midtown dickens & matthew e. white @ haw river ballroom

midtown dickens @ haw river ballroom

I have — well, not slacked, but I have seen far fewer shows this year than I did last year, and I have definitely missed a lot of homecoming, release, celebration shows by people I love that I wish I hadn’t. Unfortunately, concert photography is a calling that wars with my anxiety and depression, and I’ve spent a lot of this year trying to manage that and, basically, being unable to leave the house, needing to spend weeks with the blankets pulled over my head, etc, etc.

I did, however, leave the house on Saturday night for my fourth show in four weeks at Haw River Ballroom, which is — for reasons I’ll detail below, besides all the raving I’ve done elsewhere — rapidly becoming one of my very, very favorite places to shoot shows. The light is glorious, Heather and Tom LaGarde have created a beautiful sounding and beautiful looking space, and they’re among the friendliest and most generous people I know.

matthew e white @ haw river ballroom

So it was a pleasure and more than a pleasure to spend Saturday evening shooting Matthew E. White, whose enormous orchestra at Hopscotch was a highlight of the weekend for me, and whose smaller but no less powerful band was one of many highlights on Saturday night. Matthew’s voice is one of the most soothing I’ve had the joy to hear, and I find his songwriting, and his orchestration, even in the bigger moments, the louder moments, to fill me with utter peace. Other people dance to his songs; I zone out in a dreamy trance.

midtown dickens @ haw river ballroom

The evening was topped off with a joyful homecoming show from Midtown Dickens, who have really spent most of this year on the road behind their latest release, aptly titled Home. They play with such joy, and some of my favorite shots from their set were ones like the one immediately above, where the joy just shines straight out of everyone. They are a band it is hard to be sad while watching, and that is a gift in and of itself.

And as for those reasons HRB is one of my favorite places to shoot? Well, Heather has given me carte blanche to attend any show I want, as their guest, to shoot. We’re working on embedding a slideshow of my work there on their website. So I guess I can cross 28. Become the house photographer for a local venue. off the life list. Thanks, Heather & Tom — I’m going to do my best to live up to your generosity.

new track from lost in the trees

hopscotch music fest: lost in the trees

Yesterday NPR debuted the first track from Chapel Hill’s own Lost in the Trees, off their upcoming second album for Anti- Records, A Church That Fits Our Needs, due out 3/20. (Happy birthday to me.) The track is “Red”, and you can hear it here.

LITT has been gaining buzz and admirers since Anti- re-released All Alone In An Empty House in 2010, but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and shooting them since early in 2009, when AAIAEH was just out on my beloved Trekky Records. Behind the jump, a retrospective, in reverse chronology; from now til then, one of my favorite bands, a band that I couldn’t be prouder of right now.

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the sea & cake @ local 506

the sea & cake @ local 506

Friday’s show at the 506 was a lovely evening full of jangly indie rock from the Sea & Cake and Butterflies, and absolutely staggering dreamy instrumental post-rock from Chicago’s Brokeback. Warm and comforting in the best way.

Full set here.

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trekky records christmas at the cradle 2010

christmas at the cradle: trekky yuletide orchestra

At some point I will give up trying to explain why the scene here is so amazing, so valuable to me; at some point, I promise I will. But then there are shows like last night, where I end up laughing my head off and wailing “But I don’t understand what’s going ooooooooon” and enveloped in hugs from people I love better than best. (“Neal, you smell fantastic.”) There are shows like last night, where Bob Boilen has been raving about Lost in the Trees on NPR for the better part of the year, but we’re the ones who got to see Ari Picker sing “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” while one of his occasional bandmates, painted green, menaced the small daughter of one of Ari’s other bandmates.

Christy Smith tearing up “Blue Christmas” and then doing “Merry Christmas From The Family”, both of which she absolutely killed. And the connection to the outside world: most John Darnielle fans are familiar with his live cover of “Merry Christmas From The Family”, but most people probably don’t know that it was performed at the original first ever Christmas at the Cradle. In the Year of the Pig is probably the only band who will bring two drummers to play grungy, noisy, mostly instrumental Christmas music. Cassis Orange had a keytar. This is the third year I’ve gone and nobody’s done “River” or “Fairytale of New York” before this, but Filthybird and the Old Ceremony, of course, were the bands who should have been doing them, and since Will and Martin never repeat a local band on the Christmas at the Cradle lineup, I just had to wait until the right bands came along to hear those songs. (“I just had the weirdest conversation with Django.” “What about?” “I don’t even know.”)

I cut business deals on the patio, standing in the misting rain, drinking PBR in cans. The dBs covered the Chipmunks’ Christmas song and the audience, all of a particular generation, sang it right back at them. All Jonny wants for Christmas is me and t. “Mike Mills will drink you under the table if he’s ordering scotch.” Seamus singing about how he won’t be home for Christmas and he doesn’t want to make out with you. It’s my friends who have become family in the last two years, it’s warm and funny and a complete trainwreck half the time, and it’s always perfect.

More photos — a lot more photos — behind the jump.

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for all those with broken hearts

lost in the trees @ tir na nog

Lost in the Trees wraps up their incredibly (and well-deservedly) successful 2010 with a show at Motorco Music Hall in Durham tonight; locals Veelee and (LITT’s Trekky labelmates) Butterflies open. 9PM, $15 at the door. This week, the Indy gives Ari some equally well-deserved local loving and the Anti- reissue of All Alone In An Empty House is starting to show up in end-of-the-year best of lists. It won’t be on mine, because AAIAEH is forever and ever a 2008 release to me, but if you just found them this year, it should be on yours.

I started shooting Ari and company in April 2009; behind the jump, a retrospective of photos from then and from now, in every incarnation and lineup, previously unposted.

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