why you don’t want to go to a festival with a photographer

riotfest chicago friday

Music festivals are awesome. But as music festival season comes upon us, I have realized: if you like music, you probably don’t want to go to a music festival with a working photographer, because going to a music festival with a working photographer is no fun.

There’s some festivals that are exceptions — like Hopscotch, with the nature of its scattered clubs and only having the City Plaza shows be credentials only / pit line up / first three no flash etc, that’s an okay festival to go to with a working photographer. You just wander into the the clubs with them. You split up when you want to see different bands. You lose each other at a day party and then find each other eating cheese fries at the Times. It’s a good festival to go to with working press.

But big outdoor festivals like RiotFest, or this year’s Shaky Knees in ATL and Boston Calling in Boston? I can’t imagine that they’d be a lot of fun for one person to tag along after a photog at.

Because being a photographer at a festival is this: it’s standing in lines, or it’s standing in pits dodging elbows, crowd surfers, and flung beers to get your shots. If you’re lucky, there’s not eight inches of mud — no exaggeration — sucking you down like the overfull Against Me! pit at RF last year. You finish shooting one band, and you immediately go and stand in line for whoever you’re getting ready to shoot next, and you probably have to fight through a nasty crowd to do that. Somebody tagging along with a photographer is either on their own, unless they enjoy standing in lines for nothing just to be with their photographer, or they’re, say, stuck standing in line for beers because their photographer can’t leave the pit line because that bitch four spots back is going to try and skank that spot if anybody so much as twitches off the fence. And she wants both a beer and her spot, damn it.

(This is totally false generalization in some cases; the City Plaza pit lines are, for the most part, genial, and generally filled with people holding spots and fetching beers for each other, because Hopscotch press is still a pretty local deal, so most of us know each other. The RiotFest pit lines were mostly nice, though some were fucking brutal — what did I expect from a festival Fall Out Boy pit in Chicago? I’m an idiot who expected more politeness — and on Sunday when everybody was soaked and muddy to the knees and exhausted, there was definitely a lot of can you hold this bag over my camera while I change lenses? camaraderie. But often I’ve found that photographers can be really fucking bitchy – I’m not stealing your shot, assholes, stop being jerks when I visit your town. That’s why you’re so awesome, ATL photogs from Panic!. You were all excellent humans.)

I like to work festivals because it means I get to go to festivals for free, and then I get to take photos of bands that I love, and those things are good: free music, good work, happy photographer. I want to go to those festivals with people I like because sometimes you do have an hour’s downtime, and you want to sit on the grass and watch Bad Religion with somebody you love.

FYI if you are not willing to sit on the grass and watch Bad Religion with me, we can’t be friends anymore. I’m sorry. (The above shot is Pam, sitting on the ground watching Bad Religion with me.)

I’m planning some out of town spring festival stuff, starting to send out cred requests for press coverage and so on, and some of those trips may involve The Nice Gentleman With Whom I Am Romantically Involved (he needs a better blog nickname, and since he reads this, he is welcome to submit his own contenders), and I realized while I was doing it — it’s not fun to go to a festival with me while I’m working. I mean, pretty likely not for most people. Maybe for someone who loves me as The Nice Gentleman does, it would be okay to hang out in photographer’s lines and see sets on his own, because he loves me and he respects my work. (He did sit in a bar reading while Panic! at the Disco broke the Tab when my second press ticket fell through, which is love in and of itself: being willing to go see Panic! at the Disco, and then being willing to kill time while I worked when my tickets fell through.) But maybe not, because that’s not always fun, and I don’t like to put people I love through things what are not fun — and I want him to go to those festivals with me, and I want to work them, and being a working photographer, I’m gonna have to find a good middle ground somewhere. I just don’t know where it is yet.

That’s what love and photo pits do to you, I guess.

the first album i ever bought: deana carter – did i shave my legs for this?

The First Album I Ever Bought is an occasional guest post series where friends, family, and strangers talk about, well, the first album they ever bought. A new piece runs (almost) every Wednesday, and sometimes more often. If you’d like to submit, please see the guidelines here.

In 1997, I was twelve years old, in sixth grade, living in the suburbs of Dallas, and, I was adamant, I hated country music.

I’d started actually noticing and caring about music a year or two before. I’d starting listening to our local pop station, and at some point felt that I had “graduated” to the local alternative station (a common trajectory). My mom gave me a few oldies CDs, in an attempt to convince me, if I had to choose my own music, to choose something she wanted to hear. And I hated country music.

We’d had a karaoke machine a few years before, with cassettes, that you could hook up to the TV. The only cassette I remember playing is the country one — I wore it out, belting out songs like Trisha Yearwood’s ”XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” and Patty Loveless’ “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.” And yet I was very convinced I didn’t actually like country music.

In sixth grade, so many of the girls in my class were obsessed with Deana Carter’s album Did I Shave My Legs for This?, which had come out that fall. At some point, I started to feel like my lack of education about this album was hampering me socially. Having an opinion about Deana Carter was critical if you wanted to make water fountain talk with your classmates.

I don’t, specifically, recall how I got my hands on the album. Probably I made a friend play it for me at her house at some point. I just remember that I loved it.

The clearest memory I have associated with that album is from that summer, the summer between elementary school and junior high. My family was on a road trip, and I remember listening to the song “Strawberry Wine” (the breakout hit single) and thinking that I couldn’t wait for the day that was my life, to be an adult, sophisticated and jaded and world weary.

“Strawberry Wine,” if you aren’t familiar with it, is a bittersweet recollection of the first boy she ever loved. They slept together (her first time), he went back to college, they drifted apart, and now, when she revisits the farm where they met and fell in love, it seems different, including the line There’s nothing time hasn’t touched // Is it really him or the loss of my innocence // I’ve been missing so much.

I was a melodramatic child.

I didn’t own the CD yet, on that trip; a friend came with us and I was constantly stealing it from her. (It was a point of friction on the trip; we did a lot of awkward attempting to listen together via headphones, which was much harder in the pre-earbud days.) I bought it when I got home, and I am 95% sure it was the first CD I ever paid my own money for, but reader, I’m not going to lie, I’m not 100% sure.

When I hear that song now (and you do still occasionally hear “Strawberry Wine” or “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” on country radio, though none of the others), I do in fact feel somewhat bittersweet nostalgia for that time — for being twelve, for that trip, for the girls who taught me to love Deana Carter but who were not my friends anymore once we moved from elementary school to junior high, for that summer.

I decided, fairly quickly from my discovery of Deana Carter, that I was in fact a country music fan, and I quit listening to the pop and alternative stations in favor of Dallas’ two country music stations. I found the identity of “country music fan” easy to wear, after that, and to this day I think of that as my home genre, basically, even as what kind of country music I like has shifted further and further from the sort of poppy Nashville sound Deana Carter (and the 1990s) embodied. But I still have an incredible fondness for her, and that album, and, even, for the time in my life when I first found her.

Allison is a native Texan and is one of the founders of kickass podcast This Week In Ladies, which you should be listening to. She also writes for The Toast, librarians with a vengeance, and listens to me whine about my life via email on the regular.

album review: lydia loveless – somewhere else

bad machine tour: lydia loveless

If Lydia Loveless’s 2011 Indestructible Machine was a 38 minute punch of broken hearted and bitter but not down or out cowpunk, 2013’s Somewhere Else starts with a blast of guitars that can’t be mistaken for anything but rock and roll. “Really Wanna See You” has a typical Loveless theme: an ex who broke her heart, plus all the ways she fucked it up herself; a Lydia Loveless love song is punishment for everyone involved, the kind of relationship that might end in fists and might end in tears and might end in a really happy marriage. “Really Wanna See You” finishes off with a broken I just thought I would call to see how you were doing over a stuttering drum beat and nothing else, and it’s a perfect opener for 42 minutes of furious, broken hearted and bitter but not down or out rock and roll, all served up with Loveless’s twang and ache of a voice.

When I saw “Chris Isaak” listed as a song title on this record, I hoped we would get something as delicious as “Steve Earle”; Loveless doesn’t fail. The track has the mournful ache of a Chris Isaak song, but it’s more grown up that “Steve Earle” — it’s about her own real relationship with music, and growing up, and it’s beautiful and sad: but what the hell was I hoping for / and what the hell was I waiting for. She follows it with another question in the opening of “To Love Somebody”: what is it to love somebody / or at least to that they’ll be around. Somewhere Else is, in parts, what you expect as a follow up to Indestructible Machine: a look at what it means to actually love and lose someone, what it means to have a relationship as an adult with someone.

What it means to want someone all the time.

“Hurts So Bad” is a bluesy slink of guitar and a broken heart, but Loveless says it’s all that I wanted from you. An admission that love sucks just as hard as a grown up as it does as a teenager, but she follows it up with “Head”, a song that’s openly about gettin’ it on. More songs about oral sex, I say. It’s filthy and the same tenor of blues and rock and roll as “Hurts So Bad”, a pair about the worst and (maybe) the best of relationships. Don’t stop, get in my bed, Loveless sings, and that’s a grown up singing, not the broken hearted 21 years old on Indestructible Machine; it’s dirty and delicious.

“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” opens quiet, the idea that love drives people to anger; I just like it better when we’re coming to blows, Loveless sings in the rumbling electric verse that follows. Verlaine shot Rimbaud because he loved him so / And that’s how I want to go, the chorus says, and she brags I’m the one who makes you write that shit. It’s a beautiful song, plaintive and desperate, about something dark and a little bit scary. The shadows and light of this record are all Loveless looking at relationships that don’t make sense, maybe, but are there all the same. Not healthy, maybe, but still love.

The title track opens with a slide guitar, and the exhortation that she’s looking for good things to be a part of; “Somewhere Else” captures perfectly the aimlessness of your 20s, and in my case, your 30s, too. I want to be somewhere else tonight, but you don’t know where that is. It’s the same searching voice that precedes it on the album, which is a thorough blueprint through everything you can fuck up in your life and still survive. I swore I’d never be this bitter again, she mourns on “Everything’s Gone”, the quiet acoustic penultimate track. And “They Don’t Know” finishes it off, a perfect because fuck you that’s why ending, the kind of song that Loveless sells perfect quiet or loud. This one is harmonies and steady guitars, and it’s reminder that love’s important, and everybody else’s opinion of you can go hang.

That’s the kind of record I can get behind. And I do get behind this one; it’s fucking great. Go buy it.

tv: BOSCH

promo shots: some army

I don’t talk much about TV on here, because frankly no one but my friend Amy wants to hear my feelings about how Nick Burkhardt on Grimm is a moron (and I’m continually about six episodes behind in Justified), but I’ve just watched the Amazon Prime pilot of BOSCH — based loosely on City of Bones, a mid-series Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly — and I’ve watched it twice, and the way I’m watching it makes me think about photography.

I’ve talked a little, variously, about cinematography in various films; color use, light, what have you, and while I notice it in TV — the first two seasons of Justified are among the most lovely and atmospheric episodes of TV ever made, the later three just not quite as perfect but still lovely — I don’t necessarily think about it the same way. I give zero fucks, for example, how Major Crimes is filmed. I am interested in Flynn and Provenza doing stupid things, and Captain President Detective Roslin messing up things with Rusty. I do not care how they make Los Angeles look. Apparently, though, I do care what they do with Michael Connelly’s Bosch series, because it is deeply beloved to me, and Connelly’s writing is so vibrant, so dark, so sad. Those novels, especially the early ones, up through Nine Dragons or so, are truly genuine L.A. noir, and that has a feel. That has a look.

Amazon Prime is getting into the made-for-streaming game, which I’m into, and this is one of their pilots, which I’m into because I love the shit out of Connelly’s Bosch novels; it did well, so it will probably be picked up. The main plotline — child’s bones found buried in the Hollywood hills — is a pretty solid one; it’s a pretty solid Bosch novel, too, and it goes some interesting and super dark places. It’s not a bad introduction to Bosch, really, especially if you want, in the books, to escape the early self-destructive Bosch, but before you get to the later, domesticated, single dad Bosch. (I like that Bosch, too, because I love Bosch’s smartass daughter, but still, the latest books have a different feel than the first dozen or so.) The dialogue in the pilot clunks; the fact of the matter is that it’s lifted, almost the entire episode, straight from the opening to the book, right down to Bosch being on call being someone wanted to go to a Lakers game. It works in print; it didn’t sell on screen, partly because — and here’s the problem — they got the light all wrong. That awkward scene with Brasher and Bosch? It’s twilight. It’s not clear, it’s not clean, it’s not bright, not like the pilot gets it. You can be awkward but less awkward in twilight, you know.

And that’s the bigggest problem I had with the whole thing; they’ve got the light of these books — which Connelly conveys beautifully in text — all wrong. There are moments of that fierce Los Angeles sunshine glare in the books, but, fuck, Harry Bosch is a tunnel rat, the whole first few books are about him crawling around in tunnels in Vietnam, blowing shit up, and what that’s left him with in Los Angeles. Hell, Connelly wrote one called Lost Light, for fuck’s sake. All of the Bosch books are twilight, streetlights, early morning fog. They’re not Los Angeles sunshine. They’re the seedy bits, the alleys, the hookers left dead on street corners. The whole show is too goddamned clean to be about Harry Bosch — the only thing they get perfectly right in the pilot are the few scenes in Bosch’s house, which is visually perfect and, if they do it right, sixteen kinds of metaphors for how fucked up Harry Bosch really is.

Truth: Harry Bosch is fucked up. Not even a quarter of how fucked up Harry Bosch is got through in that pilot. Harry Bosch is a goddamned sloppy fucked up lonely drunk. I have plenty of problems with the added line of the court case, which is true to the books, just not City of Bones, and not in its details. Those rainy flashbacks almost get the right feel of the series, though, so that’s something. But the plotline itself, it’s far seedier and sloppy and brutal in the books — and gets dragged out, at least the case itself — for quite a while, and I don’t really feel like it’s adding anything here except wah wah wah poor put-upon Harry Bosch. Harry Bosch does that himself, Amazon, with or without a sanitized version of the Dollmaker case to hang over his head. It would be and should be compelling TV — Titus Welliver has a great face for it, and he’s talented even if Connelly’s dialogue apparently just crashes noisily on TV. (In fact, I really like him as Bosch; he’s very close to how I picture Bosch when I read the books.)

But they just don’t have the light right. I’ll keep watching, but that’s a hard goddamn thing for me to forgive. How can you fuck up Los Angeles noir light? Amazon has. It’s magical.

(Bosch wouldn’t wear Chucks, but this is the right light. For the record.)

concert: texoma @ motorco music hall

texoma @ motorco

texoma @ motorco

The Cowboy is playing in yet another band, and as he and I had a bit of business to settle yesterday, I headed over to Durham to check out Texoma, the latest project fronted by Zach Terry, late of various Triangle projects like the Whiskey Smugglers and Gambling the Muse. Despite being only a few months old, they’re playing a really solid set of country rock tunes; some stronger than others, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. I’m looking forward to hearing their first full length in a bit, and you can check out their first EP here.

Full set of photos on Flickr.

book review: a whole new ballgame – caryn rose

baseball: seton hall @ unc

Last Saturday I was sitting at Trav’s dining room table, eating scrambled eggs and bacon, and talking about — something. Something that was in all likelihood not related to baseball at all. Definitely not this book. Something that prompted me to say, “Hold on, I need to see who’s on the Astros’ top ten prospects,” turn to my iPad, and then instruct Trav on how George Springer was an anomaly, because he came out of a snowbird school, and Carlos Correa was a true shortstop who they expected to stick there in the majors. He also loves me despite this.

This is how my brain works.

So basically Caryn Rose’s newest novel, A Whole New Ballgame, about a woman who gets her heart broken by a musician and then accidentally takes up baseball as a hobby, is exactly my jam. It’s a smart story about falling in love with baseball, and in the hands of a writer less able to convey the joy of baseball, it would probably fall flat, but in Rose’s, it makes me want to quit my job and drive around watching baseball (even more than usual). It’s full of romantic improbabilities that are upfront about their improbability, which mimics the magic of baseball and that moment when your team just wins. (As a lifelong Orioles fan, I am still trying to remember all those moments.)

Rose’s story is not unfamiliar — boy breaks girl’s heart, girl meet a better boy — but the way she tells it is. The thing that surprised me is that her message isn’t baseball will save your life (or rock and roll will save your life, or anything like that), but rather, the thesis of Rose’s story is that living your life will save your life. Here, baseball is the metaphor for Laurie’s decision to live her life, and move towards her future, instead of betting on the “safe thing” or the “sure thing”. The so-called “bad guys” — ex-boyfriend Kirk, sleazy-charming love interest and musician Ryan — are encased in amber throughout the piece, unable and unwilling to change, destined to be rolled over by tar and their own stagnancy.

So if baseball will save your life isn’t the thesis, how is this a baseball book? Because baseball is so at the heart of it; Rose is by profession a music writer, but she wrote at metsgrrl.com — one of the first professional female baseball bloggers — for many years, and Laurie’s path into baseball fandom is written with a true hand and one that never gets preachy, or too pedantic in explaining baseball to the readers as Laurie learns it. The novel is peppered with Red Sox trivia — Laurie lives in Boston at the start of the book — but as much genuine love for baseball as there is devotion to a single team. Laurie’s path crosses, early on, with Peter and Eric, lifelong friends visiting every MLB park in a single summer, and that’s the story that I won’t spoil for you. But as I said, the improbabilities don’t feel improbable, and the exposition doesn’t feel expository; these characters felt like friends, and several times I wished I was the one sitting in the fourth seat with Laurie, Peter and Eric in Kansas City or, even, the hallowed seats on the Green Monster.

A Whole Other Ballgame isn’t a new classic, and if it was, I’m not the person to determine that. But it is a smart novel about how you move on from losing the things you love, to finding new things you love, and maybe the old things, too. It’s a novel about love, loss, and the fact that no matter what happened last year, pitchers and catchers report in February every year. There’s always next year.

You can find every outlet to buy Caryn Rose’s A Whole New Ballgame here. There’s a release party in Brooklyn at WORD on March 12. The only thing this book was missing is that I never got to find out Peter and Eric’s opinions on my beloved Camden Yards.

(Up top is a photo from a February Carolina baseball game, in 2011. I think I got a sunburn. This year, the Heels are starting in Charleston, SC, instead of the Thrill, because snow. Fuck snow. I was ready for college baseball.)