| Sunday May 21, 2006
The Flaming Lips point out the obvious during their closing cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" on Sunday night.
Today is one of those days that just can't be fit into a diary entry. I wish you'd have been there. Heck, I wish I could even just show you all the photos but there's no way. At least you can see the live shots if I ever get Concert Shots updated. Let's just say it's been an incredible weekend for live music. I did find some video clips at You Tube. I'll link those to my entries.
I did my usual Sunday morning chat with my Grandmother while editing last night's World Party shots. After lunch, Amanda and I headed on back to Atlanta for the 3rd day in a row, which isn't exactly easy on the gas budget. There's was no way I could miss today. I've only been fortunate enough to see the Flaming Lips once and it was the club version of their show. I was blown away but I've always wanted to see the BIG version. Add to that the fact that Big Star is playing and it was a no-brainer. For those of you who don't know, they are one of the most influential power pop bands of all time (probably THE most influential). They never broke into the mainstream but they have lasted. They're most famous now for "In The Street" which wound up as the theme to That 70's Show. Their song "Thirteen" was also Eric and Donna's "love theme." Even though founding member Chris Bell died in the late 70s, frontman Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens revived the Big Star brand in the late 90s for an occasional show here and there. To let you know how special this is, they only have about 3 more shows on the books for the rest of '06 and only one of 'em is on US soil. I've always wanted to see 'em but figured I'd never get a chance. Besides, they couldn't possibly be as good as they're supposed to be, right? Well, today was the day to find out.
But not before checking out a tiny bit of The Gourds who were playing when we got there. They were OK but didn't do much for me. I wound up wandering around backstage trying to set up trade shots for Skipper (my onsite laison). The Flaming Lips were actually already onsite. Wayne Coyne was wandering around in his stage clothes. I was blown away by just hands-on those guys really were. Not only did he personally get all of the effects together, the other guys in the band set up all their own equipment and soundchecked for themselves. Who'd a thunk it?
De La Soul took the stage and disappointed me. They had a lot of energy but didn't come across nearly as well as I thought they would. It was your typical rap show full of crowd baiting and "I can't hear you's" with not much else. The only rappers that I've ever seen that can tear an audience apart is Kanye West. He's amazing live. Outkast, too. The rest...well, let's just say that rap isn't at its peak onstage.
It was hot by now. I'd forgotten how fast the heat can catch up with you. I was out shooting from the crowd when BAM, I was suddenly weak. I had to run to the VIP area and get some cold water. I drank (water) the rest of the day to keep hydrated and I was fine after that.
Since De La Soul wasn't cutting it, Amanda and I walked back over to the CNN Mall to grab an early dinner. On the way, we ran into Caren West of CWPR, Jonathan Baker from Second Shift and Molly Sandman from Live Nation. And these were just the first friends we stumbled across in this crowd.
After dinner, we made our way back through the crowd. Athens' The Whigs were on the side stage but I didn't feel like fighting the throngs of scenesters to get close enough to shoot them. A few minutes later I ran into Jeff Clark from Stomp & Stammer Magazine. I told him what I didn't do and he said, "I'll get you a gun to shoot them." I don't think Jeff's a fan of The Whigs.
I went into the pit to await the arrival of Big Star. I noticed some guy that looked like Sam from Quantum Leap sitting underneath one of the Flaming Lips' confetti cannons. Well, he looked like him but in a much darker, cooler way. Then suddenly it dawned on me. That's Alex freakin' Chilton from Big Star. He was just sitting there in all white smokin' the heck out of a cigarette. So I started photoing him. I got some cool candid, almost film-noir type shots of him. He noticed. He stared down the camera but he didn't complain or move away. It's rare for me to do that kind of borderline papparazi thing but it's Alex Chilton and he's notoriously press-shy. Well, I got him anyway.
Pretty soon the rest of the guys (featuring Ken and Jon from The Posies filling in on guitar and bass) came out and off we went. I can't really describe how cool it was to hear all these songs. Each one sent a jolt of recognition and appreciation through the cooler-than-thou crowd and through me. I loved it. Here's the set as it was written on Alex's list.
1. In The Street
I can't vouch for which alternates actually got played as I was backstage part of the time doing candids with the Flaming Lips but I did hear "Mine Exclusively" right at the end.
During the show, I noticed Lee Valentine Smith from the Atlanta Creative Loafing in the VIP side stage area so I had to go talk to him. It's been a while since we've crossed paths and he's always been somewhat of a kindred spirit. Later, he introduced me to one of the guys from Five-Eight. He was too kind with his compliments to me but it was appreciated greatly even if I did almost blush a couple of times.
During Big Star's set, I also stumbled across Bill from Team Clermont and Dan Nolte from Timber. Yes, this was clearly the scene to make today. I think more of Athens was in Centennial Olympic Park than in Clarke County on this fine Sunday afternoon.
Near the end of Big Star's set, I was summoned backstage. While waiting to do a trade shot, I had a nice little talk with Michael from the Flaming Lips. Then I did a few candid portraits and trade shots with them and the Southern Comfort people while Big Star finished off their set. I wish I could've seen the finale but hey, considering what I was doing, I can't complain.
By the way, the blue links you're about to see are links to video clips of this very performance of which I'm about to speak. I stumbled across 'em at YouTube.com. I thought this might be an added "bonus" to my diary. Not only can you read about it but you can see it and hear it. So anyway - back to the show. And if you want to check it out for yourself, click on the links, baby!
So I watched as the Lips prepared, set up their own gear and soundchecked. Backstage, Jeff Clark from Stomp And Stammer accosted Wayne Coyne from the Lips and asked if he could be one of the costumed on-stage people. Lo and behold, he wound up as an alien.
There was also a whole bunch of Santa Clauses and they all escorted Wayne in his giant bubble through the crowd in a parade led off by a bizarre monarch butterfly creature (Talk about a monarch, he even had a crown). When Wayne went on stage, he asked the crowd if they'd seen his parade outside of stage right. "Nooo" a lot of people called from stage left. So he had 'em bring the bubble back out onstage. He climbed in and was pushed by security out over the crowd. For about 5 minutes, he rode the crowd, being knocked over everytime he tried to stand. He had a huge smile on his face. When the bubble landed back on the stage, everything went crazy. The band kicked into "Race For The Prize", Wayne started swinging his light, confetti and streamers began flying and the Santas and Aliens danced madly (with a little help from Captain America and Spiderman). I was in the press pit. It was a madhouse and the most fun I've had at a show in years. You'd think they'd settle into the show after that. Nope, it just kept on peaking. Next, they did a note-for-note run through of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that had the crowd singing along. It was amazing. Queen didn't even perform the operatic part live, they used tapes. The Lips did it all. It was amazing. I no longer feel gyped that I never saw Queen do it. Other highlights included the "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and a moving finale of "Do You Realize?" that...well, made me realize just who and where I was in that moment. And it was a peaceful feeling. I was glad Amanda was beside me.
The one encore was a cover of Sabbath's "War Pigs" that had footage of Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney on the big screen behind 'em. At the beginning of it Wayne urged the crowd to sing along. He said something to the effect of "It won't change anything but it'll make us feel better." And it did.
The Flaming Lips never cease to make me feel great. I love 'em. The world needs 'em and you just might, too...even if you don't know it.
Here's their full set...and yes, I repeat, clicking on the blue links will play video of this very performance.
1. Ta Da!
I was covered in confetti when it was over. Amanda had streamers streaming behind and wrapped around her. We had been to another Flaming Lips show. Wow!
I'm not usually one for these big corporate sponsored shows but this one was amazing. It was free. It was a beautiful warm summer night with great music framed by the Atlanta skyline.
This show was brought to you by Southern Comfort.
| Saturday May 20, 2006
Karl Wallinger of World Party relearned how to speak so he could play this show in Atlanta. To my ears, it was worth it!
Editing from last night took up my morning. The focus issues are really getting me down. I should be more excited than ever about shooting but it just ain't so. I have to remind myself that it's a temporary problem. Then everything will be better than it's ever been. Won't it?
I also couldn't help but thinking about some friends of mine back home in SC that are having a life-altering time these days. I can't really be more specific without potentially invading privacy but suffice it to say that their lives and therefore mine and Amanda's are changed in a significant way as of a few days ago. For what it's worth, I support "the change". I truly believe it's for the best for everyone concerned. It doesn't make it any less tense and difficult, though. I'm thinking of 'em and I'm here if they need me. I hope they know that.
Amanda (who has recently become a "real actor" now that she has an agent) was off all day shooting her part for the 48-Hour Film Festival. I decided to wait for her instead of going on to the shoot at Centennial Park without her. I just really wanted her there if there was anyway possible. So I ditched on shoot one for today. I still made shoot two thanks to Amanda getting home by about 5 pm. We grabbed a quick dinner at the mall and hit the road. We got to Little 5 Points early and just decided to stroll around the neighborhood. For some reason, with her by my side and a couple of great nights of music ahead, I was more relaxed and at peace than I have been in 3 years. We strolled around and looked in vintage clothes shops, bought orchids from a peddler and listened to a punk band on the corner. What a hipster corner of the world for two geeks such as ourselves to be stumbling through.
We got back to Variety Playhouse and still had a lot of time to kill. I was surprised that there was almost no one there. We found a pair of seats in the front row behind the tables (about 15 - 20 feet from the stage) and settled in. Clay Harper was on stage soon enough. While his set was the perfect opener for this evening, I was terrified by the utter lack of light. I knew it would be kind of a low key event but this was rough. Still, I enjoyed Clay's sardonic, bitter but funny Squeeze-like pop.
I'd come to see World Party, though. They're one of my cult faves. I consider them along the lines of Jellyfish or Big Star (we'll get to them tomorrow). And I'm just so glad to know that Dumbing Up (the "new" album) is out FINALLY. You can read my review of it here. It was 'sposed to be released and supported back in 2000. The fact that "Another 1000 Years" is the opener should be the hint. But the man that IS World Party, Karl Wallinger, had a massive aneurysm around that time and it took 6 years to get it out and about. In the meantime, he had his head sawn in half and had to relearn to speak and play from the reports I've heard. So his appearance tonight was a minor miracle in a way. And what a set list. Personally, I would've loved to have heard a Dumbing Up heavy set but I think most of the people there preferred what he gave them...a greatest "hits" set. It was stripped down to Karl (alternating between guitar and piano), a violinist and a second guitarist. No drums, no bombast. Just songs. And what amazing songs they were. The melodies and depth of the lyrics floored me for the duration. What a nice, relaxing night. It's times like this that I'm reminded how lucky I am.
1. Message In The Box
| Friday May 19, 2006
Family Force Five rocks the key-tar in Atlanta.
My day was the same ol' day I've lived over and over. Only this time I did it today.
Amanda and I took off toward Atlanta late this afternoon. Since she's got such a hectic weekend with shooting for the 48-Hour Film Festival tomorrow and I have photo shoots for all 3 nights of the weekend, we decided to make this as close as we could get to a little time together. So we took our sweet time getting to the Roxy for the Southern Comfort Music Experience VIP Party. On the way, we swung by a Provino's in Duluth for an amazing Italian dinner. Then we leisurely made our way downtown while listening to a Mr. Bungle soundboard bootleg from 1991.
When we got there, we got ourselves re-acquainted with some of the security guards. Everyone keeps asking where we've been. I keep using the band as my main excuse but honestly, that hasn't been taking nearly as much of my time as it SHOULD be. I have been working on it - just without the other guys. We're too scattered right now.
On the stage when we got in was Northern State. They came across to me as a female Beastie Boys...or should I just call 'em the Beastie Girls. They were alright but it was certainly nothing special or innovative. If they were guys, it would've been embarrassing. I don't know why that made a difference but it did. They played to an extremely sparse crowd. But then it was an invite only party and it was early yet. We met up with Skipper from the festival and got our credentials for the weekend. He was such a cool guy. He rolled out the red carpet for us and even gave Amanda a media pass. Then he gave us a fistful of drink tickets. I told him I was driving but he insisted that I at least take 'em (as long as I didn't drink too much). Amanda went and got a SoCo / Sprite mix. I took a couple of sips. It was actually pretty darn good.
Between bands, I spent a good bit of time catching up with Adam Smith. He and I used to cross paths a lot more often (usually at Drive-By Truckers shows). Tonight, he was the official photog. It's a gig I would've loved but couldn't have done. My weekend's too crazy to be open for all of it.
Next on stage was Family Force 5. They're an Atlanta band that bridges the gap between Motley Crue and Linkin Park (if that makes any sense). They're becoming a bit of a regional buzz band at the moment and even if I don't like 'em much personally, I can see why. They know how to put on a show. I didn't remember any songs five minutes after hearing them but I remembered that they were having a good time and so was their crowd (and there was one by this point). I get 'em. I wish 'em well. But it ain't my thing.
After I got enough shots of 'em, Amanda and I hit the highway. After all, this was our evening off, wunnit? We got in about 1 am...
Thursday May 18, 2006
I was doing a random web search for media mentions on the band and stumbled across this bizarre thing. It's so strange to think that someone on the other side of the world that I've never met would have been at this site listening to our songs. Very, very strange.
If you'd like to see it in an even stranger way, check this English "translation" out. Wow! I think I just sprained my brain trying to wrap it around the "skirt volume" and the "plate" on which it does not appear. So yeah - "Wide Bicycle" in Germany. Is there something mildly amusing about that or it just me?
I spent a chunk of my day dealing with the photos from the luncheon yesterday and getting the discs put together and mailed out.
By the way...
So what's wrong with white people?
Most of them don't even seem to know The Isley Brothers or even appreciate them. Anyone who doesn't is missing out on some of the best music to come out in the last half century. And they're still doing it. How many bands do you know that are STILL active and having hits that have been around long enough for The Beatles to have covered them on their first album in '62? None you say? Well, let me officially introduce you to The Isley Brothers. Dig into 'em and go beyond "Twist & Shout", "Who's That Lady?", "Footsteps In The Dark" and "Busted". If you're a music fan and haven't already, you're missing a wonderful, WONDERFUL slice of history. Jimi Hendrix even made his transition from blues guitarist to full-on psychedelice master while an accessory member of the Isleys in the mid-60s.
If you need any more motivation, here's their latest feat. This week the Isley Brothers "became the only group to score a Billboard hit in six consecutive decades since "Shout" became a hit in 1959."
From Billboard Chart Beat:
May 18, 2006, Fred Bronson THIS OLD CHART OF MINE: The latest album from the Isley Brothers, "Baby Makin' Music" (Def Soul Classics/Def Jam), is also chart-making music. The CD debuts at No. 5 on The Billboard 200, immediately qualifying as the act's fifth most successful album of all time in a chart career dating back 43 1/2 years.
If you don't have any Isleys in your collection, get some. Just listen to Ernie wail and you'll know who I'm trying to emulate first and foremost in my quitar solos...
| Wednesday May 17, 2006
The media fervently awaits an announcement on where the next Darlings show will be...or not.
Today I jumped back into the "Official Photographer" game. I've been hired for the Star Fest Concert on July 17. It's cool (especially that Marcie Allen Cardwell asked me to do it personally) but it's also sad in a way. Why? Well, because a couple of years ago this would've been just the show on one side of the street on any given Friday in Atlanta. This year - it's one of the biggest events in town. And even the lineup is just like a regular (if extended) On The Bricks show would've been a couple of years ago. Still, I'm thrilled to actually be a part of it. Today, I had to go shoot the media luncheon and official announcement of who's playing. It was held in this surreal part of Atlanta that's like a movie set. It's a whole new section of town. And it's so clean and neat and new that it doesn't seem real. It's a self-sustaining and totally contained "neighborhood" called Atlantic Station. And while it's weird and almost Stepfordian, it's a wonderful place as far as I can tell (if you can find your way around). The actual concert will take place there, too.
The best part of this event for me was seeing a lot of my old Mad Booking and 360 Media friends. There's always something comforting about them. It's like a whole troop of friends that I only see in certain situations. And it's been too long. As for the announcement, it looks like Train and Pink will be the headliners along with Nickel Creek, Aqualung and locals like The Whigs and my friends Beyond Tomorrow. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish we were playing. But we weren't just named a "band to watch in '06" by Rolling Stone (like The Whigs were) and we also didn't open for Bon Jovi like Beyond Tomorrow did a few months back.
I did the shoot but my D-200 problems have not gone away. There definitely seems to be a focus issue and as much as I hate to say it, I think I'm going to have deal with Nikon over it. It's such an amazing camera. But this is looking to be an insurmountable problem.
In the evening, Amanda chose a bootleg DVD to watch. She chose The Cars in '84 or '85 during the Heartbeat City tour. The set list was great but (ahem) they didn't exactly light up the stage with their personality. It was cool to see but I certainly can't say this one'll go in my list of favorites.
| Tuesday May 16, 2006
I gotta lot of backed up Diary done today. I also got the show report for May 5 finally done. But not before accidentally deleting the April 1 show report! Oof! And no, I don't really have it all backed up outside of the server that it's uploaded to. I need desperately to do that...and soon. I've been cruising too easily and I've got a feeling I'm asking for trouble. I've been very lucky so far. Let's hope it continues for a while longer.
Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, I managed to salvage the 4/1 show report it by using the "cache" feature of search engines. I couldn't find it in the Google cache so I made a last effort attempt and looked in Yahoo's search cache. Guess what! It was there! Woo hoo!
Monday May 15, 2006
Well, I got a lotta lot done today. Concert Shots is ready to be updated photo-wise. I'd really like to get a couple of actual reviews in there, too but we'll see. My time is so fractured these days...
I also got my Art Brut photos into Pollstar. For some reason, they seem not to be publishing that many of my shots all of a sudden. A couple of months ago, I had one in at least every other issue and I wasn't shooting that much. I've been shooting more lately and getting less published (even though the pics are better). "And it makes me wonder..."
By the way, I'm sure you've been losing sleep wanting to know the answer to my CD burn issues, right? Well, my revelation proved to be correct. It was the discs. I have now put a ban on MEMOREX media. I've been using them almost for years and not realizing that ALL of the media issues I've had have sprung from them. Whether it be with my standalone or computer burners. MEMOREX sucks. If you care about your music and don't want to deal with pointless issues, stay the heck away from 'em.
In 24 hours, I've gone from it taking 20 minutes to burn a CD to 3 minutes flat. I wonder how many hours of my life have been wasted waiting for Memorex CD's to finish or crash. No more. Stay away from Memorex. You've been warned. Just because you don't think you're having a problem with 'em doesn't mean that you're not. I know. I didn't think I was until yesterday...
Since I have some big shoots coming up, I went ahead and ordered backup batteries for the D-200. I wound up getting a very solid deal on massively back-ordered batteries from Cameta Camera in New York. They're the most dependable, fast store I've ever had to deal with. And they back up everything. I'll probably have the batteries in hand by my shoot this weekend if my past dealing with them are any indication.
I also got the word that we'll be opening for the The WHOligans on June 30 at the Georgia Theatre. Man, it'll be cool getting up on that big stage again. Thanks to Larry Tenner tipping me off about the gig, I approached Wil Green at the Theatre and asked him point blank if we could get in on the show. He said he thought it was a great idea and cleared it with the headliners for us. So it's on. We'll skew heavy that night. Here's hoping that it's the new lineup's version of the Zoso gig that we did in our infancy. Of course, it'll be the summer in Athens so there won't be nearly as many people but it could still be a killer gig. And a great chance to be seen by people who might really "get" and "dig" what we're doing. C'mon out if you can. It ain't the same ol' show...