As I look back on the photos of 2016 I realize that I’ve picked up a theme. In previous years I’ve chased a lot of birds around and taken thousands of photos of buildings but this year my work reflects the very real fact that there are other humans in the universe. And, if you were to judge the human race based on my small sample just about every single one of us has a stringed instrument at hand at all times. On one hand this shift can be attributed to a new-found appreciation for humans but more probably I’ve just learned to be slightly less afraid of them.
No survey of the the music of Central Indiana would be worth its salt if we didn’t start with this gentlemen. He’s been hanging about Lafayette playing on street corners for as long as anyone (maybe even he) can remember. When you think of local musical icons, this person defines the term.
When the spring came, so came music to Eagle Creek. This gentleman is a member of the Blackberry Jam Folk Band. They play a fairly relaxed variety of music from cowboy to Cajun. They’ve been playing around the area for 20 years. Full coverage on Facebook.
Graciously Departed is a Grateful Dead tribute band out of Lafayette. I had the pleasure of catching them three times this year in various venues. They do their tribute great justice. At this point in the year I was still struggling with how to handle the low-light conditions in after-dark concert venues. Full coverage on Facebook.
Mosey Down Main Street is a monthly festival in Lafayette that occurs during the summer months. They boast a huge variety of local and regional bands who, as demonstrated in the photo below of a band that I didn’t recall the name of, have great passion for their art. Full albums over on my more or less abandoned Lafayette Photography Facebook Page.
What remains of Kansas followed Ms. Decker; despite the fact that what remains of Kansas is basically just the name Kansas, Laura and I both walked away from that of the opinion that it was the best $10 concert we’d ever been to. Full Album, but even at 146 frames it doesn’t do the band justice.
An Innocent Band is a Billy Joel tribute band out of Fishers. At 350 frames this was obviously a concert I REALLY got into. They played at the Nickel Plate Amphitheater in Fishers and if you’re a photographer this is a location you want to check out. Great lighting, great bands, easy access and a pretty decent piece of pizza. Exceptional locale. I will also note that this is the first gig I ever shot that actually turned into a paying gig. After seeing the photos on Facebook the band absolutely INSISTED on paying me for the photos despite my repeated statement that I wasn’t in it for the money. Maybe they’re a little bit crazy.
New Augusta Bluegrass Band is, as you might guess, a local bluegrass band. I always tell people, quite repeatedly and quite emphatically that I’ll be happy to take pictures for them but New Augusta is the first group to actually invite me out to shoot them. Full Album.
Ah yes, now we move on to Creed Bratton. Creed is that dude, you know, the one from The Office… named Creed Bratton? We saw him in concert twice; the first time in Irvington (more on that place later) and the second time again in Lafayette. I emailed his publicist about a ‘photo comp’ ticket and managed to get two for the Lafayette show (first time THAT’s ever happened; may never again) so I took myself forthwith with camera in hand. The Lafayette theater is a converted movie theater so if you’ve got the moxy you can creep your way up the sides and down into “the pit” in front of the stage. I could have reached up to untie the guys shoes if I’d wanted too. Full Album here but this was a cool night. And if you’ve ever wondered if the show changes much from one stop to the next? Nope. At least not in this case. Just about verbatim. But good nonetheless.
OK, so moving along chronologically, we come, of course, to Irvington. I won’t belabor this too much as I did JUST write another post about this place but suffice to say I like it. I’ve wandered into… let’s see… one… two… three… four… five… (all links to the full albums) musical events of some sort there in the span of a couple weeks. I expect at some point the locals just MIGHT start getting a bit creeped out.
This gentleman is worth some mention. He was the opening act for The Icarus Account and seems to be the front man for a local band. This night he was playing on his own for a very select crowd. They knew his songs and could ask for them by name and they bantered back and forth for about 30 minutes or so. The point of all this though is just how relaxed it was. He was doing his thing, the crowd was asking for songs and it was just as casual as it could be. In my little version of the world getting on stage is a tough thing to do but he felt supported enough by those around him that it just wasn’t a thing. Sure there were mistakes and forgotten lyrics but the place just resonated with love and the spirit of togetherness and support.
So here’s The Icarus Account. They played at Irving Theatre a couple weeks ago to an intimate crowd of maybe 30 people. This is the venue in which I learned to really embrace the dark. Photography is about light, right? Can’t take a picture without light! But during this hour or so of taking pictures it clicked with me that the dark is your friend too. Lighting in here is pretty minimal, a couple of small spots and that’s it. You have to crank your ISO up painfully high to get good exposure even on the lightest bits. But as it turns out, that totally works. The darkness allows you to drop the background completely to black and these two really POP. Instead of fighting the darkness I allowed it to take over and the results are, I think, brilliant. Full album (conflated with the Open Mic night immediately previous)
You go to a few open mic nights in a row and you start to see the same people over and over. This gentleman in particular, however, I could listen to for hours. His song selection is over the moon. Laura and I both looked at each other a couple times and said, “I haven’t heard that song in years!” Well chosen and well rendered.
I didn’t make a personal connection with this gentleman at a recent open mic but he exemplifies well, I think, the individual spirit of Irvington. He’s wacky, energetic and isn’t afraid to darn well show everyone else that side of himself in public with guitar in hand.
Another example of the peaceful spirit of the place…
What’s also encouraging is the youngsters who show up to events. Though nervous and a little bit shy, they march up and do their thing.
And everyone just seems so giddy. This artist writes all his own material (I believe) and if Dr. Demento was still alive his music would fit right in.
Turning a bit serious for a moment, some people come to the mic almost as an act of therapy. But when the vibe starts to turn down the crowd responds to lift them back up and while they can’t solve the problem, they can show that they understand and support. And, they don’t mind a little carnal yelling. Everybody’s got to shout at a crowd from their deepest guts once in a while.
It was about this time in the evening that the local denizens carted out a light to blind the performers and help with the photography. I didn’t ask for this; it’s just that I’d been there enough times that they decided it was a good idea. I’ve never been to a venue in which people were more friendly or accommodating. Such an amazing sense of community in this place.
And as this post (and the the daylight) draw to an end, we find ourselves back in the dark.
Taken to its extreme, embracing the darkness, we’re left with just a crescent moon of this artist. I adore this shot despite the fact that really there’s so little to it. Adding a bit to the story I’ll say that when this guy first spoke it thrilled me to the core. He’s got a marvelously deep voice almost like he’s got gravel in his guts. Reminded me strongly of John Lee Hooker and that smile is infectious.
So there you have it, the year 2016 in music so far. I will admit that it’s been a really varied ride. I started out in the pounding sun and ended up in the dark of night. I’ve learned quite a bit and have a new attitude and approach to light and how it interacts with subjects and how sometimes it’s just not quite as necessary as you might think.
Frankly, I don’t really know where to go next. Irvington has been very accommodating but I’m not sure how much more there is to glean here. Continue the deep dive or find other fields to play in? In many ways ending this thread here would be somewhat appropriate, especially given the last shot. Likely I’ll just flip a coin when the next Open Mic night comes. Which, unsurprisingly, just about every day of the week. Go check these great venues: