Little Big Town – Huntington Center – 10.04.12

A selection of my favorite images from the October 4, 2012 show at Huntington Center in Toledo, OH. As with the Eden’s Edge photos from the previous post, this Little Big Town set was part of the Rascal Flatts “Changed” Tour of 2012.

 

 (Jon Diener)  (Jon Diener)  (Jon Diener)

 (Jon Diener)    (Jon Diener)

 

The full gallery of images can be viewed here.

All images ©2012 Jon Diener. No unauthorized copying, reposting or distribution permitted.

 

Eden’s Edge – Huntington Center – 10.04.12

Back in about 2007, when my son was in the Music Business program at Belmont University in Nashville, he met a trio of musicians that were relatively new to Music City and needed some demo recordings. He did a few sessions with them over a period of a couple years and shared some of those recordings with me at the time. I thought the singers/musicians were very talented and showed a great deal of promise with their songwriting.

Now, fast-forward to 2012…

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Little Big Town – DTE Energy Music Theater

After a few months of distractions in other areas of life, I realized I haven’t posted anything about the last couple shows I’ve shot. So, here’s the first installment of Operation Catch-Up 2012.

You may have read an earlier post of mine, 10 Years and 180 Degrees Later, about returning to DTE Energy Music Theater to witness my son work his magic as Front-of-House sound engineer for Joe Nichols. That was on June 20, 2010. Fast-forward 2 years and a month… and it’s deja vu all over again. This time with Chris working for Little Big Town, and touring the country as part of the Rascal Flatts “Changed” tour.

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Last Summer on Earth Tour

The Mayan calendar seems to come to an abrupt end in late 2012, so why not celebrate the end of times with a summer music tour? Specifically, the Last Summer on Earth Tour.

Barenaked Ladies - Toledo Zoo Amphitheater - 07.06.12 (Jon Diener)

 

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Little Big Town

Little Big Town – November 18, 2011 – Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN

As you probably know by now, my son works in the music business in Nashville. He has toured as sound engineer for several country music acts including Chris Cagle and Joe Nichols. Currently, he is approaching his one-year anniversary with Little Big Town, as their monitor engineer and production manager.

Last November, I was able to spend the afternoon and evening watching him do his thing at the last show of their tour in Wabash, Indiana. After meeting LBT members Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet (as well as band members and remainder of the crew), I watched the soundcheck, took a group photo of everyone to commemorate the final show, and then got to watch and photograph the entire show. Here are a few of my images from that experience.

 

 (Jon Diener)

 

 (Jon Diener)     (Jon Diener)

 

 (Jon Diener)     (Jon Diener)

 

 (Jon Diener)

 

My son's view at each show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strike and load-out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Big Town members, band and crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the nearly 7 hour round trip drive, I enjoyed every minute of my day with Chris and the LBT gang. Being treated like one of the family, I was extremely grateful for the southern hospitality extended to this middle-aged yankee.

Be sure to check out my complete portfolio of live music images here.

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

Photos are Worthless

It is an interesting period in photography right now.  Technological advances in camera bodies, lenses and software, along with a burgeoning social media revolution and widespread availability of training and tutorials, have all converged to make advanced photography available to the masses.  That’s a good thing, right?  Well, not so much.

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Sonia Leigh

Front of House Sound Engineer Chris Diener mixing for Joe Nichols at Ferris State University

Last week, I had the chance to visit briefly with my son again, while they were on a tour stop at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI.  And while I love shooting Chris at work, along with Joe Nichols and his band (The “We Ain’t Got No Damn Band Randys”), I decided not to do much of that this trip. After all, I’ve already shot about ten or eleven of Joe’s shows over the last couple years, with pretty much unlimited access.

So I didn’t feel like I would be shooting anything new or unique at this show. Plus, my wife was with me and I didn’t feel like deserting her for an hour or so, to go run around the arena shooting Joe’s set.  Instead, I shot a few band images from back near the sound board, as well as a few of Chris at work in front of a large Midas console. (It was incredibly dark near the sound board, so I had my camera’s ISO cranked to about 4000 for some shots of Chris, resulting in fairly noisy images.)

But like any photog worth his salt, I couldn’t just sit through the warm-up act with my camera gear sitting idly by. The opener was a singer-songwriter from Atlanta named Sonia Leigh.  Honestly, I had never heard of her, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Let’s just say, I think you’ll be hearing her name in music circles quite a bit more in the future.  She’s a young, scrappy, tomboy-ish little thing with a voice bigger than her diminutive frame would suggest.

As I started shooting her set, I tried to dissect her musical influences, and more specifically, which other singers she reminded me of. I detected (in no particular order) Melissa Etheridge, a little Indigo Girls, a touch of Bonnie Raitt, a splash of Janis Joplin, maybe some Tanya Tucker, a little Sheryl Crow, some Brandi Carlile, and much more.  Her songs covered the usually country fare – livin’, lovin’, drinkin’, fast cars, and broken hearts. The basic band (guitar, bass, drums) behind her smoky voice and acoustic guitar, was a natural fit for her no-frills music.

She won over the crowd pretty early on, and seemed to keep them entertained for the duration of the set. I moved around the middle of the arena floor shooting Sonia and the band.  While I could have pushed my way through the crowd to the front of the stage, I didn’t really feel I could have gotten any better images there.  It’s always interesting and exciting shooting an act I have never heard – I think it causes me to pay more attention to the performers to try and predict what will happen next.  I felt I walked away from venue with some pretty solid shots, and I learned about a new, up-and-coming artist in the process.

The full photo gallery of images from the show can be seen at my website.

Hines Farm Blues Experience

First off, pardon the extended radio silence on this blog.  But honestly, I haven’t felt like there was much going on that would interest anyone. So rather than blab on about nothing, I chose to keep things on the down-low for a bit.

A couple weeks back, I found out about a blues show / tribute / birthday party happening at an area club called Griffin’s Hines Farm. While I had never been to the venue, I had heard quite a bit about it over the years – how it was THE PLACE for blues in the region. It was also home to performances and visits by such blues legends as Bobby Blue Bland, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. (For more info on Hines Farm, check out the recent article in the Toledo City Paper.)

In the process of researching the November 6th show, I discovered a musical friend of mine, Larry Gold, would also be playing one of the sets that night. So with that extra incentive, I made a firm decision to check out Hines Farm. Like any photographer worth his salt, I decided to bring along some camera gear to practice my craft with my favorite subject matter – live music.

Once things got rolling with the music that night, and I started shooting, many of the details became a blur for me. I often get so “focused” on what I’m doing that I develop a sort of sensory tunnel vision, where time and space tend to evaporate. I’ve shot hour-long sets of performers and, afterwards, couldn’t tell you the names of more than a couple songs they played. What I do know is, several groups played while I was there, and I didn’t catch any of the names – I was just immersed in the visuals. (check the marquee photo for the line-up)

If you ever get a chance to catch some live music at Hines Farm Blues Club, don’t waste the opportunity.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of the blues, you’ll dig the no-frills, down-home, roadhouse feel of the joint. And although I didn’t sample any that night, I’ve heard they have outstanding BBQ there as well.

I’ve included a few shots from that evening in this blog post, but you can see the full gallery at my website.  I hope you enjoy them.

Endorsement-Mania!!

Once again, I had the opportunity to hang out with my son and the rest of the Joe Nichols band and crew during a recent show in Ohio.  Sure, I enjoyed visiting with everyone and shooting the concert.  But I was also asked to shoot a few artist endorsement photos with several of the band and crew with various pieces of gear that they use.  These photos are typically used on a manufacturer’s website or in printed catalogs, showcasing their product being used by a touring musician.  I had done a couple of these (Egnater Amplification and Flatline Guitars) during my last hang with the JN gang and they were received quite well.

So, below are some of the endorsement images I shot that afternoon, after soundcheck but before the show.

Alcorn Case Endorsement

Wes with one of his cases by Alcorn

Armor Gold Cables Endorsement

Michael endorsing Armor Gold Cables

Digidesign SC-48 Endorsement

Chris with the Digidesign SC-48 Console

Pearl Drums Endorsement

Wes with his Pearl drum kit

Open Labs Endorsement

Dave and his Open Labs DBeat

More Avon

When I started my last blog post “Avon Calling“, I had no idea it would end up where it did. So I ran out of room for some of the other text and images that I wanted share from Thursday night’s Joe Nichols show in Avon, Ohio. Don’t worry, this post will be like lunch the day after Thanksgiving – lots of unrelated leftovers that are still good after the main meal.

The previous post focused on people working behind the scenes, so I thought it only fitting to highlight the unsung heroes of Joe’s crew. There are several people involved with Joe’s career and tour (agent, management, publicist, record label folks, and tour manager), but I thought I would focus on the guys in the trenches at every show. You’ve seen them at shows – cargo shorts, black t-shirt, walkie-talkie – scurrying about like ants moving a giant sequoia tree, one leaf at a time. They are usually the first ones in the venue and the last to leave at night, often putting in 12 – 14 hour days. Without them, the show simply would not happen.

front of house - Avon

Chris mixing the show in Avon, OH

If you’ve been following my blathering for any length of time, you’ll know that my son, Chris, has worked for country artist Joe Nichols for a couple years. During that time, he has served as the Front of House Sound Engineer, and last year became the tour’s Production Manager, as well. I won’t begin to pretend that I could list all of his tasks and duties, but I’ll try to cover what I know. Chris’ work for a specific show begins weeks before the show date. As Production Manager, he interfaces with the venue, the contractor supplying the sound and light systems, and any other necessary parties to go over all the technical needs for that show (sufficient power, the kind of speakers, any needed backline gear for fly dates, stagehands, etc.). He also works with equipment companies to obtain endorsement or discount deals for specific products they use. Chris also handles their own equipment needs (mixing consoles, microphones, direct boxes, wireless systems, interface equipment), as well procuring expendable items for the band and crew (batteries, guitar strings, picks, gaffer tape, parts, etc.).

Joe Nichols stage

Chris' view during a typical show

On show day, all three crew members unload their equipment trailer, with the help of the locally-hired stagehands. All of the cases are rolled or carried to the stage and set up, or put in a staging area if another act is headlining and sets up first. When they are cleared to take the stage, all the gear is set up – drums, keyboards, guitar amps and pedal boards, mic stands, microphones, monitor console, and the front of house mixing console. Hundreds of cables are run to and from the stage, and between items on stage. Once this is complete, Chris “tunes” the PA system. This is where certain test signals and various reference recordings are played through the system, as he evaluates the characteristics of that particular system in that particular venue. Every day is different, so tuning the system to get a good starting point is critical. Once he has dialed in any needed adjustments, band members take the stage with their instruments and begin the soundcheck. Since most of the settings on Chris’ console are saved for each song, much of it can be recalled at the touch of a button. But it is still necessary to run through a few songs with the band, to verify everything is working properly and to fix anything that isn’t.

Once the show begins, Chris’s primary task is mixing the dozens of signals coming from the band’s instruments and microphones to create a pleasing mix for the audience. While the show is underway, his hands are in constant motion, adjusting levels, switching effects on and off, and dialing in the perfect blend of all the elements. After the show, Chris and the rest of the crew pack up the gear, load up the trailer and prepare to do it all again the next day.

monitor engineer for Joe Nichols

Ryan in monitor world during a show

Ryan is the monitor engineer for Joe’s tour. Although he is also involved in all of the unloading, set up, connecting, and tear-down of the stage gear, his primary function at soundcheck and during the show is to mix all band’s instruments and vocals into separate feeds for each of the performers’ in-ear monitors or floor wedges. This is an important task, since much of the way an artist performs is based on how well they can or cannot hear what is going on. Imagine trying to mix all the inputs from a band, in real time during a show, to get a pleasing balance. Now multiply that by 7 or more, and you get the idea of what the monitor engineer is up to over on the side of the stage. Another one of Ryan’s tasks at each venue is determine what radio frequencies can be used for the wireless microphones, wireless guitar setups, and wireless in-ear monitor systems. Once all the necessary units are adjusted and tested, they are handed out to the band for use during soundcheck and the show. Also, if anything goes wrong with the band’s gear or sound system during the show, Ryan is the one to dart onstage to swap out a bad cable or troubleshoot a problem.

Joe Nichols crew and merchandise

Taylor is rarely seen without a big smile

The third member of Joe’s “men in the trenches” is Taylor. Like Chris and Ryan, Taylor helps with the gear load-in, setup and connection.  But later in the day, Taylor is found at the merchandise table in the venue, selling T-shirts, and other “merch” to the loyal fans. Besides just selling these items, Taylor is responsible for all aspects of the merch part of the tour – procuring the items (which can often be tricky when you’re in a different city every day), sorting and tracking all the items, and dealing with the promotor or venue regarding any percentages they are owed. At some shows, the venue’s staff sells the merchandise for the artist, so Taylor often hangs out near the stage to help out with any issues.

So as you can see, this triumvirate of titans handles way more at each show than most people will ever know. Ironically, when they’re doing their jobs well, you don’t even notice them. So if you happen to see Joe live someday, show some love for these guys out there working hard, gettin’ it done for Joe, his band, and especially for the fans.

As always, thanks for visiting the blog!