Favorite Photos of 2011: Part 1

In 2011 there was no shortage of good shows. As the scene grows and matures, more and more national acts have taken notice of what’s going on in Saint Louis. I’ve seen this over the last few years and it excites me to no end. I remember when it felt like no one came here and the only local bands you could see were dudes who’d sign a shitty contract with [REDACTED] to play Warped Tour on the Coffin Case stage for a week. So, yeah, that’s pretty awesome that such things are no longer the case!

Enough shit talking! Let’s look at some of my favorite photos from last year!

Nashville's own garage rock saviors JEFF The Brotherhood and Diarrhea Planet performing at The Gargoyle in St. Louis Missouri, February 26, 2011. (Bryan Sutter)

JEFF The Brotherhood at The Gargoyle– This was a party as well as one of my favorite shows of the year. The Gargoyle is a drab college venue located in a basement on Wash U’s campus and is notorious for being one of Saint Louis’ least favorite places to see your favorite band. With the right people, however, it can feel like an intimate basement show. Only thing missing is the dude in the red hat you give your $5 to so you can get a cup for the keg.

Ra Ra Riot at The Firebird– For most of the year I was working a day job that really brought me down. Closing up shop and coming down to The Firebird in the evening to shoot would sometimes be the only bright spot of my day. Coming into the venue and seeing the headliner play street hockey while the opener (the ever so awesome Pomegranates) prepared for soundcheck was indeed a very, very bright spot. I see a lot of day to day with touring bands and many times, they can communicate quite a bit through non-verbal means. I’ve passed up taking some great shots out of respect for personal space but sometimes you can tell that your potential subject matter are comfortable with just about anything. So, I have a slightly blurry and imperfectly shot but nonetheless apt expression of letting off steam while on the road. I later went to Pappy’s with these guys and their tour manager. They’re total BBQ snobs and I loved it.

Astronautalis at The Firebird– Months before he released This Is Our Science, which made him a household name among indie kids and hipsters alike, the hip hop force of nature born Charles Andrew Bothwell is equal parts Buck 65 and Tom Waits, and quite the conversationalist. After a successful run of shows at SXSW, Andy’s first tour with a live band was proving to be strong and ambitious… maybe even a bit sexy. While there is more of a theater element when it’s just him and his laptop, the witty stage banter and performance of the full band adds a whole new level of force. I shot this from the soundboard with a 100-200mm f4.5 lens, not exactly fast glass but it has a reach.  I edited this set to mimic the look of a set of photos shot of Tom Waits from the early 1990s.

Black Lips at The Firebird– For a few long, painful months I had to use a Sony a200 while my a850 was in the shop. Going from a full frame, pro camera to an entry level unit really makes you rethink things. I chose to shoot this with only my Lensbaby Composer and the wide and tele adapters for extra converge, knowing that I wouldn’t get the shots I wanted with conventional glass. The end result was an eerie set of a photos depicting one of the strangest shows at The Firebird.

The Black Lips are true southern gentlemen and one of the hardest working indie bands right now and when they played the room in 2010 they won over the staff and crowd. Much of the same was expected at this show. However, the folks in attendance were not the rowdy county punks with good vinyl collections, but a mass of kids who thought they heard you were supposed to act a certain way at a Black Lips show. The epicenter of lameness was after the Lips unceremoniously left the stage, a kid who had been yelling “Swag!” the whole night knocked over Jared’s mic stand and grabbed the mic to… keep yelling “Swag!” over and over. This prompted Jared to bolt out of the greenroom, snatch the mic from the kid and yell “Swag, swag, swag. Ha. Ha. HA!” with the sort of venom and sarcasm you’d expect from Lewis Black or George Carlin, all while looking this kid straight in the eyes. The Lips then played a fearless two song encore that doubled the energy of their whole set. It was awesome and one of my favorite moments of any show in 2011.

Oh, yeah. The photo above is guitarist Cole trying to reclaim the loogie he just hocked onto the face of his Airline. Pure class.

Raekwon at The Firebird– Dude, it’s Raekwon.

Cold Cave at The Firebird– Cold Cave and Austra made for one of the best 2 band bills of the summer at The Firebird. However, throughout Cold Cave’s set it was apparent there was some issue with their sound. From what I could tell, their monitors kept feeding back and their personal sound engineer was unable to remedy the issue. In quiet frustration, Wesley Eisold turned his vocal mic towards the monitors, thus increasing the chance for feedback. After his point was made (it was made) he flipped the mic back around and continued performing. Soon after this the band abruptly left the stage and after 15 minutes of confusion the house music came on and the formerly captivated crowd vacated rather quickly. It is unknown how soon their sound engineer was on a Greyhound.

Fucked Up at The Firebird– Fucked Up are a force of nature. You really don’t know the extent of it until after a crowd surfer puts his knee up into his chest and kicks you so sharply in the side of the head you wonder if you’re going to need stitches and the next thing you know there’s frontman Damian Abraham embracing you, mic in hand, and everything feels OK for just a moment. Even if he is screaming and pawning off some of his sweat.

He’s also about the only indie rock sacred cow who’s ever touched me from the stage without anger or malice. Now that’s fucked up.

Oh, yeah. David Comes To Life is one of the coolest albums of the 2011. Buy two copies, one for yourself and one for a friend. It’s that good.

Fuck yeah! Part 1 is done! Expect Part 2 and possibly Part 3 within the next week!

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