On Saturday, Jill and Kate attended our niece Margaret’s graduation from American University. Due to ticket restrictions, the rest of us — Ben, Emma, Nick, Conner, and Ashley — could not go to the event. So we went to see Ben Platt, the Tony Award-winning star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” perform live at The Anthem. For once, I didn’t shoot the concert, but I did get these pics backstage.
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Son Volt played a career spanning set Sunday at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club, with songs from their 1995 debut “Trace” all the way to the current “Union,” which came out earlier this year. Singer-songwriter Ian Noe was the opener. Moe’s debut album, “Between the Country,” will be released at the end of the month.
#sonvolt #iannoemusic #americanahighways #930Club
Lilly Hiatt, daughter of John and a fabulous singer-songwriter in her own right, left the audience entranced at Pearl Street Warehouse in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night. Check out her album "Trinity Lane" to see what I mean.
Karen Jonas, a Fredericksburg-based songwriter, played mix of songs from her three albums (including the newest "Butter"), as the opener for Hiatt. Jonas and her band play all over the area. If you can, check them out sometime.
These photos were shot for Americana Highways. Another person reviewed the show.
During a 10-day trip to Texas earlier this month, I was fortunate to catch Grammy and Academy Award-winning songwriter Ryan Bingham in an intimate acoustic show at the 299-seat One World Theatre outside Austin.
Here's a story about two of my professional worlds — music and event photography — colliding.
Last week, I shot the American Staffing Association's annual conference at National Harbor. For the finale, ASA brought in pop star Andy Grammer and his band in for a private concert for attendees.
Currently on tour behind his 2017 album, "The Good Place," Grammer was scheduled to play in Baltimore the next evening, As a result, Staffing World participants saw a 90-minute show with his six-piece band.
Grammer played a string of hits — “Keep Your Head Up,” “Fine By Me,” “Honey, I’m Good,” and “Good to be Alive (Hallelujah),” among others — in an energetic and well-received show.
To see more photos, go to my Concert Photography page.
Bathed in pink — Washington, D.C., September 2017
I felt somewhat guilty about seeing Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer perform on Sunday night at The Birchmere. My wife and I had just returned from Chicago earlier that afternoon, and we’d seen Green Day just three nights earlier. I’ve been on the road for five of the past six weekends, and the work was piling up. Family members and lifelong friends were dealing with the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey, and Texas was — still is — on my mind.
Little did I know that seeing — and photographing — this sister act would be such a salve for the soul.
On a short tour to promote “Not Dark Yet,” a stunning and mesmerizing collection that is their first album together, Moorer and Lynne talked about their heritage and the bond they share as sisters. It’s a bond that has been forever cemented despite horrific violence (their father killed their mother, then himself when they were teens), lives on opposite coasts (one in L.A.; the other in New York), and disparate personalities (Lynne, three years older, is the introvert; Moorer just completed a memoir).
Nashville musician Rick Brantley opened the show, and was joined by Lynne and Moorer for his song “Hurt People,” a beautiful moment that offered the promise of things to come. I spoke briefly with Brantley between the sets, and he said that watching the two sing together will “blow your mind. Their sound will put you in a trance.”
I’ve seen Moorer live several times, the first time at Joe’s Pub in New York when she was eight-plus months pregnant with her son, John Henry, and then as part of her then-husband Steve Earle’s band. I saw Lynne years ago and have most of her albums in heavy rotation.
Brantley was right. Together, they were better than I could have imagined. At points, they would glance at each other as only siblings can, wordlessly helping the audience understand their “Sissy” bond.
Performing all 10 tracks — nine covers and one original — from “Not Dark Yet,” plus songs from each of their catalogues, their voices blended seamlessly as the selections ranged from family staples (Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Jessi Colter) to the unlikely trio of Nick Cave, the Killers, and Nirvana.
But it was the title track, a Bob Dylan song from his Grammy winning “Time Out of Mind,” and the sole original, “Is It Too Much,” that resonated most strongly. Dylan’s song, one of his best, is both a sad reflection on mortality and a message of hope. “Is It Too Much,” a song about the sisters’ family history, reaches out to others in pain. Sample lyric: “No one else bears this heavy load/Bring it here to my side…Don’t you know you ain’t by yourself/I’m right here to help you lay it down.”
Appropriately, the sisters donated proceeds from the sales of their T-shirts to victims of Hurricane Harvey, a generous gesture that showed the compassion they have for others in need. The donations are small in the light of the scale of the destruction, but you start somewhere. After all, the message is about uniting in the face of tragedy.
Postscript: This morning, as the tour moves to Chicago, Moorer posted a childhood photo from a family trip to Texas. Today would have been her mother’s 73rd birthday.
“The loss of her feels deeper somehow this year — maybe because we're out here singing together and we both miss the third part she would've chomped at the bit to add. Maybe because she would've been so proud of us. Maybe because we know that she IS proud, looking on, and cheering for us,” Moorer writes.
Moorer then addresses her mother’s death, and her father’s horrifying decision.
“He and he alone took her beautiful spirit out of this world. He was able to because of two things — she didn't know how to fight back and he had a gun. The most harrowing and frustrating thing about domestic violence is that it wears down a person's spirit in such a way that most women forget they are in charge of their own lives. I wish someone had been able to tell our Mama that hers was worth more than she ended up believing it was.”
These sisters, now both older than their mother was at the time of her death, honor her memory every time they walk on stage. They certainly did Sunday night.
Live music — and most live performances, for that matter — is one of my favorite things to photograph. I’ve been fortunate to be close to some fantastic performers over the years, but it is difficult to get into that select group of freelancers who can score the elusive photo pass.
Without the pass, it’s impossible to bring a professional camera into a large show. So, like everyone else, I take photos with my iPhone and opt for the abstract rather than realistic look.
That’s what happened on the first of a two-show long weekend that saw my wife and I closing out August with a trip to Chicago, where we saw family and the band Green Day live at Wrigley Field.
It was the first time Jill and I have had the chance to go to Wrigley, and Green Day put on a terrific show. I also enjoyed pushing the phone to its limits to see what I could get. Sometimes it’s nothing but bad blur; at others, the phone can surprise you.
Part 2 of this weekend is the Allison Moorer-Shelby Lynne show at The Birchmere, which does not have the same restrictions on professional cameras, thank goodness.
Blast of confetti at Bruno Mars concert — Washington, D.C., September 2017
Last week, while in Salt Lake City, I had an opportunity to see Ryan Adams & The Shining with opener Amanda Shires on tour at the Red Butte Canyon outdoor amphitheatre. The setting just outside the University of Utah campus was beautiful, complete with an almost full moon.
Adams, one of the most prolific and diverse musicians of the past two decades, has been dipping into his extensive catalogue for the past couple of years. A lovely highlight from the show was his duet with Shires on "Oh My Sweet Carolina."
Shires, the wife of Jason Isbell (another favorite), has a new CD scheduled for release in mid-September. Nothing has been forthcoming — yet — on Adams' next project.
My wife’s words rang through my head, at times louder than the music: “Damn those stigmas.”
As parents of a child who has mental health issues, one of our largest fears is that she will use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Mental health and substance abuse are linked in another way, through the stigmas that prevent many people from talking about them openly and publicly — as the illnesses they are, not just the poor choices we make.
A new organization, Facing Addiction, is working to change that perception. And they took a huge step Sunday with UNITE to Face Addiction, a five-hour rally and concert that drew thousands from across the U.S. to the National Mall Sunday in Washington, D.C.
Described as the first of its kind, the rally featured a terrific lineup of performers who cut across genres and generations. Featured were Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Jason Isbell, The Fray, John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls, Jonathan Butler and Tommy Sims, who wrote “Change the World.” All have faced substance abuse issues or been affected by someone close who faced addiction.
The audience, a vast majority of them recovering addicts or people who had lost a loved one, slowly grew throughout the damp and dreary day. Many carried signs with pictures of loved ones who had been lost to addiction; others were there because they are in long-term recovery. They cheered each of the artists, but individual songs or performers brought many to tears, especially when The Fray — a personal highlight, along with Isbell — performed “How to Save a Life.”
Facing Addiction, a recently formed organization that has been working to focus attention on the cause, organized the rally. Officials with the organization say addiction affects one in three households and 85 million people in the U.S. It also cuts across all class, socioeconomic, and racial lines.
Among the speakers: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy; Michael Botticelli, a recovering addict who now is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and syndicated talk-show host and surgeon Mehmet Oz. Others included Emmy Award-winning actress Allison Janney, whose role in the sitcom “Mom” drew loud cheers; and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who is battling a family legacy of substance abuse and mental illness.
The biggest piece of news at the event was when Murthy, surrounded by three of his top staff, announced that his office has commissioned the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on alcoholism and addiction.
And the numbers are there to justify it: Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in people under 50. Stigma or not, that is a sobering fact.
Damn those stigmas.
Nicholas performed a solo at his spring Vital Signs concert at Elon University last night, covering "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. Video is below.
Vital Signs, the a cappella group my son Nicholas has helped lead during his four years at North Carolina’s Elon University, held its annual spring concert Saturday night. The event was emotional in many ways, as the group performed a dozen songs, including the now traditional gender group numbers and the organization’s “permanent song” — U2’s “A Beautiful Day.”
Nicholas was featured in two duets, and recognized along with the other seniors for his many contributions to the group as he gets ready to graduate in a few weeks. He announced that Vital Signs has raised enough funds for the Make A Wish Foundation to grant a full “wish” to another child. The effort is extremely important to Nicholas after the foundation granted a wish to Bella, his sister in North Carolina, two years ago.
Thoroughly enjoyed Nicholas' final Vital Signs concert tonight at Elon. I'm very proud of how much the oldest has grown as a son, sibling, performer and all-around human being during his time in college.
For more photos from the show, go to my Facebook page here.
Kate and fellow students and staff performed at a 14th annual Winter Concert last week at Mount Vernon High School. Teachers allow students to perform regardless of their experience as a way of expressing themselves through the arts. Kate has done many things on stage, including dance recitals and community theater. This time, she impressed everyone with her ability to rap to the song "Airplanes" (hence the costume). Congratulations to our soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter, who graduates from Mount Vernon in June and has been accepted into the Pathways to Baccalaureate program at NOVA!
For more photos from this event, check out my Facebook album here.
Dave Alvin at the Birchmere — Alexandria, Va., July 2014