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I was asked to shoot this ‘secret’ show in the studio’s basement. I have always heard of pop punk legends Anti-Flag but never had the opportunity to actually ever see them play. I have to say, I dug their stuff but what really impressed by watching them being interviewed and spending a miniscule amount of time with them is how totally cool they are. Super nice dudes with awesome intentions. The intimate show was put on for about 65 lucky fans and filmed for AltarTV in preparation for their big CD release show this Sunday at Altar Bar. From what I heard, it should be a great night.

By the third and final night of these concerts, the crowd had gotten so bold that not only did they stand, they rushed to the lip of the stage to cheer on The Hold Steady as they rocked out hard. It was no surprise since openers Titus A brought the show down to them (them being a bunch of brash and seemingly intoxicated teenagers) as lead man Patrick Stickles opened their set screaming from the front row. Couldn’t imagine Andrew Bird doing that.

The second night of the run had the fans starting to loosen up a bit and standing by BTP’s set, even though someone in the auduence asked the band if it was O.K.? Yeah, rock ‘n’ roll!

I heard a couple complaints that Atlas Sound (Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox) went on too long with his droney-loopy-electronica tunes but I rather enjoyed it. Built To Spill were, well, Built To Spill. You kind of know what you are getting with these guys and that’s just fine with their fans. Another review here (with awesome pictures I might add!).

Apart from a little rant after these shows, I haven’t mentioned much about these concerts here. This first night was by far the most civil. Kurt Vile opened the run and apart from bringing along The War on Drugs’ Adam to gunsling, his set was very similar to the Warhol gig back in March.

Considering Andrew Bird was solo, he usually brings the quiet to a room. People love to see this guy for his ‘musicianship’ but I prefer his studio stuff more. The respectful audience stayed attentive and in their seats for the show which would definitely change for the next two nights.

As a concert photographer I was so excited when they announced these shows. Six bands that I would have probably gone to see anyway if they were playing themselves. All together in one venue over a stretch of three days? Way cool.

Yeah, it was a benefit for the town of Braddock, and yeah, I’m going to try abstain from any bullshit soapbox arguments like Levi’s should make clothes in the U.S.A. again (did Brett donate his fee for playing to Braddock? If not, shut up…sorry), or ‘Why Braddock’ and not an arts community that has a chance and could actually prosper with the attention unlike Braddock (is that you Garfield? East End?). Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t know the answers. I probably never will. What I do know is that I was never in Braddock before. Riding in and out of town was truly an eye opener. Believe me, I am not sheltered from depressed neighborhoods in this city by a long shot. I work everyday in the heart of Homewood. The main drag in Braddock made Tioga Street look like Upper Saint Clair. It stunned me the first night. The second I was trying to confirm and wrap my head around what I saw the day before. By the last night, I am compelled to write this post.

So many images, so many weird contradictions. For one example, a ‘brokedown palace’ that is wired (streaming video AND audio) for rock music that’s literally falling apart, welcoming a crowd of 500 each night who will never set foot in the area ever again (unless this is an annual event). As attendees were walking into the venue (with burlap sacks over many of the decrepit seats), I couldn’t help but compare them to people going to a wake…all bug eyed and trepidatious not knowing how to respond, even though they have been to one before…a concert that is. They were there to enjoy music and feel better for themselves that they did attend to make a difference. They donated. They came. They participated. That’s the start I suppose. The goal?

I have to keep telling myself that today as I feel this way. I am the first to admit, I am no better (I was on the guest list each night) and my observations aren’t trying to be criticisms at all, even though they may reflect that attitude. I am simply stating I am changed in a little way. I am sad. That is all.