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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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)


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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!




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!

Avon Calling

OK, I’ll admit it. This is going to be another post about me and a recent Joe Nichols show. But the angle may be a little different than what you might be expecting. And of course, I’ll throw in some visuals along the way, for those who get bored with all those silly words.

All Pro Freight Stadium

click image to enlarge

Unlike the last couple years my son has worked for Joe Nichols, their tour has made several stops in the area so far this year. Like any proud father, I make it a point to visit with Chris and the guys whenever the schedule permits. So this past Thursday, I headed off down the Ohio Turnpike to Avon, Ohio. Joe was opening for country superstar Alan Jackson at All Pro Freight Stadium with ticket proceeds benefitting the Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County. It didn’t really hit me at first. But as the day went on, it began to dawn on me just how much work had to be done to bring this event to fruition – much of the work being done by volunteers. Now, I’m not saying a great deal of hard work isn’t required for every concert event. But most of Joe’s shows that I’ve attended, were held at dedicated music venues or fairgrounds, where much of the needed infrastructure was already in place.  In contrast, this show was being staged in a Frontier League baseball stadium. So virtually EVERYTHING had to be procured, brought in, setup, staffed, and struck in a very short time frame, while protecting the delicate field and grounds, and all on a minimal operating budget. No small feat, to be sure.

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New Gallery: Justin Moore

Justin Moore – Erie St. Theater – November, 2009 – Images by Jon Diener

Here are select images from the Justin Moore show I shot last November at the Erie Street Theater in Toledo, OH. All of the images were shot with a Nikon D300 using two lenses – the 28-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. Due to the low light levels, I was cranking up the ISO (around 2000) for most shots. A majority of the stage lighting was above or behind Justin, and almost no frontal lighting existed, except for two PARs shooting up from the photo pit. I used a little fill flash on some of the images, but decided to go back to just using available light.

(Click the link right under the slideshow above to view full gallery.)

On the Road: Addendum

OK, I know that in the last post, I said that was the end of the story. And quite honestly, I thought it was.

Last Thursday evening, I received an email from someone asking if they could use one of my Joe Nichols photos for a magazine. They had received a link to a small online image gallery from Joe’s publicist, who had gotten it from Joe’s day-to-day manager, who had asked me to post any images I had of Joe with fans during a performance. He was looking for something to blow up and hang on the walls of their management office. I was flattered and thought that would be cool. But back to the email.

My image published in the People Country Special

As I skimmed over the short request, I landed on the person’s email ‘signature’ at the bottom, where my eyes immediately stopped on the words “People Magazine”. Wait, what? (I think I might have even made the Scooby-Doo sound of surprise.) I re-read the last couple of lines and confirmed that the woman did, in fact, work for People Magazine. Needless to say, I replied promptly to find out more information.

To make a long story short, I ended up licensing one of my images (right) to People, to be used in an upcoming issue. I don’t have many more specifics right now, but when I find out which issue will contain my photo, I’ll let you know.

Ironically, this image is from September, 2008, and not a product of my recent road trip with Joe and company. This is not one of my best shots by any measure, but apparently, it is what their photo editor was looking for.

More news as it develops…

On the Road: Part 7

So, before we continue with the final installment of the series, let’s go back to the beginning for a second. At the end of Part 1, I outlined the all the “baby steps” I had worked out to get me from home to Fremont, Fremont to Nashville, Nashville to Minnesota, and Minnesota to Detroit. But the missing link in my master plan had not been locked down – getting home from Detroit. I had talked to a friend (and fellow musician) about coming to the show and giving me a ride home afterward. But by the time I had embarked on the first legs of the trip, I hadn’t gotten confirmation that he could make it. My back up plan was to have the tour bus drop me at a truck stop near Toledo on the way back to Nashville, and have my brother pick me up there. But seeing as how it would be roughly 1am by the time we would get to the truck stop, and my brother had to work in the morning, I wanted to spare him that misery. So I kept my fingers crossed that my Plan A would come together. And sure enough, somewhere along the line, I received a call from my guitar playing pal, Dan Searles, saying that he would definitely be able to come to the Detroit show and give me a ride home. Whew.

Fast-forward back to the evening of September 2 at the Michigan State Fair. The sound check was done, we had visited the Motown Museum, dinner was consumed, and the band was prepping for the show. Opening act, Chuck Wicks, was taking the stage and beginning his set. The sun was setting on another beautiful, late summer day. Dan called to say that he had arrived at the fair, and we began the process of figuring out exactly where he was and how he would make his way to the stage area. This proved to be a little tougher than it sounds, since every visual landmark he referenced was meaningless to me. I had only entered the fair through the “back way” and remained mostly in the backstage area, so I was completely unfamiliar with the rest of the fairgrounds. But after about 20 minutes or so, Dan had parked and found his way to the entrance of the music venue, where I was waiting with his backstage pass.  We chatted for a minute or two, then headed toward the bus area for a “nickel tour” of the backstage area. While we waited for Joe’s part of the show to begin, we hung out near the bus, where Chris and the rest of the band and crew came and went, as they prepared for the show. I was going to give Dan a quick inside view of the bus, but I thought it would be best to wait until later, as it was somewhat hectic at the time. The last thing I wanted to do was bother any of the tour personnel. They had all been so accommodating to me throughout my brief stay with them, and I respected that.

Finally, Chuck’s set was done, and Joe’s crew (Josh, Taylor, and Chris headed for the stage to help with the setup changeover. I gathered my photo gear, threw on a dark-colored jacket (to be less of distraction as I wandered along the front of the stage), and escorted Dan out to front of the stage. I had apologized to him up front, telling him I would be shooting the show from the pit and that I couldn’t really ‘hang’ with him during the show. He was fine with that, and just thrilled to be there, getting access to all the areas of the venue. For free.  During the show, he moved back and forth from the edge of the stage near me, to the front of house position near Chris, to a spot in the audience near the entrance.

This show for me was going to be bittersweet. I was looking forward to shooting the third show in 5 days, because I was now quite familiar with the set and the movement of the players. But I was melancholic, because I knew my show biz road show fantasy tour was about to be over. But as the show started and I began shooting, I became totally immersed in the moment, and any negative thoughts soon vanished. The interesting thing about this show, was that the band members were so conscious of me shooting them, that they actually started to “mug” a bit for my camera – making more direct eye contact, getting a little more theatrical with their movements or antics. It made for some great shots, too.

Thanks for following along with my ramblings. This experience was one I will always remember and cherish.


(Link to Addendum below)