Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fenway Park With Jon Butcher

The end of an amazing day with Mr Butcher and Company.
   Over the years I have been in some very cool places with some very cool people but standing on the field at Fenway Park as Jon Butcher played The National Anthem on his custom Fender Strat may be the coolest moment yet.
   Walking into Fenway for sound check I had a feeling that the day was going to be one for the books but I had no idea how powerful and crazy 90 seconds could be.
I was about to find out...

FMan rolls film as JB rocks Fenway at sound check.

To hear the anthem through Jon's guitar, even in an empty park during sound check was amazing.
I have always felt that when the anthem was performed that it should move you, make you proud and stir your emotions. This was that kind of anthem. The notes went right through you and touched your soul, but then I would expect nothing less from a man that I have been a fan of for over 20 years.
   Jon, is without a doubt, one of the very finest singer/songwriter/musicians that I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and to be able to share this day with him was truly something special.
Jon and Charlie after soundcheck.
   It also didn't hurt that we were joined by Jon's partner in crime and music, Charlie Farren and their guitar techs, Dan and Mike. What a great group to share this experience with.
   After sound check Jon and Charlie left Fenway to tend to business which left Dan, Mike and myself alone with a limited edition guitar and all of Fenway Park at our disposal. A very dangerous combination.
   We took advantage of the situation and brought the guitar down to the field to have it photographed with as many people as we could find. Seemed like a good idea at the time...
Columnist Peter Gammons with the 100th Anniversary Strat.
   We got everyone from MLB columnist Peter Gammons to Kevin Youkilis and several people who we are still trying to figure out who they are. We had a blast and made some new friends at the same time.Never a dull moment around those two.
   On our search for a place to eat we even recreated one of the promotional photos we did for FBI a while back on Lansdowne Street.
MIke & Dan get their own promo shot.
   Note: We ended up having burgers at Jerry Remy's with the world's most timid waitress and mist being blown on us constantly but thats another story.
    Jon and Charlie returned in time for the end of batting practice and an interview with Jenny Dell for Jon.
   We all hustled down to the fabulous Green Room (also known as the security department's lunch/locker room) deep in the bowels of the park to get ready for "Show Time."
   We tried to talk Jon into maybe playing a few extra songs after the anthem or maybe even laying the guitar on home plate and lighting it on fire but he would have none of that (although I think with just a little more encouragement he might have done an few requests. I'm sure the players wouldn't have minded...).
Interview with NESN's Jenny Dell.
   After being escorted onto the field it was quite a sight standing behind home plate with Jon and Company and as Dan and Mike hustled Jon's amps into position.
   Then it was time for the anthem and needless to say, Mr Butcher rocked the song and the park.
It was the fastest and, at the same time, most unforgettable 90 seconds of music I think I will ever hear.
   My mind was racing as one part of it was concentrating on photographing the moment and the other part (that is roughly 14 years old) was thinking, "How cool is this to be on he field at Fenway Park three feet away from Jon Butcher playing The National Anthem?"
Great ending to a truly amazing experience.
   After the anthem we went to our seats to watch some of the game and I had a few moments to take it all in and realize just how lucky I am to be able to do what I do, with the people that I get to do it with.
It does not get much better than this...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Johnny A. and his "Sweet 16."

The final poster
Recently, I re-posted a photograph that I shot for Johnny A. of him posing with his sixteen signature Gibson guitars. The shot eventually was turned into a poster and another version became the front of a t-shirt. The one of JA and his guitars is still one of my all-time favorite photographs.

When I re-posted the picture several people (photographers, mostly) wanted to know how much photoshop was done to the shot. Most are surprised when I say that there was hardly any and what you see is almost completely done in the camera.

The black background was cleaned up a bit because it was was a bit dusty from being in the truck but otherwise what you see is what was shot.

When I got to his house there were 16 guitars in 16 stands lined up like bowling pins waiting to be shot.  Not a bad look, but not the kind of thing that will get people's attention when they are lined up  at a merch table.

16 beautiful models ready and waiting.
After a little brainstorming and planning the final shot came together. I had brought a friend with me to help out and we quickly set up a big black backdrop that I had in the truck just in case
(I tend to bring too much stuff to a gig and sometimes it pays off).

We laid it out on the floor of the living room and
started playing with different configurations and
patterns of how the guitars should look.

It took a few tries but we finally came up with a layout that looked good. Right colors next to the right colors, right models next to the right models. Things just started to come together and all we had to do now was get JA ready for his close up.

Close, but not quite..

Before he returned I asked Rick to stand in for him and did a quick test of the shot with him in the position that I would have Johnny in. Everything looked good so we were ready to try it for real.

Sometimes changing things on the fly, scrapping one idea completely and going to another works out really well.

The more I push to make things happen when I am not feeling it can lead to a shot that I am not happy with. This was one of those times when going with the feeling, walking away from the first idea and trusting how things were going paid off better than trying to force the original shot.

Johnny was ready and stepped in to his spot as I returned to the balcony upstairs. Oh, did I forget to mention that all the shots were taken from a balcony about 15 feet or so over JA's head?

I am pretty much hanging as far as I can over the rail of the balcony while holding several pounds of camera and lens. and trying to compose and focus while doing everything I can not to fall over the rail or drop something heavy and metal on Johnny or tens of thousands of dollars worth of guitars.

It was one of those times that I have to pay total attention to the job at hand or I would be the proud owner of a slightly crushe guitar or trying to find an ice pack and aspirin for two. Neither option sounded attractive so I watched my step. Carefully.

As usual, JA rocked and had the pose down and I balanced and shot and got what we wanted without any damage done or calls to 911. Always a good thing.

The hardest part of the whole shoot was that we left for Hawaii a couple of days later for a few weeks and so we had to do all the proofing, selecting and prep for printing from the North Shore of Oahu in order to make the deadline. We had so many calls and emails back and forth it felt like JA had become part of the family and had made the trip with us.

So thats the Readers Digest version of that shot and it is still one of my favorite photographs which is saying something when you look at its competition.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Credit Where Credit Is Due

First promotional shot for New Man. 1983, I believe...
About 25 years (or so) ago I was working in a camera store in Boston. It was one of about 30 stores in a chain called Underground Camera and my store was on Boyston Street, right across from the Boston Public Library so we had a lot of local musicians come in on a regular basis.

One of those musicians was a sax player named Bob Gay. He came into the store one day and I mentioned that I could take better band photos than the ones that he was picking up.

He suggested I come by a club that his band was playing at that night and I could meet everyone and we could discuss photos.

After he left, I realized what I had just gotten myself into and went into full panic mode since I had,
A. Never photographed a live band at a club before and, B. Never done a band promotional shot before.

Robert Douglas Gay. Halloween at Bunrattys.
A million years ago.
Needless to say that the first shoot with the band was mediocre to say the least. I remember looking at the contact sheets and thinking that my photographic life had come to a screeching halt. For some reason though I got a second chance and this time the photos didn't actually, um, suck.

The club I met the band at was Bunrattys and the band was New Man and for the next several years I learned much of what I know shooting New Man and many other bands in clubs like Buns, Jacks, The Channel, The Rat and Jumpin' Jack Flash. It was like going to photo school for me but with stickier floors.

Those years were priceless for so many reasons and if it had not been for Robert Douglas Gay and his belief and support, well, I would probably be the photo guy at Glamour Shots at the mall right now (not that there is anything wrong with that).

The coolest part of this whole trip is that he and I have kept crossing paths over the years and just a little while ago I was able to bring my son to a gig at his bands rehearsal space. Priceless.

RDG and MJK meet for the first time and now I know 2 cool sax players.
I decided to title this post
"Credit Where Credit Is Due" because I was feeling grateful today for where this journey has taken me so far and the amazing people that I have met along the way.

Bob was the first of many that took a chance on me and invited me into his life. I don't take things like that lightly or for granted. Through him and his band I was introduced to people and places that you couldn't
pay to meet or go to and I learned more in that time than could ever be taught in any school.

Robert Douglas Gay with the Velveteen Playboys
in 2011. Cooler than ever.

The last couple of years I have been very lucky to connect with Bob and his new band Velveteen Playboys where he has once again been surrounded by some truly amazing musicians.

I was able to bring my son to a recent gig at Showcase Live in Foxboro where he not only got to see and hear the band play in a beautiful venue but he photographed
the band as well.

It was the coolest thing to see how this part of my life had come full circle. Here is my son photographing the man who played such a huge part in the direction that my life took, doing what he does best while I get to watch. It does not get much better than that.

I have always been told that you should photograph what you love, what you have a passion for, and the rest will fall into place.

I have come to find that this is very true. Its easier said than done, but with the help of some people along the way that understand what you are trying to do and are willing to share their talent, lives and heart with you, well, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

25 plus years later the man rocks harder than ever.
The list of people that I have met along the way that have made a huge difference in my life and work grows every day and I always look forward to meeting the new additions, but at the top of that list, always, will be the amazing musician and gentleman, Robert Douglas Gay.

Looking forward to the next gig...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Night In (The) Paradise....

Last weekend I had the extreme pleasure of photographing two great bands at The Paradise in Boston.
I had gone to the club with plans for photographing Adam Ezra doing an acoustic set as the opener for Donavon Frankenreiter and ended up staying all night and hearing some amazing songs from both acts.

Thanks to Cat Wilson, of The Cheap Seats, I had the pleasure of meeting Adam at The Hard Rock Cafe when he came to accept his four New England Music Awards. After talking with Adam for a few minutes I  realized  that this is somebody that I truly wanted to work with.

I had been a fan of the music but had now become a fan of the man behind the music and that does not happen as often as you might think.

Sound check was short and sweet as it was just Adam and AEG's percussionist Turtle for this gig but I already had a good idea of just how well this night was going to go.

Even at sound check there was passion and energy in each song and those are two of the things that I always look for, not just because they make for great photos but it's what
I want to hear personally as well. If you are going to get on stage and play for people you should move their hearts and souls and Adam and Turtle already had my attention on those counts.

I missed a lot of the sound check for Donavon and his band for various reasons (mostly helping the video guy get his gear set up, and eating) so I wasn't sure what to expect.

When doors opened at 7:00 I was surprised at the rush of fans that streamed in to get good spots up front. The fact that they rushed in wasn't as surprising as the fact that a lot of the girls were wearing big, fake mustaches (a sign of a true Donavon fan I soon learned).

Adam and Turtle came out and took over the room and rocked that stage from first song to last. They had the attention of everyone in that club and held their hearts in the palm of their hands. It was very cool to see.

It reminded me why I love live performances so much and being able to be this up close and personal makes the music even more powerful.
Big venues have their own special energy and vibe but in a club like The Paradise it's a whole different world.

Adam and Turtle were smoking that night and it was great to get a chance to finally hear and see them live. A lot of their fans told me that if I thought this was good then seeing and hearing the whole band playing will be even better.

All I could think of was, Really? Better than this? Because this was pretty damn good.
So, needless to say, I am very much looking forward to the next AEG show. Stay tuned!

Oh, and as for Donavon and his band, they were killer with cool songs and very funky energy.
There are some really great musicians in the band and a bass player that left me speechless which doesn't happen very often.

More to come...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Women...

I am very lucky to have some amazing clients that I work with on a regular basis, but there are two in particular that are very unique and over the last few months I have noticed that they have a lot in common.

What is unique about them is that they are both women who have decided to take on the world in two very different, but at the same time, similar ways. They are both young, smart, talented, and driven by their desire to reach their goals. Fortunately, for me, they are also personable and beautiful and they make me look good every time I photograph them.

                                                                                   Ayla Brown and Jody Perewitz are both Trouble with a capital "T." They both have the same
take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to getting the job done and if something gets in their way the don't go around it, they go through it.
At the same time, though, they continue to impress and inspire those that they come in contact with, and those that only know them through their work and achievements, by being approachable and down to earth.
They both seem to appreciate that they are in a very special position and take nothing for granted, especially the appreciation and admiration of their fans.

This past summer Jody traveled to the Bonneville Salt Flats with her team to take a run at a speed record for the fastest woman on a V-Twin motorcycle.
She would have to run in excess of 200mph in order to do this in an environment that is like no other in the world of speed. To the veterans  that try and set records there each year Bonneville is dangerous, hostile and unforgiving. For Jody and her crew this was their first trip out and just getting a feel for the place and running at speed would be a challenge, setting a record would involve a whole new level of determination and courage.
Jody, as anybody who spends any time around her would know, has plenty of both. Not only did she succeed in setting a record by going over 203mph but she is already planning a return trip this year to break a few more.
I just got back from a trip to Nashville where I spent a few days photographing musician/producer Ricky Skaggs for Sennheiser Electronics. I had touched base with Ayla since she is living in Nashville to see if she wanted to assist me at the shoot and meet Ricky and the people from Sennheiser. We had a great time on the shoot and then went to eat with Ricky and the rest of the crew and it was during that time I realized just how far Ayla had come since I had first met her and just how hard she had worked to get there.

In the past year she has moved to Nashville, become her own manager and produced her own self-titled CD which is due to be released soon. Producing, and paying for, a CD is a massive undertaking in its own right because it requires writing many of the songs, finding a studio, finding and hiring musicians and engineers, and then performing on the CD yourself while keeping all those other things moving and organized. Mix that in with performing the National Anthem at all the Philadelphia 76ers home games and booking and performing original gigs at the same time
and all the travel that goes along with those gigs and, well, there are a lot of musicians that would have quit a long time ago.
The night of the shoot I went to see Ayla perform in a round at the Indigo Hotel in Nashville that she had booked at the last minute. It was acoustic, just her and her guitar and she owned that room.
After a full day of working with me (which is a long day when you have to put up with my jokes), managing her business affairs and packing to leave for Philadelphia the next morning, she left it all behind and stepped on the stage and held everyone in that room in the palm of her hand. Everyone stopped to listen, other musicians, the wait staff, everyone, because they knew this was something special and they didn't want to miss it. It was very cool to watch.

203 miles per hour or having a room full of people hang on your every word as you sing your songs... Two very different worlds for two very different women with very similar qualities.
I'm looking forward to seeing what 2012 has in store for these two... or more accurately, what Ayla and Jody have in store for 2012.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Del Fuegos at the Paradise Rock Club 6/24/11

Simply put, The Del Fuegos rocked the stage at the Paradise from their first song to their last.

The last time I heard them play was some 20 plus years ago at Bunrattys or the Channel or maybe even at the Paradise ( I think I was only about 12 so its hard to remember). The band played as hard and with as much energy this night as they did back then. Non-stop, take-no-prisoners, blow-the roof-off, rock and roll. In other words, they were amazing and they held the heart and soul of each person in the packed club in the palm of their hands.

The whole night was like a trip down memory lane to when music was about standing against a stage in a small club packed with people dancing and singing the words as a your favorite band tore the place up. A time when you could literally reach out and touch the musician and feel their sweat as they played their hearts out (a special thanks to Tom  Lloyd in particular for sharing).

I had forgotten just how much I had missed experiencing music like that. The Paradise is one of those clubs that has survived through the years and it was the perfect place for The Del Fuegos to reunite. The combination was genius and as a fan of both the club and the band I can say it was a night that will bring a smile to my face for many years to come.

Dinner with the band and family before the show at Jasper White's Summer Shack on Dalton Street was very cool and the food was amazing.
I learned that one should ask for a doggie bag though as stuffing extra deserts in a camera bag while jumping into the van with Dan and Tom is not as good an idea as it seemed at the time.

It was great to spend some time with the band before the show and catch up on many of the musicians that we all know from various bands. What struck me most during dinner and the ride over was the attitude of everyone involved in this reunion. This night was not about limos and 5 star hotels and green M&M's in the dressing room it was about 5 guys getting together to do what they do best for a cause that helps people help themselves ( There were no egos and attitudes to be found, just smiles and hugs and a tremendous energy from beginning to end.

It was, I must say, a huge honor to be a small part of that night and I'm looking forward to the next time the band takes the stage and shows how rock and roll is meant to be played.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's 2011? Really???

Okay, so for those of you that have been keeping track I have not written in this Blog since June of 2009.

I apologize to all the readers (both of you) that have been waiting by their computers patiently for the next thrilling installment of all the edge-of-your-seat adventures I have been on since 2009.

It's not that I am lazy when it comes to writing in this blog but more a matter of my thinking that the chances of somebody sitting down and reading this is about as likely as having people line up to drive me to the airport.

So, instead, I have decided to look at making entries in this blog as more of an advice column than a "Hey, look what I did today," kind of thing. And when I say "advice" I mean it more in the terms of what not to do as opposed to great words of wisdom delivered in a Charlton Heston kinda voice advising you to build an Ark and grab some raingear.

In order to catch up to the present I am going to do a sort of Readers Digest version
of the last year or so (or maybe just the last couple of months if I lose energy).
Since most of '09 is a blur I will just ramble on about 2010 as best as I can remember...

Spent a couple of weeks in Hawaii shooting a wedding and working on a poster for Johnny A. that we shot literally 2 days before we left. LSK spent some serious potential beach time working on the final product to meet the deadline but the end result was worth it and I have to say that it is still one of my favorite shots ever.

Came back to a variety of different shoots ranging from some very cool weddings with amazing couples to music events at
The Foundation Room at the House of Blues, to the stage build at Fenway Park for the Aerosmith/J. Geils concert, to shooting Bad Company at the BoA Pavilion

This is the kind of stuff that I live for. Incredible music with some amazing people. Even got kicked out of the hotel bar with Johnny A. and some of the Bad Co members. Ended up hanging out in guitarist Mick Ralph's room the rest of the night with JA and Billy Loosigian. Very cool stuff just like the old days...

Also started a great working relationship with Jon Butcher and Charlie Farren as they launched their FBI (Farren Butcher, Inc) project as well as the amazing Ayla Brown as she rocked the Country music scene with her band. I am looking forward to a long and creative relationship with them all and I am honored that they have chosen me to record the images that they want to present to their fans.

I'm realizing as I write this that this blogging stuff is very close to work. I have just scratched the surface of 2010 and my fingers are cramping and I'm wondering what might be on cable. I'm really glad that I decided to skip 2009 or I would be knee deep in Red Bull cans and Oreos about now.

Tune in tomorrow (or maybe the day after) as I continue to get caught up and work the kinks out of this writing thing. Over and out.