Band of Joy – Back in the USSR? Part 1
Back in the USSR…
OK, not quite the USSR, but it was post Soviet Russia. St. Petersburg, to be exact. I was there tour managing my parents on a trip to my pop’s ancestral homeland of Finland, and the famous city of Peter the Great, The Hermitage, and the Czars’ horse graveyard. I should not even have known the Band of Joy would be playing there at the Ice Palace during the few days we booked there. But, I did. And, I asked the most excellent Buddy Miller if we might make it our business to meet up there. And, of course, I’d love to come out and shoot. And, write it up for No Depression.
Where, I realize, I have been fairly conspicuously absent since… more or less last summer, with some exceptions for a couple big festivals. It has been a crazy year, here in Stage Right Photo land. I have done the whole got divorced, moved cities/states, sold my house, left all my clients, etc. thing. I kept thinking that I was back on the proverbial horse, but I was fooling myself. So, I stopped promising I was, and knew I’d be back sooner or later, organically. Um, how could I not make this one happen?
Back in the spring, I was furious to learn I’d miss opportunities to see this Band of Joy on the US tour. I’d left Portland by the time I had an opportunity to see that show, and I was out of town any way, both for that and for the Bay Area show, Berkeley being my latest haunt. “OK”, I thought. “Well, I am going to be in England for a pretty good stretch this summer on either side of the trip with the parents, maybe we can run into one another there.” I went to the Band’s web site and found that there were, in fact, no dates that matched up. More sadness. Ah well, I might as well look and see if they are going to be anywhere else that I could make it my business to catch them. Um. Well, yes. They were scheduled to appear in St. Petersburg, Russia one of the five nights I’d be there. Game on.
I made plans, got my passes, and packed my camera bag accordingly. I laughed. I was astonished. I was fortunate enough to be going on this wonderful trip, and I was going to get to photograph Band of Joy there, too? More proof that you just never know what opportunities are going to cross your path. I could not even have made it up.
I managed to grab a cup of tea with Buddy a couple hours before the show. He, too, felt extremely fortunate to be in a place to which very few Americans get, even now. The band had made time to do at least a little bit of sight seeing in this remarkable, beautiful, richly cultural and historical city. Discussions of huge changes along the course of a life, the evolution of projects one could never have imagined, and winding up in places and doing things we never could have thought up, lead to a general agreement that You Just Never Know.
Moyer: “Like, you and Robert Plant. Who knew?”
Miller: “Who knew. I met him 15 years ago when I was playing with Emmylou Harris. I heard that he was there and that he was in the pub up front. I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go meet Robert Plant.’ And, we just talked about psychedelic music and stuff… Apparently, he kept my name.”
Nice move, Mr. Plant.
We finished out coffee and tea and chocolate. We spoke of both being on the Cayamo Cruise again next year. “See you in six months!” I said as we parted. “It’s not that soon, is it?” Nearly. It is no wonder he was a little stunned, with finishing his production of the coming Carolina Chocolate Drops record * awaiting his return from this tour and several possible projects being bandied about for the first half of next year. I can’t imagine how he gets it all done, but world sure is a better place with Buddy Miller making lots of music.
Part II to follow – How to get into a concert in Russia with your camera when you do not speak the language and every official persona you see wants to throw you out, and how great was it.
* Record? Disc? Album ? Can someone please tell me what I am supposed to call these things at this point? They all still work for me.