Somewhere along the way I put aside my point-and-click camera and got serious about concert photography. The first event where I used a DSLR was the 2009 Mile High Music Festival because their photo policy prohibited any other kind of camera in the pits. From there on out I fell in love with the art of photography and tried to capture the experiences I had through photos. Looking back on the last couple of years, here are my favorite 10 shots.
The Fray – MHMF 2009: As someone who had very little experience with a more-professional camera, I was surprised at some of the great shots I got that hot weekend in July of 2009. The Fray closed out my experience at Mile High with a real spectacle: U2′s old stage rig, a big crowd, and a sense of completion.
Monotonix – Monolith 2009: While not a particularly great shot, I will always remember this set from the now-defunct Monolith Festival. It’s the kind of picture that would offend most anyone, therefore it has a certain charm and power that your average concert photo can’t achieve.
Paean – Hodi’s Half Note, December 27, 2009: Being from Fort Collins I found myself up there for the holidays without much to do. When I saw that Danielle Ate The Sandwich was playing a show with a few Act So Big Forest bands at Hodi’s (formerly The Starlight, as I knew it), I said, “Why not?” As it turns out Hodi’s has one of the best light rigs in Northern Colorado. This shot matches great lighting, ambient fog, and perspective in a way that I have seldom replicated.
The Knew – Pulperia release party at the Bluebird, March 6, 2010: At a time when people were just starting to figure out what Something Like Sound was, The Knew were preparing to get big. I ended up seeing the Knew 3 times at the Bluebird (and once at Hi-Dive), and they remain as one of my favorite Colorado acts. I recall seeing this particular shot floating around on their websites for quite some time.
Fellow Citizens – Skylark , October 8, 2010: I saw Fellow Citizens and Old Radio (now Amazing Twin) play two shows at the Skylark within one year. This photo of Fellow Citizens singer Eliza Boote was originally done in color and not cropped, however I edited it for print in the Oredigger newspaper. After looking at the two versions I decided that I liked the black-and-white more- it has a certain aesthetic that is reflective of that time and place.
Andrew W.K. – Warped Tour 2010 (Chicago): I had been to several years of Warped Tours before I decided to live in Chicago last summer, however none of that could prepare me for Andrew W.K. Perhaps one of the most energetic and bizzare performances I’ve ever seen, W.K. thrashed about the stage while putting himself into the most intriguing positions.
Safe Boating Is No Accident – Denver Does Denver 2010: The first show I saw after coming back from Chicago was Denver Does Denver (a fitting return, if I can say so myself). Safe Boating did a set of Pee Pee covers in the Flobots.org community space and something about the lighting in that room lent itself to some really dramatic shots.
Night of Joy – Denver Does Denver 2010: Sometime great photos are purely dumb luck. Another shot for DDD2010, I managed to catch the flash from a camera across the room at the often low-lit Meadowlark. The result: A photo that captures the face-melting nature of a Night of Joy set.
Sufjan Stevens – The Paramount, November 2, 2010: I bought my tickets for Sufjan nearly 4 months before he came to Denver. Fortunately I snagged some primo seats and was able to snap a few shots with my point-and-click. This photo was taken during a reworked rendition of “Seven Swans” which literally took my breath away.
FLASHLIGHTS – Split Cassette release at Larimer Lounge, February 23, 2011: FLASHLIGHTS usually like to party with the house lights down and their special Rande Kamolz-controlled rig in full operation. This, however, makes getting a decent shot of the group a challenge. I decided to experiment with long shutter speeds and zooming out while taking this photo.
Since this is the first bit of free time I’ve had since getting back from the weekend’s festivities, the review will be for both days. Similar to what I did for the Westword Music Showcase review, each band gets 50 words max.
Gregory Alan Isakov: The first set we saw all weekend was from one of Colorado’s best singer-songwriters. Gregory played a solid set, which included my favorites “Virginia May” and “Big Black Car.”
Speakeasy Tiger: We didn’t catch much of this set, but it reminded me of any number of 80′s girl-pop bands.
Lydia: It was my second time seeing this group, and I actually appreciated their set more having listened to their record. The vocals came off a little sharp, but in the end it turned out to be a well-rounded set.
Danielle Ate The Sandwich: Danielle was in her prime as she played to a packed crowd at the smallest stage. Along with her bassist Dennis, this was probably one of the best sets I’ve seen her put on.
Frightened Rabbit: Only caught a few songs there, really nothing to write home about.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: It was during this set that everything got soaked (and didn’t dry for the rest of the day). ‘Pains’ reminded me of The Clash mixed with a touch of the Smiths (at least Johnny Marr’s guitar tone).
OK GO: Their good song was good, although they didn’t have any treadmills in tow. It was danceable at best.
The Walkmen: Another set in the rain. I might have zoned out for a good portion of The Walkmen. They were good, but didn’t really have any songs that stood out.
M. Ward: While he did play a couple songs from Hold Time, I really wished he would’ve played more from that record. However, ending the set with “Roll Over Beethoven” had to be one of the highlights for the entire day.
Boulder Acoustic Society: We determined that these guys took all of the gypsy and punk aspects of DeVotchKa and boiled them down into pure energy.
Girl Talk: Perhaps the best set of the entire first day, Girl Talk didn’t let the rain keep things from getting good. It was like a high school dance on speed. Not only was it fun to dance to, I also found spotting where samples had come from as another layer of enjoyment.
Of Montreal: I was not prepared for what happened during this set. There were people in costumes and strange projections. It was probably equivalent to taking a bunch of acid then having a psychedelic trip. However, it was still an amazing set and a good way to end the day.
Note: We skipped Yeah Yeah Yeah’s headlining set to beat the traffic. Also, we were cold, wet, and feeling rather miserable.
A Shoreline Dream: We were at it early again the next day and caught this band’s day-opening set. It was rather odd to see such a dark, prog-rock set indoors while the noon-time sun was brightly shining outside.
Jim Mcturnan and the Kids That Killed the Man: I actually ran in to drummer John Fate the previous day and he encouraged me to catch this set. I have also determined that Mike Marchant is in every band in Denver. As far as the set went, I like how Westword described it: “Dinosaur Jr. minus ten 100 watt Marshalls, a few temper tantrums and the pretension.”
We Were Promised Jetpacks: One suggestion I have for Monolith next year is do something different with the indoor stages. We were promised a We Were Promised Jetpacks set, but were forced to wait in the lobby for most of the set since the room was at capacity. However, we did catch the amazing ending to the Broncos game while waiting there, so not all was lost.
There you have it, a review about a band that really didn’t involve the band at all. Actually what we did see was quite good.
Rahzel: I am still in awe of this man’s beat-boxing ability. He had a DJ up there with him, but often just ‘boxed the beats himself. Also, he could actually sing, not something that can be said of all rappers.
Monotonix: I really didn’t know what to expect here. It was like if Borat had a cracked out old-school punk rock band. It was definitely a highlight for the entire weekend.
The Dandy Warhols: Stoner music, ‘nough said.
The Thermals: This Portland group played through a number of mildly enthusiastic songs, including a Sonic Youth cover. Overall, the simplicity of this band had me a little bored.
HEALTH: Since I had a hard time getting any good pictures, I tried to take one that reflected how it felt to be there. A violent jumble of noise and drum beats, HEALTH’s set was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It shook me to the core, but had danceable beats at certain points.
French Horn Rebellion: I got really bored very quickly with this group. It was standard electro-pop with absolutely no attitude whatsoever.
Methodman & Redman: I’m fairly certain there was a cloud of weed-smoke floating over the amphitheater during their entire set.
Passion Pit: More dance music, although this stuff had a full band, so it was more enjoyable. However, I really could not find a way around the singer’s ridiculous falsetto, it was incredibly distracting.
Phoenix: Once again, a decent band, but no real stand-out songs. It was danceable and played well with the main stage atmosphere, but kinda fell short.
Chromeo: This Canadian duo outdid most of the other electro-pop acts in that they also played live instruments.
The Mars Volta: The headliner for the second night was not a let down in the least. The energy that singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez brought to the stage had people in a frenzy. They played through a number of newer songs before playing my favorites “Drunkship of Lanterns” and “The Widow.” At one point they even played “Eunuch Provacateur,” a song from their first EP saying it was a response to the breakup of At The Drive-In.
Suggestion for how to actually sell out Monolith next year: Get At The Drive-In to reunite and play a one-time-only show.
Overall, Monolith was a good weekend, although there were several times during Saturday that I felt like going home (the weather was bringing me down). Overall there were a few gems in there, but for the most part it was a lot of hipster-dance and fairly generic rock.