Striking a Balance
Ever visited an art museum, say MoMA in New York, and as you are slowly making your way through the galleries, gazing at all those sumptuous paintings, letting them seep into your consciousness, you come to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” where you find a half-dozen folks busy with getting their photo taken along side it? They seem to spend forever trying to get it just right, while give the painting itself barely a glance. That’s kind of what it’s like, sometimes, at a concert. Folks hold up their cell phones to take stills and videos that they will look at once, maybe twice, then discard. I’m not saying that having a memento photo is not a valid objective, but at some point it becomes an impediment to fully experiencing the performance. (Not to mention, texting, Instagramming, etc.)
In other words, and to extend the thesis, you can either fully experience something or have a photograph/video of something you visited.
This is the primary challenge of the performance photographer is, to paraphrase Rilke, to let the live music experience become as indistinguishable in you as the blood flowing through your veins versus getting some good shots. That is the balance nearly every photographer I know attempts to achieve. It is not a static one, but movable, ever changing, depending on many variables. Think about it.
But enough of that. Let’s get to this week’s photos.
There will usually be a lag between when a photo is taken and when it is posted, then perhaps published in this column. Some of us edit on the road, some when we get back home. Sometimes we do both — a first blush, then flesh them out. That’s why I’m featuring some pics from the IBMA conference that ended three weeks ago. These include a wonderful black and white pic of Sierra Hull, Front Country, and the Hillbenders doing a bluegrass version of Tommy.
Speaking of taking music out of one genre and transplanting in another, two of the strangest things I have ever heard were bluegrass takes on “Billie Jean” and “Slave to Love.” Unlike “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” though, they have not entered the bluegrass repertoire. Thanks to Todd Gunsher for covering that event.
Then we have three more from around the country: C. Elliott’s Calexico and Mavis Staples. As she seems to be the master of the wide/long shot, these capture something that is difficult to do — a full band on stage. The one of Calexico reminds me of the first time I heard them do “Alone Again Or.” I closed my eyes and heard Arthur Lee.
We’ve also go two bands who are new to me — Taarka, wishing ND a Happy 20th birthday, and Mic Harrison and the High Score. Finally, there’s a photo of Watkins Family Hour live during the AMA.
As we had so many fine pics submitted this past week, I’ll save some Shakori Hills Fest pictures till next week.
“Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” — Jimmy Durante