| Sunday September 17, 2006
I got this pic in my email today of me and Frank taken at Tuesday's R.E.M. celebration. See. We were there! (Photo by and thanks to Daniel Pieken - see his full gallery from the show by clicking here.)
Needless to say, I'm beyond tired today. I don't do 4 a.m. as well as I once did. Still, I had my phone conversation with my Grandmother and got my photos edited before the band convened at my place for an acoustic rehearsal. It was definitely different. "Phony" is rather groovy this way thanks to some of Joe's jazzy chording. There's also a nice staccato vibe to some of them. 'Twas alright and the show next Friday is looking more and more interesting.
| Saturday September 16, 2006
R.E.M. arrives on the red carpet for their induction into the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame.
Ah, this day is one of the days that causes the uploading of this diary to be delayed. There's so much that I don't know what to try and shoehorn in vs. trying to ignore. I wanna tell you everything but I can't. I certainly can't send you the feelings of thankfulness and awe that I feel in certain situations. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a very lucky guy.
So let's start with the dry stuff. Joe and I got together around lunch to run through stuff. Frank was a no show (as he's become quite often of late). I'd be lying if I said I wasn't totally frustrated and stifled by his inaccessibility lately. I need him and the band needs him. I know he's gotten himself over his head financially but jeez, we shouldn't be over our heads because of his personal decision to jump in over his own. And yet we are. I can only hope for a quick solution. Thank Joe for keeping this thing alive. I can't say it enough. I don't think the band would exist at this point had he not come along when he did. We ran through most of the stuff that's in the running for next Friday. Strangely, "Taking Its Toll" doesn't stand up acoustically as well as "Phony". Is it me or is that just twisted? That's why we do these rehearsals, though. You never know until you play 'em.
As soon as Joe took off, Amanda and I had to leave to meet up with Lee Smith for his Georgia Music Hall Of Fame ticket. By now, we were running late. We had to get to the World Congress Center for check-in. Lee was unfortunately running late as well. We met up near the Mall Of Georgia at a Kinko's. He passed off the ticket, I gave him a disc of pics of him that I took (with Big Star in the foreground), we exchanged our thanks and we hit the road again. Unfortunately, we then got stuck in traffic. Aaaaaaaggggghhh!
It was especially frustrating knowing that Bertis had tipped me off that R.E.M. were indeed going to walk the red carpet at 7ish (well before most people would think). I had to get there and get credentialed immediately!
Well, I did. Thanks to the Hall Of Fame staff everything fell into place beautifully. The red carpet itself was terribly unorganized but it certainly made for an interesting experience. The red carpet was the only way in so every celeb, honoree and regular Joe had to come in through the same door and across the carpet. Then "fans" were behind the velvet rope. All the photogs and interviewers were on the red carpet with the VIP's. It was a bit of a madhouse. To my surprise, at one point, I saw Quincy Jones coming right toward me. I was definitely NOT expecting him. Everything from "Thriller" to the Sanford & Son theme was playing through my head as he approached. Even odder was when he not only stopped and graciously posed for pics but then started a conversation with ME! I don't even know what we talked about. It was small talk about how much he loved Georgia but I didn't care. If my week hadn't been made ten times over this week already, it was in that moment. I met and conversed with Quincy Jones and shook hands with the guy. How cool is that?
Soon afterwards, all 4 original members of R.E.M. walked in the door. I dashed over and they stopped for me before all the other photogs got there. Michael took his glasses off for me. They all posed for me individually, if not exactly at the same time. I then got into a little conversation with Bill Berry about the 40 Watt gig on Tuesday. Mike Mills even gave me a wink and a pat on the shoulder. As the rest of the contingent converged on them, they pushed on through, refusing to stop and do the shot that everyone wanted with the background and Hall Of Fame staff. A few of us got what we needed. I was cool with my shots (if not ecstatic). I still just wish I'd gone backstage at the Watt sooner to get all 4 guys in one shot. Oh well - the photos (like the above one) will have to do.
The rest of the red carpet was a blur. I saw many friends coming in decked to the 9's. Velena came in with David Lowery (from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven). Jason and Amantha Alden (nephew and daughter of the absolutely legendary Phil Walden) recognized me and Jason even invited me over for "a drink". Of course, I politely declined as I had work to do but I still thought it was pretty cool.
I even ran into a big chunk of the UGA Terry College crew and a bevy of other Athenians. Yes, it's true. Athens has come to town and we're taking over tonight!
I also shot a bunch of other peeps including Gregg Allman being interviewed, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri and his dad. I also shot the mayor of Athens and her husband Al. Then all the other photogs started shooting them even though they had no idea who they were. Al thought that was hilarious. And oh yeah, let us not forget "The Dream Machine featuring Rob Evan - Jim Steinman's new super group". Yes, that's how they were being billed.
In an even cooler turn of events we wound up with 3 tickets to the inside shindig. I won't say who I gave my extra to (just in case) but this person has looked out for me more than once. I was glad to be able to do it.
Alright, on to the big shindig. First off, we were way in the back and just happy to be there. I had decided in advance that even though I was put here by R.E.M., I would try to not take advantage of the situation and just hang back and be invisible. The dinner was amazing (although I did attempt to pick the spinach out of the salad!). I even unwisely had a little of the super-duper chocolate-chocolate cake.
Right before it started, I got another big surprise. A person with a clipboard came up and said, "Is there anyone named Chris at this table?". I, of course, responded in the affirmative. I then got the message from Amy (Michael Stipe's assistant), "Bertis is worried about you. He wants to make sure you're okay with everything". Absolutely, I'm just thrilled to be here. She then leaned forward and asked if I had a date. I said "Yes" and she proceeded to pull out 2 wristbands. "These are from Bertis and you should know that we don't do this for everyone". Okay - so what are they for? Amy then patiently showed us a map to R.E.M.'s "secret" after party and celebration. These wristbands were our invitation. I was floored. I would've never even dreamed to ask. It was clear that some of the other people knew what this was about and they looked shocked that we were granted this honor. I guarantee you that they weren't as shocked as me.
The beginning of the show was very professional. It's just what you'd expect of a semi-local, glossy, TV broadcast affair. Quincy Jones and Russell Simmons were great speakers. Jermaine and Dallas accepted. Felice Bryant was nominated posthumously and we got a great medley of her songs. Jan Smith and a Christian artist performed (and joked about the deadly spinach). Then there was a phenomenal gospel choir performance, a couple of unreal high school performers (piano and violin) and then one of the truly weirdest things I've ever seen.
It was now time for The Dream Machine Featuring Rob Evan - Jim Steinman's new supergroup. The band's slogan is (and I kid you not), "If you don't go over the top, you'll never see what's on the other side." Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate that philosophy and may even steal that line but oh. my. God. Apparently, this new Steinman song is called "Body." Now you must imagine this being sung to the hilt by four Broadway veterans, 2 women and 2 men, with the aforementioned Rob Evan taking the lead. He put all of himself into it. Click on the links to see shakey YouTube clips.
"What part of my body hurts the most?
Yeah - it took exactly one line for Amanda to stifle a giggle. About 2 lines for me. By the end of the first verse, everyone at my table was about to burst. By the litany of body parts almost every single person in the room was in hysterics. If anyone can pull this off, Steinman can but (again) oh.my.God. It's just too bad the YouTube shooter didn't get the end where you could audibly hear the laughter. My guess is that he was just too hysterical to hold up his phone anymore! We all tried to be polite but this one just went way too far. I'm sure this'll work in certain contexts but here, it was pure Andy Kaufman-esque hilarity.
And speaking of the "Man On The Moon", not long afterward, R.E.M. was introduced. Needless to say, the whole place went berserk. This was, after all, the first announced appearance by the original lineup since November of '95 at The Omni (By the way, I was there, too.) Stipe warned "This is going to be loud" before they ripped into "Begin The Begin" again. It was cool hearing this twice in a week but I'd be lying if I said this compared to the 40 Watt version from Tuesday. Tonight, the sound was really muddy and murky. At the Watt, it was just right. Still, it was cool to see 'em having fun.
They followed up tonight with "Losing My Religion". The sound was definitely better for this one and it's such a great song that I don't care how many times I hear it live. I enjoy it every time. Click here for the You Tube clip.
During the performance, I took out my camera and shot a few pics from a couple of hundred feet away. I even took a couple of screen shots. I may put 'em up on ConcertShots eventually. I had permission to do as I wished and I didn't take it up. I probably should have waltzed on up and gotten the pics that I wanted. I've a feeling I'll regret it tomorrow but I'm so thankful that I don't want to take a chance. I can be goofy like that at times.
The band was then officially inducted by none other than former Senator Max Cleland (a TRUE American hero). This was clearly a bit of a snub to our current governor who was sitting nearby. I was glad they did it as all the other inductees spent time sucking up to him. Michael then gave an impassioned and moving speech with a center point that stated, "We're not from the ATL, we're from the ATH". At which point, a huge part of the crowd leapt up again. (Did I mention that I love Athens?)
It was impossible to follow this but Gregg Allman made a great attempt. He did a solo acoustic version of "Melissa" that was as powerful as anything I've ever heard him do. He also did a semi-ragged version of "Georgia On My Mind" before being backed by Pete Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills for a show ending "Midnight Rider."
What a night! What a special evening! And it wasn't done yet.
Amanda and I wound up tagging along with some others to the R.E.M. party. We were among the first there. Even I couldn't resist a glass of champagne that a server offered. The party took place behind The Tabernacle. The band had shut down that whole street. There was a beautiful tent and a decked out interior. I fought taking pictures the whole night. It was especially hard when Max Cleland and Michael Stipe were hanging out together. There were so many photo-op's but I didn't want to be THAT guy. Maybe that was stupid of me. I'm glad I erred on the side of caution. The last thing I wanted to do was be a nuisance to everyone that had been so cool to me and invited me. When Clay Leverett asked, I did take a snapshot of him with Mike Mills with his little digital camera.
Other people that I noticed included Holli Mattison, Mitch Easter, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Peter Conlon, Jeff Clark of Stomp & Stammer, Michael Tolcher, Gordon Lamb (fellow Flagpolian) and his sister Rachel, Clay Leverett, Mayor Heidi Davison and her husband Al, producer David Barbe, Bruce Burch from UGA and (of course) the R.E.M. guys and their staff. I thanked Bertis and Mercer from REM HQ yet again.
Amanda even ran into some friends from the acting circle that she runs with. Indeed, Athens had come to town. I had a pretty hefty conversation with Heidi but I wound up hanging out most of the night with Joe (from The Vinyl Strangers) and his girl Alexandra. The weird thing is that they'd come with Tom Bavis. Apparently, there was some weird stuff going on in wristband-land and Tom and Julia wound up heading on back to Athens. It's a shame, too. I would've loved to have caught up with them and I know we could've gotten 'em in. It would've been especially cool to have 2/3 of the original Darlings at the R.E.M. party. Oh well, I offered Joe and Alexandra a ride back with us and they accepted so they could hang out longer. I feel like I made a couple of new friends in Joe and Alexandra and I'm glad that happened. On top of everything else, that's nearly an embarrassment of riches.
I have no idea what time we left but it was after 2. We got on the road and wound up caught in a traffic jam. About this time, I started to crash from lack of sleep and too much chocolate. I could feel my blood pressure dropping. For a few minutes, I felt worse than I've felt in years but I practiced all the biofeedback I could muster and pulled it back in check. We even almost ran out of gas. At the last minute, everything fell back into place and we pulled back into Athens triumphant and exhausted.
Did I mention that I love Athens?
| Friday September 15, 2006
Modern Skirts kick off the Terry Tunes concert series for 2006. Next week...some band called The Critical Darlings or something.
I'm feeling a bit more rested today. I guess it's good I stayed in last night as I had to get out and about earlier than usual today. The Terry Tunes '06 concert series opened at noon and since we're doing next week's show, I wanted to see what it was all about. I've gotta say, it's a really cool environment there in Herty Field. Modern Skirts played with one guitar, some percussion and a lot of harmonies. Somehow I doubt we'll be that stripped down but I do believe after seeing the environment that I am going to insist on doing our version of acoustic which'll make it extra interesting to debut the new lineup that way. I enjoyed the Skirts set even though just for once I'd like to see a full band, plugged in set as each of the 3 times I've seen 'em has been at some kind of "event". Of course, I spent a lot of time chatting and catching up with friends. It was definitely "old home week". I saw Tom Bavis there across the field but we didn't really get a chance to do more than wave. It's kind of sad. I still miss the guy personally and professionally but I don't know that the feeling's mutual (if it was, we'd still be working together, eh?). I was glad he was able to get his Skirts CD signed.
I even got asked to autograph a Skirts CD. I politely declined and showed the guy the way to the person who he meant to ask.
Once I got home, there was much going back and forth in my email about R.E.M.'s induction into the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame. Apparently, Bertis has stepped up and told those people that he wants me in the ballroom (that's usually off-limits to non-house photogs). Now they're all scrambling to make him (and me) happy. As always, I'm humbled and honored and wondering what I've done to deserve all of this good fortune as I wanna keep doing it! Heck, I didn't even ask for any of this and it's being offered by people who I can't believe would even give me the time of day!
Of course, I didn't know if I could get Amanda in past the red carpet and that kind of gnawed at me a bit. Then, yet another miracle occurred. While Amanda was watching Meerkat Manor, I got an email from my Creative Loafing friend Lee Valentine Smith. He wasn't going to be able to make it and perhaps he'd be able to donate his ticket to the "get Amanda in" cause.
Thursday September 14, 2006
A fun night in Athens has already become national news. Rock on! And I'm especially proud to have been the photog!
Wow! That didn't take long. News of the R.E.M. reunion has already hit the national pages. I'm surprised by how much coverage is being given to a little 2 song appearance. Rolling Stone's web site already has a story up and they used one of my pics, too. Now I just have to hope it makes it into the print issue!
Of course, I'm also having to get pics out to Flagpole, Pollstar and my usual outlets. For the second day in a row, I'm also having to ditch on a show I really wanted to go to. Shooter Jennings is at the Georgia Theatre tonight. I was looking forward to getting some more candids and portraits with him. He was such a cool guy when we hung out back in April. Plus, I wanted to hear "Aviators" live since he had to cut it last time. Oh well - I have to get up early in the a.m. tomorrow to scope out the Terry Tunes series opener. We're playing it next weekend and I want to see what it's all about!
I really am exhausted now. It's becoming my default state but I guess the other option is not doing all the cool things I get to do. I ain't complainin' mind you. I'm just sayin'. I'm tired.
| Wednesday September 13, 2006
"Colorbearer of Athens doing what comes naturally"
Oof! The only thing that sucks about a great night like last night is editing the results of it when thoroughly exhausted. That was my day today. On the good side, the camera seems to be working alright now. My judgment is still reserved until I've got a bit more evidence but it's looking good so far. Once I got the pics done, I sent proofs to Bertis who had some very kind comments.
I more or less edited all day. I was supposed to go shoot The Flaming Lips tonight in Atlanta but as much as I love them, I wound up bailing. Between the exhaustion and extra work, I just didn't have it in me. At least I got 'em in May and that is still my favorite show of '06 to date.
Oh - today's Flagpole cover (with Dark Meat) features several of my images (I think the big ones are mine as well as a couple of the smaller ones) along with pics from Rich Merritt who I'm proud to say I sent to Flagpole originally. I still get a thrill at seeing my pics whenever I walk by a newsstand!
Did I mention that I love Athens?
| Tuesday September 12, 2006
Michael Stipe backstage at the 40 Watt Club
I got some killer new boots in. I'm so close to having everything I've ever wanted to see and hear that I can't stand it. Of course, the problem is that they're just in "to watch" or "to listen to" piles and there ain't enough time in the day to dive in properly. If I live to be a lil' ol' man, at least I'll have something to occupy me! Check out my current list here!
I got word from Pollstar today that it looks like I'll have another cover shot during the first week of October. Mat Kearney's the cover boy for this go 'round and I got him at StarFest in July. I'm not particularly fond of those pics but if the cover artists think it's good, I know it will be. Also, I apparently got the only pics from Snow Patrol's current tour (to date) according to Pollstar. Weird. They're about to blast off, too! Look for my pic of them in next week's issue.
So anyway - I decided that I needed a way to check out my camera to see if it was working alright. I remembered that there was some r.e.m. tribute show at the 40 Watt Club tonight and I got to thinking. They're being inducted into the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame this Saturday so they're probably all in town rehearsing. The 40 Watt's Finest Worksongs : An Athens Tribute To r.e.m. is literally 3 buildings down from their rehearsal space and office...hmmmmm....
I emailed Velena and Barrie from the 40 Watt who agreed that there was a pretty good chance they'd show up. So I went on down there. Claire Campbell from Hopeforagoldensummer started things out. Then, at 8:50, the four original members of r.e.m. showed up on the stage. "We're r.e.m. and this is what we do." This it was off into "Begin The Begin" which was followed by "So. Central Rain." Man, they sounded great. I've seen 'em with and without Bill Berry on drums and I'd forgotten what a powerful little outfit the original lineup is. They're a rock band and a good one. It's definitely a different vibe with all four of them. And the mix was incredible. Of course, the event was sold out but most people weren't even there yet. Frank was even supposed to come out but he said to me on the phone, "I'm sure r.e.m. won't come on until at least 10 so I'll be there about then." Well, after their 2 songs, they were done as a group. It was great to have not only witnessed it but to have been able to document it. The rest of the night was a blur. At least Frank was there for a good bit of that.
Bain Mattox, Modern Skirts, The Observatory (with Vanessa from Pylon) and so many other great Athens musicians took the stage doing their versions of r.e.m.'s back catalog. The early highlight for me was probably the duet between Bain Mattox and his wife Amanda (AKA Tin Cup Prophette) who did a great mashup of "Nightswimming" and "Radio Song".
Velena then summoned me to the sacred backstage area where the cats were herded for a trade shot. Unfortunately, Bill Berry had already taken off by this point to finish up some recording but I got the 3 other guys and manager Bertis Downs into a few shots. They were all incredibly gracious. Pete Buck introduced himself to me (like anyone doesn't know who he is). Mike Mills seemed slightly wary of the guy with the camera but he eventually warmed up. For his part, Stipe was surprisingly open tonight. We had a brief conversation about nothing that ended with him thanking me (you're kidding, right?) for me doing this for them. Heck, I even got photos of him smiling! I also spent a bit of time chatting with Bertis who has always been super cool to me. This was shaping up to be an amazing night for Athens and for me personally.
Then it all got really good. Don't believe me? Check the blue links below for vids of the happening from YouTube.
Patterson Hood & Friends came up and tore through a couple of songs including a version of "Burning Hell" before inviting up Mike Mills and Pete Buck to join them. For the rest of the night, Mills and Buck were up there more or less. They did "Don't Go Back To Rockville" with Hood and a slew of great stuff with Five-Eight. Buck even did a few of his leaps during "Radio Free Europe". The finale was inevitable. Mike Mantione invited up everyone and Stipe even semi-reluctantly joined in for "It's The End Of The World As We Know It". Seeing an Athens finale of this magnitude feeling so off-the-cuff and family reunion-like was truly inspiring.
After the whole thing was over, I got hugged more times by more different people than I've ever been. It really does feel like family here. I love this place.
Thank you Velena, Barrie, Bertis, r.e.m. and everyone else for supplying me with one of the most memorable nights I've ever had in Athens! What an incredible night for an incredible town.
Monday September 11, 2006
I'm trying not to spend time looking back today. We all know what 9/11 has done for us and to us. Looking back is healing to some and its necessary but looking forward is even more important. What have we learned? What have we done wrong in our responses? What can we do to make the world a better place? Who are we now? Who are we becoming? Who have we become? Is it who we want to be? Those are my questions. And I acknowledge that finding some of the answers may tempt me to look back. But I don't want to do that. If I look back, I may trip over something in front of me.
My day is rolling. I spent the day updating this diary. I also got my camera back. Here's hoping its as it should be now. I got a pile of three ELO re-issues that I'm really forward to digging into also. You know how I love me some ELO. I also got word that my pics will grace the cover of Flagpole this week (along with a couple of other photogs). I always like getting cover shots. I'm not too jaded to feel honored every time.
By the way - Frank's back in town and he's starting his new job today. Wish him good luck and hope that we can all get back on track now.
"Welcome back, welcome back, welcome baaaaaack."