The Year in Live Music Photography – 2011

Honorable mention


Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket

Taken at The Pageant, St Louis, MO.
August 2nd, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens

Take your choice of either of the three below. They were taken moments apart, and as with most of this wonderful show, the lighting and colors changed each second. It was the most difficult photography experience I’ve ever been in, but oh so rewarding. A sold out show at the fabulous Pageant on a 103 degree August steamer. This was the premiere rock tour of 2011 and these three shots of the MMJ guitarist (and impromptu saxophonist) set the mood well. Positioned close to Carl (below) while lead singer Jim James prowled the stage from my right was the perfect spot for me to capture the best evening of 2011.



Kelly Crisp of The Rosebuds.

Taken at the 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN.
July 19, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens

Disappointingly small audience on the hottest day in Minneapolis history (85 on the dew point scale is beyond oppressive). Playing in the small adjacent room in the premiere midwest venue (First Avenue), the small audience allowed me to meander along the front with ease and snap off hundreds of shots. The Rosebuds are a divorced couple that opted to continue making music and touring together after their marriage crumbled. Never a tense moment onstage as the band played flawlessly and stuck around long after the show to meet the fans (and enjoy the free air conditioning). One of those rare, intimate moments with a great band that turns out to be the best $12 you ever spent in your life. The shot below is Kelly Crisp showing the emotion that the entire evening floated on.



The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Taken at Off Broadway in St Louis, MO.
August 5, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens

My favorite gear shot of the year – edited to be a careful mix of black/white and color (the original color is shown in the small thumbnail below the image). Ten minutes after taking this shot loud guitars and drums filled the room as The Pains (abbreviated) showed why they would love to be the second coming of their heroes – the Smashing Pumpkins. Another example of the immense advantage you get with the intimacy of such a small venue. A small slice of heaven on the not-so-lovely side of St. Louis. Priceless!

The Decemberists

Taken at University of Iowa Main Lounge in Iowa City, IA.
April 18, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D300 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens


What’s most shocking here is the fact that the band with the #1 album in the U.S. at the time – was cool enough to come to Iowa. Colin Meloy, the clever lead singer lightened up the crowd early commenting that “we flew into Iowa….landed in Iowa City…drove up Iowa street….along the Iowa river….and now we’re on the campus of Iowa…..OK, we get it – we’re in Iowa!”. This was a rare shot with nice color during a very darkly lit show. It was the Decemberists at their peak this spring. Weeks later, Jenny Connlee (pictured in the front with accordion) was diagnosed with breast cancer. The band continues to thrive this winter and this shot grabbed their emotion well during the height of a surprisingly abrupt chart success earlier this spring.

#10 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Death Cab for Cutie

Taken at the Northrop Auditorium in St. Paul, MN.
August 26, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens


Playing at the overly-spacious Northrop auditorium, it allowed Death Cab the luxury of playing on a stage the size of a small basketball court. Never minding the poor acoustics, this is a rare shot featuring Ben Gibbard (standing on the right) with his back to the stage and playing close with Nick Harmer (bass) and Jason McGerr (drums) for a few seconds. The very jittery Gibbard rarely took his attention away from the audience or his microphone. The photo symbolizes the latter half of the career of Death Cab well, merging from playing on their neighbor’s front lawn to being a worldwide headline act. Of the 1500 photos I took of Death Cab in 2011 ( 3 shows in 3 cities) this one best displays what they’ve become.


#9 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Sarah McLachlan

Taken at the Chicago Theater in Chicago, IL.
March 12, 2011
Equipment: Nikon 300 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens


Sarah was THE female voice of the indie movement of the early 90’s. Her album ‘Fumbling Towards Ecstasy’ (1993) remains a landmark work and no other female in the 1990’s released anything as good. I first saw her around 2005 during her marriage tour, and her show earlier this year was part of her divorce tour. You would be hard pressed to find a more perfect combination of her class with the elegance of the Chicago Theater. There’s still no one that sounds like her. An uncropped version is shown below also.


#8 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Iron and Wine

Taken at the Peoples Choice, Des Moines, IA.
June 9, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D40 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens



Shot with a simple Nikon D40 at a sold-out jam packed show in Des Moines, this photo caught Sam Beam of Iron and Wine in the midst of a flawless performance. Take 5 minutes of your life to watch Iron and Wine perform “Tree by the River” and you’ll be muttering to yourself all the way to the merchandise table to buy his latest album. Originally working solo with nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar, Mr. Beam opted for a full touring band the last couple years, and the photos from this show were the beneficiary of that.

#7 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket.

Taken at The Pageant, St Louis, MO.
August 2nd, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens


Another shot straight from the camera card taken of Carl Broemel as he’s glancing to his left to watch Jim James do his thing. A photographer’s delight for nearly 3 hours with classic shots available every other minute. An amazing array of lights plummeting down on the best live band to hit the midwest in 2011.



#6 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Death Cab For Cutie

Taken at First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN.
May 21, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D40 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens


My current favorite classic rock and roll shot for a classic venue, and it somehow makes Ben Gibbard look like a rock god! – which he isn’t – but at least it looks that way as he leans into the microphone while playing one of his several guitars. First Avenue is the musical mecca of the midwest. Nothing fancy about the place at all. Black on the outside, black on the inside, but its actually two venues in one…with the smaller 7th St Entry holding a couple hundred and the main room (shown below) for over a thousand. I’ve visited a couple dozen venues in the midwest and this one just has it all. Great acoustics and a completely different group of trendy clientele every evening. Street cred at its highest!



#5 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds.

Taken at the 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN.
July 19, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens



Shot at the tiny 7th St. Entry venue inside of First Avenue, the lighting capabilities left more than a little to be desired. You just hope that once in awhile the band stands in front of the few fixed red or white lights. For this show, Ivan Howard – lead singer and guitarist of the Rosebuds spent most of the night in the shadows or under red light – neither of which are camera-friendly options. This shot below was in red light originally and I found the black and white rendition much more pleasing. Capturing Ivan in a common pose for him – eyes closed – strumming the guitar – leaning into the mic. One of my favorites from this night and one of my favorites of 2011. I love photos that capture their personality at the same time. The original version in the red light will be shown below.




#4 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.

Taken at the Val-Air Ballroom, Des Moines, IA.

December 4, 2011

Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens

The Des Moines performance lacked the stage lights and props of the other shows on the Wilco 2011 tour (blame it on the Ballroom) but this shot ignored those shortcomings and caught Tweedy with his familiar hat, in a pose that any music fan would know – without any introduction. There’s something to be said about catching a genius in his prime.






#3 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Still Corners.

Taken at the 7th St. Entry, Minneapolis, MN.
October 28, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens


Sometimes its better to be lucky than good. Photographing the drummer and songwriter Greg Hughes was easy enough but it wasn’t until I reviewed the photos later at my hotel that I noticed the perfectly silhouetted image of Tessa Murray – lead singer. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t notice it earlier). Great story behind the making of the band with Greg meeting Tessa at a random train stop in London. I mostly love in the photo how it appears that Tessa is right next to Greg – when in fact she was outside of the camera view – near the front of the stage more than a dozen feet away.



#2 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

Taken at The Pageant, St Louis, MO.
August 2nd, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens


Jim James captured alive at the height of his mighty powers. Yes, this is a terribly over-exposed image in several areas but I love it – and the psychedelia mixed with Jim wailing into the microphone takes you right back to that moment – knowing that there was no other place in the world you would rather be than right here, right now. And, I’m a sucker for capturing the greats in their prime.


#1 of the 10 best concert pics of 2011

Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls and Brandon Welchez of the Crocodiles.

Taken at The Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL.
October 14, 2011
Equipment: Nikon D7000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens


A shot from a random fall night at a tiny sold-out club on the outskirts of Chicago.  The couple in this photo are married, and both lead different bands. As the Crocodiles wrapped up their set, Dee Dee from the Dum Dum (I love typing that) Girls came out for a drop-dead performance with her husband, before heading back offstage to prepare for her own set – with her own band. Hours earlier, the Dum Dum Girls played an impromptu set about 15 blocks away at a Chicago record store (I’ll provide a photo from that below). Two shows in 6 hours.  A few weeks after this photo the Dum Dum Girls began selling out all copies of their latest critically-acclaimed album and were the musical guest on Jimmy Fallon.  But for this night, it was for a couple hundred people in darkest club you could imagine on a perfect night in Chicago.  Good photos were hard to come by but this one jumped out quickly as it captured everything about this group and this night’s excitement perfectly.


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