Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Five Years of Photoblogging Chicago's Music Scene

I've been going to concerts since I was 12, and even then I would always take one picture of the band with a disposable camera. Guardian, Slick Shoes, and Danielson prints are probably still in my mom's basement in some moldy box. Maybe I'll go hunt them down someday, and scan some photos of Cornerstone 1999 for all our nostalgic needs. But the best I can do right now is go back through my Flickr accounts.

Since I've been receiving payments for music writing (five years now), I've continued the habit of displaying one picture in each show review. Whether it was for Relevant, Heave, or just my good old blog here, these pics always supplemented my show review. But looking over my old pics, I realized that they actually tell a better collective story now compared to what they were each originally intended for. Let's go:

Menomena @ the Empty Bottle. March 2007


The oldest pic in my Flickr. That's me, just a part of the crowd... bright eyed before my favorite band, who had just released my "album of the year" a month earlier (Friend and Foe). I still have that black hoodie. I wore it today actually. I think this was right after the smoking ban went into effect in Chicago, and I no longer had to worry about my clothes smelling like cigarettes if I went to an Empty Bottle show. It was my last semester at Moody Bible, and I was so ready to go.


Jens Lekman @ Logan Auditorium. November 2007


My favorite Jens Lekman show, oddly enough at the tin box that is the Logan Auditorium. He played Cold Swedish Winter at this show, and his band was a bunch of pretty girls in white dresses. At this time, my wife and I had been living in Logan Square for about half a year, married a little less than that. She got sick at the show, and I had to move to back of the room to sit on the ground with her.


Thax Douglas and Chin Up Chin Up @ Double Door. November 2007


Remember Thax? Remember Chin Up Chin Up? This show was one of the last times I saw Thax read a poem for a local band. And it actually might have been the only time I bothered taking a picture of him. I'm glad I did though. I miss the guy. I haven't run into him on the bus or around town in what seems like five years.


The Terrible Twos @ Schubas. December 2007


Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids) has a kids band called the Terrible Twos, and I reviewed them for Relevant. It was awkward being that weird guy taking pictures of dancing children by myself, I was the only non-parent at this show... but just look at those kids! I've never seen crazier dancing at a concert in my entire life. They didn't even care that this man was in the Get Up Kids, they just wanted to move around and have fun. This was a pretty important show for me. I saw the essence of music here. And I still measure most every concert against this standard today.


Sleeping at Last @ House of Blues. December 2007


My first time in a photo pit. Sleeping at Last were friends of mine, so they put me on the guest list with a camera pass. If you've been to this tight-ass venue, you know how awful the staff is when it comes to taking pictures. If you have any kind of camera with you, you basically need a photo pass or they won't let you into the show. So, here's the stupid shot I took since I was able to lean my elbow on the stage for blog pics. That little Nikon Coolpix did alright in the pit. It was an exciting first anyway.


Ecstatic Sunshine @ Schubas. January 2008


This is from the first Tomorrow Never Knows festival, a fest I still don't quite understand the point of. Either way, before Lincoln Hall existed, the whole fest took place over a few nights at Schubas. Ecstatic Sunshine was probably my favorite act of the whole thing, which also included White Williams, Cadence Weapon, and Ohmega Watts. This pic actually got a ton of views because SFGate picked it up at some point for an article on the band. They gave me my first real photo credit. And yknow, now that I look at it, it is a pretty cool picture.


Yeasayer @ Schubas. February 2008


Yeasayer and MGMT. At Schubas. Somehow it happened. And they actually weren't very good live. But this is one of the fun things about being a music writer. You take it all in, all the hype, all the buzz. Sometimes it's fool's gold. Sometimes it's Ecstatic Sunshine. It's how I roll my dice. This picture represents the overrated nature of my music scene. But hey, it's just part of the territory. Not anything to fuss over.


Iron and Wine @ Wheaton College. February 2008


I remember a lot of comments for the review I wrote of this one. It was a weird show. One guy and a guitar, at a Christian college, editing out his swear words. I still haven't seen a show like it since. Just that the school ASKED him to self-censor his art is still baffling to me. I don't think Wheaton has shows like this on campus anymore. Art and Christianity really don't mix. It took me too many years to accept this...


Pterodactyl @ AV Aerie. March 2008


Now here's a venue Chicago really misses. This old factory was perfect for Pterodactyl and Parts & Labor. Always a suggested donation. Always a good crowd. This pic is just an homage I guess. God, it still looks so cool.


Citay @ the Hideout. March 2008


The oh-so-rare film photo. I hardly ever shot with film. Only Citay, Stars of the Lid, and Lymbyc Systym have the honor. But the Hideout looks great on film. It's a cozy venue and doesn't do well on digital. It's either film or nothing at this place.


Public Enemy @ Pitchfork Fest. July 2008


I've been to every Pitchfork Fest, and both Intonation Fests. But this moment right here was probably the most starstruck I felt throughout them all. I don't know why. I don't even care about Flavor Flav. But just being right in front of that big clock necklace was humbling. You know that feeling you get at the Lincoln Memorial when you look up at Abe and feel the weight of individual responsibility and duty to your fellow man? Yeah, same deal.


Les Savy Fav @ Pitchfork Fest. July 2008


This pic is so "music journalist." I'm telling you the story of an entire weekend with one little shot. You weren't there, but now you can know what it felt like. Ugh. I hate it. But, it was so cool that this [indie] rock star was giving teenagers a bunch of terrible haircuts. So I love it.


Girl Talk @ Lollapalooza. August 2008


Hooboy. What a weekend this was. Girl Talk's crowd jumped on this ice cart, started ripping open the bags and throwing the ice everywhere while girls danced with the workers while they blew their whistles in rhythm with the mashups. Big fun. I was an intern for Sound Opinions, which enabled me to go to Lollapalooza for free for the first time. This was also the weekend Relevant's owner asked me to move down to Florida to be an editor for his magazine. It was the most exciting weekend of my life at that point in time. I called my dad while Explosions in the Sky roared through Grant Park to share my excitement with him. He was happy for me.


She and Him @ WBEZ. August 2008


Honestly, I am not crazy about Zooey Deschanel. She was cool to hang out with, but really this pic was only taken to make my friends jealous. I never ask for pictures with celebrities. I think the only other "Dylan-smiling-with-celeb" pic that exists is my phone wallpaper with Bill Wennington (Bulls' backup center, 96-98), and I treasure that one. But this shot with Zooey is the only visual document of my time at Sound Opinions, which was without a doubt the best professional experience I've had so far in my young career. I wish I could've spent more than just a summer with them, but Relevant pulled me down. I still tune in to Jim and Greg though, and chat with them whenever I can.


Here We Go Magic @ Metronome Fest. June 2009


Did you notice that huge leap? Went from August 2008, to June 2009. That's because for half a year we lived in Orlando, where I worked as the editor of a Christian culture magazine for 3 months or something. I still don't understand exactly what happened, but they fired me without giving a proper reason. It was easily the scariest, most depressing thing I've experienced. I know, sounds so dramatic. Well, Orlando is a phenomenally lousy city, with its culture based entirely around tourism and amusement--a shallow place that doesn't have neighborhood street fests. So this picture is important. It is a small street fest in my neighborhood of Logan Square (yes, we came back when we moved back home), where about 20 people are watching a band called Here We Go Magic who, at this point, only have a short EP out on Western Vinyl, but we're all loving it. This was the kind of stuff that brought me back to normalcy, out of depression, and confident in my self again.


I'm not going to post anything from there until 2011. It was a hell of a year and a half in which I went to therapy, wrote every day on this blog (mostly NOT about music), and lost my faith. It's not that I want to forget this time, but, I kinda do. It was a major transitional time. And looking back, I see how it was necessary. I had to explore a lot of myself through writing, in different styles and voices, while always keeping warm in Chicago's music venues. By the end of 2010, things really looked up for me when I got a shift on CHIRP. Throughout 2011, I used my CHIRP cred to DJ at bars around town, and found a new value within my community of Chicago. 2011 was an awesome year, so let's have a look at the new Flickr account.


Cut Copy @ Riviera. April 2011


Back in the photo pit. Still with a tiny camera. But somehow, this one just feels so much livelier, doesn't it? I fully understand now that I am a music guy. What I'm doing is this Chicago music scene, for my sake AND yours. So of course I'm going to take quality pictures of Cut Copy, they put on one of the best live shows you'll see. Feel the love.


Bonnie Prince Billy @ Millennium Park. May 2011


You know it's summer when you're on the lawn at Millennium Park with friends, drinks, and good music. I told my friend Nick Spiese to stand up for this shot. He's smiling, because he is happy to be there enjoying Will Oldham play a free show for us Chicagoans. Concerts are never just about stage performances, the crowd is vital to the experience. Keep it in perspective rockers!


Sondre Lerche @ Lincoln Hall. June 2011


Chicago's newest and best venue. We feelin' born again up in here. Welcome home indeed.


Andrew Bird @ MCA. December 2011


I'll make this my last one, because I think the end of 2011 also marked a new beginning for me. My first piece for The Onion's AV Club published shortly hereafter, and Jaclyn and I bought our first property in Chicago. I feel more at home now than I've ever felt in my entire life, childhood and grandparents' homes included. So here I end with our hometown hero, Andrew Bird, doing his thing at the locals' favorite museum. It was a great show, capping off a great year. But hey, this was just five years worth of work. I'll see ya again in 2017.

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