Noise Floor’s Year In Review 2017
Recapping the best shows, photos and records of the year.
As I said in a year-end writeup for the Globe last week, I photographed somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 festivals, 131 shows and 488 acts in 2017. I’m pretty sure that make it my most prolific since I started this absurd concert photography odyssey. In a rare stretch of genuine downtime to reflect – which only ever seems to happen in January – those numbers look insane. I joke to people that this work consumes my life, but that’s not really an exaggeration. Six years in, it really has shaped the direction of things in ways I’m truly grateful for. I’ve made friends, memories and something resembling the beginning of a career out of it. This year wasn’t always an easy or inspiring one (are they ever, anymore?), but even on the most dispiriting days, there was solace in the rock show (/noise show, metal show, hip-hop show, etc.). Here’s to being everywhere in 2018.
A whole bunch of my favorite shows/photos/memories are listed chronologically below, and if you’re in need of a soundtrack, here’s a (roughly) ranked list of my favorite records from last year for your streaming convenience (and yes, you should listen to all 83 minutes of Mirror Reaper):
Lastly, but not least, this whole mess of a post is dedicated to the late Eddy Leiva, a friend and colleague lost unexpectedly this past year who was one of the most spirited and dedicated music photographers I’ve had the pleasure to know.
Without further ado:
Grouper, Japanese Breakfast – afterHours – 1/23
A super-rare Boston-area Grouper appearance and a solo Japanese Breakfast set in the smallest venue Michelle Zauner will be playing around these parts anytime soon. One of my alma mater’s all-time great bookings. I shot very sparingly during Grouper, where every shutter snap sounded like a gunshot cutting through the ambient tapestry.
American Football – Terminal 5 – 1/28
I’d been waiting to get this backlit shot since I saw photos from the band’s first couple of reunion gigs a few years back. Worth the drive, even if they ended up playing Boston in November anyway.
Mayhem – Royale – 2/18
One of my favorite nights of the year for several disparate reasons, not the least of which was the ghoulish silhouettes I captured during this shoot. I got pelted by a half-full PBR just as the guitar solo hit during “Freezing Moon” and the timing was too good to even get mad about it.
Oathbreaker – Great Scott – 4/9
Despite the occasional necessity, I don’t usually feel great about shooting with a strobe. This is one of my favorite images I’ve taken that way. Plus, this show was doubly memorable for being the final stop on a day where I also drove from Queens back to Boston and shot three songs of a John Mayer set.
Decibel Magazine Tour with Kreator and Obituary – Paradise Rock Club – 4/13
Paraphrasing, but the Paradise security staff at this show essentially told me “you can shoot from the barricade IF YOU DARE.” It was a pleasant surprise, even with the implied threat of violence, for a venue notoriously averse to letting photographers use that barricade at all.
The Wedding Present – Great Scott – 4/13
I last shot David Gedge’s Wedding Present playing their classic Seamonsters when I was a freshman in college, using my bright red Panasonic point and shoot. Better results this time.
PJ Harvey – House of Blues – 4/17
Waking Windows festival – Winooski, VT – 5/7-5/9
Vermont’s Waking Windows is fast becoming one of my favorite festivals to cover. Bucolic surroundings, good vibes, amazing (and cheap) beer and a wide-ranging lineup of exciting, largely up-and-coming acts abound. What other fest boasts Big Thief in a vibrantly-lit small town church?
Mike Watt, Meat Puppets, Grant Hart – Brighton Music Hall – 5/12
An outstanding bill stacked with SST punk royalty, and sadly one of Grant Hart’s last appearances on stage before his passing in September.
Boston Calling – 5/26-5/28
Boston Calling’s leap from two stages downtown to three in my backyard was a big move, not without its logistical missteps, but it’s been fun to see the event grow, and to grow along with it as a photographer. I’ve covered every edition in some capacity, the first few for my college music magazine and the last few for the Globe.
Endless Boogie – Deep Thoughts – 6/3
A friend tipped me off that Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus would be sitting in with long-running psych-jam outfit Endless Boogie in a JP record store basement, and sure enough…
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Wang Theater – 6/10
Nick was stellar in all his shamanistic glory, as always, and the compact Fuji I rented to shoot after our allotted first song did some fine work too.
Solid Sound Festival – 6/23-6/25
Another magical weekend in Western Mass for Wilco’s biennial festival at MASS MoCA. I will freely admit to tearing up during “Poor Places” -> “Reservations” during Friday night’s surprise performance of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (as an encore to already-excellent Being There set).
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – TD Garden – 7/20
I said it plenty of times last year, but it bears repeating that Petty couldn’t have looked happier on stage during the Heartbreakers 40th anniversary tour. We lost a good one in untimely fashion.
The Weeknd – TD Garden – 9/12
Abel was a tougher shoot than I anticipated, rising from the middle of the crowd from something resembling a spacecraft amid lasers and fog. I love this shot that I captured during the brief window after the smoke cleared, though.
The Afghan Whigs – Paradise Rock Club – 9/14
I shot this one from the hip well after the first-three limit, and it wound up being my favorite of the night. Things always get more dynamic at a club show during the second half.
Interpol/Deerhunter/Battles – Forest Hills Stadium – 9/23
Another long, worthwhile drive to an indie rock summit featuring Interpol playing their beloved, still-classic debut Turn On The Bright Lights front-to-back in Queens.
Boris/Mutoid Man/Endon – Brighton Music Hall – 10/31
A truly wild Halloween show with the legendary Boris, Stephen Brodsky and Ben Koller’s Mutoid Man and Endon, who may well have been the loudest band I’ve ever seen (among a lot of loud ones).
Pile/Longface – Cambridge Elks Lodge – 11/8
The beautiful duality of Pile is that they can sell out a release show earlier in the year at one of the nicest venues in the city and still headline a gig at the Elks Lodge where I have to help prevent the PA from toppling over into the pit come November.
Dead & Co. – TD Garden – 11/17
I’ve never been much of a Deadhead, but always figured this John Mayer-featuring iteration of the band could be fun to shoot, even from the soundboard. I was pretty happy with the results (and wish to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for mixing up Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann in my captions…).
Cannibal Corpse/Power Trip/Gatecreeper – 11/28
Cannibal Corpse continue to be a band I’ll go see for their openers (though I do rather like that top photo of Corpsegrinder’s foot on the monitors). Rising thrash heroes Power Trip were the real draw of this bill, and probably my favorite three-song shoot of the whole year. Arizona death metal crew Gatecreeper weren’t too shabby either.
St. Vincent – House of Blues – 11/30
I give Power Trip the honor of favorite three songs since Annie Clark technically gave us four. The MASSSEDUCTION tour is her most polished, stunning live production yet.
Boston Music Awards – House of Blues – 12/7
I’ve attended the BMAs as a nominee/spectator without a camera for the past couple of years. Unsurprisingly, I had way more fun shooting this edition.
LCD Soundsystem – Agganis Arena – 12/8
Shooting LCD at Pitchfork was special for me, that having been the first place I saw them back in 2010, but the images from the Agganis show are the ones I’d dreamt of making since getting into music photography after the band “broke up.” This was the better set too, with the band’s uncertainty over the new material having dissipated with American Dream‘s September release and rapturous reception.
Yo La Tengo/Superchunk – Bowery Ballroom – 12/16
I was ecstatic to hear that Yo La Tengo planned on bringing back the yearly Hanukkah residencies they once held at Hoboken, NJ’s legendary Maxwell’s this year. The special guests and deep-cut setlists were a thrill to even follow from the internet when I was in high school, and nowadays I could feasibly be there in person. It’d been far too long since I’d seen YLT in any capacity, and the evening’s surprise opener turning out to be Superchunk only sweetened the affair. I regret making assumptions about Bowery Ballroom and not getting a better spot to shoot this one, but it was a highlight of the holidays regardless.
Ceremony / Nothing – Sonia – 12/21
I just wrote this one up for Invisible Oranges. Long live Ceremony.
Cymbals Eat Guitars with Charles Bissell – Great Scott – 12/28
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Terminal 5 – 12/29
By a few different standards, my last show of the year was kind of a debacle. I was eagerly looking forward to photographing Dillinger’s last show, only to be told that no one would be allowed to photograph Dillinger’s last show a week or two beforehand. I attended anyway to review, and ended up arriving late, missing an opener and getting a less than ideal vantage point in the balcony thanks to ungodly New York City traffic and a 40(!) minute wait outside T5 in utterly frigid weather. But Dillinger still ripped, of course, and by virtue of the Sony point-and-shoot I impulsively bought in November for its shockingly long zoom range, I got one last strong silhouette.