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?

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He is not here

You know it had to be one of the worst mornings ever, that first Easter morning. Not only were Mary and the disciples mourning the death of Someone whom they loved, they were afraid. So they were hiding from the Romans, fearing they would be next.

A dark place

They were grieving. They were afraid.  They felt abandoned.  They felt hopeless.  Grief. Loss. Fear. Sadness. Sorrow. Confusion. Abandonment.

Mary got up to leave. She must leave. She had something to do. It was a dark place Mary went, the cemetery where they left the lifeless body of  Jesus.

Imagine the long, tearful walk she walked alone.  Tears. Could there be so many tears?  She had never cried like this.  She had never gone through this.  No one had ever gone through this. She must have been frightened.  She must have been sad.

She must also have been in love.  She loved Jesus so much she left the safety of the others hidden in that grief-filled room.  She went alone.  No one else had the love or the guts to do what she had to do, visit that borrowed tomb.

I cannot imagine her confusion when she arrived and she met what she thought was a gardener.  Her frame of reference, her point of view were shaped by the horrible hours she had just experienced.  The betrayal, the arrest, the trial, the torture, the spikes, the blood, the darkness, the earthquake, the torn temple veil — all shaped her mind and left her little prepared for the next event that topped anything she had experienced in the last three days.

A light shines in a dark place

She looked for a dead man and thought she found a gardener.

“Please Sir, what have you done with the body?”

The body?  A dead lifeless form that had held the Man whom she loved?

“Mary, it is I.”

He’s alive! He is risen!

Where there was darkness, now there was light!

Can there be, has there ever been such a shocking turnaround?  Not merely from darkness to light, but rather from death to life?

Light was shining in the darkness of that morning, but also in the dark gloom of her thoughts, her mind and her heart.

He is alive!

You know the story. She ran back to tell others.  John — the disciple who writes more of love in his Gospel than the other three, the one who wrote those famous words, “For God so loved the world, He gave…”  loving John ran to the tomb.  From fear and grief now to unbelievable excitement.  John ran.  Peter ran.

Peter outran John.  He was first.  He stooped down, and there were the grave clothes, neatly folded. (Isn’t that just like Jesus to leave things better than he found them?) Angels met Peter and the disciples.

He is not here. He is risen!  It is Easter this morning as I write this. I look up. I look past the cross. I look past the darkness.

He is not here. He is risen

He is risen!

Footnote:  And so, here in little Wilton, I don’t have to look far to see the story.  All within sight of my home (if it weren’t for the trees) are these pictorial reminders that Jesus is a Risen Savior.

November 23 The Walrus makes music

Weston Shick

Now that winter has descended, people start looking for things to do, to liven up the long cold days.  Places such as The Walrus in Bismarck accommodate those looking for life.  In this case, the Phil McBand band and Weston Shick.

Weston is a young man, 25 years old, who stays busy with his talents. He’s a musician who plays several instruments in different bands in town.

In this case, the little narrow eatery, The Walrus sets aside a tiny part of the front for the music. The place fills up quickly when good jam bands, bluegrass, blues or jazz bands are playing.

It’s cold outside, but the entertainment is hot inside.  When it’s hot outside as in the summer, live music becomes a bit more rare.

Do you see an increase in live music options in the winter where you live?

November 15 McLean County courthouse destined for destruction

McLean County Courthouse — last days

For more than 100 years the McLean County Courthouse has stood in Washburn, overlooking the Missouri River several blocks below.  The county was organized in 1883 and the courthouse built in 1908.  It’ s one of three remaining old courthouses in North Dakota with the Romanesque styling.

Bats invaded the courthouse several years ago, and with the bats came the airborne health hazard of hantavirus.  Parts of the building have been closed off. Some of the county work has been moved to other buildings in town.  It took two votes before county voters agreed it’s time for progress.  Voters agreed to raze and rebuild the structure.  It’ll be gone in a couple years.

At night, it is a solid visual even in the snow. The eerie green lights give it an other-worldly appearance.  I hope to photograph it often before it’s gone.  A photo-tour inside the building I’m sure will be rewarding.

November 12 warm up act

Charlie Horse

Two bands, back to back — a frequent occurrence anywhere but in Bismarck.  Here, you’re lucky to get one band playing one time in one venue.  But thanks to Steamer Productions, Charlie Horse, a local blues band opened the night at the Doublewood Ballroom.

I’m generally pretty amazed by the local talent, people who have day jobs but come out at night to show their artistic creative side — a side that remains hidden during the day as print shop printers, mechanics, cooks and teachers.  Charlie Horse is one of those hidden talents.

I like shooting bands like this. They’re very appreciative of the attention and the respond with a general friendliness.  After all, if you’re not one of their family or friends, you probably know someone who is.  It’s a small world.

As a fledgling musician photographer, I like the freedom I’m afforded to get up close, get behind and get down in front of the band to get the photos I like.  None of which I’m allowed to do with big-name acts.  But who knows, just like they have a day job, so do I.  Just like they’d like to make it full-time in the music circuit, so would I be able to make it full-time shooting musical acts.  I guess that’s on my (gut) bucket list.

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.

October 26 Winter isn’t sneaky — it’s slammin’

Winter’s first blow

Wow. Winter didn’t pull any punches with its introduction. It hit us hard, and it’s still two months until the first calendar of winter.

The blizzard rolled all day and tonight it’s slow going on Highway 83 at Wilton.  Trucks are still doing their thing, but a few have decided it’s not worth it. So, they pulled in to the Wilton Cenex truck stop.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find to photograph when I went out, but had hoped to catch some snow plows working Highway 83.  I gave up after about 10 seconds. I’m not used to this cold, yet.  So, I captured these images to show what we are in for until spring.

In a way, I find it a bit exciting to be challenged like this by winter, but it’s also groan-worthy because I know it’s going to be a long winter ahead.

And just as conflicted as I am about winter, I’m conflicted about the Wilton City street crew.  Yes, they do a great job of clearing the streets,but dang, a full 6 months of this is gonna be hard on my back — cleaning out the end of my driveway every time the snow plow goes by.

The morning after the night before

(Actually, this shot belongs with tomorrow’s entry, but I thought it was fitting to put it here to give a glimpse of the “aftermath” of this Intro to Winter 101 course.)

October 12 Wilton Miners are no more

Wilton Miners Football mascot

You will never see this again.  It does not exist.

There is no more Wilton Miners Football team.  This night was their last home game as the Wilton Miners.  From now on, the Miners’ identity is merged with that of the Washburn Cardinals to become come the Southern Mclean Roughriders.

A new identity

The students of both schools (Washburn and Wilton) voted to form the new co-op for 9-man football.

On the last night of home turf play, the Miners lined up against whom else but The Cardinals.  Here their opponent.  Next season, their teammate.

The Miners got spanked pretty hard in this game, so it appears it will be to their advantage to merge with the stronger Cardinals.  But I don’t think that will make it any easier. School pride will be eroded a bit.  Personal and school identity will be a bit more vaporized.

Both Washburn and Wilton are losing something.  Like many small North Dakota towns that lose their railroad, their businesses, their schools, this is progress of a deteriorating sort, a kind of devolution.

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 15

 

Waiting for morning trucking

 

Off to the edge of the Wilton Cenex gas station a lineup of trucks waits for morning’s shipments of hot mix for the road crew working between Bismarck and Wilton on Highway 83.  The Wilton Cenex has become a rendezvous point for trucks, not quite a truck stop, but more than a gas station.  The sleeper cabs keep the drivers overnight, and if they want to wander in for a cuppa jo or a pizza, they don’t have far to go.

I like this shot because of the lighting, and if you look closely you can see a moon trying to peak out. I was trying to get in position for the shot while the full moon was in full splendor. But alas, the clouds covered my model.  So, I shot the props, the trucks beneath the moon.