As a music fan, I enjoy taking pictures of musicians. Thankfully, Batavia has a fairly vibrant music scene and there are plenty of local bands I can go out and see and shoot. But ever since taking up a camera in a serious way two years ago, I’ve wanted to go to a big show — a show with lights and featuring an act that I’ve long enjoyed, whose music I own and I admire enough I would like to meet.
Last night, I finally got that chance — Marty Stuart played a campground in Le Roy known as Frost Ridge. Ironically, the owners, Dave and Greg, are fellow San Diego expatriates.
Normally I’m not an autograph hound. In fact, I’ve long lived by a philosophy of thanking and praising celebrities I meet, not bugging them to sign their name on some piece of paper or article of clothing. If it’s somebody I admire, I figure they’ve given me enough just with whatever they’ve done. I don’t need an autograph. I enjoy the memory of meeting cool people.
Friday was a little different, though. Dave and Greg made up a cool press pass – specific to the event with a picture of Marty and his band on it, plus my mug shot and name in the lower right. This, I thought, I have to get Marty to sign, and he did. That’s a keeper.
I shot the show with my D90 and D7000, using just the 35mm and 55mm prime lenses — and I shot them wide open, f1.8. That made focus critically important and in low light I couldn’t see all that well. I was just shooting and praying that everything would turn out. The D90s ISO was 1600 and the D7000 was 1000. When I processed the pictures, I was pleased both with how many were in focus and how little noise I had to deal with.
I did try some flash shots, but wasn’t pleased with the results, so went back to shooting natural light.
It was a great show, too. Marty and his bandmates are fabulous musicians and Marty is the consummate showman. And as Greg and Dave told me, the acoustics at Frost Ridge are perfect.
The first thing I did after checking into my hotel in Greenwich Village on Saturday (was there for the NYU Hyperlocal Conclave) was head over to Washington Square, which I know at one time was famous for its folk music (including Bob Dylan playing there for a time). I didn’t know what I’d find, but it seemed like a good place to take make some photos.
Near the end of my hour or so in the park, I found this gentleman playing banjo under the Washington Arch. It only took a few bars to realize he was something special.
He is Morgan O’Kane, originally from Virginia, but a resident of New York for the past 11 years.
I bought his latest CD and it is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. O’Kane has a sound that is authentic to the kind of scratchy 78s Harry Smith compiled but with touch of grunge, giving O’Kane’s sound a very contemporary edge. O’Kane is traditional without being pastiche. That is an accomplishment that takes a heart and soul for the music and a real talent to pull it off.
See all of my photos of O’Kane on VuFindr.
Here’s a few of the videos of OK that can be found on YouTube and his web site.
I want to make sure all my friends in Southern California know about this … wish I could go. If you don’t know Buddy’s music, you can find several great free MP3s on his web site. RIP, my friend.
If somebody had challenged me to write a blog post teaching journalists about online by using an American Idol contestant, I don’t think I would have even tried.
Shawn Smith just wrote a great post. He’s spot-on with his advice.
And if you didn’t watch Idol this week, you missed what may be the best performance in the entire series (rivaling Fantasia’s “Summertime“)
While I’m on an Idol post — Amanda, the female Elvis, the female singer Lisa Marie wishes she could be, should not have been voted off last week.
As newspapers struggle through a recession at a time of media tumult, Stowe Boyd writes:
The Big Band era is coming to an end, and while some oldsters are going to keep on listening to Count Basie and Duke Ellington, most of us are moving on to rock and roll. Many of the players will find new gigs, experiment with new musical forms, but some won’t. Some will retire, open bars, or find something else to do. Zell and Tierney may have to take their losses and find something else to invest in. David Carr may have to start blogging for the Huffington Post, or run for office.
His comparison with the death of the Big Band era is more apt than he states.
You could say Big Bands were killed by rock and roll, but that would really miss the point (and be at least a decade off the mark). Big Bands were killed as much as anything by hubris, greed and technological efficiency, not to mention changes in society’s musical taste and needs.
The musicians strike of the 1940s opened the door to smaller combos filled with non-union musicians. Not only where these combos more nimble, they were playing new kinds of music (such as country and rhythm and blues), driven by better technology for amplifying their music. By the time the strike ended in 1944, the new musical forms had not yet gained in popular demand, but the trajectory was set. Hank Williams would break through in 1947. Louis Jordan dominated R&B charts from the early 1940s through the end of the decade, setting the stage for the birth of Rock and Roll.
Of course, the oldsters who clung to the golden era of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman saw no value in hick or race music. To them, it was all a fad whose time would pass. These wild sounds weren’t polished or sophisticated. This wasn’t quality music. The public would return to its senses and soon demand those big band sounds again. Sort of sounds like journalists attitudes toward bloggers, doesn’t it? (Interestingly, Goodman made a fine switch to small combo music, and he recorded some of the first jazz to feature lead guitar, employing the pioneer Charlie Christian).
Note that music didn’t die with the Big Bands, nor did it really diminish in quality. It fact, some of the greatest music of human history was created in the second half of the 20th Century. The music that came after was, to the discerning ear, no better nor worse than the stuff gathering dust on scratchy 78s. It was just different.
The same will be said of journalism fifty years hence.
For old-time sake, here’s Big Band music at its best: Goodman’s band playing the Louis Prima-penned, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
UPDATE: Ur, um, is this video really “Sing, Sing, Sing”? Nobody’s called me on it, but upon reflection — the “Sing, Sing, Sing” melody is not any part of this performance. What it does have is elements of “Christopher Columbus,” which was incorporated into Goodman’s version of “Sing, Sing, Sing.” But “Sing, Sing, Sing” was eight (studio version) to 12 minutes long (the famous “Live at Carnegie Hall” performance, which is without a doubt the single greatest achievement of recorded music history. At least, I say so. More here.
(Boyd link via Jack Lail)
Local music: It’s a logical avenue into reaching a younger audience. It helps reflect what’s really going on in the community you’re sworn to cover. It ads depth of coverage to your newspaper.com.
And who doesn’t love a good music video? I’ve long suspected that the reason many reporters get excited about shooting video is they’ve watched a lot of MTV.
But you don’t see many music videos on newspaper sites.
The reason is simple, really. To do music video well takes time, and lots of it, good equipment, and costs can add up quickly, as well as real talent.
What you’re really looking at is significant expense and time away from doing the core business of covering news.
Yeah, but wouldn’t it be fun to make a music video?
The Canton Repository (a GateHouse Media paper) found a great lo-fi approach. During the photo shoot for its upcoming Battle of the Bands (a competition open only to bands comprised of high school students), the Rep filmed band members milling about the newspaper building, and in the photo studio.
The results are simple, elegant and engaging. The keys to success are good editing and well-composed shots of kids aspiring to the spotlight. All the videos are a reminiscent of Hard Day’s Night.
Some of the music ain’t bad, either.
Here’s my favorite:
Ya Dig? by PJ & The Whistlers
Long-time readers know that I’ve tried my hand at songwriting a few times, and have been audacious enough to torture those good readers by posting my MP3s on this blog.
I haven’t done it in a long time. I haven’t finished a song in a long time.
Coolness arrived with the new year, though. My friend Kevin Featherly liked one of my songs well enough to record it with his band.
Here it is: Trouble and Turmoil.
Credits: Bruce Featherly, vocals; Scott Maida, drums; Kevin Feathery, all other instruments, production and mixing; words and music by Howard Owens.
You can read the full story of “Trouble and Turmoil” on Back Channel.
A conversation with a friend reminded me of the George Jones classic, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” That got me poking around the web a bit.
I didn’t start listening to country music seriously until 1986 or so, and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” just seemed like one of those songs that had been around forever. All this time, I’ve just assumed it dated to the 1960s or early 1970s. It has such a classic sound.
Actually, it dates from 1982, and Jones recorded the song even though he believed it too sad to ever become a hit (Wikipedia).
Many people believe, as I do, that it is the greatest country song ever. It’s also a song, I believe, that nobody will ever sing as well as George Jones.
Here’s the video.
I’m well past the age in which I seek out information on my favorite rock stars and ravenously read every I can (like I did in high school with Elvis Costello).
But Jack White fascinates me.
He is maybe the most complex and interesting musician on rock today.
So I don’t mind that Eat the Press broke format and gave us a scoop on Jack, who I know no is really John Gillis.
Interesting reading for White Stripes fans (and if you’re a true music fan, the only reason you wouldn’t be a White Stripes fan is you haven’t really listened yet).
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of my friend Buddy Blue‘s death within the next week. Quite by accident I found a treasure trove of Beat Farmers videos on YouTube, including this classic:
RIP, Buddy and Country Dick.