All posts in concerts

20Sep

The headliners from Farm Aid 31

Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp back in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Add in Dave Matthews, who joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001, and you’ve got four of the biggest names in music getting together once a year for a very worthy cause.

Listening to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play “Crash Into Me” live was a treat. Even if he’s lost his Cougar, John Mellencamp can still deliver — as was evident with “Small Town.” Neil Young took to the stage with Promise of the Real and left everything they had on the stage with “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Seriously, watch the video just so you can see the four false finishes they did. And the crowd went nuts every single time. It was awesome.

And then there’s Willie Nelson. At 83, that man could simply walk up on stage, say thank you for coming out and go find a seat in the shade. Of course, he’d never let that happen. Instead, he’s the main event. He’s the headliner. He’s the guy who steals artists away seconds before I have the chance to interview them. But I digress.

He’s a legend who can do whatever the hell he wants and we’re all still going to love him. I particularly enjoyed him covering “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grown Up To Be Cowboys,” so here’s a link to that performance.

All in all, my first time attendance Farm Aid couldn’t have gone any better. I enjoyed each and every musical act that took the stage, the people behind the scenes were a pleasure to work with and the thousands of concert-goers were fun to be around. Hopefully Farm Aid 32 won’t be too far away, because I’d love to come back for an encore.

19Sep

Alabama Shakes

The Alabama Shakes have been around a little while now, so even if you’re unable to name any of their songs, chances are you’ve at least heard of the band.

Of course, winning a Grammy — which the band did back in 2009 — makes it easier to spread the word about a group that originally formed back when they were in high school in Athens, Alabama.

The band, which currently consists of lead singer Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell and drummer Steve Johnson, is good. They have a couple albums now that you can put on in the background while you’re cleaning up around the house or stuck in rush-hour traffic.

But here’s the thing — you absolutely HAVE to see them live to truly appreciate them. As you can see from my photos, when Brittany Howard sings something, she absolutely means it. Every word that comes out of her is delivered with a passion and conviction that cannot be ignored.

I wasn’t alive to see Janis Joplin perform, but listening to old school live performances of Joplin in her prime moves a person. I’m not saying Howard is the modern-day Joplin — that wouldn’t be fair to her. But the soul and expressive nature of her performances is definitely a throwback.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to be there live and in person to witness the Alabama Shakes killing it on stage, then do yourself a favor and check out a few of their performances. Here’s a link for “Heartbreaker,” “Joe” and “Gimme All Your Love.”

18Sep

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

If I’m being completely honest, I have no clue why Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats aren’t a bigger deal. My wife and I absolutely love them and anyone who has ever seen them live walks away thoroughly impressed. Hell, even my five-year-old really enjoys belting out their tunes when we’re in the car.

But for whatever reason, they haven’t quite risen to the level I feel like they should be at. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely have a passionate and supportive fanbase and have begun consistently playing larger venues over the last year, but seriously, the rest of the music loving world needs to get on board with these guys.

If you’re not familiar with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, then take a minute to watch their music video for “S.O.B.” If that doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will. Their throwback sound is a welcome respite from so much of the generic pop nonsense that fills the airwaves these days.

When I heard Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats were playing Farm Aid this year, that’s when I knew I needed to clear the calendar on September 17th. When I was contacted by Brightest Young Things to actually work Farm Aid as a credential photographer … well … that was just icing on the cake.

So I get to Jiffy Lube Live and make my way over to the media tent and immediately am drawn to a sign-up sheet on a clipboard. Any media requesting to interview any musician simply needed to fill out the form and they would do their best to accommodate. There was zero chance I was going to pass up the opportunity to talk to Mr. Rateliff, so I put down my information and crossed my fingers.

A short while later, I received a call on my cell phone while I was down in the photo pit. The wonderful person running the media circus for Farm Aid informed me I would be interviewing Nathaniel at 5:15 p.m., which was in a little more than an hour.

It took everything I had in me to keep my composure and, in sports terms, “act like I’d been there before.” But I kept it together and at 5 o’clock, I met up with my media escort who took me backstage to go meet one of my favorite artists alive today.

We walked a series of 18 wheelers and tour buses, through the buffet area for the artists and their roadies and there we were — standing outside the doorway of the green room for Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

Here’s the best part: right as the media escort was getting ready to knock on the door, the bands’ manager came flying in from the other direction and entered the room in a hurry. We weren’t really sure what was going on, so we held tight for a second to see what all of the commotion was about.

And then Nathaniel Rateliff walked out the door. And kept walking. And then he was gone. But we were still standing there.

After a few seconds, the bands’ manager walked over to us and said, “Willie Nelson just asked Nathaniel to come hang out with him, so we’re going to have to do this interview another time.”

Sadly, I never did get to interview Nathaniel Ratliff. I didn’t even get to talk to the Night Sweats. But what I did get a pretty good story about that time Nathaniel Rateliff chose to hang out with Willie Nelson over me at Farm Aid 31. And that’s a pretty solid consolation prize, if I do say so myself.

If you missed their set, here are a few videos of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performing at Farm Aid 31. Enjoy them before Willie Nelson takes them away from you.

18Sep

Photos from Farm Aid 31

According to the official website, Farm Aid’s annual concert is an all-day music and food festival, featuring a unique lineup of artists and genres and family farm-identified, local and organic foods with its own homegrown concessions.

Although Farm Aid has been around since 1985, I had never actually attended one before this year, which is ridiculous because I love live music and am always impressed by the festival’s lineup year after year.

This year’s show was at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, which is way more convenient than Chicago, North Carolina or New York (where it’s been held the last three years). So honestly, there was no excuse for me to miss the festivities.

Here’s what stood out to me when it was all said and done — sure, everyone knows and loves artists like Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, but what was really impressive with Farm Aid 31 was just how solid the rest of the lineup was. I’m a big fan of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Alabama Shakes (there will be posts on both bands later), but I walked away from the show with newfound respect for the rest of the artists (many of whom I wasn’t familiar with).

With those artists in mind, here are my favorite images of Ian Mellencamp, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Margo Price, Jamey Johnson with special guest Alison Krauss and Sturgill Simpson.

25Apr

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

Covering Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band for their performance at Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 24, was definitely a memorable experience.

Because the Rev., Breezy and the rest of the band are such gracious people, they agreed to let me work their entire show, as opposed to just the first two or three songs. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, shortly after I arrived at the venue, their band manager came up to me, shook my hand and then invited me to join the band in their green room.

Before he had a chance to change his mind, I said, “That sounds great,” and the next thing I know, I’m hanging out backstage with some of the coolest and most down-to-earth musicians alive today. For the next 90 minutes, I sat there with a handful of other people — all of us in awe of the situation we somehow found ourselves in — as Rev. and Breezy shot the proverbial shit and shared stories from the road.

Had their manager not walked in and said, “You guys are on in 10 minutes,” everyone was content to sit there quietly for as long as the band would have us. And then, when they finally decided they were ready to go make the magic happen, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band took to the stage and put on a fantastic show. They’re a rare breed: wonderfully talented musicians who are even better human beings.

After the show was over and everyone in the sellout crowd was thrilled at what they’d just experienced, the Rev. once again invited me and a handful of others backstage again to continue the storytelling. Once again we were all in our happy place listening to hilarious stories involving everything from near death experiences abroad to the best fishing holes in Florida.

Regardless of whether the camera comes with me or not, I will absolutely make it a point to see Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band whenever possible. I cannot thank them enough for a wonderful evening involving a perfect mix of fun and play.

20Sep

Wrinkle Neck Mules

My good buddies from Big O and Dukes might not be in a band, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know good music. Every once in a while, Big O and Dukes decides to use their powers of persuasion for good and convince a musical act to come to town and play a show for the horde. That’s exactly what happened on this night, when the Wrinkle Neck Mules, along with If Birds Could Fly, played in front of a sellout crowd at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, Sept. 19.

11Jan

The Pietasters

The Pietasters have played with everyone from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the legendary James Brown, and if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about this D.C. institution, I don’t know what to tell you.

On this day, The Pietasters, along with Black Masala and Askultura, kicked off the new year in style with their annual show at the historic 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Jan. 10. While I had been fortunate enough to attend a Pietasters show or two previously, this was the first time I ever worked a show as a credentialed photographer.

What I quickly learned is just how spoiled a photographer is because there are so many people on stage, all playing their asses off, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches as you’re deciding which musician to focus the camera on.

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