Thoughts of Nubbs

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First time in the pit at 9:30 club

If you have followed enough of my blog posts you already know that once you get past my rants there is a theme about my posts, Wife, Photography, Beer and live Music. Since free time seems to always be at a premium in my house I always try to do what I can to combine passions so I can experience as many of them as I can in one evening.   One way to get all of the above into one night is to go to the 9:30 club. I plan to write more in the future purely on just how much 9:30club means to me but for now, we will leave it at it being the most awesome fucking venue to see a show.   Many a night has spent with my wife watching great music and drinking from the diverse beer list found at 9:30. But up until this night I had never been able to shoot a show at 9:30. I have shot U-street and the Fillmore but 9:30 had alluded me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I emailed every band I could trying to get a photo pass. But this night is different OKGO, a band my wife and I have seen maybe 5 times already has granted me a photo pass. Now the routine kicks in, the night before my wife and I go over our day of show plan to make sure we get the seats we want. This involves coordinating who will leave work early to get in line and checking the weather reports to make sure we are prepped to stand outside for an hour or so. But now I have to also toss in my pre shoot routine of making sure all my equipment is ready. By this point in my for lack of better terminology career as a photographer I have this routine down pat and can almost do it methodically. OKGO HiRes  (4 of 46)

Day of the show, I blast out of work a few minutes early to try to shave a few minutes off what is going to be 75 minutes of commute to V street. I have basically accomplished nothing all day at the office other than listening to and watch OKGO to get a better feel for their music. This time I am listening for different things, indicators that will help me judge when the members of the band will do something spectacular. It helps that I have seen them before but it also helps to listen to the music and not the words. Songs grow and as they do the members of the band get more animated and this makes for better pictures. In most cases there is an opening act. Most photographers use this time to get their setting right for the light. I don’t because the light for the openers is always different then the main. I use the opener to scout out where I will be shooting and who I will be shooting with. I like to get a feel for how the pit is set up and what to watch out for (where does security stand, how far are the barricades from the stage, where are the barricade supports, where can I stash my bag and lenses, most importantly how many other photogs are there in the pit and how much do they move around). Come to find out there is no opener and we are going to have to go into the pit blind. To make matters even more challenging the show isn’t going to start for 2 more hours. That’s a lot of time for me to get up in my own head and over evaluate everything. I normally don’t drink before a shoot but since there was so much time to wait a beer was a must.

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10 minutes to show time, I kiss my wife and say I’ll be back. As she always does she wishes me good luck. She knows I don’t believe in luck but I think she says it because it sounds better than “don’t over think it just do your thing”. I make my way to the front of the floor which is now packed elbow to elbow, this is going to be no easy task as a small guy with a big backpack full of equipment on his back. Once at the front a get in line behind the other photogs waiting for the band to take the stage and security to let us in. Band takes the stage and we start to file in, security tells us we only get 2 songs tonight, What? In most all cases you get 3 songs, no time to discuss we must run for our spot in the pit. Now with three songs to shoot you get a good amount of time to make sure you get all the images you need. It also gives you time to rotate through some different lenses for different effects. @ songs is going to compress that a bit. Prior to being let into the pit we see there is a cheese cloth like curtain over the front of the stage, no worries it will come down when the band start playing, wrong again OKGO is using this curtain as a screen to project images onto. Have you ever tried to shoot a band through a curtain? At this point it doesn’t even faze me. I’m in the pit at the 9:30 Club, They could have brought brimstone and fire and I wasn’t going to stop trying to get the shot that would make me go wow. 2 songs came and went super-fast and the curtain never came down. We are ushered out of the pit just as the 3rd songs starts and the curtain drops. I rush back upstairs to where my wife is and drop my bag and change to the long lens. I’m in the venue so just because I can’t shoot in the pit doesn’t mean I am going to stop shooting. I have a press pass to my favorite venue watching one of the most energetic bands play. I am shooting until I can’t shoot any longer.  The show is awesome as it always has been from OKGO the quality of the performance and the amazing personalities of the band were the one thing that I knew was going to be a guarantee for the evening.   If you have never seen OKGO perform you need to. Even if you do not like their style of music the pure entertainment and energy these guys have will put you in a good mood for days to come. I have seen a shit ton of bands perform and OKGO has to be in the top 5 of most amazing performance ever. To make this performance even better the lead singer is a local and loves the 9:30 club. This adds even another level of awesomeness to the show.

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All things have to come to an end. I don’t think I have put my camera down for more than 5 minutes since the show started. I have riffled through all my lenses to make sure I captured everything I could. The house lights come up and my wife and I are all smiles. The energy in the room is still amazing and you can feel it. On our way out we run into some friends and my wife wants to go down and play in the confetti that is covering the main floor. We look for some t-shirts and work our way to the car. The hole ride home…… who am I kidding we were to wound up to go home right away so we hit this new Bourbon bar on our route home that we just had to try. After a few samples of some bourbon we were on our way home. It’s now close to 1am on a school night and my alarm is going to go off in 5 hours. I do what most smart professional looking to advance their corporate career do and I start up the computer so I can download all the images from my cards and see what I have……..HOLY FUCK, 9:30 club you once again amaze me with how photogenic you are.

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OKGO HiRes  (37 of 46)

That’s my first night in the pit at 9:30 club. Thank you OKGO, thank you 9:30 club for being the most beautiful venue in DC, thank you to my wife for opening my eyes once again to the awesomeness that is live music. I can’t wait to get back in the pit!

Till next time,

Nubbs

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Band of Horses 2/27/14

HOLY SHIT ITS COLD OUT HERE!!!  Over an hour before the doors were to open my wife found herself 2nd in line. Now my wife hates the cold, I mean she despises the cold on a level similar to the hate most real music fans hold towards Justin Bieber.  Yet here she was sitting outside the Lincoln Theater 90 plus minutes before doors in what started as 34 degree weather but quickly plummeted as the sun fell behind the buildings and the night wind picked up speed while howling down U Street. To say she was determined to sit front row for this show was an understatement.  Let’s roll the calendar back a few years to get the real grasp for where this determination started. Image

4 years ago I get a text “Shit, Band of Horses are playing 9:30 club, I really want to see them but tickets went on sale weeks ago”  This was well before we fine-tuned our attack plan for getting tickets to shows we know are going to sell out.  I also at this point never heard of BoH so after seeking out a few of their tracks I set out to find tickets.  I end up getting a set from some young lady who would only meet me in the center of Dupont Circle in the middle of the day and with a friend who stood about 4 feet behind her during the whole transaction. It wasn’t her that was getting robbed that day it was me since I was forking over what at the time was 3 times the face value for the tickets.  It would be months before I told my wife the actual price I paid for the tickets.  We saw them the first time at 9:30 club, than we ended up having to drive to Philly on a Tuesday night to see them after Kings of Leon’s front man proved to the world that he was no Keith Richards and had to go to rehab thus canceling the tour that was coming through the DC area.  BOH was the opening band for that show and in true professional manner did everything they could to reschedule each and every show albeit in 3 hours north in Philly. It was well worth the drive to see them in Philly.  The next time we got to see them was down in Charlotte NC.  8 hours on a bus down there and 8 hours on a bus home lesson learned on that trip.  Don’t take the mega bus for more than 4 hours!

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So the ground work for the lengths that would be traveled to see BoH was paved years in advance.  I was not surprised at all when we found out about the acoustic tour weeks before tickets went on sale and formulated a game plan to get as many tickets as we could so we could be joined by friends for what was bound to be an amazing show.  Not long after the tickets arrived did Shaina lay out her plan to camp out no matter what the weather so she could have front row seats.  She laid this all out with a lengthy dissertation of how this was “THE” show to try to get to the front row. It was clear by the thought and reasoning she put into her decision to get front row that nothing was stopping her and I knew immediately that even if I wanted to there would be no talking her out of trying to get to the front.

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So there we were sitting in the front row looking at the stage that is set up much like a living room.  In what has become their common signature entrance BoH strolls on the stage and greats the audience with a thank you for coming. But this band is different when they say thank you for coming you get the feeling they actually mean it. It’s not just a rehearsed line they spew out every night as it was part of their hit lyrics. There is feeling behind it and it is conveyed with a genuine smile and delight.  They open with Ben, Ryan, and Tyler standing around a mic and set the tone right from the start with how this night is going to play out. From the first note you could tell this whole tour was about having fun and getting to know the audience.  The chatter between the band and the Audience started during the first song and didn’t end until the house lights came up.  The band seemed to have no other agenda than to have fun playing music. Taking requests from the audience and even responding to ones fans request to play “Heartbreak on the 101” with “Come on nobody likes that song”.  This is a band that does not take themselves to serious, Their shows sell out within hours of going on sale. Just this week alone they have been on the Ellen show and the night prior on Latenight with David Letterman. But here this night you would never guess they were more than a local band playing to their most diehard and beloved fans. All of which new the words to every song played. Hootting and hollering was the back drop for the night followed each time by smiles from the band.

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This show was something right up my alley; I love acoustic music and intimate venues. This served both very well. The acoustic show hid nothing and left the band at its most vulnerable. Every note is heard clear as can be with ever crackle of a string or tap of a drum is heard throughout the venue. You miss a note in this setting and the whole audience will know it.  Keep in mind that this environment lends itself well to the somewhat gritty yet soulful voice of Ben Bridwell’s which I find unique and perfect for this style of music.  The acoustic setting also allowed for the audience to hear the three distinct voices of Ben, Tyler and Ryan blend together and become one powerful balance of melody and harmony that at times is lost in an electrified show.  Each member took their due turn to show their skills and talents during different solos that flowed well into each song and never really left you sitting their thinking “its solo time”.   Standouts to me would be the unassuming bass player who proves not to judge a book by its cover.  He hit that stand up every which way but Sunday, even playing some of the best slap bass I have seen in a long ass time than slowing it down and adding to “Funeral” with the slow stroke of the bow bringing out the deep cords of that mate black standup and adding a new vibe to a song that everybody has heard multiple times but never quite like this.  Makes sense he is also a producer.

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The show covered all their popular songs even to my wife great pleasure “Dilly” which up to this point I have never seen them perform live.  As the show progressed on getting closer and closer to what everybody knew would be the 1st ending of the concert, the band put all mystery to rest and stated “We are going to play two more songs, then take a break before coming out and playing some more.” This of course made the audience not only happy but also laugh at the honesty. We all know it is going to happen at 99% of the shows we go see. It was just nice for once to have the band call out the elephant in the room and state that an encore is imminent.  Upon their return to the stage the band announced they will be playing one more song, To which a friend of ours also sitting in the front row yells out “No Two more”  Ben being within ear shot of this smiled and replied with “Ok two”.  At this point the audience turned it into a call for requests. There were calls for everything from the preverbal “Freebird” to the Kings of Leons song “Sex on Fire” I took this a a shot at KOL for the canceled tour a couple years ago.  The encore ended up being three songs all of which were played with the same enthusiasm as the first song of the night. You got the feeling that they would have played forever if they could.  At no time did you get the feeling they were doing anything other than enjoying themselves as much as the fans were.

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While I understand that acoustic music is not for everybody I would challenge any music fan to try and catch their favorite act in an acoustic setting. This BoH show was by far there best to date performance I have seen of theirs and while it is still early in the year the best show I have seen in 2014.  No time soon will I forget this show, not only because of how unique it was or who I shared it with but also because it was just fucking awesome in so many ways.

Till the next show