2011: What I Heard

December 29, 2011

2011: What I Heard, originally uploaded by erin m.

Of the many, many things about my life that have changed in the last 12 months (hi there, New York; two new tattoos? Sure!), there is one small, simple change that has had the most profound effect on me.

It’s the difference between telling someone “I shoot concerts” and telling them “I used to shoot concerts.” I used to do a lot of things in my life–I used to play the flute, I used to date guys I shouldn’t, I used to have long hair, I used to collect Star Wars trading cards. But when I stopped doing all those things, it was because I grew out of them, or they just weren’t something I felt was especially important anymore. But concerts? Live music? A year ago, you’d have had to pry my camera out of my cold, dead hands, the finger still twitching reflexively on the shutter, to get me to willingly stop taking photos of musicians on stage. Or, as it turns out, you just have to offer me a job in another city with a night schedule that makes going to concerts a virtually impossible luxury.

So this year, I’m celebrating the shows I saw, because somehow through it all I managed to see and shoot some incredible musicians this year. I did it because it’s important to me, and I did it because apparently I get twitchy if I don’t. I made the time to do it, sacrificing sleep, vacation time and sobriety, because standing around in a room full of 500 sweaty people watching a group of even sweatier people singing their hearts out is something I just really like to do.

5: Dismemberment Plan, 9:30 Club, January
For about 4 days last January, the D in D.C. stood for Dismemberment. We ALL went to the one of the shows, and The City felt like it was on a unified mission, and that mission was to have a fucking party. I went to the Sunday night show at 9:30 and stood on the balcony, surrounded by people I knew. I’ve often described this night to people as the reason I finally decided to move to New York, because as I stood up there gripping the rail, it felt like I knew everyone there. I loved that place because of that, and I needed to move because of that. Here’s a clip of the Ice of Boston at the end of one of those shows. One. Big. Fucking. Party.

4: Weakerthans, Bowery Ballroom, December
The Weakerthans dedicated each of their four nights at the Bowery to one of their main albums; I took the two in the middle as vacation days from work and lived a sleep-coffee-bowery-sleep-repeat schedule for two days. After months of no shows at all, these two nights made me feel normal again. Here’s a version of “Reconstruction Site,” the title track for Night No. 2. And here’s John K Sampson all by his lonesome, being quirky and Canadian and waxing slightly-less-than-poetic-but-no-less adorable about Occupy Wall Street before launching into “One Great City.”

3: Avett Brothers, DAR Constitution Hall, February
I wrote this show up for We Love DC, and also got to shoot it for them, and everything Deep and Meaningful (and Long and Rambly) that I have to say about the Brothers Avett you can find there. With the benefit of 10 more months’ reflection, I’ll just add: The Avetts sing in “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” that you should “decide what to be and go be it.” If that night at D-Plan was one of the reasons I moved to New York this year, that Avetts line was one of the things that got me thinking about it in the first place. Here’s a slightly cruddy version of that song from that night (included mostly so you can see Joe Kwon ROCKING the hell out of that cello).And here’s “I and Love And You” from the night, because it’s simply beautiful.

2: Middle Brother/Dawes/Deer Tick, 9:30 Club, March
This was my very last night as a DC resident. I got to spend it shooting Dawes. Without the usual first-three-only limitations–I had the ENTIRE show, right up at the stage, no rail. I wrote it up for We Love DC, and I’m done using words to try to convince every single person I know to listen to Dawes and Middle Brother (and Deer Tick now, too, because this year’s album sold me on them), because they’ve heard it all before. This was probably the single greatest concert experience I had in Washington, DC. It probably would have been the greatest show I saw this year, but for …

1: The National, Beacon Hall, December
Yeah, that’s right. I’m putting The National ahead of MIDDLE BROTHER. ME. I’m doing that. That’s how good this show was. This is the exact moment I was fully committed to the decision that this show–their first of six in a row at the Beacon–is the best I’ve ever seen. I was pretty much already there thanks to this one, though. And this one. I’d always liked the National somewhat passively, and I lucked into a photo pass because I have amazing friends who have amazing sisters, so going into the night I was just jazzed to SHOOT again. Glad to know the rules, glad to do something I’m good at, glad to try my hand at something I’d been getting rusty at. And them BAM, out of nowhere (well, actually, straight out of Bryan Devendorf’s drumkit), a band I’d always kinda sorta liked on studio albums became the band that put on the greatest live show I’ve ever seen.

Today is Dec. 29. You know what I’m doing tomorrow, on the second to last night of the year? Going to a concert.

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