I’ve been going to Those Darlins shows for many years, well before living in Nashville, and they will be missed.
They say never meet your heroes. I’ve found that be mostly true, especially with musicians. I can recall numerous shows where the performer disappointed me. Either in energy, or presentation, or just being not that great onstage. But Self’s 20th anniversary release show for Subliminal Plastic Motives blew that mantra away. The show was simply incredible. I enjoyed the opening bands (especially Glossary), and when the opening notes of Borateen started up I was over the moon. Thanks to Exit/In for opening up such a great venue for the show, and thanks to Matt Mahaffey and the rest of the band for doing a show in Nashville.
I’ve touched on concert photography before, and I’d say that the number one issue with such work is the physical location. Venue’s can have varying rules on where/what to shoot, the lighting can be difficult (at best), and staff aren’t always the most understanding when it comes to photographers wanting (or needing) to get “the shot.” Fortunately this night didn’t need any sneaking or cajoling, either to get my camera into the club or to take photos. Although it was my only time to visit Exit/In, I have high hopes for return visits. I especially like that to reach the facilities, one must walk up a set of stairs right by the stage. It was from this vantage point I made the photograph below.
There is always the feeling of “Did I shoot too much? Did I still somehow miss the shot?” with concerts. They last for hours and most performers are so energetic they move far too quickly for the required (relatively slow) shutter speed to get enough light. Additionally, in the darkened room pretty much everything looks good on the camera’s LCD display. So it is a mish-mash of shooting a whole lot of photos and throwing out an amazingly large number of them — even those that looked great the night before in preview. But, with a little practice, once can incorporate the difficulties above and find some treasures.
For instance, by the end of a long show the musicians may be sweaty, disheveled, even a little drunk (or otherwise inebriated). Maybe they have slowed down — they aren’t quite as animated, but more expressive. The crowd may have even thinned out a little so you can stay longer in the prime spots. I took plenty of shots from the front of the stage, but this side image I really love. Matt has been playing these notes for a long, long time and I sometimes wonder how artists who have been performing the same work through multiple decades keep the music fresh for themselves. I think there must be some sort of a meditative state, something mindful and yet without active control. Where the right actions happen naturally, and that frees up the musician to really hear the rest of the experience — the other performers, the crowd, maybe their own heartbeat. To step into the void, so to speak.
And I think about my own photography, my own moments of shooting-without-thinking, and perhaps that’s why I really love concert photography. When the air between the stage and the lens opens up, and the musician and the photographer let their media engage without human interference — just human motivation.
20th Anniversary Release Celebration of Subliminal Plastic Motives
Three days and nights of speakers, presentations and concerts. August 2013 at the Hot Springs Resort and Spa.
Tedeschi Trucks Band, May 2013. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville NC