THROUGH THE LENS: ND Photographers Share Stories and Photos of Their First Shows
Janis Joplin - Free Concert at Barnes Park, Monterey Park, CA 1968 - Photo by Boom Baker
As we are hopefully on the brink of seeing some live shows again, even if they are socially distanced outdoor ones, this week Through the Lens is taking a look back. When I asked ND’s photographers to share stories and photos of the first shows they shot, I had no idea where this would go. I was extremely pleased with what was submitted, and I think you will be, too. There are nine roots music legends featured and a couple of surprises.
Boom Baker met and photographed Janis Joplin in 1968. Peter Dervin saw the Grateful Dead in Alaska during summer solstice in 1980. Imagine my surprise when I learned that C. Elliott and I saw the same show in 1970. It was James Taylor and Carole King, two months before Tapestry was released. While we did not know each other then, we recently compared notes. We had come away with the same impression: King stole the show, and I said so in my review for the college paper.
Janis Joplin – Free Concert at Barnes Park, Monterey Park, California, Feb. 13, 1968
On that day there was an all-day Love-In happening. As Big Brother and the road crew were setting up I walked up to the stage and began chatting with a college buddy. With cameras hanging around his neck he told me he was their road photographer and offered to introduce me to Joplin. Our conversation was brief and she was very cordial. When I asked if I could take her picture, she said yes. I snapped two shots and then it was time for me to get off the stage. — Boom Baker
Mason Proffit – Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, 1970
Mason Proffit was a Midwest favorite, and they attracted national attention with “Two Hangmen,” a song still relevant today. We sat the floor of a hall or cafeteria. It was like being at a school assembly. I only took a shot or two for a photography class I was taking. Admittedly blurry, but it takes me right back to that night. That’s why I do photography. — Kim Reed
James Taylor and Carole King – Cincinnati Music Hall, Dec. 4, 1970
I have lost photos from my first show, Laura Nyro, which happened on Nov. 1, 1970. But, as a giddy teenager and with my trusty Kodak Instamatic in hand, I still have my second show: James Taylor with a then-unknown Carole King opening. Tapestry was released two months later. — C. Elliott
The Grateful Dead – West High Auditorium, Anchorage, Alaska, June 21, 1980
In 1980 I was 20 years old and working as a site accountant at a stream regeneration electric plant on the outskirts of Anchorage. When the news broke that the Dead was coming, the buzz of excitement grew daily, especially as they had never played Alaska. They flew in a week early and reports indicated that locals acted as tour guides and took them out on adventures.
They played three nights during the summer solstice, I caught one. I snuck in my Olympus camera and was probably dancing and shooting at the same time down the aisle. It’s amazing that 40+ years have passed; it seems like yesterday. — Peter Dervin
Dexter Freebish – Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2004
In 2004 I was a freshman at Wake Forest and into roots bands like Nickel Creek and Old Crow Medicine Show. But my guilty pleasures were punk and alt rock: Green Day, NoFX, etc. One of my favorite-but-obscure bands was Dexter Freebish, an alt rock/indie band out of Austin. I had just started my photography “career” shooting for the university newspaper and yearbook, and I jumped on the opportunity to cover them. Not only was this the first concert I shot, this set had some of my first ever published images as well. — Rob Laughter
Sylvan Esso – Sloss Music & Arts Festival, Birmingham, Alabama, 2015
I shot a lot of bands at Sloss, but the one who was kindest to my camera was Sylvan Esso. Vocalist Amelia Meath is a gifted performer; her physical presence was as much a part of the show as her voice. She made my job easy. — Chris Griffy
Philadelphia Folk Festival – Old Pool Farm, Upper Salford, Pennsylvania, 2004
When I began taking photographs in 1970 it was mostly street scenes and portraits. My first “show” was the 43rd edition of this three-day fest in 2004. Montgomery Publishing, a local newspaper chain, hired me to shoot it. As I had been going to the fest on and off since 1970, I was familiar with the layout, which helped. What really made me nervous was my inexperience in shooting live music. But as it was an assignment, I persevered. Not only was it a great learning experience, I found that I loved it. When I look back on my earlier pictures I sometimes cringe, but I am still shooting, and still learning. — Mark J. Smith
Albert Collins – LaSalle Park, Buffalo, New York, 1989
I was just there at a free event as a kid with a camera checking out the guy who is still my favorite bluesman, Albert Collins. — Todd Gunsher
AmericanaFest – Nashville, 2012
This was my first visit to Nashville (from Scotland), and AmericanaFest was my first proper gig as a music photographer. I was an experienced photographer, but 2012 was the first year that I combined my passions for Americana music and photography. Some of my most favorite images are from that year. My photos of Guy Clark bring back so many memories and emotions. It was also when, at the Second Fiddle on Lower Broadway, I first met Amos, who introduced me to No Depression and confirmed my long-term love of roots music photography. — Carol Graham
Now, the photos. Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a full-size slide show.