the above are all an assortment of honourable mentions. i photographed a -lot- of shows and different things this year and it was extremely difficult to pick the top ten. It might be time to start picking a top 20 or something if i continue to work the way i have been. thank you for taking the time to read this all.
At the beginning of the year I was going through something that I didn't know how to verbalize to the right people. Towards the end of 2017 I was going through multiple transitions that ended up affecting both my mental health and how I started illustrating the world around me. I had to go through a bit of mental rehabilitation and both ruined and strengthened friendships because of it. I wanted to push myself until i "threw up" and then keep going. That was what I told myself. I shot 6 shows in one month, at times 6 shows in one week, with a 40 hour work week, and curating a magazine on top of it. I went out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions and started thinking up real projects that were meant to reignite everything that brought me to the medium of photography 10 years ago.
There were times where things felt slow, and there were times where I was disappointed in how I couldn’t do personal work, and other times where I cursed myself for doing so much personal work when I had so many shows and clients on the go. I went on a run with Colour In The Clouds, Youth Fountain and Stasis, and finally Widmore and Calling All Captains, and though each run was small they all had their different bounds of significance to me. I actually worked myself so hard that I filled four external hard drives in roughly 6 months. One of them I remember purchasing right before heading out for my run with CITC and only 2 months later it was completely full. I never anticipated that I would be so busy, even though I told myself that I would make it happen. I have to say, I sure did. I’ve worked myself to the bone in both my photo world as well as in my day-job that I keep because of those pesky student loans. It’s because of this that I have been able to realize a lot of things about myself that I don’t think I could get to unless I didn’t do the things to myself that I have done. First off, I’d like to say putting your words out into the world actually does something. I have put my goals out there, spoken the things I wanted, or said just would, happen and then those things would actually happen because of all the world I was doing to get things done in the right direction. Considering how low I had been for a good 4 months of the beginning of the year I can’t believe how much I actually got done.
With all of this being said now, here they are with their small stories and all:
10. Basement @ Paris Theatre
Never in a hundred years did I think I would ever see, meet, or photograph Basement and in one day I did all of those things. It’s weird, because I’m not sure if this is truly one of my favourite images from the year as a whole, but the moment in time, the entire idea that my partner and I did this long drive just to watch my favourite band … If I didn’t put this on the list I think that I would be upset with myself. Not a lot of shows that I am emotionally attached to make their way to my parts of Canada so I need to drive anywhere between 12 to 20 hours to see anything substantial. I feel like this year was huge in my experiments with prisms and diffraction. I’ve been using these tools since I first started getting into shows back in 2012 but with the way that these effects have come to light in the last couple of years I have found this push to get something more out of them. I think this image has a good starting point of that using my keychain prism I carry with me everywhere I go. This image in particular, I was so happy with the colour, the expression and the shape of his hands that of all of the images that I took of Basement that evening this is most certainly my favourite. I am so astonished by how lovely the crowd of people were in Portland, too. Everyone really cared for one another in that scene and it was refreshing to see a group of people understand that we are all there for the same reason, no entitlement like I often see in Calgary. It was, over all, a very lovely evening.
09. Widmore @ The Krossing.
There were a lot of photos from touring with Widmore that I was so stoked on. I was lucky enough to have Nick from Calling All Captains lend me his fractal filters throughout the whole tour. I had played around them them a bit in the past but have avoided really using them because of just how much they are used. I didn’t want to box myself in creatively. But i found that just because a lot of people use them every venue creates something different, every band and every light makes something unique about their use and I think this is one of those times that shows that. In Red Deer with Widmore I used one of them and saw all of these wild reflections of the bars of light in the image. The way it all crossed into Jordan’s face, instrument and hand was weirdly interesting even though, for myself, a bit unconventional. This venue in general was really interesting and lovely to have this light set up. I remember taking this image and running away one more song later to my weird laptop set up next to the ATM and bathrooms to get to working on it right away. I love it when prisms are completely in camera (and I try to do that with 90% of my images) so this was just a lovely moment to have.
08. La Dispute @ Showbox Sudo.
Another show I had to travel to see. What a surprise. Right before leaving for tour with Widmore, I came to the realization that I could leave from their final date in Vancouver and go to Seattle to catch Youth Fountain’s last show and then La Dispute + Circa Survive the following day. I knew I had to go. My partner and I had talked about how we needed to see La Dispute for the longest time and this was the closest they had been to us in a long while. He decided to meet up with me after his own show in Kamloops the day before this one. It was really surreal to photograph a band I am so in love with, artistically speaking. They all have such a unique perspective into music and being able to put the countless hours of listening to it, getting inspired, and watch them play live literally inches away from me … Well it was just nice to have the emotional attachment in an image again. Jordon has a very unique presence on stage and It was a lot of fun to get him move around, stiffly moving his limbs about with a tambourine and then jumping into the crowd every time he could see that someone wanted to sing back the words to him. This is probably one of my favourite moments of him jumping into the crowd. During Castle Builder he came out into the crowd and ended up facing away from them for a moment with such a happy and satisfied look on his face, almost as if he was breaking from his heart broken character. Slowly, he got back up from leaning on the barricade and started walking down with his mic still facing the crowd. This is one of the moments where he is walking away and I just love how the hands are forming to him, the smiles of the people in the very front and his posture as he approaches the end of his walk.
07. Youth Fountain @ The Biltmore
It was the first night of tour, I hardly knew Tyler (with the exception of some random messages on instagram), I didn’t know Vinny (in fact I was bred to hate him because of my forever love for Tim), and I was in a weird mental state just because it was my first time in Vancouver since all of my closest friends had moved out to the city. I hardly talked to any of them still until the drive out to Kamloops the next day, where I went full myself and started spouting off random puns with Pope. I would also like to say I do not hate Vinny, even if he isn’t Tim. He’s a lovely human that lights up the room with his sarcastic presence. All of this is unnecessary information.
This was the second time shooting the Biltmore, a venue I already had fallen in love with and was so excited to document Youth Fountain in. The crowd was absolutely crazy. Everyone was so into everything that was going on. They were all the way to the front of the stage so excited to see the guys playing. It was such a beautiful show to see and such an amazing send off for the long road that they would have to endure. I remember the few photographers that were there rotating from different vantage points. As my lovely friend, Carmin, came off of one of the podiums, I jumped up and stabilized myself as much as I could with the crowd pushing up against everything. The exact moment I took this image I knew I was going to love it. Even at the end of the night I kept on coming back to it, looking at how perfect the ring framed Tyler and how the beams of light acted as a halo that also met up to the ends of the ring. It was everything I loved about using a copper ring, framing the focal point and subject of an image. I was just so happy to kick off this small run with this group of people feeling so content with what I did with them.
06. Middle of Nowhere, Oregon
During our trip in Portland, my partner was amazing and let me stop and several places that I have always wanted to see. We drove out to the coast and took in several landscapes along the way, visiting two beaches. Driving between Portland and Washington coast at night, just trying to find a camp ground, we passed this area and I asked him to pull over. It was such an entrancing thing to see. The lights of this shop were still up, name illuminated, and an older car just sitting out front so perfectly situated by the light post. We were both randomly hyper considering how exhausted we were so I lucked out with having been in the eager mood to stop as soon as I saw this scene. This whole small town was actually quite photograph-able. I walked around the parking lot for a little bit, taking a few photos and found that in the end the classic straight-on view was best. Dialled back that aperture and was just so excited to have this inside of my camera. I love night photography unconditionally. It holds a place in my heart even more dearly than concert photography so being able to take this image really meant a lot to me.
05. Circa Survive @ Showbox Sudo.
It’s been a dream of mine to photograph Circa Survive for years. I knew they would never ever come to Calgary just based off of waiting for them the entire time that I have lived here. After 8 years you just sort of give up hope (ha). When I saw that they had a show with La Dispute I was so excited. The performance of this band is wild. I waited for moments that I knew would come from Anthony Green. I played with colour and contrast more than I ever have in live music photography thanks to how they had everything on this tour. With the minimal lighting, and randomly intense projections I was in heaven thinking about how well this combined my design background with my photography. There are a few moments from this show that really stood out to me, especially with how the projections came to life and the colours that were presented but this image ultimately makes me the happiest. I made my video of him dancing around his mic stand and it was vibrant and colourful. Then, paired with this image, I never felt more fulfilled after a show of this genre. The have light on his face, the gesture of the chord in his mouth, and him doing his classic hand motions … It’s even more than what I hoped to come out of a Circa Survive set.
04. Underoath @ MacEwan Hall
I’ve really been falling in love with those black and white images lately, as I am sure that you can see from this list. Three years ago I travelled down to Underoath to see them. Because of the venue at the time, they wouldn’t allow anyone except the venue photographer to take photos of the show. It was heart breaking but it really enabled me to see Underoath play two personal favorite records of mine from front to back. When they announced that they were returning to Calgary for the first time since 2009 I was over the moon. I was sure to send more emails than I needed to. I am so sorry to all of the people I harassed over this show. Anyways. I think photographing Underoath was some of the most fun that I have ever had. They are so energetic, lively, and have such a brilliant set up. The huge screens and light set up was gorgeous and enabled me to really dial back on that ISO. I studied this band for a week making sure I could understand a lot of their set, yet still found myself wandering around the stage all over the place not wanting to miss a moment of this band. When I took my time to stay at the front of the stage for a bit (something that was a little difficult to do considering the amount of photographers there) I really felt the moment as Spencer came to kneel down, even though the part of me that studied the set knew it was going to happen. It was as if I had forgotten everything I looked up and just was able to enjoy it all through my view finder. I’ve always really enjoyed those almost dissociative moments where you really feel everything and yet you don’t feel like you are the one experiencing it at all. It’s strange and difficult to explain but I knew that this would be the first photo that I would come to from the whole night the second I pulled away from my camera.
03. Lights @ MacEwan Hall
I remember having random MySpace conversations with Lights way back in the day. The conversations themselves were completely forgettable but I remember listening to February Air on MySpace and then hearing it on an Old Navy commercial approximately 6 months later. Most of the times that she has come through Calgary were when I happened to be out of the city, so when she announced that she was coming through again I was so excited to be able to see her. It was so nerve-racking because no one was put on the list until late on the day of her show. The pit was crazy claustrophobic but Lights weirdly minimal but bright set up was so stunning. Her stage presence is enough to take up the whole stage and I remember having so much fun trying to work around all of the very moody and isolating lights. I had such a hard time choosing between this and two other images from this night. I even got to photograph her twice this year, once at MacEwan Hall and another time at the Calgary Stampede. I have to say if you have ever wanted to see her it’s so much more lovely in an intimate, indoor setting. Thank you, Lights, for helping me explore even more with my colours.
02. Alexisonfire @ Coca-Cola Stage
What a dream come true to photograph this band. I feel like I have been waiting to photograph them since their farewell tour way, way, back when I first moved into the city. Being in the small village that I had lived in for years I remember being one of the only people who obsessed over this band with the exception of one of my best friends, Donny. Him, his brother, and I all went up to Edmonton for their final show and It was one of the best days of our lives. With X-Fest, and my first photo pass to them cancelled I was forced to wait to photograph them once again. When they were put on the first day of Stampede … Well I don’t think I ever signed up to work a festival faster.
This particular image really got me because of 1. It’s Alexisonfire. But it goes deeper than that. With the show as energetic as it was there were numerous photographs I came away happy with but in this moment I was standing just off to the left of Wade as he jumped up with his guitar on one of the monitors. Another photographer, JD, was standing right beside me and right in front of Wade when the guitar dropped between the two of us. I remember taking this photo, realizing his guitar was dropping and instinctively reached out (as if I would do anything by trying to catch it, pfft). JD quickly gave the guitar back to Wade and he played it without the strap for the remainder of the song. Once I started looking through my photos I noticed the build up to the moment. I saw how literally this image you could see the fall, how the hand was loosing its grip and the strap coming undone. I was so baffled that I had actually caught the moment. I suppose there’s nothing particularly special, visually speaking, about this image. It’s just another musician playing guitar when you look at it. But when you know what’s actually happening it makes the context of it all so much more interesting. I shared the image way back in the summer and Wade had even made a comment on it where he also could see the moment of his guitar falling and continued to share this image next to the one of his guitar being repaired after the incident. I think I will always hold that special to me in years to come.
01. Behemoth @ MacEwan Ballroom.
Although I had seen the show announced, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of going. I knew that being able to see and photograph this band would be amazing but I had been so tired from doing so many shows and truly working myself down to the bones (fractured arm, foot + all), but when I got a message late in the night (or early in the morning) asking if I’d be able to come in to shoot the show I knew I couldn’t say no. Behemoth is too interesting of a band. I spent a solid hour studying their different festival sets, wondering how they would condense all of the amazing production and work that they put into it with such an intimate venue like the Ballroom. It was compact, tight, and I could taste the wall of sweat seconds after walking in. Myself and one other photographer had to maneuver our way through the beer garden just to get into the photo pit (the safe zone). I was on edge, unable to find my wallet, convinced I had left it on the security-check table but seeing the wall of people squished to the barricade definitely helped me take my mind off of things. Behemoth started up, masks and all and I dove in, taking in every moment of it, enjoying how much they interacting with both the crowd and myself. This particular moment with the light and how everything was constructed … It felt as holy as they did not want to be. I was so excited to see this image come up on Bridge once I got home and hurried to edit all of the photos to send off to MRG. As a note, shooting as often as I do has its perks because the lovely human who worked doors saw me coming down the stairs after I had finished shooting and was ready to give me my ID back that they had found.
I would also like to thank a few specific people for all their help along the way, both when I was at my emotional highs as well as stuck around when I was in one of my greatest distress. I had someone push me to the edge, make me feel bad for being alive and eventually their taunts made me tried to take my own life. I was devastated and still am deeply hurt by it and these people, well, it takes a lot for people to be able to stomach listening to a person bare their woes and worries and to those people who were around I am forever thankful. Firstly, thank you to my loving partner, Dorian, for being supportive, for being a friend before all else and always being patient with me. To my Muther for not approving, but accepting the life that I have chosen to live, for not freaking out when I called her to say, “Sorry I didn’t say anything to you for so long, I was on tour,” and indulging in my long winded and one-sided conversations about music and people I know she doesn’t care about at all. To my best friend, Yosh, for being there when I was at my worst, for standing up for me when I wasn’t mentally capable to even find my own footing. Had it not been for you and all of our time spent at the Unicorn I don’t know if I would have made it through. To Sho, for returning my call, and for being an inspiration in how self-less you often are. To Nathan, for always being a beam of light in my life and for approaching life honestly. To Carmin(e) and Lindsey, for being amazing friends who live so far away but still so near and dear to my heart. To Tyler and Cody of Youth Fountain for putting up with my merciless puns and indulging my weird “artsy” requests on tour. To Vinny for every arcade video, your wit, and also for your ability to stomach both Nathan and I. To Ruel, for all of the consistent thoughtful conversations about life and psychology, as well as for having an artistic vision and making me feel as if I was truly collaborating with a band on tour and not just working for one, but this also goes for all of Widmore. To Joshua Platt, for being in the photo pit with me, for all of our random jokes and talks, to being the person I always hope to see at every show I attend and making the experience mean so much more. And a few more so I don’t make this even more unnecessarily longer than it already is: Royal Tusk, Stasis, Kelly, Ambur, Levi + Angie, Calling All Captains, Sellout, Brandyn + Oskar + Jackson of Gleneagle, Mike + Candace, Ethan + Mackenzie, MRG Concerts (especially you, Steph), Abi, and of course, Heather.
Thank you to all of those who I have mentioned as well as to everyone else for taking the time to read this or scan over any post or photo I have made. Please be safe over the new year and remember to take care of yourself as there are people who care about you even when you don’t feel it right away.