2017 – a year where nothing means anything and everything is exactly as fucked up as it feels. In the face of the exhausting two years that proceeded to bring out the worst in America and set the stage for the dumpster fire to come, the last we needed was to add a barrage of hurricanes, but that’s exactly what we got. And yet, we persist. The illusion of the reality we perceive has finally come to the breaking point with what exists behind the veil. Those that have existed in the wake of the curtain have felt the need to come out to the light in order to remind the ones who have turned a blind eye of the despair that exists all around them and that enough is enough. For some reason, not everyone seems to agree on who falls into which category and people are a little tense about it. It can be said that a whole lot of the shit going down over the last twelve months has been facilitated by a particular brand of rotten pumpkin with a Twitter account. It’s been a lot to take in and a perfect opportunity to give into despair. That has been my go to in the past. But, It didn’t seem fitting this time when so many didn’t really have a choice in the matter, so I tried something different.
I was given a fantastic opportunity to work with Kendra and a very talented team in kicking things off with a new project that would evolve into Bad Copy and I was pumped. I have been impersonating a concert photographer since 2008 for various outlets both real and a product of my imagination, but this was the most excited I had been about it in a long time. A big motivation behind this was a desire to continue the work we had been doing, but for ourselves and better. I was over the moon for the chance to sink myself into this kind of work with someone I so greatly believe could do what she said she wanted to accomplish. It’s been a wild ride to say the least and a huge part of the reason I’ve been able to keep myself together in the face of a year that has been giving it’s all to see me do the opposite.
Come along with me and I will take you through my year with all the shows I found myself excited to be covering instead of losing my god damn mind in the midst of a world turning on it’s head. There were plenty of ups and downs, but I kept my head down and powered through to find myself on the verge of some very exciting work. Getting Spotify also to proved to be a solid move into the murky waters of not paying a lot to listen to all of the music. I look forward to introducing it to a Mat that listens to more than just the new Propagandhi record some day. Until then, here are some of my favorite pictures I took in 2017 and a little bit about them.
My Year in Photos
Before Bad Copy
It’s hard to imagine a time before I worked for Bad Copy, but it did exist. I spent the beginning of 2017 covering shows at the Concord for Riot Fest and finishing out my tenure with Punktastic. I had worked the better part of the last 5 years covering shows and growing as a photographer with PT and the time had finally come for a better fit. My previous editors were fond of cutting down my galleries without my input and tended to leave out favorite shots of mine. The fact that the above AFI and Frank Turner photos were left out of their respective galleries solidified my decision to move on.
The Women’s March
The day following the inauguration of current President Dipshit, a ton of people all over the country came out to collectively say, “Fuck this shit.” While this particular march never lead to any specific reform, it did serve as a necessary catharsis for a lot of people and a chance to establish a precedent early on that none of what we had just witnessed should be considered normal and will be met with resistance. In Chicago, the atmosphere for change was palpable and a sense of solidarity was growing. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of power and influence this many people could have had in the election process, but I swallowed my cynicism in favor of the glorious display of activism I was witnessing.
After a long winter of planning and hard work building the design for the site, March 3rd and 4th rolled around it was time to cover our first publicist-sanctioned shows. I could hardly contain my excitement to be covering so many favorites in such a short time. I’m not gonna lie, it was a great feeling when the people we had been working with before continued to believe in our potential for success. While photographing Greg Graffin, I inadvertently ended up talking with his dad about the site and the thrill of launching our new project. Whether or not he was true to his word and ever checked us out may never be known, but it felt good to talk about Bad Copy with someone outside the publication. Plus, this opened the flood gates for what would be my most active year of covering shows in a long time.
The Early Days
The start of Bad Copy was a frantic challenge of attempting to balance work and going to multiple shows a week. I was thrilled to be getting back into being this busy instead of sleeping. Over and over again, we were granted coverage to just about every show we applied for. Getting the opportunity to shoot long time favorites at my current skill level built up some great momentum to ride through those chilly nights in the beginning. Despite the success, one of the biggest issues that plagued me throughout the year was technical problems either related to available lenses or bodies. My primary body was a D700 and the thing was a tank, but my lens choice was not always consistent. I’ve always looked forward to the day when I could get a stable set up, but financial constraints have always stood in the way. Regardless, I was always pleased with what I was able to produce, even under less than ideal circumstances that kept popping up. Along the way, I even managed to figure out how to include my personal watermark and that really helped it feel more and more real.
Holy shit. I still have a hard time believing these pictures are real. I’ve wracked my brain over and over trying to figure out how in the world I was given coverage for this show, but I can’t do it. All I did was reach out, ask, and, lo and behold, I got a response approving my request. Apparently this decision on a whim is all it took to accomplish something I had always hoped, but never expected to happen. If there’s anything I’ve continued to learn from my time shooting shows it’s how easy it can be to get into a show just by asking. The best part of the whole thing is that it still stands as one of my favorite shows of 2017. The right combination of nostalgic appeal with a modern display of raw talent and a solid new album to back it up had me convinced that there is no reason not to consider Michelle Branch a force still to be reckoned with.
Emo Night Brooklyn
This was an odd night. I had been contacted by the promoters about a paid gig covering one of those emo nights where a band DJs a set of songs from a genre they are popular in. People in their 20’s and 30’s show up and relive their middle/high school days of being sad and singing songs they cried along to. Only this time, instead of crying because their life sucks, it’s based on the shared experience of being surrounded by a crowd of people who all went through the same thing. I was both curious and poor enough to take the gig and investigate this phenomenon first hand. While it turned out to be something I would have a hard time enjoying were I not being paid, I did enjoy witnessing the kind of people who go to watch members of Bayside DJ an emo night in Wrigleyville with the hope of being seen. Even better was meeting the people who travel around the country putting on this shindig. It was pretty clear by the end of the night that getting laid was a huge motivating factor for doing this. They ended up being way too drunk and distracted to notice me helping myself to their untouched cache of beers, throughout the event. It was an exciting night for all involved.
It’s not exactly easy to get excited about going to Warped Tour when you’re 31. Pretty much the only thing motivating me to spend the day going all the way the hell out to Tinley Park to witness this yearly charade was prospect of getting to experience it with someone equally as jaded and who was looking forward to it for all the same reasons as me. Kendra and I had the chance that afternoon to sit down with our wonderful friends in Bad Cop/Bad Cop to chat about their time on the road and perfect new album. We ended up talking for about 45 minutes and had to be told frequently to keep it down. It was a blast. Spending the better part of the day battling the heat with the BC/BC road team, which included our own treasure, Eden, was probably my favorite part. From being a paying customer to previous years covering Warped, I had seen a lot of sides of the festival, but this was my most intimate look at the positive aspects that can come from this soon to be no longer traveling carnival. I’m legitimately excited to see how it all winds down next year. I’m hoping Kendra’s mom can give us a ride.
Catching Up With Old Friends
As summer turned to fall, I spent a lot of time checking in with some old favorites. Putting Rancid and Dropkick Murphys on the same bill was as good of an idea in 2017 as it would have been in 2001. Despite the questionable material put forth by both bands this year, I was still plenty excited to see what they had in store. Everything about the night from the lineup also featuring the Bouncing Souls and Jake of Stiff Little Fingers, to the Nazi stabbing rang of the old school punk scene. Even the level of bald heads in both the bands and the audience remained consistent across the years. Following that up with the Living End was a nice treat. I hadn’t seen them in about 11 years and I was very eager to catch up. I was especially excited by the prospect of hearing them play my longtime favorite, “Uncle Harry.” They didn’t do it in 2006, but came through this year and made it all worth while. Getting to see Goldfinger took a lot of the sting out of being cut from the schedule a week before I intended to quit. I had no idea a band most famous for being on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack in 1999 could still draw the kind of crowd they did, but I was happily proven wrong that night as they put on one hell of a show.
Getting coverage for Riot Fest was a pretty big deal for us. We had been putting in a lot to get Bad Copy’s numbers to a level where it would be worth it for the folks running the festival to give us permission to make complete asses of ourselves for the sake of journalism or something like that. I had covered the festival since it was first moved outdoors in 2012 and was looking forward to getting to shoot it again this year for a new outlet. As nervous as we were about the possibility of not being able to get in because of our short tenure as an outlet, I had a feeling everything would work out. People have a tendency to notice when you put in the effort and given how much the team had been busting their asses so far this year, I couldn’t see any reason we would be passed up. Being able to sip ciders at 11 AM while planning my day, in addition to continuously throughout the remainder of the weekend, definitely made it all worth while. Thanks to a convenient layout, the team was able to pack in way more fun (read “cider”) than most professionals recommend, but I felt it really spoke to our level of commitment. If you put your mind to it, and really work, you can jam a lot of fun into 3 days and that’s just what we did. I’m quite proud of what we came up with especially since we almost killed ourselves to get it all done in a timely manner.
Riot Fest really put my camera through the ringer. I had covered over 30 sets and taken thousands of photos over the course of a couple of days. It’s a lot to ask of any camera, much less an aging D700, like mine. I had no idea just how hard it had been working for me this past year, but would soon find out. Since they didn’t play Riot Fest this year, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to see the Descendents come through town, even if it wasn’t my favorite venue. This was definitely the first time I’d seen a front man sporting a camelback under their shirt, the way Milo did that night, and my hat goes off to his ingenuity. Next up, was one the worst nights of my year – second only to breaking Kendra’s lens – the night my own camera died. It was during my first Nekromantix show and happened for no other reason than it was all used up. It was just shy of it’s 100,000 actuation lifespan and the mirror gave out. This was the first time this happened and I was pretty bummed. Especially as I was left with having to use old equipment in hopes of avoiding previous issues. I did my best with what I had and was able to cover my first show on a boat and seeing Japandroids quite successfully if I might say so myself.
My Favorite Photo of 2017
I’ve never made it a secret how much I love Against Me! Any time they come to town, I have made attending their shows priority number one. This was my first time covering them for the Bad Copy and I really wanted to make sure the pictures stood out. Something I have been fond of doing, but seldom seen success in, is crowd surfing with my camera while attempting to take pictures. It’s a really risky move that puts my very expensive equipment at high risk of breaking and leaving me with nothing but remorse. Risk aside, I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to try this with my favorite band pass me by. People in the crowd generally seem pretty excited when they see me do this and are usually willing to offer their support. This picture of Laura was at the end of a crap-shoot roll where I basically just sprayed and prayed. She noticed me going overhead with my camera in hand and smiled and pointed me out. It was a fun moment that resulted in a great image. Even if I wasn’t able to get this shot, the show would go down as one of 2017’s best. Against Me! always brings along great support and adding Bleached and The Dirty Nil was a perfect way to set the mood. Crowd surfing with my new camera is probably something I’ll be doing far less of over the coming year, so I want to revel in this rare moment of success from a very stupid idea. I guess I’ll have to come up with something else for 2018.