A friend I hadn’t seen in a while asked me the other day if I had photographed any good shows lately, and it occurred to me that 2019 was one of the best years I have had as a photographer - in both quality and quantity. I had 45 concert shoots this year, during which I photographed 115 artists at 17 venues. 59 bands were shot from the pit and 12 from the soundboard. Once again, the Southgate House Revival is my favorite venue, with 28 bands, followed by the Taft Theatre with 23, and Riverbend with 19. I have now photographed 46 Grammy Winners (with 513 total Grammy nominations and 145 wins among them) and 10 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
I saw some legends, had some unforgettable experiences, met some wonderful people, and got to document it all. To all of you who appreciate what I do, thank you. To those of you who know good photography is valuable, thank you. To those of you who have supported me and made this possible, thank you. Thank you all. Here’s to an even better 2020.
Here are some highlights from the year:
3/17/19 - Experience Hendrix at Taft Theatre - Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Chris Layton (first of two times)
This almost feels like cheating, since each artist was only on stage for a song or two, but I’m counting them all individually. It was a strange (and loud) show to shoot, but it was cool to see so many of these great artists in one night. I spent a lot of time trying to play guitar like a bunch of these guys when I was younger, so to photograph them from just a few feet away was a trip.
3/22/19 - Iron & Wine at Taft Theatre
The opposite vibe from five days before, Iron & Wine was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes the 7D sounds less like a Canon and more like a cannon - this was one of those nights.
3/26/19 - Kinky Friedman and Mojo Nixon at SGHR
Songwriter, friend of Willie Nelson, cigar aficionado, entrepreneur, and erstwhile presidential candidate. I managed to make one of my best photographs that night. And then there’s Mojo Nixon, the insane former WEBN personality who recorded an album with Jello Biafra, and still manages to have amazing hair.
5/31-6/02/19 - Bunbury - Reignwolf (in the midst of a tour opening for The Who), Sublime with Rome, Machine Gun Kelly, Run the Jewels
Bunbury is another great opportunity to get a lot of bands in camera, and this year was no different. There may not have been the “huge” names like in years past, but there were definitely some great bands, and it’s always a blast to see a lot of photographers I literally only see there once a year.
6/11/19 - Buddy Guy with Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band at Rose Music Center
Buddy Guy. What is there to say about him? He’s a living legend, and one of the only remaining members of the old guard of electric blues guitarists. He was not quite 83 years old as of this shoot, and you’d never know it from his performance.
6/19/19 - Blind Boys of Alabama, Marc Cohn, and Robert Cray at Rose Music Center
Eight days later, I’m back at the Rose for another shoot full of legends. The Blind Boys of Alabama joined Marc Cohn in support of Robert Cray. This was certainly one of the biggest collections of talent I’ve ever photographed. This show also granted me one of my favorite photos ever, when Robert Cray’s bass player Richard Cousins looked directly into my camera and stuck his tongue out at me.
7/02/19 - Dave Matthews Band at Riverbend
This is actually the second time I’ve photographed DMB, but the first time on my home turf. After my 3 and out, I stashed my gear in the office and joined my girl on the lawn to take in the rest of the show.
7/12/19 - Peter Frampton at Riverbend
Frampton announced that his final tour ever, due to a diagnosis of inclusion body myositis, a rare and incurable inflammatory condition which causes muscles to weaken slowly. I was lucky to get this shoot. Frampton is an absolute legend, and still a monster on guitar.
7/13/19 - Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie at Riverbend
Back at Riverbend again the next night for a completely different show from the night before. Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. All the photographers had to bail early on Zombie when it became apparent to security that there were too many crowd surfers. I managed some great shots that night.
7/20/19 - Barenaked Ladies and Hootie and the Blowfish at Riverbend
This was a bit of a treat for me. I loved both of these bands when I was in high school (a common refrain for everyone in the crowd that night). It was, however, near the end of a three-week heat wave, with a temperature of 92° and a heat index of over 100°. Pro Tip: if you’re trying to cut weight, go photograph a concert at Riverbend in July.
7/24/19 - Goo Goo Dolls and Train at Riverbend
The heat had broken, with a high of 79°, and I was in the pit again, this time for the Goo Goo Dolls (I might be the only person who remembers “Long Way Down,” which is my favorite GGD song) and Train, who provided me with a great chance for a fisheye confetti shot.
8/03/19 - Okilly Dokilly and Mac Sabbath at the Woodward Theater
This was just plain fun. If you don’t know, go find out.
8/10/19 - Santana at Riverbend
Carlos Santana is an absolute guitar hero. No, guitar god. “Legend” hardly begins to describe him, and I was six feet away from him. Did I mention that this is a pretty cool gig sometimes?
8/14/19 - Stray Cats at Rose Music Center
Brian Setzer has been one of my biggest inspirations as a musician for a long time, and so getting the call to go cover the Stray Cats was a highlight of my life, not just my year. I was the only photographer there, so I basically had my run of the pit.
8/15/19 - Iron Maiden at Riverbend
Iron Maiden. Iron. Maiden. Iron Freaking Maiden. One of the biggest bands in the world, with an unparalleled stage show and some of the best musicianship on the planet, and I was in the pit for it. Iron Maiden tours with this kindly older British lady who talks to all the photographers before the show, giving us all advice on what will be happening during our three songs, and who will be hamming it up for us when. I wish she was at every show, but I digress. During the show, I slipped and felt the edge of the barricade gouge my leg. I could still move it and put weight on it, and Iron F. Maiden was still playing, so I figured I’d check it when I was done. After leaving the pit, I discovered a nice blood trail running down into my Doc Martens. If you’re going to bleed at a show, bleed at Iron Maiden.
8/16/19 - John Paul White at SGHR
Finally! I have been trying to photograph a JPW show for at least three years now. In fact, this show was a make-up show that had to be rescheduled from July 16th (due to a poorly-timed lost voice). But I finally got him. And what made it even better is that it was another show I got to sit and enjoy with my fiancée (John Paul White being one of her favorite artists).
8/17/19 - John Paul White at Nibroc Park (Corbin, KY)
And what do you do when you find out that your fiancée’s favorite artist that you just saw is playing a free, outdoor gig just a couple of hours down the road? Road trip! This isn’t really an “official” shoot, as there’s no approval process for photographing in a public park, but I’m counting it anyway, for one main reason. You see, it was hot as hell again, and for the first time in his professional career, John Paul White performed without his suit jacket, and I was there to capture it.
8/18/19 - Alice In Chains and Korn at Riverbend
It was hot. Again. And this was my fifth concert in a row. I’m not much of a Korn fan, but I did like Alice In Chains back in the day.
8/18/19 - The Bluebirds at Live at Latitudes
And because I was still able to lift my camera, I decided to stop at Latitudes on the way home to catch the legendary Bluebirds at their regular Sunday night gig.
9/07/19 - Avett Brothers at GABP
This was my second time photographing at GABP, and it’s a lot of fun. The pit is tiny, but being out on the field is a blast. Watching the remainder of the show from the visitors’ dugout is fun, too.
9/23/19 - The Zombies and Brian Wilson at Taft Theatre
There’s not a lot to say about this show other than I still can’t believe I was photographing legends on this level. It’s a thought I had a number of times this year.
11/30/19 - Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and JD Wilkes
This was a great shoot to wrap up my year with. I’d never gotten the chance to see (or photograph) Reverend Peyton before (thanks again to the road manager for tipping me off that Breezy was going to set her washboard on fire at the end of the show). And I will make it a point to go see Col. Wilkes any time he’s in town. Turns out the man likes a good high-rye bourbon.