Music for me has never been about rankings or trying figure out the best song or album of the year. So instead of judging, I am going to tell you about 10 of my favorite moments I had at concerts to over the year. The live aspect of music has always been the most important to me. Its where the true magic of music happens at its most intimate and genuine form. Gathering these stories and looking back over the photos and videos from this year were an amazing reminder of not just how lucky I am to do what I do, but also how change can be a painful, yet necessary course of life. No one ever gets happier from a stagnant existence and moving forward sometimes comes growing pains. To more loud music and sweaty filled crowds with new friends!
“Sleepyhead” Passion Pit Fillmore
I honestly couldn't think of a better band to see for my first show of 2018. The ambient pop project; passion pit was has been personal favorite of mine since college and was one of the first bands I had ever professionally photographed. Looking back at the shots I have taken of them over the years only further proves how much I have grown as a photographer. For this January show I looked over setlists shortly after being approved to photograph the show and noticed their smash hit Sleepyhead conveniently fit into the first 3 shows. For those of you that aren't not verse in the rules of concert photography, the first 3 shows are typically the songs that a photographer is allowed to shoot. I knew Michaels mannerisms for this song very well but never felt that I was able to capture his energy and movement properly. I prepared heavily to shoot this; looking at recent performances to understand his timing, I found tour photos to see proper positioning and figured out my settings. At the end of the day It just showed that hard work pays off and I couldn't be more proud of the photos.
“Dusty Trails” Lucius- First Unitarian Sanctuary
When I saw Lucius back in March they preached a musical philosophy that I hope all musicians live by in some sense or another. Now I can't remember the exact phrasing but it was something along the lines of “once these songs are released into the world, the musician’s interpretation no longer matters. These songs should be whatever the listener needs them to be. Whether its a break up tune, a road trip companion or a a wedding soundtrack. These songs are now the emotional possession of the listener. It’s a concept that I have never heard articulated in such a way and It completely changed my perspective of a song.
So shortly after, when Lucius played Dusty Trails it hit me like a ton of Bricks. With lines like “We been gone for such a long time that I'm almost afraid to go home / A long road is a long, dragged-out imagination where things can go wrong / But we keep rolling on. I know I'm no doctor but if I was guessing I'd say it was just growing pains And painful as growing is we can't forget it's our ticket to taking the reins / And we'll all be okay, we'll be okay”. This show was just days after I returned to Philly from a month out in California taking care of my Dad. It was a month of emotionally tough moments and a lot of growing up very quickly. I have heard this song live 3 times since and every time I think about that month and how important it is to grow and the only control we have in life to be positive and to keep moving forward.
“Tomorrow” - Shakey Graves Union Transfer 05/11/2018
A stand out in the Folk community for year now, Shakey Graves 2018 record release showed so much growth as an artist. The diversion from a kick drum one man show into a vast soundscape of psychedelic folk country was a timely shift. The broadening of Shakey’s sound has allowed his music to translate into bigger and bigger venues while still keeping that intimate appeal. I was lucky enough to catch Shakey on the first leg of his tour at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer. It was sold out months in advance and for good reason. So thankful I got to see this show!
“Dancing in the Dark” Covered By Hurray for the Riff Raff Union Transfer 04/16/2018
In times of great trouble, songs like Dancing in the Dark take on a lot more weight. I recently watched Bruce Springsteen’s Netflix special and he spoke about what it meant to be an American during times like these. He spoke about what it also meant to be a storyteller and to have critical voice when the times called for it. Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff has been shining light against these dark times of tyranny and racism. To hear her reignite a classic like Dancing in the Dark was something truly special.
“Fallingwater” Maggie Rogers with the Dove and the Wolf Union transfer 5/24/2018
Maggie Rogers in my opinion is the most important new artist of 2018. She transcends genres that are rarely held with the same breath and her self awareness is that of a seasoned vet. This show at Union Transfer was the first of 3 times this year that I saw Maggie Perform. The show was stunning, to see how much she grew in just a year was astonishing. Don't get me wrong, when I saw her in 2017 she was vocally incredible and she already had a full visual concept of what her live shows should look like. But you could definitely tell that she was growing into the idea of performing live. Just imagine her situation, she went from a senior at NYU to selling out venues all accross the country in under a year. That accelerated progression is unheard of and typically comes with growing pains. But when I saw Maggie this May, she commanded a crowd with artistic intent. The icing on the cake came with her decision to use Philly’s own the Dove and the Wolf was brilliant.
I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for Maggie with sold out shows all across the US and a full length record set to drop in January.
“The Weight” Covered By Mumford and Sons Newport Folk Festival July 28th 2018
I have probably seen this song performed 3 or 5 times at the Newport Folk Festival over the years. It is one of those songs that connects generations and shows the uniqueness that makes Newport so special. Seeing a legend like Mavis Staples sing alongside Mumford and Sons, Maggie Rogers, Brandi Carlile and so many more was incredible. To see Maggie rogers and Brandi Carlile’s face while singing alongside Mavis was something I will never forget.
“With Arms Outstretched” Jenny Lewis Newport Folk Fest 07/28/2018
When I have moments of doubt or depression this is a song that always finds its way back to me. It’s the song that I often credit to my music photography path in life and it’s the first song that I truly fell in love with. I can still remember standing sweaty with 10,000 of my new best friends. Listening in complete silence as Jenny Lewis belted of the first verses of this song. It was a experience that I honestly will never forget. I would have to wait 10 years to hear it again live. That song was closely tied to her rocky relationship with Rilo Kiley and her Ex Blake Sennett. So when Jenny started singing With Arms outstretched midway through her Newport Folk set, I dropped everything I was doing. Hearing it live again brought me right back to that place I was in as a 18 year old kid with the whole world right in front of me. By the time it was over all I could think about was how grateful I was for this photo journey.
“Goodnight Irene” Covered by Deer Tick and Friends 07/29/2018
As Pete Seeger once said “The Newport Folk Festival is not officially over until this song is sung” This was my first time experiencing this iconic tradition and I don't think I can ever miss it again. It was a moment that was filled with crowd surfing, beer showers and a jam packed stage of my favorite artists. Newport Folk has a way of creating these singalongs, where the line between artist and audience blur so much where you don't where the stage is.
“This is America” Childish Gambino 09/18/2018 Wells Fargo Center 09/18/18
Donald Glover never ceases to amaze me with his constant pursuit of artistic integrity. Seeing his full production for an arena tour was a jaw dropping moment for a fan that has seen him live more 10 times over the last 8 or so years. I’ll leave you with this video i took before shortly before I turned off and became consumed with these songs for one last time.
“Transatlanticism” Death Cab for Cutie Tower Theatre 10/12/2018
When I was 17, I would drive down highway 495 in the suburbs of Massachusetts listening to Death Cabs 2003 classic Transatlanticism. It was a prized possession that never left the CD player in my Dad’s Dodge Durango. The car would end up totalled but that record has never lost its place in my life. This Fall marked the 15th anniversary of this record and Death Cab brought a new level of intensity and showmanship to one of their most popular records. The Tower theatre acoustics and masterful lighting design created a intimate yet whimsical landscape that 17 year old Eric would have drooled over.