I am trying to think of how many times I have seen Rhett Miller, either with the Old 97’s or solo? I think it’s seven but could be more. His music means a whole hell of a lot to me and I am really excited to see him again, playing a solo gig with his new band backing band ‘The Serial Lady Killers’ this Wednesday. Out of the dozens of band portraits I have produced, for some reason this has always been one of my favorites.

Bowerbirds are coming to Pittsburgh next month. Hard to believe it’s been five years since I saw them last. The band are super nice and talented and this is one show I am really looking forward to.

The first time I saw Grant Lee Buffalo was opening for The Smashing Pumpkins in 1996. Section D Row E means nothing to anybody when the hall is empty and I’m dancing like a fool. The band played six songs and that was it. Some stupid kid cuts the set short by tossing something onstage. Grant Lee gets mad, I miss out on a ‘Comes To Blows’ or ‘Happiness’ or any other possible tune. The band that changed my life was so far away in the arena that night but still Paul Kimble noticed me for a split second and he knew I was there for them. I will forever remember that hint of a glance from him to me for the rest of my life. How can’t I think that wasn’t one of the best sets I will ever see? The original trio I would never see play together again let me down in of all places Hershey, PA a year before when some stupid band called Radiohead opened for R.E.M. instead of them. Pre-internet thinking, I thought I knew what was up. I missed them by a day? Rolling Stone magazine sucked with that sour tour info. I will always hate Thom Yorke’s guts for that. ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ aside, that was the one and only time I had my dream band in front of me in Pittsburgh. The stuff that lives on in me and keeps me going to this day. Why do I try to hit every show in town? Why do I go early? Why do I get front row? Why am I show crazy? Friday, September 6, 1996.

I have shot The Avett Brothers three times, hopefully going for a fourth next week. This photo was from the first time. Back in 2007, I had no photo pass access but took my camera to concerts either by sneaking it in or going to free gigs as this one was. This was when the Arts Fest was in the middle of town on that horrible strip of grass where the just completed T-station stands. Many young photographers are asking me how I get ‘in the pit’ at shows. I am glad to tell them that it takes a considerable amount of energy, luck and most importantly, a positive attitude. If you aren’t nice and grateful you might as well give it up. I thought this to myself last night, as I was three feet from Brian Wilson.

Tonight is another jam packed night for me. With no less than three shoots, timing is everything. I should be front row and center for the Sharon Van Etten gig at the Lecture Hall in Oakland. That will be my second gig of the night and if I don’t fall over, I will be heading out to Art All Night afterwards. If I ever come across as ungrateful, believe me, it’s just utter exhaustion creeping in. I love being able to do this. ‘Dream Job’ for sure.

World Party’s 1990 album Goodbye Jumbo is firmly established in my Top 5 favorite albums of All-Time. Being a long time fan, I am amazed at the just released box set ‘Arkeology‘ which arrived and I immediately tore into yesterday. Comprising 5 discs of all previously unreleased original tunes, demos, live tracks and b-sides, this is a WP fan’s wet dream. Incredible.

The band Fanfarlo returns to Pittsburgh this weekend. Here’s a portrait I did of them when they first played the city in 2009. As fantastic as that gig was, I am expecting the latest to be just as memorable, if not more so. The comment on the art I remember was from Simon, who was happy but perplexed that I was so generous with the seemingly unattainable facial hair. I tried to explain I was more representing a shadow, five o’clock or not.

It’s real quick in the beginning of the song. That’s me and my brother Jeff Collins in 1995.

As I mentioned Friday, Built Like Alaska’s Autumnland was my favorite album release of 2005. I ended up contacting the albums cover artist Souther Salazer to find out the availability of prints. He couldn’t have been more cool and I ended up purchasing the banging cover art suitable for hanging. Sweet!

I can’t tell you who much I love Band of Horses. I instantly went crazy for their first album. The second album was a grower for sure and the more I listen to it, it’s amazing. Then they release the third album…I’m done. So good. Maybe my favorite of that year? I’m gonna convince you?

This is from some art I produced in 2007. The guys were super nice to me and two other girls waiting for them after the show. They were all worried about getting kicked out of Diesel that night. I’m a grown ass man! Just chill and it looks like your with the band. That’s what I told them and it worked.

I haven’t been producing any band portraits for awhile now. With the upcoming concert with The Belle Brigade making their Pittsburgh debut, I got the itch. Whether it’s a one off or not has yet to be seen. I will say I am extremely psyched to finally see the band play live! Seriously crossing my fingers that ‘Shirt‘ will be on the setlist.

Setlist from my favorite show and album of 2006.

When meeting one of your absolute teenage musical idols and you are only permitted to have ONE item for him to sign, what’s a fanboy to choose? I decide on my favorite Pink Floyd picture of the rare 5 piece version of the band. Love it!

This was my very first photo pass. I never had to push my way to the front row again.

Meeting Of Important People Brillobox
Saturday March 28, 2009 Larryville

My favorite album of 2009 and I got the setlist from the CD release show. MOIP never, ever wrote setlists back then. This was the first time I ever saw one on stage. They always played it by ear but for some reason this night Jeff needed the list. It was on his keyboard. My score. It was written on the back of an envelope addressed to Danielle M. from the New York Times and is still sealed. The band is raising money to make their next album here.

This shirt has an interesting history. After the show (Monday November 8, 1999) I went outside and chilled for the band to exit the theater. Jeff Tweedy (not in the mood-I remember he was sick), John Stiratt (very quiet but extremely nice), and Jay Bennett (incredibly cordial and the most approachable of the three) came out and I ask them to sign the shirt. After they oblige, I am waiting for Ken Coomer, the drummer, to come out and lo and behold he already left with his exotic hottie of a girlfriend at the time. Damn, incomplete! The guitar tech Adam Roehlke says that he will take the shirt, get Ken to sign it, and send it back to me. Stupidly, I give it up with my address. Riding home that night I am thinking that I will never see the shirt again. A couple weeks go by and nothing. My wife is laughing at me calling me an idiot for giving it up. Then a few days before Thanksgiving I open the door and there is a package laying on the porch. Could it be? Yeah, kid, the shirt! Not only is the Coomer signed shirt there but a Summerteeth bumper sticker, a diagram of the band’s equipment stage set-up, and a signed artist’s (Mr. Roehlke himself) proof of the band’s 1999-2000 New Year’s Eve show. What a guy

I saw the band several times on that tour (even guesting on vocals!) and although I really do appreciate and enjoy the newer Wilco, I can always brag that I saw them at them at their absolute best. As a bonus, I recently uncovered a Beulah signed promo poster from that same night while clearing out my basement.