roberts (who's a country star in her own right) wanted to meet Shooter so we all went over to her bus after her set. I took a couple of pics of 'em together then Amanda and I went back to hang out with Bryan (the drummer) for awhile. Bryan's a Zepman. He and I have a lot in common except for all the tattoos and the seemingly overindulgent lifestyle.

Shooter not only tried to share his Jack with me, he even shared it with a husky named Sampson just before showtime. I got some cool pics of it! In fact, that reminds me, I've got to send the pics to him! It was funny, I told him if I drunk that stuff I wouldn't even be able to photograph. He looked at me dead in the eye and said "I don't believe that for a second. Some of the best pictures in the world were taken by drunks." Then he personally invited me to go out on the road with them. He said, "Give me a week. I'll build up your tolerance." Yikes! That's just what I need. But I did appreciate the fact that he offered.

However, the moment that had the biggest effect on me was just before the band went onstage. Bryan and Ted were up on the stage soundchecking. Shooter, Leroy and I were standing backstage talking. Shooter put his arm around me and smiled. He said "I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Just listen to that. That's my bass player and drummer. And I get to play with them every night." Leroy chimed in "And I get to play guitar over it. Just listen to them!" They were so genuinely excited. When Bryan and Ted got through, they all just bonded pre-show while including Amanda and me in it like we were part of the family. At one point, Shooter had enough waiting. He started to walk right up the ramp to start even though they weren't ready. They had to talk him back down. He wanted to play so bad. Instead, to hurry everyone up, the four of them started to jump up and down on the ramp in unison, making the loudest, most terribly ridiculous noise possible. Each landing was like a mini-explosion. They were laughing like school kids having the time of their lives...and I believe they are. After a couple of leaps, they were cleared for the stage and they all ran up there.

I shot the first few songs from the pit. They kicked right off with "Electric Rodeo" and it was just so obvious that they are no more country than they are rock. They were tearing it up. It was raw and even when it slid into cliche, it was heartfelt and intense. When they brought out their new single (the seemingly "Wanted Dead Or Alive" inspired) "Going To Carolina", the place obviously went wild. I was impressed by the fact that the band didn't sugar coat anything. The content was decidedly adult on several of the songs but it was real. And after spending an afternoon with them, I can tell you that what they write and play is real. The guys onstage are the guys offstage except that they're actually more laid-back and relaxed ON-stage! Now I would've loved to hear the hilarious "Aviators" but as it was a festival they had a very limited time to play. So I missed out on that. But it was cool because I was able to stand onstage with them for the majority of the show. It's been a while since I've been able to be a part of that kind of energy. It's such a unique thing. And it's better than any lecture. I was there in the middle of it. And I thank Shooter, Scott, Stephen, Leroy, Bryan and Ted for reminding of how it really is around truly inspired people. There just ain't enough of that these days.

When Leroy came offstage, I thanked him for the "rock and roll show". He gave me a big bear hug and said "That was rock and roll, wasn't it?". Then Stephen said "They keep telling me it's country." I said, "They lied, man."

When they were done, I asked Shooter: "So what now? What do you do for the rest of the night? He asked, "How far is Jacksonville?" I said "Six or seven hours". A smiled creeped across his face and he said, "Then you come back to the bus and we party until 1, maybe 2 am." And at 2 am, they had the bus call - which is when they hit the road again.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Post-show, I figured I should shoot a little more. I had gotten a few shots of Julia Roberts during her said but other than that, it had all been Shooter. So I photo'd Pat Green who closed out the night while Shooter went back out to spend more time with his parents' friends. Leroy and Ted went over to check out Aretha Franklin on the Blue Cross-Blue Shield stage. They asked if we wanted to ride with them but I was still shooting. We did walk over there and I shot a couple of songs from a few hundred feet back. I wanted to see what the new camera was capable of. I believe once I master this camera, I'll get some amazing stuff!

When the festival was all done - we all somehow wound up on Shooter's bus again. Bryan and I got into a discussion about Zeppelin and he put on the BBC Sessions CD. Stephen was talking about going to Graceland in the '70s when he worked for Mac Davis. Ted espoused the joys of cold Chinese food and pizza and it was generally like hanging out with old friends even though we'd only met a few hours before. We finally decided it was time to leave when Leroy dragged their special pool cues out and decided to hit the bars across the street. Before he left, they pulled out the raspberry moonshine. It was in an old jar and looked frighteningly potent. They kept trying to get us to join in. Nope - that wasn't going to happen. Ted: "C'mon, you only live once." Me: "Yeah - and I wanna keep livin'". Ted: "Do you drink any?" Me: "Nope." Ted: "Oh -then never mind. You shouldn't have any of this. It'll knock you out." Me: "Exactly". Amanda managed to escape too. Everyone else took swigs. Then one of the girls said, "You know the raspberries in it are hallucinogens 'cause they've been in there so long..."

Again I say - yikes!

Leroy grabbed the moonshine and his pool cue re-energized. We said our goodbyes to them. I told Stephen we were going to take off. He thanked us for coming out almost as profusely as I thanked him for having us. Amanda and I got our pics taken with Shooter (Can you tell how exhausted I am from the pic?) and we started to leave. I heard Stephen in the background to Ted, "Where's the moonshine? Did Leroy take it with him? Leroy with moonshine roaming around at 2 in the morning is dangerous. Well, they won't let him in anywhere with it so maybe we'll be alright."

Amanda and I got in sometime around 2:30 or 3 am. And I was beat. It was definitely another experience. I hope we get to spend some more time with this crew of flat-out rock and rollers and the people who try and keep 'em safe.

Thanks to everyone involved!

And by the way - the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was slightly overcast, warm and completely comfy! Those of you that stayed home instead of an evening out chose poorly!


 

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Friday April 21, 2006
 

 

 

Today was kind of frustrating. I edited all of my photos of Miranda Lambert from last night. Instead of just uploading them to Retna like usual, I had to send them all to her publicist, who had to send them to her management to get approval on all images from them and (ahem) her Mom. Her publicist, Kathy, was great about it all. She did her best to get it all done promptly and efficiently. Unfortunately, by the time I had to get on the road to SC, I still hadn't heard back.

And I'm starting to second guess this whole trip for tomorrow too. Now they're saying the weather's going to be miserable with horrible thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes...all day...until about midnight. Yeah - that's good fun for all. I swear sometimes I think that somehow all of that equipment outdoors attracts big storms.

Oh well - I've done this enough to know that even if they say it's going to be terrible and unbearable, it'll probably be OK. Still - it's a little harder to do the big trip with a washout as a possibility.

We didn't get back to SC until nearly 10 o'clock. And tomorrow's a work day.


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Thursday April 20, 2006

Miranda Lambert's Mom approved this pic...begrudgingly. (See next week for details.)

 

 


In the afternoon, I had class again. This one was with Henry Glasscock (concert promoter) and Will Green (Georgia Theatre) and it was all about promotion and setting up live events. This one came in handy. It's always good to hear what people look for in live acts and both of these guys were up front and to the point. Will was the guy that booked us into the Georgia Theatre last year on a Tuesday night. I remember when he called and asked. I said, "Man, there's no way we can bring a crowd out to the Theatre (holds 800 people) on a Tuesday night in the summer." He said, "Me either. So how 'bout this? I won't get mad at you if no one shows up and you don't get mad at me." So we played it. The promo shots that we usewere taken backstage that night. And we played to a nearly empty room. Will said he just liked us and wanted us to play. So we played to and for him.

In the evening, I went to try out my new D-200 in a live environment for the first time. Rising country star Miranda Lambert was in town (at the Georgia Theatre and promoted by Henry Glasscock). I'd been in contact with her people and they made me sign an agreement before they'd clear me. They also require artist approval on all images. Still - I needed to practice before my big Shooter Jennings / 3 Rivers shoot this weekend so I went out. The camera worked beautifully. I can't believe how this thing handles light. The picture you see was taken in he back of the room from a balcony in club lighting. And it's that clear, bright and clean.

I only got to shoot 2 songs so I took off after I was done. I think the shoot was a success. I can't wait to try some more.


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Wednesday April 19, 2006

 

 


 

Wow! I just checked the web stats for Concert Shots. How are so many people finding out about it? It looks like in 5.8 days this week, I had 1.8 million hits. Jeez, that's kind of scary. I guess I need to put up a C'mon, Accept Your Joy ad and try to maybe sell one or two CD's that way. How stupid would I be to not take advantage of it? The ads I've put up (serviced by Google) have already sent 42,000 people to check out those products. I gotta get 'em on mine! No wonder record companies and publicists are starting to contact me to do stuff for Concert Shots and not the print mags I contribute to!

Frank and I got together in the afternoon today and worked up another one of my new numbers. This one's the only flat out rocker in the batch. It's called "Happy Here And Now". I remember finishing it up while watching the GRAMMY's this year. It's a hard song and Frank stepped up and got it quick. I was impressed. I'm telling you...I can't express how much I'm looking forward to these songs becoming regulars in the set list.

Also, my Drive-By Truckers CD review went out with today's issue of Flagpole. You can read the full review by clicking here. I didn't think they'd run a critical piece on DBT in Flagpole to be honest. I figured one of their many other fans would write a glowing puff piece on 'em. I certainly didn't figure they'd turn my review into a cover story with the headline (which I didn't write) "New DBT Album: A Stumble At Last". Hmmmm...don't get me wrong, I still do like the album but to my ears, it just ain't as good as the last few. Before the day was over, I had a personal email directly from the DBT camp. It just said something like "Didn't like the new album, huh?" No - I did like it - just not as much. The Drive-By Truckers are simply one of the best bands on the planet and absolutely my all-time favorite Athens band (maybe R.E.M. would be runner-up - or Q-Sign). Enough explaining - I think the review can speak for me just fine. I love DBT just as much as I did before the new album. And I'll love 'em even more when the next masterpiece comes out.


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Tuesday April 18, 2006

Eddie's Attic founder Eddie Owen tells all about how to get your hands dirty in the music club business.

 

 

 


Today was another UGA music business class. Eddie Owen founded one of the most important clubs in the Atlanta area. For those of you not familiar with the area, Eddie's Attic is a songwriter-centric "listening room". It's mostly acoustic and possibly the highest quality (in terms of consistency) club in the South. John Mayer pretty much built his career around this room when he was living in Atlanta.

What I liked best about Eddie was that he was so very soft-spoken and likeable, yet he was firm and direct about everything. He sugar coated nothing. That's what this class needs. Since I'm not planning on running a club there wasn't as much as I could personally put to use today but I still learned a lot. Sooner or later, it'll come in handy.

Of course, the thing that most impressed me (what with my raging ego and all) was the fact that when I did the trade shot with him and the heads of the class, he knew exactly who I was by name and trade - even though I've never shot at his venue! Now I feel like I've gotta get out there. See - that's a good businessman for ya.

By the way, the pic you see to your left is from the first batch with the new camera. I can't say I've got it all down pat yet but it looks promising. The images aren't as razor sharp as the D-100 but everything else is so phenomenally better that I can't even describe it! Apparently, the sharpness issue is intentional and is supposed to be more natural than the other sensors. I guess "Unsharp Mask" will become a friend of mine in Photoshop...

Amanda had her class in Atlanta tonight so I was on my own again. I took the chance to finish up a song that Frank started. He called it "Navigating My Sweater" and I used that phrase to come up with an idea for the song. It's basically the lyrical flip side of "Give Up Town" and as of tonight, it has the much less interesting (but more appropriate) title "Something More." Tonight's demo was just acoustic and lyrics but I believe this one's got a lot of commercial potential and could be another live favorite if I can flesh it out right. So the DeFreese / McKay train is still a-rollin'...


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Monday April 17, 2006

 

 


Hmmmm...perhaps this wasn't such a good idea.

I was supposed to spend today catching up this diary. It didn't happen. Y'see, I've been distantly considering upgrading my camera for a little while now. Plus the fact is, I really need a backup camera (as was evidenced at the '05 Music Midtown). Still - I've been waiting. Not the least of the reasons for waiting is the fact that I had to pay for the majority of C'mon, Accept Your Joy last year and a slew of other band related expenses. Add to that the fact that so far in '06, I've made ten times less than last year (due again partially to band obligations taking precedence over shoots) and you can see what I mean.

And yet when I was stumbling 'round the internet looking for deals (which I do occasionally whether or not I'm looking), I found a Nikon D-200 for below list price. This is probably the most in demand camera in the world right now. Virtually every retailer is back ordered for 3-4 months. According to photo guru Ken Rockwell "The D200 is so popular that Nikon can't make as many of them as they have orders. Just like any hot new digital camera, they are so popular at first that there are usually waiting lists. Nikon's not slow - they just have a zillion more orders than they can make cameras. Your store can't really tell you when to expect your order, since the store is waiting for Nikon to get the cameras to them." He also adds, "My new D200 is the best digital camera I've ever owned."

Yep. So I ordered one for pick up despite the fact that I don't really have the coupla grand (after taxes and accessories) now. One thing that helped me decide to go ahead was the fact that every single time I've ever invested in an upgrade, I've somehow managed to make the money back plus a profit within a couple of months. Let's pray I can do it again.

After Amanda got home from work, I talked her into driving the 60 or so miles to get the thing. When we got there it was a mess. They had the camera ready but my expensive "fix it plan" was not. I wasn't about to take the thing out of the store without my insurance on it so we waited around and got jerked around by people in person and on the phone. Finally, we got it and got out of there. Amanda lost a big chunk of her evening. We didn't even get back in 'til after 9 pm.

I plugged the battery in to charge and settled into 24, already in progress. I can't believe I dropped that dough. Let's just hope my recent exclusive portrait shoots with Elefant and Editors bring in a few bucks. And let's hope I can get some more potentially profitable gigs lined up soon...

Click here for last week with Ron Simpson, the big ol' UGA business class shindig in Atlanta and endless ramblin'.


 

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