Good music makes cold weather bearable — January ’11

Dirty Word Dad and Daughter

Music runs in this family.  Dirty Word is a fun talented regional bar band.  Well, actually a cut above most bar bands because even though their music is mostly covers, they put their own twists to the songs they do, their own arrangements if you will. That tells me the band members are talented. More so, to see the lead singer and his daughter together on the stage tells me the talent is in their DNA.  For just a couple songs at Burnt Creek, a dance bar north of Bismarck, dad and daughter entertained the crowd.  She not only has talent, but has poise and confidence — enough to stand alone to sing to a building full of respectful and admiring adults.

After a couple of songs, off she went, out the back door — I assume to the motel where her mother or other caretaker was waiting. After all, though it was 9 p.m. when she was on stage, it’s still late for a girl of her age.  From then on, the crowd danced to and was entertained by the good music of Dirty Word.  It’s a Minneapolis band that is too good for little smokey bars and clubs, but probably not good enough to hold the stage at a festival or other music event such as 10K lakes.  If you get the chance however, pay the cover charge and check out Dirty Word.  I endorse the band on a cold winter night. It will get you out of the cabin, down the trail, in to humanity for an evening.

Bands seem to flourish in the winter in Bismarck.  Take Midnight Noise Orchestra.  These guys have been parts of other bands and they’ve come together for a year or two now, entertaining at local venues, usually free.  No cover charge. They play at street festivals and other artistic and open venues.  They hold your attention and keep you coming back for their own tunes.  They’re a little bit of a jam band, folk, reggae, rock, jazz, blues band. Each song does not sound like the next song, the next song, the next song….  They’re original and entertaining.

On this night, I caught Midnight Noise Orchestra at Captain Freddie’s in Mandan.  The bar caters to a young crowd and the river crowd — even has it’s own dock for Missouri River boaters to stop for a brew.  Since there’s not much of a boat crowd in the winter, music brings in the patrons.  Midnight Noise does it well.

I like shooting bands. I hope to put together an entire portfolio of my photographs of local musicians. They’re talented, but don’t have much marketing to take them up the ladder of success. I can, however, provide them with a few good shots for their own portfolio.  In the mean time, I get stretched as a photographer.  It’s not easy working with low light situations — changing colors of the stage lights, and fast moving people. I’ve found that setting my white balance to “auto,”  cranking up the ISO to about 1,200 and opening up my aperture as far as it will go allows me to use a slightly faster shutter speed to freeze the players.

Not only that, I get to enjoy the good music, connect with band members — and get a break from cabin fever.  Bismarck-Mandan has an abundance of talented musicians, so cabin fever will have an abundance of opportunity for relief.  What about you? Are you more likely to catch a good musical group in the winter or the summer?

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.

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.

 

May 10

Remember these days?  If you were in marching band, you remember that one class period every day you practiced marching to a drum cadence, following the band instructor or majorette who was supposed to keep the band in an entertaining mode.  And if it rained on that one class period, too bad. You still marched, especially if you had to get ready for an upcoming event such as Bismarck’s Band Day marching band parade.

That didn’t make it any more pleasant for these musicians.  It seems the guys were too put off by being called on to tough out the rain, but look closely at the faces of two of the girls, the one walking backwards in the grey shirt and the clarinet player just to the left of center.  They’re scowling.  A bad hair day, I guess.