among the rocks and roots

Last night I went to the Che Cafe to see Wolves in the Throne Room. The first band to play was called Ten Thousand Leagues, and they were really good. They played a very crust-punk influences, thrashy metal, with a pretty heavy political bent.

They played on the floor, as did the next band, as I think WITTR had a stage set up that needed to not be disturbed. The crowd was really in to them, and I can understand why. They definitely played the kind of music that will make people want to jump around. As for their politics, I felt really impressed and inspired. Before their second to last song, the singer said “The most important thing a male bodied person can do is support a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her own body without regard to the female gaze. This song is about the importance of being pro-choice.” It was a cover song by a band called Spitboy.

The second band to play was called Griever. I listened to them from outside, and they sounded like a bunch of metal dudes aping Clutch. Not really a bad thing, just an observation. I didn’t take any pictures, and that was okay. About this time was when I noticed a sign by the front door that the show had sold out, so I began waiting pretty anxiously to get in to the floor so I could get a good spot to take pictures during WITTR.

I took my, at this point typical place at the left side of the stage. It was at this point that the stage set up really became clear to me. There were large canvas banners, on either side of the speakers, which I was then standing behind. So I had a very small window through which to get shots of the stage, and as a result most of my pictures were all from the same angle. Here is a gallery of the rest of them.

As far as what I thought about WITTR, they were good. I wouldn’t say all of their songs sounded the same, but I will say that they blended together well. I also appreciated the way in which they work to create a whole experience for the people seeing them. All dark, only lit by candles, incense and smoke filling the air. They ask that if people are going to take pictures that they not use flash. All in all, it was an experience for sure, and although I don’t know that it makes me a huge fan of them, I can say that it was cool to be a part of. Until next time…

its the end of the year as we know it…

So its that time of year, where things end and new things begin. I was trying to think of how to do this, since last year I made a series of posts about my favorite pictures of the year and the stories behind them. While I do have some favorite photos from this year, but I wanted this to be a bit more about other things I enjoyed this year as well. So here are my favorite things from this year, in no real order, as they come to me.

Favorite Non-Hardcore Record: (tie) M83-Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming/Cold Cave-Cherish The Light Years

Favorite Hardcore Record: Defeater-Empty Days & Sleepless Nights

Favorite Movie: Red State

Favorite Game: Batman-Arkham City

Favorite Shoe: Air Jordan III (I didn’t get the pair that came out this year, but it is still my favorite shoe ever, and they released it again this year, so there).

Favorite Podcast: (tie) WTF/Indoor Kids

Favorite Other Things: the olloclip, Instagram, 5&ADIME, THE CON CO, Stitcher, Comic-Con, seeing Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Disneyland, shows at small places, walking, CLARKS WEAVER LOW, friends, family, youth.

And now, my favorite pictures that I took this year:

 

holiday in the sun…

So I haven’t been all that active in a few weeks, mostly because I haven’t done much. I did just get back from a little trip to the other side of the country, however, so here are a few pictures from that.

I was in Florida, visiting my parents with my partner for the winter holidays. I do celebrate Xmas, but not being a Christian, I celebrate it usually the way most people think about celebrating Valentines day.

The above picture was taken I think the day after we arrive in FL, and is from a pier facing a bay. The pier houses a bunch of little shops that had some interesting nick-nacks and other things. It reminded me a bit of Sea Port Village in San Diego, which is really something to check out. It was a bit smaller, but still worth a stroll through. I took a few more pictures that as well.

Above are some of the buildings that house the shops and restaurants.

This picture was taken at a stop light, later that some day. We were on our way to eat and check out a mall that was about 45 minutes away. One of the things about the part of FL in which my parents live is that there isn’t much in the way of sights, especially stuff you can see from the road. Its mostly billboards, which is interesting until you realize that they are all for the same 4 things (Divorces, Insurance, Porn Stores, and Medicine).

Most of the time we were there we spent hanging out, sleeping, and getting things ready for Xmas. Traveling, especially in recent years, with a ton of wrapped presents is rather difficult, so what we have done is just stuff everything in a suitcase, which of course gets inspected every single time, and wrap them/prepare them when we get there. The trouble is that can take awhile, and when you don’t see people for a year at a time it can be difficult to steal away from an hour or two to wrap, or in same cases finish shopping for them.

This picture was taken at a zoo, in the parking lot. I find it difficult to take pictures at zoos, mostly because all of the animals are in cages. Taking pictures isn’t that difficult, but getting a good picture with hurricane fence in the foreground is a challenge, at least to me. So most of the day we spent at the zoo I  was taking pictures of the plants and the sky, which looked really cool as the day went on.

With this exception, of course. I guess it is a bit easier to take an okay picture of something that is this huge. My partner and I have an inside joke about giraffes, so I figured I should at least try to have a picture. Or two.

One of the things that I think living in CA has spoiled for me is a good sunset. Not because they are bad in CA, but because there is something about seeing the sun set over the ocean that makes most other sunsets seem not as interesting. Still, being on the west coast of FL I was able to see a few pretty nice ones. I forget if this was the same day as the zoo or a different day, but this was taken as we were crossing a bridge heading to St. Armond’s, a small island that my parents used to vacation on before they moved to FL. There were 3 bridges to cross, and each time we were crossing I tried to get a picture of the sun going down.

After arriving in St. Armond’s we walked around for a bit and then ate dinner. The town itself has a few shops, many of them for tourists to the area, and was decorated very extravagantly for Xmas.

I always found the idea of decorating a palm tree odd, since, at least in my lifetime, fake trees have always been available. I guess there is something kitschy about it that appeals to some, but I am just not one of those folks.

I also feel sort of strange about public parks being decorated for a religious holiday, but I guess this one in particular is so engrained into the culture of the US that it may feel even more strange to not see them decorated. I don’t know.

I am pretty sure that this was the last outing we took, and the rest of the time we spent getting ready for Xmas, entertaining some family friends and then preparing to go home.

While I wish that I would have pictures to post from my New Years Eve plans, I don’t think I am going to be allowed a camera, so a story may have to suffice. Until then…

we sleep all summer…

About a week ago I went to see Crooked Fingers at the Casbah in San Diego. As I was uploading and editing these pictures I realized that most of my blogging has been about seeing live music lately, but in reality I can’t think of too many other things that I have done worth writing about besides see bands. I have started to build a nice roll from playing cards, but those situations don’t lend themselves to picture taking in the moment.

The first band to play was called Little White Teeth. They played an interesting, dirge-y type of indie rock with some unique instrumentation. After watching them and taking a few shots, I started to think about something, that I will touch on in a moment. They were pretty good and I enjoyed the way that they lit the stage up with what looked like old oil lamp lights.

The next band to play was called Strands of Oaks. I would eventually learn that they were a group of Philadelphia natives, and they were also, at least from the looks of their bass players tattoos, at some point involved in the hardcore scene. As I stood and watched them play, I thought about all of the people who used to be in to hardcore, all of the people who turned to indie rock and other forms of music and now look down at hardcore. I think about the fact that I don’t go to shows as often as I would like, and I also think about how at times I have been just as willing to look down my nose at the people with whom I used to be in community. I don’t want to pass any judgements on these people that I have never met, but I hope that they don’t feel that way. I hope I still love it, and I hope I always have a part of me that feels as connected to it as I did when I was 19.

The other thing that I was thinking about, and the thing I mentioned earlier, was that there is something very special and unique about shooting pictures of a hardcore band. When I watch an indie band, or a country band, or really any other type of band play, it seems so, I don’t know. Boring isn’t the right word, but its the first one that comes to mind. They tend not to move around, and often times just stand still and stare. It doesn’t take away from the quality of the music, which most times is good enough, but it does seem to take away from the experience of seeing a band live. Or maybe it just has created in me a different set of expectations. I guess I won’t ever completely know.

And then Crooked Fingers played.

This was the third time seeing Crooked Fingers. The first time was in Washington DC, around 2005. That time it was just Eric playing by himself, opening for Rasputina. The crowd was an interesting mix of folks, with DC’s goth mod out in full force, mixing in the indie rock kids there for Eric. The second time was at the Casbah right after I moved to SD. He has just released forfeit/fortune and mostly played songs from that record. This was the release tour for his newest album, called Breaks in the Armor. Although it was clear that he was playing a good amount of new songs, it also felt as though he went through more of his older material than the last time. I think the only song that I would have liked to have heard were Black Black Ocean.

As I guess is the case with each tour, the backing band was completely different than the last time they played, and I liked this version better. The female backing vocals were better, and I also liked that there were keyboards involved, even incorperated into some of the old songs. I also can now say that I have heard 3 different version of New Drink for the Old Drunk, plus the recorded version.

This is, at this point, my favorite picture from the evening. The first song of the encore, which I didn’t recognize so I am thinking it is from the new album, was performed without microphones and with just a classical guitar and two people singing. It was really touching, and I wanted to not take pictures so I could just watch and take it in. I only snapped a few at the very beginning, and then was really able to drink in the moment. Maybe some of why I have spent so much of this journal writing about my experiences with music is because this is where I feel the strongest connection with people, even with total strangers. As someone once said “these are the only crowded rooms where I am not all alone.” Until next time…

like the rainbow in the ronnie james dio joint…

 

About a week ago I went to see the infamous Das Racist at Porters Pub on the UCSD Campus. I got to the show around 9:15, and it seemed like the first group was playing. I don’t remember what they were called, but they seemed to be pretty on point with their stage show. It was 4 men, they all had verses in the 3 or 4 songs I saw and in general were pretty good. I hope they keep it up.

 

The next act was a local rapper called El Gun Legro. He played 5-6 songs, and his stage presence was pretty awesome. He was jumping around, getting right in the audience’s faces, throwing out CDs and shirts, and getting the audience to participate in almost every song. It reminded me in some ways of a hardcore show. I had to laugh because I was so entranced by his performance that I would forget to take many pictures, but I found this one and it was pretty cool.

Next was Despot. He was pretty good, in fact the hook from one of his songs is still stuck in my head. I also thought it was pretty cool that he came on stage wearing an early 90’s Polo Suicide Ski crew neck sweatshirt. I took a few pictures, but none of them turned out all that great. Actually most of the pictures I took that entire night didn’t turn out super well. I don’t know, I just wasn’t on my game I guess.

 

Next was Danny Brown. I could see that a lot of folks in the crowd were really in to him, but I wasn’t feeling it. I can’t put my finger on one think in particular, but I just didn’t get anything out of the set. The heavy air of weed smoke coming from the 3 people standing behind me probably didn’t help either.

 

And then there was Das Racist. Their set was pretty great. Lots of energy, good mix of songs played, and their stage show was pretty awesome. Victor (Kool A.D.) doing push ups into the microphone, doing crunches in general, getting into a fight with the monitors, and blowing kisses to folks standing up front. Ashok (Dap) also brought his rediculous dances and awesome stage presence, and he was wearing a flight suit. Himanshu (Heems) was pretty laid back, and definitely was a mellowed counterpoint to the high energy of the other two folks on stage.

 

 

There were two songs where the person acting as the DJ (playing beats off of a netbook [not a MacBook]) came out and rapped verses. He was pretty good, and had an interesting way of interacting with the crowd. I was pretty impressed. I later found out that his name is Lakutis, and I am pretty excited to see what comes out from him in the future.

 

Heems spent a lot of time playing air guitar.

 

 

 

I was a little upset that Das Racist had to cut their set short, because apparently the show ran too long and the Pub had to close. So real quick they played Michael Jackson (and had a huge mosh pit going, which is still an odd concept to me) and then Rainbow in the Dark. I finally picked up their CD, which is pretty good, and a shirt, because who doesn’t like a shirt from a rap group that has satanic imagery on it. And then I walked home. Until next time…

can we start again (part IV)

So after digging through all of the photos from the evening (508, of which I kept about 100) I am to the end of them. Bane finished setting up their equipment around 10:15pm, and the kids all piled in very close to the stage. There were at least 4-5 people next to me all vying for the space I had claimed to get good shots. It was an interesting tug of war and back and forth, wanting to get good pictures, not wanting to give up my good spot, but also not wanting to ruin other folks efforts to get their own good pictures.

The above picture was one of those happy accidents where I shot, my flash fired, and someone else shot with their flash firing at the same time, creating this really fun lighting effect. Also capturing the face that this person was making (actually capturing a lot of the faces of people singing along, moshing, and enjoying themselves) is one of the things I love most about taking pictures at hardcore shows.

I have made it no secret that Bane is, in my opinion, the best hardcore band still playing. I know that many will point to some other band that still plays that they think are better, but I can not think of an active band that gets me more excited for their tours than Bane. Now if some bands do a small reunion then split back up I may get even more excited, but thats not an active band now is it?

They opened with Another World (I think) and played a really good mix of songs from every record. I know that during the opening chords to Count Me Out my body surged forward a bit as if I was going to front flip over the monitors and start dancing right away, but my better (older) head prevailed and reminded me that I was carrying a camera I can not afford to replace, so I stayed put. Folks continued to go crazy, with the same ferver and energy that they showed for Defeater. Aaron B (lead singer) brought his usual energy and sense of fun, dancing, bouncing around and making it seem like he was having the most fun of anyone in the room. I think that is one of the things that makes me still love this band. Its serious, and fun. Its serious fun.

At the end of Swan Song Delbec broke a string, and Zac lead the crowd in an extended outro sing along, which had tears welling up in my eyes. Imagine a room full of angry, sweaty, energetic teenagers and 20 something’s all screaming along to a single clean guitar strumming 2 chords “WHEN ARMAGEDDON’S BEEN LOCKED AND LOADED I WILL COME BACK FOR YOU”. It was really touching.

Their set seemed really short in comparison to the rest of the bands, but good fun always makes time fly. Hearing Count Me Out and Superhero still remind me why I am proud to be Straight Edge (12 Years) and why I still love hardcore, for as much as I haven’t been to involved in the scene in the past few years, as well as knowing that sometimes I can sound like a jaded old curmudgeon.

I knew there was one song that they couldn’t leave the stage without playing (although I would have also really liked to have hear Ali vs. Fraizer as well), and when Aaron said “We got one more, and I wanna see it get buck up in here” I knew exactly what the next words would be and it sent chills down my spine like it does every single time I hear them, live or through my head phones: “CAN WE”

So that was my Monday night. Even recalling the Bane set makes me smile, and gives me goose bumps. I wish they played here more often, or that I lived closer to where they are so I could see them more often than once(ish) a year. Here are the rest of the pictures I took during their set. Until next time…

can we start again (part III)

So after Miles Away, Defeater played. I have a hard time putting in to words the performance, because its hard to separate the band and how they played from the audience reaction. To say the kids went wild is an understatement. To put in to perspective what exactly that means, at one point the singer of the band said “I don’t mean to be the guy who sounds old and tells people not to have fun, but can you not swing from the rafters and kick my bandmates?” Yes, people were very literally hanging from the ceiling and in fact using rafters like monkey bars to get to the microphone. It reminded me of American Nightmare shows from 2000-2001, and the urban legends that arose from them (my favorite is still kids stage diving out of the balcony at the Tracodero).

I would say that for at least half of the set the kids from the crowd were taking up 65% of the space on the stage. The guitarists and bassist were pressed right up against their amps, the singer was right up against the bass drum, and people had to hold up the mic stands so the guitarists could sing back up vocals.

So I really liked this band a lot. Again, I had never really heard anyone talk about them, but they were really great. In a lot of ways they remind me of Modern Life Is War, but with a very different dynamic to their music. There were slow parts, quiet parts, no real “breakdowns/mosh parts” and even though there weren’t really “sing along” parts, every part seemed like a sing along part. There were at any given point 20 people screaming every word, and that was just amazing.

I have since gotten all of their recorded material and it really is awesome. I can certainly say that I am excited to see this band again, even more so because of a statement that read on the wikipedia entry about the band:

 “Similar to the American progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria, Defeater is a concept band whose body of work features an overarching story-line told through multiple concept albums. The narrative highlights the hardships and internal conflicts faced by a working-class family living on the Jersey Shore during the post-WWII period. On why this era is of interest to the group, Maas said it’s because, “it’s seen as this period of great American prosperity but there was still a lot of racism, sexism and homophobia. We write about these prejudices and things like war and murder and how they affected real people. All these things definitely contradict those Norman Rockwell-rosy images of that period.””

Yeah, really awesome all around. I took a TON of pictures during their set, and kept about 25 of them. Here is a gallery of them all.