| Sunday August 13, 2006
Today, I got together with Joe and Mike. I didn't really want to do it but they both (wisely) wanted to do whatever we can. I knew we should do it but I'm just feeling discouraged because of all of the stupid stuff.
We tried. We got through. Without bass, it sounded shrill and ridiculous. "We need Frank here" is all I kept thinking. The three of us did play well even though Mike's hand is still hurting badly from his recent injury. As always, he's going above and beyond what he probably should be doing.
I'm still wondering if the band is done. I know I have other musical options. I know there are other people out there. The thing is that I want these people to work, though. Like I've said a 1000 times, I know what we're capable of and I really, REALLY want to explore it.
But unless we can get everyone together in the same place, I just don't see how we can keep it moving forward with this lineup. I still have hope but it's fading with every day of progress that we lose from waiting for the planets to align.
| Saturday August 12, 2006
Yep, it's true. I finally got it updated. So check it out to see pics and reviews of Flaming Lips, Big Star, De La Soul, Aretha Franklin, Shooter Jennings, Pat Green, Julie Roberts, Editors, Stellastarr*, Art Brut, The Robocop Kraus, Family Force 5, Northern State and World Party. There are also new CD reviews!
That's the good news for the day. The rest has been incredibly frustrating. I got a call at about 9 am from Frank asking what time rehearsal was. All I could say was, "It's Saturday. You said you couldn't do Saturday." He responded that when he spoke to Mike earlier in the week that Mike said he couldn't do it Sunday so Frank re-arranged everything with his job to be able to come out today instead. Hmmm...that's not what I'd been told. If Frank had simply let been in touch, this wouldn't be an issue. Needless to say, I was aggravated instantly. Frank also said he'd tried to call Mike and couldn't get him. I hung up with Frank and called Mike. I got him on the first try. Mind you, I was pretty po'd. Mike was too. Y'see, Mike had rearranged his whole weekend (as had I) so that we could get together around Frank's schedule TOMORROW. There's no way Mike could come up today now. Frank's on his way to Athens and can't stay for rehearsal tomorrow. I can't find Joe to get his opinion. I'm about at my final straw. And I still say that it's all because of the long distance crap. If EITHER Frank OR Mike lived locally, we could've rearranged things and gotten something done for EITHER yesterday or today. But with a 6-hour round trip for the two of them, it's simple math that prevents the band from rehearsing and getting anything done.
It's gotta change.
Frank got here just after lunch time. I kind of let him have it when he got in. I wasn't mean but I laid it on the line. I told him that there's nothing else I can do to make this work and as it is it's not working. It's on him now. The band's survival will depend almost solely on him getting back here. He still seems out of sorts. He's had a rough few months. But the truth is, he's in a different life than he was then. The worse part is that he's now in danger of losing one of the only things he's got left that he says he cares about in order to hold on to pieces of a life that are gone. Granted, that's totally my opinion but Frank's one of (if not currently) THE closest friends I've ever had. It hurts me to see him like this. He's not thinking things through. He's wearing himself down and I can't see what he's doing it to gain. I don't know if he knows either.
Since Frank was here, I caught Joe at home and he dropped things to come on out and rehearse with the 2 of us. Joe did good. Frank did okay and so did I. All I could keep thinking is how much I appreciated Joe's devotion and time. This stupid mistake blew his Saturday afternoon. He's worked his butt off to get 18 songs into a workable place and the other 3 of us can't even seem to get a rehearsal scheduled. If I were him, I'd be starting to wonder if the other 3 of us were also known as Larry, Moe and Curly. It's all a matter of priorities.
For dinner, Amanda, Frank, Joe, his lady April, Amanda and I went to the site of the formation of the Critical Darlings. We had an okay dinner at TransMet. This was our first time meeting April. She passed my test for her with flying colors. She'd mentioned liking Tom Petty so I asked her "What's Tom Petty's best album?". She instantly replied "Wildflowers". I said, "That is correct!". Amanda thought it was a bit rude. Maybe it was. But I was proud of April and it's always good to have another person around with great musical taste!
On the way out, Frank walked with us part of the way back to our car. In the end, he just kind of kept walking when we stopped at the Saturn. He didn't even seem to notice at first that we weren't still walking with him. I yelled to him but only got a slight nod back. Very odd and more than a little disconcerting.
I just don't know, man. I just don't know.
| Friday August 11, 2006
I'm still worked up about the show last night. It's got me in a really strange state of mind. The exhaustion doesn't help. It's weird. I feel like I really need to make a stand but I don't know where to stand. I know how I feel. I think both sides are wrong in the way they're handling things but if I'm going to choose a side, I'll err on the side of truth / knowledge / privacy / peace / safety and thinking things through.
Hmmm...that doesn't make anything clearer, does it?
I wound up in a fairly long conversation with CSNY's publicist Susan. It was a great talk. Unfortunately, I can't use my images for anything except Flagpole, Pollstar and Concert Shots but that's all that matters to most of you, eh? I'd really love to help spread the word about how divided we actually are in the hopes that we can begin the reunion sooner than later...before it's too late.
Thinking about the situation is hard for me these days. I feel like everyone's losing. I have these gut feelings that this is IT. This is the beginning of the big thing that everyone has feared since the '40s. I believe most people feel that way but in the '00s, we can distract ourselves from it. There's comfort in that but there's also inaction. And that can ultimately make things much worse for all concerned. I've got a lot to think about and work out for myself. It's just I know too much for my own good but not enough for you (or something).
Joe came over again in the afternoon. He's more or less back on his game today I'm happy to say. We're both looking forward to getting together this weekend with the full band and seeing what's up. He's got 18 songs pretty much ready to go. That's amazing considering the fact that the 4 of us have yet to play them in the same room at the same time!
Remember all the trouble I've been having with Retna? Well, I got a couple of emails regarding it today. One was from my friend Daniel who also shoots for them. He verified that he, too, has been having problems with his work. I also got a mysterious email from someone at Retna named Sarah who offered to help. I responded to her. We'll see if anything's forthcoming.
Amanda's out again so I finished watching that early Queen show tonight. It was good one...but nothing compares to what they became later. Although, "In The Lap Of The Gods Revisisted" should have been done at every show they ever played. It's easily one of my absolute favorites of theirs.
Thursday August 10, 2006
Nash, Stills, Young and Crosby declare peace on Atlanta...and lose a chunk of their crowd in the process.
I feel so, so bad today. It's just exhaustion but it's profound. The only thing really inspiring today is that one of my Editors pics is up at Pollstar. It's not a big deal but since they're my favorite new band of the year (so far?), I'm thrilled to be able to help spread the word about 'em.
Amanda had to leave work a little early to get out to tonight's shoot. Show time was 7:30. We left with plenty of time to get there, eat and get in. Unfortunately, just about everything went wrong. And feeling bad only made everything worse. It rained for most of the trip. By the time we got through a couple of traffic jams, the storm had turned into one of the most intenst thunderstorms I've ever been in. I saw several towers struck by lightning. Stoplights and power were out in several sections of downtown. We finally got to the little backroad that we take to get to the Philips Arena area. I had about 10 minutes to get there. Lo and behold a train is there, slowly making its way across. We sat there for about 5 minutes (it felt like 30) waiting. For the second time this week, Amanda had to drop me off at the door and then go park on her own.
Backstage, Stephen Stills was milling around. Then David Crosby came through. He was very nice this time, even asking how I was doing. The last time I encountered him backstage he looked like he wanted to personally kill me and everyone else in the building. Obviously, I had a bad impression of him. He made up for it tonight. I didn't see Graham tonight but I did spend a bit of time with him a few years back at Music Midtown when I did some portraits of him and his wife with Tony Bennett. He was totally cool. I've never encountered Neil one on one and it wasn't gonna happen tonight either.
I was feeling worse and worse. I'd had nothing to eat on top of no sleep for the better part of a week. We got in to the arena and just stood around for awhile. The storm was bad enough that while inside a crowded arena with drums and guitars soundchecking at full volume, I could hear thunder and even feel it shaking the building!
As with all shoots where Neil Young's involved, it wasn't an easy one. We were jammed in on the side of the floor but were able to get enough to count. I finally got some shots of each of them that I really like. Too bad that I (once again) can only use 'em for a couple of my outlets! The opening songs were Neil's new "Flags Of Freedom" followed by the classic "Carry On". We were escorted out as "Wooden Ships" began. We were told that our tickets were upstairs so we went up there only to encounter a couple of quite rude box office types who let me know that there were no tickets for me. Seeing as how the marketing person for Philips had just told me differently, I had 'em call her. The box office people looked disappointed when Anne-Marie walked around to personally give us our tickets. Screw those window dwellers. And thanks to Anne-Marie, Holli and Molly for always looking out for me so that I don't have to worry about those people getting in the way!
By the time that was worked out, we had missed several songs. I went on to the seat to collapse and start taking notes while Amanda went to scrounge up whatever over-priced food she could find. When I got in, they were up to a slew of new Neil Young songs from his Living With War album. They are pretty intense songs protesting the war in Iraq and George W. Bush in general. I pretty much agreed with every word. For those of you tuning in late, I'm not a Democrat and I'm certainly not a Republican. I'm an American. And what I see from both sides has me disgusted. I don't, like many, think that CSN and especially Y should keep their opinions to themselves. I believe they should follow their muse, make their statements and be free to do so. If you don't agree with "Let's Impeach The President", don't buy the record. Don't come to the concerts. But don't pay good money to come see these people and expect them to be your jukebox and not speak their hearts and minds. Music is more than catchy ditties to some of us. I wanna know how the artist feels. I enjoy a Charlie Daniels concert and I enjoy a CSNY show. What shocked me tonight was not what came from the stage but what came from the audience.
The inside storm began with the song "Families". You can see virtually what we saw by clicking on the song title. It played on a video screen behind the band. Neil dedicated it to the troops fighting overseas and declared his sincere support for them. Here is what apparently passes for divisive lyrics in the America of 2006.
There was footage on the screen of American casualties and coffins. Footage that the US Government has decided that the average American shouldn't be allowed to see.
About halfway through the song, I heard a woman in front of me begin to get beligerent. She started yelling to the people around her, "I can't believe they'd dedicate this to our troops. How could they?" Then her voice blurred into a series of blubbering. At the end of the song, she stood up. "I'm leaving. How about you?" Her friends didn't get up. Then she yelled the same thing. Her friends got up slowly and began to leave.
As they walked out, a middle aged man wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the same row but on the other side of the aisle leaped to his feet pointing his finger at the stage and screamed, "If you don't know who the REAL enemy is, SHUT UP! This is World War III." So much for Freedom Of Speech '06 (as the tour has been branded). I couldn't help but notice that all of those people were on row 'W'.
They followed that with the classic "Deja Vu."
It was so obvious that this was echoing the previous song and asking how the US has wound up in a situation similar to Vietnam. Still, the ones who were so up in arms about the previous song just didn't get it. They smiled again and sang along...clueless because they grew up with this song and the words have lost their meaning. I felt sick.
Then came intermission, during which the Hawaiian shirt guy was nearly ranting and in tears. His wife tried to soothe him. "It's just a song", she said. But it's not. We all knew it. "Just a song" doesn't do that to people. This is much more powerful than that.
After too long of a break, they came back in various increments of 2 or 3 and played a wonderful semi-acoustic set that soothed the savage breast somewhat. Neil sang "Only Love Can Break A Heart", Graham did "Our House", Stephen did "Southern Cross" and David fronted "Guinevere."
Then it happened. The floodgated opened.
"Daylight again, following me to bed
I have to tell the truth. I was nearly overcome by this song. Especially by the line "When everyone's talkin' and no one's listenin', how can we decide?"
People began to boo this beautiful song. First by the dozens. Some didn't know what to do. They loved this song back when they were against Vietnam. They couldn't gauge their own feelings. Neither could I. I felt lost among a sea of lost people.
Hendrix's recording of "The Star Spangled Banner" began blaring from the PA as several people put up a giant microphone decorated with yellow ribbons.
This led into "Let's Impeach The President." In case the message was lost on anymore, the lyrics appeared on the screen karaoke style. Most sang along, worked up and feeling empowered. The Hawaaian shirt guy had enough. He jumped up and walked out muttering, leaving his wife behind without a word. She jumped up and followed as the lyrics went further.
"Let's impeach the President for lying
By the time it got to the verse about New Orleans, nearly every row in the arena was filled with people leaving. There were so many people leaving that it was a slow moving line out. As half the crowd booed, the other half cheered even louder. Some were even applauding that the ones protesting the protest were leaving. I just couldn't.
Stephen Stills didn't miss a beat, he punched back the boos with his Buffalo Springfield song "For What Its Worth".
I have never heard more timely and perfect lyrics for a single moment.
"There's something happening here
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down.
There's battle lines being drawn
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound?
Paranoia strikes deep
I looked, I saw and it hurt me. These aren't the red state, Toby Keith-loving people filing out, which by the way, I had a good time with at Keith's show a year ago. It seems that even the hippie, liberal CSNY crowd is totally split now.
We are splintered. We are breaking. If we don't find a way to be able to live with our differences, I fear what's being born during this era and where it will take us.
Graham Nash then added his two cents in the form of "Chicago."
"...In a land that's known as freedom
No one else can take your place.
Then David took his turn.
What Are Their Names?
"I wonder who they are
I heard some guy behind me yell "Neil Young must be a f*#!ing Muslim." The man kept yelling more and more inflammatory insults and finally had had enough. When he picked up, the whole row left with him, too.
To wound up the most emotionally draining concert that I've ever seen, Neil Young tore into a blistering version of "Rockin' In The Free World" that had more passion that I've heard onstage from anyone in years. It eventually devolved into a thundering, feedback laden cacophony that revealed itself slowly as "Taps."
I was blown away. I was disgusted that no artists of the younger generation have the guts to stand up and make a difference...or at least to try.
I was saddened that no one outside of this arena will experience this. Everyone needs to see this first hand to know where we are as a people. It was absolutely heart-wrenching, then heart-breaking.
By now, anyone left was a supporter so they chose a crowd-pleasing "Woodstock" as the sole encore. They all said their goodnights. Someone said "Thank you for coming." Neil then pointedly added, "Thank YOU for staying."
There's a power in Freedom Of Speech. Use it while you can. It's future's not looking too bright right about now. We're entering into a very, very confusing time. It's no longer a theory. I saw it first hand tonight. I can't imagine that it's going to automatically heal itself.
What are you going to do about it?
| Wednesday August 9, 2006
Today was a bit easier. I did some catching up. I got my vines updated and mailed out. In the evening, I backed up my hard drive through the month of May. While the computer was busy doing this, I got together with Joe. I should've been photographing Mariah Carey (I've actually never shot her) in Atlanta. I decided that rehearsing was more important even though Mariah's shots would've been the most in demand shots of any other shows in the near future or past. Joe admitted flat out that he hadn't been working as hard because of work he'd been doing around his still new home. He had slipped a bit (especially on "Give Up Town") but again, these songs aren't easy and he's still worked 'em up faster than anyone else. I can't believe he's retaining all that he is. He's doing great. I just hope one day someone gets a chance to see it!
Amanda's out in Atlanta again tonight with one of her acting gigs so after Joe left, I watched a couple of DVD's. I started out with When KISS Ruled The World. It's a great VH-1 documentary and the first one I've seen where all 4 original members really get to share their individual stories. It did a great job of showing all they did right AND wrong. It was amazingly honest to have come from a band who doesn't necessarily believe in reality.
After that, I tried to watch a Queen show from 1974. It's a killer show but I'm so exhausted that I fell asleep in the middle of it. Amanda got back around 1 am and even though I was too tired to stay awake and watch something, I was also too wired to sleep. Both of us had a long, restless night.
| Tuesday August 8, 2006
I spent my day editing again. Since I couldn't upload Steely Dan pics, you can only see my Michael McDonald pics at Wire Image today. I know, I know. But I'm good to put 'em on Concert Shots so you'll see 'em at some indeterminate time in the near distant future.
I heard from Mike and Frank both today. Mike said he could get together for rehearsal on Saturday only. Frank said he could get together on Sunday only. So that I wouldn't be the middle man, I told Frank (he was the last one I talked to) to set it up and make it happen. Whichever day it was, I'd rearrange to be there. Mike called back a little while later to tell me that they'd decided on Sunday because Frank couldn't possibly make it on Saturday. So Mike changed his whole weekend around to accomodate Frank. It sucks but at least we're scheduled. Mike's hand's still in bad shape. Here's hoping it heals quickly. We've got enough difficulties to contend with 'cause of this whole long distance band.
In the evening, Amanda's Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Vitas came through town. They'd driven down to Florida on a trip and decided to swing back through Athens on the way back to Chicago. I can't even remember the last time I saw them but it's been a while. We didn't have much time but we did show 'em The Double Barrelled Cannon (Vitas is a Civil War buff) on the way to dinner. And what a dinner! Vitas and Cynthia treated us to a wonderful meal at The Basil Press. I'm not usually a fan of this particular place but tonight was definitely an exception. The food and service was great. We also had fun catching up with a couple of family members we haven't seen in ages. It was a nice visit. I just wish we'd had more time to really do it right!
When we got home, Amanda and I watched the first two episodes of Gene Simmons' Family Jewels (which I taped last night while we were Danning Steel). I'm glad there's finally a reality show that turns things on its ear a bit. What? A rock star that doesn't drink, smoke OR do drugs? A rock star that's in a successful relationship with children that are well-adjusted and make good grades? Whaaaa???? Sure, there's the small matter of Simmons being completely arrogant and annoying to the everyday "don't rock the boat" mentality but to me that only adds to the intrigue. I must say, Gene seems like a great Dad and it's good to see his kids keeping him humble if only around the house!
Monday August 7, 2006
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan visually impersonates Ray Charles at Chastain Park.
Happy Birthday, Dad!
Every night lately I've been feeling this not-quite-inexpicable pull to go to a softball field. The temperature's right, that summer evening breeze is blowing.
It makes me want to go home.
And by home I mean back in time to when it was fully there. I want a cherry Sno-Cone, maybe some popcorn, a big hunk of bubble gum and a Coke. I want to lurk around the dugout, play under and around the stands, run off to the tennis court and on to that big tree near the Amtrak station. Then I'd run back behind and around the field to the playground. When I got back, maybe I'd even retrieve some bats.
Since that's apparently not an option, I spent my day doing the usual and trying not to dwell on the date too much. I remember my Dad always saying that his birthday was "just another day." So that's the way I treated it. I edited my MUSE / Cloud Room pics from last night and uploaded them to the WireImage server. You can see the images by clicking here. I also noticed one of my PINK pics was on the home page at Pollstar today. I took that as a good sign.
I wondered whether to stay in and just reminisce tonight but then I got clearance to cover a show. What would Dad have done?
I decided to get out and about. It only feels right on this date as there wasn't a single August 7 I can remember where I didn't have to track my Dad down just to wish him a "Happy Birthday."
Amanda and I ran late but we ran nonetheless. We got to Chastain Park just in time for me to photograph Michael McDonald's opening set. It was a soundboard shoot and I've never done that with the new camera (which has to be sent back yet again). Since it was daylight I was able to use the 2x and do alright. The humidity seemed to show up a bit as the images are ever-so-slightly hazy but they're usable. After the first couple of songs ("It Keeps You Running" and "I Keep Forgettin'" is what I seem to remember them being), I went back outside to get tickets and such. Amanda was waiting for me as she'd had to drop me off at the gate and go park. I've never seen Chastain this full. Michael McDonald and Steely Dan are the PERFECT act for this venue. Amanda simply told me she had to park further away than usual. We then went in and sat with Ira and his wife and daughter for the show. Michael McDonald is not exactly thrilling live but I will say that this was the most entertaining he's been of the 3 times I've seen him now. He cut loose a bit, especially once he got into that pile 'o' Motown covers. The crowd ate it up and sang along. His big finale was (of course), "Takin' It To The Streets".
Before shooting Steely Dan, we had to sign an agreement saying we wouldn't use the images for this, that OR the other. In other words, I won't be able to up them to WireImage which kind of sucks. Still, Amanda's never seen Steely Dan and they're such a particular experience that she needs to add them to her concert portfolio. Steely Dan is one of the best sounding bands in the world. They're pristine in fact. The problem is that there's no real spark or energy beyond the fact that they're performing the records in front of you. Their current drummer, Keith Carlock, is the exception. He's an amazing jazz style drummer that can tear up any other genre that gets in his way too. He's one of the best I've ever seen and watching and hearing him is always a pleasure.
The set list was typically frustrating for a passive fan. I love the Steely Dan songs that I love but the real fans love everything. I was glad to hear the best heroin-shooting song to ever grace the top 40 ("Time Out Of Mind") and the usual SD favorites ("Hey 19", "Kid Charlemagne", "Bodhisattva", "Deacon Blues", etc). I, personally, didn't need to hear the majority of Aja, although I was in the minority that held that opinion. The whole night I kept laughing at Donald Fagen's mannerisms and look. I think Ray Charles might need to be exhumed 'cause Donald Fagen's body may actually be in there. Maybe Ray's just having some fun with everyone 'cause it almost seemed like he was up there doing a Donald Fagen imitation with Walter Becker and crew tonight. If you had Ray Charles and Donald Fagen side by side, it'd be hard to tell them apart at 20 feet or more. It was rather odd.
The highlight of the whole night was when Michael McDonald came back out to play some of the songs he did with Steely Dan back in the '70s. "Peg" was cool to hear with McDonald doing his trademarked "deep yelps". He also sang a verse of "Do It Again" ("just like we did it in 1974"). As the crowd was so dense, Amanda and I decided to ditch at the main ending. We went and picked up my camera and heard the encore of "FM" as we walked by the school between the venue and the car.
I was thinking of the weather and my Dad again. I didn't know where Amanda had parked and she didn't quite seem to remember either. When we got there, what do you know? It was in the parking lot of a softball field. The game was long over but for some reason, the lights were still on. Even though we were in a hurry to beat the traffic, I had to stop, lean on the fence and look in over the field. I could smell the chalk lines and see the bugs flying around the lights. I blinked and I was very briefly home. I blinked again and came back to 2006.
Happy birthday, Dad!