Tag Archives: music

The Year in Review – Another Year Older

Well, today marks the day that I am… um, quick math here… 45 years old, apparently.  Of all the years in recent history I think this one marks the greatest personal transition.  I changed jobs under force because the company I worked for went bankrupt (again, sigh).  I’m now officially out of living parents.  Other things that I am forgetting that will make someone out there look at the screen and say, “Really?  Gawd!!”  But, despite that distinct possibility, I soldier on because this has been the year of taking chances and having good things occur as a result.  However, since this is primarily a photography blog I will constrain myself to the track of photographic arts.  Because really, anything worth remembering has a picture attached, especially in this day and age.

One thing that stands out in my recollection is that a year ago I repeated a lot of little phrases in my head over and over and most of those were of the form, “Oh yeah, if only I could shoot ‘X’ I would really feel like I was accomplishing something.”  At the time I was doing most of my shoots at local open mics and at Morty’s Comedy Joint (I still don’t know why Morty’s chose to let me in the door when Crackers has been such a tough nut to ‘crack’) but those venues were really a great opportunity to figure out the whole live entertainment process.  It bears striking resemblance to shooting outside in the wild but the lighting is much more dodgy.  Despite the photon deficiency, I met a lot of amazing people and saw some delightful things.

The comedy aspect was important because it gave a dude who lacked confidence (and among all dudes, I am the most profoundly self-doubting and lacking in confidence of them all) an “in” to feel that I not only had something to offer the world but also that the world recognized and wanted it.  So the past year has been the year of Heywood and Chick McGee (and what guy growing up in Indy doesn’t have a secret man-crush on Chick) and Costaki.  That night last December when Chick made fun of me to my face still rings in my memory.

The music side of tings has blossomed amazingly as well.  A year ago I dreamed of getting into the Murat for a show and wondered how I could possibly talk my way in.  Now it’s a thing that has happened and that I can work my way into on a fairly regular basis.  I haven’t quite managed to get to the point where I don’t have to beg to get in but I’m hopeful that there’s some way to worm my way in as a regular.

Earlham college has been an amazing place to visit as well.  We’ve seen two amazing shows and I’ve managed to shoot there both times.  I look forward to many a happy return.

Penultimately, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Indy Magic scene.  And really, when I say Indy Magic Scene it all boils down to the efforts of one man, Taylor Martin.  Taylor is to magic in Indy as I’d like to be to entertainment photography in Indy.  He is “the man” when it comes to illusion and magic around here.

So harkening back to this time last year and all the repeated “if only…” phrases… they’ve kinda come to pass.  If my life happened to be an 80s made-for-TV movie then this would be the part where the music takes a downturn and I find out I’ve got some horrible disease.  So far, however, no horrible diseases.  *knock*

I do wonder what comes next though.  I feel connected; I feel  I can contribute more (though it takes work to worm my way into shows still) and I’m happy to do so and expand my reach but I wonder to myself what’s the “next level.”  What do I do next to take this somewhere so that next year I look back and feel like I’ve made progress (whatever progress really means when you don’t have any real goal.)

Ultimately, it would be nice to be able to somehow make a living from scampering around the city and taking pictures but so far I’m just collecting images and trying to make it clear just how awesome Indy is.  And, frankly, just how awesome the world and the people in it are.  Do I press forward in the entertainment realm?  Do I retract and take the skills acquired in the past 12 months and move back to my old haunts of the forest?  Do I figure out some entirely new realm of photography to explore?  I just don’t know.  And really… that’s half the fun.

I thank you world for an amazing 12 months.  I look forward to documenting you again in all your glory, your joy, your everything for another year.  What will that year bring?  I’ve not a clue.  But that, my wonderful human race, is all the fun.

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VISTA, Brigantine, Emily Morrone and Anna Crume at the Irving Theatre

Firstly, let me admit that it has been a LONG time since last I wrote on this thing.  That is not to say that I’ve been sitting still; I have (as one person put it to me recently) been “really getting around” as of late.  Check out all the doings on Indy Live Photography if you care to.  Since last writing I’ve moved from the rather slow-paced world of comedic photography to the world of live music.  I feel no shame in admitting that things move FAST here.  Or, as it has been more famously said, “people come and go so quickly here.”  Yes, Dorothy, they certainly do…

Last night I was at the Irving Theatre in Indianapolis for a collection of musical amusements.  To give you proper context, the Irving is a wonderful older theatre in the middle of the Irvington neighborhood in eastern Indianapolis.  Its historical roots span from the immortal Elvis to mass murderers who proved that nobody is really immortal. On a pretty regular basis the theatre invites bands to come in and play their guts out for the neighborhood.  These performances are incredibly intimate and informal and frankly, for a photographer, the BEST possible opportunity to practice your craft.  You could very nearly put your zoom lens up the left nostril of the lead singer before someone would step forward to object.  The city of Indy has two musical hearts.  Fountain Square is where you go to practice before you jet out to the rest of the world but Irvington is where you hang out if you just want to be whoever the hell you want to be.  OK, enough of this, on to last night…

The first act up is Anna Crume.  With the ukulele and the curly hair and charming smile she has that disarming innocence.  Her music is soft and unobtrusive and the sort of thing you’d happily drift off to dreamland while you’re listening to it.  Reminds me of a few America’s Got Talent stars.

Next we have Emily Morrone; she is what I would call much more tech and edgy.  Ironically, I’m a bit of a musical moron despite getting out so much but she does a lot of sampling and playback that really makes her defy easy description.  Using just a laptop and a bit of recording equipment during a live performance she can sing a duet with herself and provide recorded background acoustics in a way that artists 30 years ago would have drooled over.  The amazing thing is that she does this all on-site and on the spur of the moment.  The mind boggles.

Next up we have Vista.  Despite being the headliner they went on next to last.  I presume that it might have been related to the fact that the lead singer was a bit under the weather.  Despite the presence of several billion uninvited life forms, Vista crushed it and brought an amazing energy to the Irving.  As a photographer I was challenged to capture them at their best and I hardly did them justice but they certainly provided a lot of WOW.

Admittedly, when I started processing these pics my first reaction was that everything I took was… pretty terrible.  The lighting here was a lot to get used to and it took me a long time to figure out how to shoot this.  The first 100 frames were almost entirely garbage and had to be pitched but after several minutes the “how” seemed to slowly leak into my brain.  By the end, the Garbage had turned to Gold and I felt really good about them.  Situations like this, as challenging as they are, epitomize the real magic of photography.  Looking back I still didn’t do “great” but I feel like the moment was pretty well captured.  And next time I’ll know a little better (I hope)

Lastly, we have Brigantine.  They closed out the show last night and from the perspective of emotion and energy they hit it out of the park.

I love the passion on their faces and the subtle interplay between everyone.

Closing comments… the more I shoot the more I realize that I don’t quite “get” music photography yet.  Having started out in more controlled circumstances, my mind automatically goes to precision and resolution and making sure you have the ABSOLUTE SHARPEST PICTURE ON THE PLANET for every single moment in a concert.  ISO 100, F22, 1/2000 is the only metric of perfection, right….?  Nope.  Just not possible.  You have to capture something fleeting, ephemeral, and you just can’t DO that with absolute perfection.  Sometimes you have to settle for a little-bit blurry picture of someone with a guitar kissing the lens of the photographer just down from you in the pit.  It’s not perfect.  It’s a snapshot of something just out of reach; you feel it in your soul even though you can’t see it with your eyes.

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Out and About – June 2017

I’ve not posted in what seems to me like years but perhaps to you seems a delightful age of peace and quiet.  Well, rejoice no longer!

Music at the Indy Canal

Lately I’ve tried to avail myself more frequently of the downtown Indianapolis Canal.  It’s a couple mile jaunt and boasts some of the most varied selections of people to observe that you can hope for in the city and even some live entertainment from time to time.

2017 Delphi Indiana

Last weekend I found myself in Delphi Indiana.  Of all the small towns in the area this one seems to have tried hardest to set itself apart from its peers.  It boasts a Wabash and Erie Canal interactive museum and a great system of parks.  This suspension bridge struck me as keenly allegorical.  It’s very small so even one person walking with regular footsteps can set up what seems like a pretty dangerous level of motion.  I shiver to think what a few people in-step could do to it.  It just goes to show how the force of things is multiplied with consistent and repeated action in anything we undertake in life.

2017 Delphi Indiana

And remember, jumping from the bridge is strictly prohibited.

2017 Delphi Indiana

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Chinese restaurant in town.  The sign reads:  “Dear customers, We’ll be closed for vacation for two month and we’ll be reopen on Aug 1st.”  This brings to mind a few thoughts.  Firstly, I assume this family is Chinese and has returned to their homeland for the summer.  I love the trust this speaks of for the community that they can just take off for months and that the town will welcome them back.  Also there’s a quaint sort of homespun quality to the homemade sign and simple message.  I really want to eat here on August 1st and see what the place is like.

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Photography Philosophy

It’s been my observation that photographers are an extremely varied bunch and that it’s difficult for any potential customer to know exactly what they’re getting when they look at partnering up with an artist.  Most people who go in search of photography services seem to think of the standard school pictures photographer who tells you to tilt your head in such and such a way and smile just -so- and only takes a picture once you’re positioned just how they want you.  I am not that sort of photographer.  In fact I might be more properly called a hunter than a photographer if that’s your standard of service.

Stoop Kids at Square Cat Records

As example I give you the shot to the right.  This photo of Stoop Kids in their Square Cat Vinyl show last November represents my hunter philosophy when it comes to shooting.  The entire show and their interaction with each other is summed up very neatly in this one photograph.  They are one of the most dynamic bands I’ve seen on stage and I was giddy to capture their souls.  Lead singer and bass player practically nose to nose while the saxophonist peaks out under the mic stand.

Philosophically, I truly believe that posed photography represents more of the photographer than of the subject.  When I shoot I want to capture the reality of what’s going on in a spontaneous and creative way.  Not cast my own thoughts and opinions on what should be onto the situation.  Your photos should be about you and who you are, not some aesthetic that some photographer prearranges for you.

Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band-Album Release Show at the HiFi 3-17-2Next we have Breezy Peyton of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band from the HiFi in March of this year.  For this show we were packed in like sardines and couldn’t move without getting in the way of a lot of other people so we dutifully stood our ground just to the left of center stage for the whole show.  When I’m shooting, my absolute #1 priority is to make sure I’m not disturbing anyone else at the show or distracting from the entertainment.  If you’re lucky enough to get into a show then you’re a guest and you should act like one.  I refuse to use flash or supplemental lighting of any kind because frankly, flashes are annoying as hell.  If I can’t get a shot without getting in someone’s way then I don’t get the shot.  Simple as that.

I’m also not a fan of fancy post-processing.  There are some amazing tools out there that will let you make your photos look like just about anything.  But that is, frankly, a fraud.  The world is more than nice enough just as it is without a lot of augmentation.  Get the shot that’s there and if the light’s blue then bloody well make the picture blue.  It’s the photographer’s job to capture the moment, not create it out of whole cloth.

2016 Indiana State Fair Parkour DemoThe last point I’ll make is about capturing pivotal moments.  As example I give you this shot from last year’s Parkour demonstrations at the State Fair.  I love the expression of the guy who’s not literally walking up a wall.  This whole show was filled with amazing moments and you almost couldn’t click your shutter fast enough.  For me, this is the essence of “hunter photography”. Grabbing that perfect moment out of the air at exactly the right time and bottling it up for all to see is, in my mind, the whole point.

So that hopefully gives you a bit of a sense of my own personal philosophy on photography.  If you’d like to see more of my work please visit my site at RobSlaven.com or on Facebook (IndyLivePhotography | Rob Slaven Photography).

Contact me for photo ops in the Indianapolis and surrounding areas at IndyLivePhoto@gmail.com or in the comments section.

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2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

Today was the occasion of the 2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival.  This was a totally free event and people wandered in and out throughout the afternoon.  I was lucky enough to be invited by the mastermind, who shall be referred to as “JJ” throughout this post to protect his anonymity…. though in retrospect I don’t know how much anonymity he actually wants.

The festival was held at the Irving Theatre on the near east side of Indianapolis.  My attention was first drawn to the Irving because of the monthly screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Since that time I’ve realized that they are the epicenter of an incredibly diverse cultural community that includes music, poetry and movie screenings.  It’s the closest thing you’ll get to Austin, Texas in the Indy area.  It’s obvious that they really work at this stuff.

Alright, to the photos!!!!  In no particular order….

Gordon Bonham made an appearance.  This was one of the few acts that I realized I had heard of before. He gives you a whole new perspective on the concept of don’t judge someone by their appearance. He looks pretty minimal but he can totally rock the house all by himself.

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

Since the last time I wrote, I have come to know that this gentleman as the right Reverend Charlie F. Edmonds. I stand by my word that this guy is profoundly awesome. His deep, resonating voice commands immediate respect. I’d listen to him read the phone book.

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

This is…. well, sad to say that I didn’t apparently quite catch their names. They were  voted one of the top Blues bands in the city. Have I mentioned how terrible I am with names? Images I remember forever but names escape me. Typical photographer.

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

OK, so this photo…. well, it’s the Martinez family and all that needs to be said is that it embodies everything that I care to capture in the world. For the record I am a photographer and I have been paid for photos in the past but frankly I give no shits about photos beyond wonderful stuff like this. This is the real reason to take pictures. The interaction that was not captured between audience and performer was amazing….

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

So the dude with the guitar in the background is our mysterious JJ. I always love his expressions of support. I hope that his partner knows just how much he obviously adores her work. It’s written all over his face.

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival Seriously. Look at that face. If that’s not love then what is? 2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

So these two…. They’re in the middle of everything and they’re one of the very few people who have requested that I take their photo. I feel rather bad that their photo has a bus in the background. One of the primary directives of good photography is to “clear the background” and in my haste to take their picture I totally did NOT clear the anything. I’ve approached them about a real photo shoot which is something I could never have done a year ago. Kinda excited. Can’t deny.

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival Didn’t catch this artist’s name either but like everyone else he was solid. 2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

2016 Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival

So that’s more or less the evening. I do, however, want to take a moment to talk about an issue that is near and dear to my heart and it is addressed to my fellow photographers.

You are there to OBSERVE. You are NOT there to PARTICIPATE. If there is a photo that you can’t get unless you use your flash or stand in the way of other people… go away. Do not take the photo. Let the moment evaporate into the ether of the universe.

Today at this event there were half a dozen photographers. Some of them were really good. I saw them but I don’t think anyone else did. They were like wind over the hillsides. I kinda want to meet them and buy them a beer and get to know them. Others were loud and made themselves known and spoke loudly so that everyone couldn’t help but see them. I kinda don’t care about them.

Here’s the deal. If you’re a photographer then your job is to go in there and document and to make as little impact as possible. If you’re shooting with a flash in a dark room then you’ve failed. If you walk in front of another person then you’ve failed. My philosophy is to make as little impact as possible and to you who were flashing all over the place….. well, you did the wrong thing.  Sit down, figure out how to work your camera in low light and decide how you can “lay low”.  You’re here to capture the world, not contaminate it.

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2016 – The Year of Music (so far)

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.

2016-in-concerts-1

 

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.

6-27-2016 Blackberry Jam Folk Band at Eagle Creek Marina

 

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.

2016-in-concerts-3

2016-in-concerts-4

 

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.

2016-in-concerts-5

 

Jessie James Decker made her way to Lafayette this summer.  Her show was great visually though I still can’t claim to be a fan of country.  Full Album.

Jessie James Decker in Concert

Jessie James Decker in Concert

 

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.

2016 Kansas in Concert in Lafayette, Indiana

2016 Kansas in Concert in Lafayette, Indiana

 

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.

An Innocent Band - Billy Joel Tribute Band

An Innocent Band - Billy Joel Tribute Band

An Innocent Band - Billy Joel Tribute Band

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.

2016-in-concerts-13

 

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.

2016 Creed Bratton in Concert

 

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… onetwothreefourfive… (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.

2016 Irving Theater Open Mic

2016 Irving Theater Open Mic

Irvington Music 8/31/2016

 

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.

Irvington Music 8/31/2016

 

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)

Irvington Music 8/31/2016

Irvington Music 8/31/2016

Irvington Music 8/31/2016

 

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.

9-7-2016 Acoustic Open Mic in Irvington

 

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.

9-7-2016 Acoustic Open Mic in Irvington

 

This stylish-looking dude has organized the Irvington Acoustic Blues Festival this Sunday, September 18th, 2016 12-6 at Irving Theatre.  Be there or be square.

Coal Yard Coffee Music

 

Another example of the peaceful spirit of the place…

Coal Yard Coffee Music

 

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.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

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.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

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.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

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.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

 

And as this post (and the the daylight) draw to an end, we find ourselves back in the dark.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

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.

Irvington Music 9/12/2016

 

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:

 

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