October 28 Can you say Dirty Word?

Dirty Word

Autumn brings indoor entertainment back to North Dakota, and that includes live music such as Dirty Word. The Maple Grove, Minnesota band is popular in the upper-Midwest. The talented musicians put their own flavor on the cover tunes they dish out.

Dirty Word is not your average bar band, drunk and loud.  Their musical background has been adapted to the popular stage where the audience can listen or dance to the rockin’ fiddle playing, the precise percussion or the gutsy vocals.

Winter in North Dakota doesn’t lend itself to much travel or outdoor activity.  So, just as theater-goers will develop their entertainment calendar to the performances of the local community theater, music lovers develop their winter calendar to local musical offerings such as Dirty Word.

For me as a photographer, I like shooting bands.  It’s a huge challenge. Generally the shutter speed and aperature must be set for the low light of the environment which can just as easily be switched up by some sharp light changes on stage.  So, when one band member shows up blue, and another yellow, and the drummer sits in the dark, a band photographer can be challenged to get a good even image.

When a band such as Dirty Word comes to town (in this case Bismarck’s Stadium Bar) I try to catch them for both the entertainment value in an otherwise shut-in winter season, but also for the experience of capturing expressive emotion of the musicians while keeping on top of the changing light.

oOctober 18 My most popular image of Mandan

Mandan as seen from Bismarck at sunset

There. That’s better.  The week’s dreary, grey, lifeless sunsets were disappointing this week, but on this night, the clouds and the sun worked together to give a good backdrop to the landscape.

I was on the hilltop overlooking I-94 to shoot traffic and the bridge for one of my contracts, but the imagery of the cityscape took precedence.  I was surprised how the camera picked up the blue of the galvanized chain link fence.  The Interstate is blue, the bridge, and support structures are blue. They add a chill to the contrast of the warm sunset.  The river provides a good dividing line with its soft peach tones.

If you look closely to the north (right) you can make out the lights just starting to glow at North Dakota’s only oil refinery.

All in all, a good moment to capture forever.

Have you noticed how colors change, such as the galvanized fence, when the sun is filtered through the cloudsd?

October 3 — Singing the blues on a Sunday night

Bob T and Wayde S pair off

I love shooting artists of another genre: musicians such as Bob and Wayde.  They are a couple of the finest blues players in this part of the U.S.

Bob Tikippe

On this night, they’ve teamed up as the opening act for the Joe Moss Band, thanks to Steamer Productions.

Bob Tikippe has appeared here earlier in the North Dakota 365 blog.  In that entry he was performing  in another venue as an acoustic blues player on his steel-bodied National.  In this entry, he’s here on a Fender Strat — the leader of the pack for those country, blues and rock guitar players who like the precise sound of the Strat.

Wayde Schafer

Wayde’s down home authenticity is woven in to blues with his Gibson, the other leading choice of blues, rock and country guitar players.  (Back when I was a blues bass player, Wayde was the man whom I aspired to back in a public performance.)

Together, these  two men combined always provide a purists blend of sound, each taking rhythm/harmony to the others lead.

I like shooting musicians like these fellows because the color, the lights and the energy enhance the emotion you can read in their faces.  Do you see it?  Can you almost feel it?

The two work well together. And when Bob pulls out his mouth harp to blow some tunes, Wayde expands the sound accompanying Bob.

Theirs is a blues you can sit and relate to, feel, absorb as though they’re telling you their story — one you recognize as your own.  This night they entertained with not only cryin-in-your-beer leavin’ me blues, but some nasty hard core deep down rumbling gut-moving stories put to a 14 bar progression.

You can catch them playing as a group called Levee, but you gotta work hard cuz they’re full time employed with other careers and this kind of outlet is only their night job/hobby, and their passion.  If North Dakota were a bit more receptive to the arts, both performing arts and visual arts, they would be able to make a go of it full time as the boogie-meisters of Bismarck.

On this night the two were here to warm up the crowd for the Joe Moss Band a Chicago blues band with high energy and gutsy mojo.  Joe Moss draws in a crowd wherever he is and for blue-hungry fans in Bismarck, a night like this is one to not only attend but to remember.

The blues nights such as this, as rare as they are, bring in a crowd even on a Sunday night like this.  Joe Moss brings his Chicago blues band across this region far too rarely to suit most rockin’ blues players.  But thanks to Steamer Productions, North Dakotans can catch something that is usually reserved for blues lovers in larger cities. 

Joe Moss’ high-energy sound on this night built on the groove dug by Bob and Wayde.  The energy of this band doesn’t shock you, doesn’t irritate you, but it lifts you to the next level.

Joe can entertain as well as any, but when you pair him with Carl Davis, the crowd gets a two-for-one treat.  I love Carl Davis. He’s a misplaced 50’s-60’s rockabilly, rock-and-roller, R&B master.  I was completely unfamiliar with him until this night.  Now, I’m a fan.  What I especially like about him is that he gets in to the role as a soulful emotive guitar master.

Carl Davis

When a night of high quality low down entertainment such as Bob, Wayde, Joe and Carl hit the stage, it’s a good idea to break those doldrums you’re wallowing in, and hit the highway, head to town, and pack the house for an art form you don’t get to experience often here in the Northern Plains.

Can I count on seeing you there, next time?

September 10

 

Black Cat Rumble

 

Four extremely talented local musicians get together for good rockin’ blues. Each play on their own, in their own bands or with others.  Sarah McMahon, Adam Halverson, Arnold Jordan and Weston Shick get together to play as Black Cat Rumble. 

Bismarck doesn’t seem to have the venue for such outstanding musicians to perform, so they get together when they can, where they can such as here at in the corner of the lounge at a local motel.  I don’t know if there’s no market for such music or if there’s no venue. Either way ya gotta catch this talent when you can, where you can.

I was fortunate enough to catch them here, and in conversation with another member of the audience shared the same thoughts. Except he’s a promoter and invited me to shoot some upcoming acts he has coming to town.  What good karma!  I look forward to developing this line of photography.

 

September 6

 

Ben at East 40

 

Music the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.

Even if folk/blues/jam music isn’t your cuppa quarter notes, this is the way music is meant to be enjoyed. Acoustic.  No wall of sound.  No towering speakers and a huge mixer board.  It’s pure. It’s authentic. It’s a quiet intimate atmosphere at the East 40 where Ben Suchy was playing on this night.

A grainy, rusty look accentuates the “less-than-slick” moment.

Monday nights can be a night of recovery for the party-goers of North Dakota. It can be a night of entrenchment for the hard working folks of North Dakota who are getting back in to the grind of the week. Or it can be a night of a soothing glass of wine and true music meant to be enjoyed.

August 29

What a chance to shoot a set of promo pix!

Raced back from Grand Forks where I’d just enjoyed Blues on the Red, to get the opportunity to hang with some of my favorite people in North Dakota: the musicians of the Sarah McMahon band.  Even if these were not some of  my favorite entertainers in the region, I’d still want to hang with these people. They’re not only talented but they are real, warm, down-to-earth intelligent folks who do not fit the stereotype of a typical North Dakota.

While the typical North Dakotan is personable, wise, steady and solid, they are also very pragmatic and not at all varied.  They are homogeneous.  People such as the musicians of the Sarah McMahon Band maintain the qualities of a typical North Dakotan, but add their own artistic variety to the cultural landscape.

Sarah, the lovable pixie who emotes vocally like Aretha or Norah is from Idaho. The others, home-grown North Dakotans. They’re awesome.

Shooting this promo shoot in the Blarney Stone in Bismarck was a delightful experience.  First of all, they’re not afraid of the camera as many North Dakotans tend to be — humble, shy and reserved.  So, with willing models we got to try several different approaches to the shoot, always working to keep Sarah front and center in her band.

I tried different lighting as well as different poses.  I wasn’t sure about the three overhead lights. I thought they might be distracting to the final image, but actually they add  interest to the photos

We worked up several poses and angles, but seemed to settle on this angle for the photo, mostly because of the direction of the pool table, with the corner pocket at the front.  It acts as a visual funnel directing your attention up in to the photo.

I like using props like that to direct the flow of the viewer’s eye in to and around the image.

In this case, it helped to have such a stunning centerpiece to the group — Sarah. She gets a lot of attention for not only her talent, but for here physical attractiveness, but she still keeps it real.  I look forward to doing more with these musicians in the Sarah McMahon band and in Black Cat Rumble (the two personnas of the same group).  If you scan through this blog you will see I’ve already posted several images of them.  They’re good people.

 

August 26

 

Arnold Jordan

I just can’t help myself. I think some of the best and brightest talents of North Dakota need more exposure.   They all have day jobs which help pay for their love which in this case is music.  Arnold Jordan is one of those young artists who needs to be known nationally. He’s had the good fortune to play with some big regional acts and I hope his exposure continues.  In this case, I caught him in the lounge of the East 40 in Bismarck, a cozy chop house.

 

You’ve seen him here before on ND 365, and you probably will again. As much as I love shooting motorcycles and motorcycle events, I like shooting musicians as much and sometimes more.  Arnold is one of my favorite musicians to photograph.

August 5 part deux

Sunset over the bike at Double Ditch

After photographing the images of the deer along the river, I got down to Bismarck. Just north of town I swung by the ancient Mandan Indian site called Double Ditch where the people in the village had built two protective moats around their village. Thus, “double ditch.”

This bike was parked near the interpretive trail and gave me a chance to try an impromptu shot.  If I were set up for this shot for a paying customer, as I often do, I would have set up soft lights on the bike to make it glow against the darker backdrop.

So, some day, you may see a posed shot that duplicates what I learned from this impromptu shot.

August 2

Flooded Highway 83

Coming in to Bismarck from the north on Highway 83, the results of the night’s rain were evident.  Though drainage in North Bismarck is much better than in South Bismarck, this

intersection was plugged.  Though we get only about 14-16 inches of precipitation a year, including snow, this scene is evident that sometimes it can come in great abundance at one time.


Waiting for water

Bismarck City crews were on hand to open plugged storm sewer lines and open up the closed lanes of Highway 83.  By noon, the flooded intersection was only a damp spot on the highway.

July 25

Ben and Chuck Suchy

The father and son duo of Chuck and Ben Suchy says more about North Dakota than just a couple of music makers getting together on a Sunday afternoon.  As you may know if you’ve been reading North Dakota 365, the Suchys farm south of Mandan. They’re quiet, unassuming people who diligently go about their work.  Chuck has been at it long enough he is easing out of the farm, passing it on to the next generation, Ben’s siblings.


Chuck Suchy

Chuck is also known as the North Dakota troubadour. He writes his own music, lyrics and  melody.  His lyrics tell stories, perhaps of a 1928 Indian Chief Motorcycle, or of a family matriarch whom everyone can relate to.  If you listen to Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion, you’ve heard Chuck sing his stories.

On this Sunday afternoon, the father and son duo were on the patio of a local watering hole on the banks of the Missouri River in Mandan.  They played solo and they played as a duet. They played as a team as equals who share a common gift, the gift of song.

These are the kind of summer days that make memories in North Dakota. They’re the kind of days that get you through the long cold winters because you know in a few months, you’ll be back out on the patio, listening to Chuck and Ben sing the stories of life on the Northern Plains.  They carry their music all across the Midwest.  Have you had a chance to hear them?