Saturday, June 28, 2008

Although I posted about "Give and Take" awhile back, I thought it was necessary to properly introduce you guys to Shea Mullen, multi-tasker extraordinaire, as last week was the last shoot in this series.

Not only does Shea work with multiple charities and design uber-comfy T-shirts, but she owns a cupcakery in Pittsburgh, well Shadyside really, called Coco's Cupcake Cafe. I don't even really like cupcakes, but there are soo many choices at Coco's it's hard to find one that doesn't suit your fancy - my favorite thus far being the biscotti, or no wait, the vegan red velvet, no no umm the chocolate chocolate with the Italian meringue buttercream? Eh well, I've never been known for my Blitzkrieg-like decisions.

I don't mean to talk about Coco's so much, but I'm hungry - or no, what I meant to say is that Shea is a living example of how the one-trick pony road to success is wrong in some cases and actually, is less secure than the multi-tasking-"crazy"-person model. And by the way, how are all of the multi-tasking crazies different than (y)our grandfathers who worked 3 jobs? Success is relative, my friends, whether it's found in supporting your family or in creating tons of different things.

The ironic part, at least in my case, is that I can't short-term multi-task. Have you ever seen me walking down the street, drinking a bottle of water and talking on the phone at the same time? If you think you have, that definitely wasn't me because you would have then proceeded to see me fall on my face. Yeah, yeah, gymnast, cheerleader, balance beam, schmalence beam. It all adds up to nothing.

Maybe this is the catch though. Maybe those who multi-task in the short-term can focus in the long-term and those who multi-task in the long-term can focus in the short-term. That's probably not true, but it would be funny if it was.

Ok, well, food for thought I guess and speaking of, NYC brunch is calling my name. Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be here all month and you know what that means? You're right! Nine more brunches!!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

I don't know whose manager let elitism and extreme celebrity thrive, but if you ask me, it's among the worst things in music and actually, entertainment as a whole. Sure, idolization of an image is generally helpful in marketing, but it's the moment when the person behind the image embraces celebrity. That's where I get really, really lost. Musicians who have been fortunate enough to reach the peak of multimedia Everest owe that ascent, almost entirely, to the people who were and are willing to devote their lives to a sound, an image and a belief - be it manager, crew member, promoter, or fan.

And no one I've met in this elevated category (yet) understands this more than Mr. Kenny Chesney, the anti-celebrity. His status is impressive, which makes his humility not only astounding, but as it should be.

As I work for more and more of these tours, the selection of crew members and how said star treats the crew is quite indicative of the vibe and purpose of that artist's music. My hypothesis is still being tested, but something tells me it's fairly accurate as stands.

However, let's not forget that he still is an entertainer with a stage image and to some degree, must play it up. I mean, if you scroll down, you might mistake Petty for Jesus dressed in a purple velvet blazer with an electric guitar, but I assure you, it actually is Tom Petty and probably only stage Tom Petty.

In the music world, artists like Kenny sometimes get snubbed for cliche chords and generic lyrics, and ok, no, this music isn't critically revolutionary, but is creating universally identifiable music something to be frowned upon? Ok, don't answer that, but if that's what you think, I suggest you go to the nearest Kinko's and for $24.95 "buy happiness" in a ridiculous book titled: Happy for No Reason. Quite a bargain if you ask me. Oh, and don't be ashamed, I buy my happiness in various wheels of cheese.

My actual point being is that I would bet my entire album collection that Kenny is more level-headed than most "stars" out there. I know I always talk about the fans, but Kenny's fans truly love Kenny and Kenny truly loves his fans.

Once again, this is where I get confused about the elitists. Why don't they understand that the connection to the fans, in the end, IS the only thing that truly matters? Yeah, everyone backing these artists is important too, but are they the ones buying tickets, merch and the experience? No, they are the ones creating it... for the fans... for these artists to be able to continue.

How do you think the Dixie Chicks, after their highly publicized, derogatory comment about President Bush, after being banned from country airwaves, took their newest album, "Taking the Long Way," to the top of the charts without the assistance of radio? And look at the demographic they play to!

I don't give a crap what any of you think you know about music or what you think about country, but if you don't respect that kind of artist/fan relationship, you might as well never listen to another record ever again... because you are part of that relationship.

Kenny Chesney is not Radiohead. Kenny Chesney is not the Rolling Stones. Kenny Chesney is not the Dixie Chicks. Kenny Chesney is Kenny Chesney and what he's doing is brilliant on many different levels. If I were to delve into the other business aspects of this dude, we'd be here all day and night for the next week, but right now I'm just talking about his notion that he is no better a person than anyone in his audience or anyone on his crew. I would have to totally disagree with him, but that's only because it takes a hell of a lot of guts and dedication to make it as far as he has and I just don't believe that most people have that in them. But I guess that's just my own quirky idolization of Kenny Chesney.

Despite that though, and almost to my surprise, Kenny and I get along wonderfully.

(Photo: back of KC crew shirt... which I tried to make look like a waving pirate flag... with um, very little success.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finally seeing Entrain live on 6/11 (wow, I'm late in posting... sorry guys) was quite the pleasure for this little music nerd. I started listening to these guys a lonnng time ago and for some reason, probably my remitting ADD, they unfortunately fell off of my audio radar for the past few years.

This should have never happened.

When one band can gather a group of hooligans from all walks of life and make them all dance by the end of the show, I must tip my hat and kick myself down the street for laying their records aside.

What I'm trying to say is: have a listen.

Oh hi!

This is probably way immature of me, but is the lead singer of Entrain giving me the bird??

Haha, jussst kidding Jeff.

Monday, June 16, 2008

There is absolutely no denying the fact that Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers are indeed rock stars. I've photographed many bands in my time, but these guys are part of the aging group of people who defined rock, which made shooting these guys last Tuesday particularly great. Does Petty walk around like a rock star? Um yes, but quite frankly, he deserves it. Not only has his music managed to keep fans from 30 years ago, but it's managed to reach an exceeding amount of younger generations. And all of these people, I'm telling you, every last one, would like to be nowhere else in the world. The incredible happiness, the crazy dancing and the bright eyes apparent throughout the crowd just makes you wish you could make people that happy on a consistent basis. Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the music, maybe it's the combination of the two, but whatever it is, it reminds you of what live music really is and always was. That this show, that live music in general, is a connective, sensory experience and not just 60 bucks down the drain when you could have been at home watching whatever it is that you watch in HD.

With all of the other ridiculous media outlets in society, at 57, Petty still sells out pretty much every amphitheater he plays. Whether it's a testament to his legend or the fact that his shows rock, I'm also not sure, but it doesn't really matter. I'm a pretty tough critic and I was thoroughly impressed, so if you get a chance and you can worm your way into a ticket when he comes to your town, head to the show and see what I mean.

"I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" -Almost Famous

a.k.a A visual representation of the sanctimony of rock stars.

"She said, I dig you baby, but I got to keep movin' ... on, keep movin' on"

Thanks lighting dudes!

I'll post a Petty/Winwood album to my myspace eventually.

Hide-and-Seek with the Nittany Lion, Peek-a-Boo with Tom Petty, what's next, musical chairs with Jack Nicholson?

Do you love Stevie Winwood?

Well, if you don't, that's fine because I do.

This guy is awesome and not only because I would get an occasional wistful smile from behind his keys. With that smile though, comes a history book of rock'n'roll from his start with the Spencer Davis Group to Traffic to Blind Faith to thirty-some years of collaborations and solo ventures.

For a kid that grew up with all that, it was wonderful to be standing two feet from a legend. The unusually fun part about all this too is that he was opening for Tom Petty. Petty certainly has a much larger and obviously younger following, but lacks in musically dynamic range when compared to Winwood.

Ah well, Petty's a legend too, but the difference is... he knows it. Stevie just kinda plays to play, his unforgettable voice cutting the bustle of the crowd, most of which probably clueless as to who they are talking over.

"Often lost and forgotten
The vagueness and the mud
I've been thinking I'm working too hard
But I got something to show"

"Empty Pages" lyrics from Traffic's 1970 album,"John Barleycorn Must Die"

After this show, "Higher Love" was stuck in my head for about 4 days.

I'm also pretty sure that he didn't even play it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


These pants (and matching vest) took him 30 years to make.

Talk about a slave to fashion! Wooo hooo!

I'd like to give a special thanks to Tom Petty for wrangling such characters into his shows. I think it's spectacular.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Headlining the Three Rivers Arts Festival, moe. made their annual return to Pittsburgh to kick off the city's biggest celebration of the arts last Friday.

I love photographing these guys because they just let me crawl wherever my little heart desires, provided I'm not too much in anyone's direct line of sight - stagehands and/or audience. They also are consistently a fun band to shoot because they are so mellow. One would think that might be a bad thing for photography, but it really just makes you re-evaluate what and how you are shooting. Yeah, sure, are you going to get more craziness shooting a band like KISS (shut up, it was the first band I could think of with insane theatrics)? Uh, yes... you would be an idiot if you weren't able to capture some form of insanity at a show like that, but to take something so relaxed and make it visually say, yes that was a moment, is a lot harder.

Photo: Al!

For whatever reason, every time I shoot moe., I am always prone to photographing Rob. It's not my usual "find the most animated," because really, moe. is too chill for that rule. It's more of... I just smile when I see this guy. Maybe it's his smile, maybe it's his presence, maybe it's his hands... I don't know. The draw to him never fails though.

PPG, a trademark building of Pittsburgh to the left of moe.'s stage Friday night.

I want to know who did the typography and graphic design for that sticker.

My 17-year-old fan club who happened to be strategically placed in front of Rob - unavoidable every time I would go to shoot the moe. bassist. It's fortunate I have an affinity for high-fives.

At least their rambunctious chants of "pho-tog-ra-pher" to the beats of numerous songs made the band smile and really, that's all I'm there to do.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Let's begin this story with Game 5, which, was nothing short of awesome. Down in the series, 3-1, the Penguins played a stellar game on Monday night against Detroit. At first, it wasn't looking so good, but then in the last minute of play, Maxim Talbot scored the tying goal to send the Pens into overtime.

Now at the time, I was waiting for a label rep and Greg Laswell to get into town from Philly. I was supposed to meet them for drinks at 11, which would have been enough time to finish the game and be on my merry way... but the Pens just went into overtime! Ugh.

Fortunately (sorry guys), my lovelies got stuck in freakishly late traffic, coincidentally plopping them in Pittsburgh right as Petr Sykora shot the winning sudden-death goal in 3OT for the Pens! Talk about timing!

Because I took the guys to Dish, we were just in time to hear all the fans in the South Side bars come out and celebrate the greatest Pens game of the year. I love when I can show visitors a funny, yet big part of Pittsburgh, particularly when that kind of victory doesn't happen everyday.

Photo: A collection of Pens' fans outside Mellon Arena watching Game 6 on the outdoor jumbotron. Check out the Channel 11 sportscaster in the background, who is definitely my favorite part of this shot.

By far, my favorite boys to photograph.

Just a few more of my favorite Penguins fans.

Good thought dude.

Even better thought to the gentlemen in the upper right-hand corner. Reminds me of my PSU days when I'd run into that silly Kyoto penguin on the bus en route to the stadium on rainy afternoons...

Those of us that were not fortunate enough to wiggle our way into the arena last Wednesday evening, were certainly fortunate enough to be in the company of a wondrous sea of Pittsburghers for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. If you've ever been to a post-season game in this city (minus the Pirates), you know what I mean by wondrous - i.e. the final line spoken in a phone convo by the lady behind us: "It's the m'f'n playoffs! Of course I'm emotional you SOB! They're f'n blowin the thing! FINE! You don't f'n care?! Don't expect me to come home tonight! Actually! I WILL f'n come home and MAKE you f'n care!" This line could have been spoken to a friend, a relative, a husband, oh, you know, a child...

Pittsburgh, always in such fine form... and we love you so.

For those unaware, the Penguins were kind enough to erect a temporary 12x16 LED screen for the unlucky souls unable to acquire tickets. It's actually pretty cool that thousands of fans have consistently shown up outside Gate 3, rain or shine, throughout the playoffs.

For photography's sake, this naturally turned out to be a great lil shoot.

Monday, June 02, 2008

So I've found myself saying "this is the best week ever!" about 48 times this past year and if you ask me, 48/52 ain't too shabby. This week obviously deserved that statement, but I mean, if last week was the best week ever, but this week is even better than that, there's never too much to be bummed about!

This time, that exclamation is owed to a good friend of mine, Jen "makin' dreams come true" Bilec. First of all, she's one of the best humans I've ever met. Strange, but I really just don't know how else to describe it. How did I first meet this kid, you ask? Well, we went to elementary school together, but my first contact with her was at a 4th/5th grade softball game - where, this bored 4th-grade outfielder (accidentally) caught a fly ball hit by said superstar 5th-grade athlete. I was thrilled about it, probably until 7th grade.

It wasn't until later in college that we ran into each other again and started talking about/swapping music, which is truly where our friendship began.

The cool part about this is that we are now starting to get into positions where we can help the other out in the music world. I'm generally on the small show side, whereas Bilec sticks to the big shows annd guess who came through town last week....

I know I don't really write about DMB, but based on the title of my blog, I think it's safe to assume that there's always been something about their music for me. Not only has "Best of What's Around" been a life motto since the song was released in '94 - yes, little nine-year-old Alli's life philosophy- but it holds the coveted spot of all-time favorite song, mainly for that reason. Dave Matthews somehow also managed to write the musical sound of happiness at it's 3:00 mark, and how one does that I just don't know. I suppose that's just the kind of dude he is.

And it was never so much about Dave and the rest of the guys themselves (I can hear some of you saying, "liar"), but the ability that they have to create music. Songs that are original, songs that both lyrically and musically kick you in the butt and say hey, look at this from another perspective. To all those that equate them to Jack Johnson's mentality to write the same song 900 times, listen closer and you will inevitably discover a line or a track that you've never heard.

Anyway, there are many things that I would love to share, but am afraid that 1) this entry will never end and 2) it's disrespectful to the tour to blog about it. I will say, however, that watching DMB plus Tim Reynolds (who is such a rock star) on electric play to a completely empty, 24,000 capacity outdoor amphitheater on day two of rehearsals, standing backstage, directly behind Carter's set, so close, the stellar lighting design grazed my face, was nothing short of beautiful. If any of you can come up with a place I would have rather been, in any dimension, in any time period, I will give you a bazillion dollars.

Well she ran up into the light, surprised
Her arms are open, her mind's eye is
Seeing things from a better side than most can dream,
On a clearer road I feel, oh you could say she's safe
Whatever tears at her, whatever holds her down
And if nothing can be done,

She'll make the best of what's around...

(Photo: the back of my DMB crew shirt - lit with a simple 60 watt incandescent)