Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New song from Hozier: Better Love, written for the Legend of Tarzan movie

The endurance of love in a hostile environment... Hozier's song for the movie, The Legend of Tarzan, which stars Alexander Skarsgård and will be in the movie theaters/cinemas on July 1st.

It's available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple music... and of course, when you go to see the movie.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blackout Balter, interview and new single Everything Becomes Mechanical out now--Twist and Bend release 8th July!

This review an interview of Blackout Balter's Philip Cohen by Jade Anna Hughes: check out her other writing here.

During my first listen to Blackout Balter’s soon-to-be-released EP Twist and Bend I was immediately transported to my endless summer nights of dancing in dark clubs on the Lower East Side in NYC in the early 2000's: a lot of happiness, some elation and a little bit of insanity. The tunes are all unique, memorable and really engaging. Blackout Balter produces the kind of music that you want to dance to, that dance that has you shaking your hair, moving your limbs in all directions, the dance that feels like a catharsis as well as expression.

The first song I listened to was Heavy Hand (you can check out the lyric video here) and found it really catchy: a song that deserves frequent play on every radio right now! It’s a real summer anthem that I can already hear blasting out of the indie clubs, on the beach, at your summer BBQs and belting out of open car windows.

Everything Becomes Mechanical--you can hear it below--another outstanding tune, premiered this week, and is a perfect blend of rock and electronica. If it doesn’t make you want to dance then I don’t know what will! I love how Blackout Balter mix the lighthearted and the deep together to create something of a unique sound and experience. The songwriting is full of really strong messages and images that need to be heard, and the melodies make you want to get up and move right then and there.

I’m really excited about this band’s future and can’t wait to see them live and what they will have to offer in terms of a first full album.

Blackout Balter’s Phil Cohen took some time out of his day to answer a few questions and I have to say these are some of the most thoughtful and engaging interview answers I have had the chance to read this year! It’s really interesting to hear that sometimes everything works out when you least expect it, and how a little bit of luck, a touch of confidence and a lot of talent can get you in the right place at the right time.

Your story kind of sounds like one of those dreams come true of yesteryear, when you slip an idol a demo and all of a sudden you are being whisked off to record an EP with him. A fairytale come true! How did this occasion present itself?
I know [laughing]--it's still hard to believe!  Dave Keuning and I were introduced through a mutual friend and we hit it off right away.  Shortly after we met, I found myself in the LA area, so I shot him a text to see if he wanted to hang out.  When we met up, Dave showed me some of the new Killers music he was working on, and I showed him the demos that we had recorded only a couple weeks prior to my West Coast visit.  I thought we'd listen to a song or two and Dave would get bored, but I was wrong.  Dave was super excited about the music, and we ended up listening to all of the demos together.  I guess the rest is history. 

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you meet?
Shortly after I came home from Afghanistan with the military, I moved to the Boston area and met Chris at a neighborhood block party.  I had heard there was a good drummer who lived in our neighborhood; and, after Chris and I met, he found out I was a songwriter and I found out that he was the drummer I had been hearing about.  I passed Chris a bunch of very rough songs, and Chris loved them.  Within a few weeks, Chris and I (as a two-piece) started playing music together.  We weren't Blackout Balter at this time; everything was still early, and--around that time--I started grad school at MIT.  While I was at grad school, I met Misha.  Misha had just finished up grad school at Brown, and decided to move from Providence to Cambridge to start a company with some friends (one of which was a classmate of mine at MIT).  I introduced Misha to Chris, and the three of us started playing music together.  We cut some early demo recordings together; and these demos are the recordings that ultimately found their way to Dave Keuning of The Killers.  After grad school, I met Amelia through the local Boston scene.  She was in an amazing band that I admired, and I loved the way she played bass.  When the four of us started playing together, everything felt right.

Where does the name Blackout Balter come from?
The word "balter" is an old English word that died many years ago.  We shocked it back into life and stole it for our name.  The band and I love that word.  It means to dance in a crazy way or to dance without a care. 

Obviously you cite The Killers as an influence, but who/what else are up there on your greatest inspiration list (not restricted to music)?
I'm a big '70s underground rock guy--I've always been fascinated by the founders of the punk rock movement: Everyone from the Velvet Underground to Iggy, to The New York Dolls and Patti Smith.  I could go on and on.  My gateway into this music was through my cousins, Bayne and Andrew.  They introduced me to Black Flag and a few other '80s hardcore punk bands when I was fifteen, and I fell in love with the raw emotion and passion behind this music.  The Beatles and Nirvana changed everything for me, as they did for many; and, when I discovered Elliott Smith, that changed everything for me again.  As a band, I think we're influenced by The Pixies, Pavement, Violent Femmes, and early Weezer; though there are really too many bands to name as far as our influences go.  Outside of music, I'm a huge Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, and Raymond Carver fan; and, when it comes to the art of illustration, I'm really into portraits and the Impressionist movement, so Rembrandt and Van Gogh are two of my favorites. 

Your EP, Twist and Bend, is packed full of super catchy anthems that stride through different musical genres, making your sound accessible to just about everyone. Can you give us a little insight into your creation process?
[Laughing] It's messy and it takes a long time!  Thank you for the compliment--that means a lot; and your question is a great one, as I really believe that the act of creation is very important on a number of levels.  I think creation starts with experience; and I feel very fortunate to have lived a number of very rich experiences throughout my life.  That line by Leonard Cohen is just so good--"If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."  I really believe that this is true.  On a more specific level, when it comes to songwriting, I usually start off with a chord progression or hear some sort of melody floating around in my head.  Sometimes the only way to get one of these melodies out of your head is to write a song [laughing].  These melodies usually serve as the early foundation of a song; then I'll start working on the vocal melody; and then I'll use these melodies to inform the subject matter and lyrics OF a song.  This may sound pretty straightforward, but it's kind of a mess [laughing].  I write and re-write things; I glue together melodies that I've written on different occasions; little scraps of paper with lyric ideas on them are masking-taped all over the walls of the office in my home--it's a struggle.  But, to me, this is exactly what life and art are, or should be, all about: Some sort of difficult journey that leads to the discovery of truth; and, ultimately, catharsis.

What are your plans for the next year? Is there a full album on the way? A tour?
We're always working on new music, so I'm hoping that we'll be able to start moving forward with a full album later this year.  We'll see--the music industry is a crazy place; but I'm very happy with the direction we're heading and songwriting we're doing right now.  On the touring front, we'll be on the road soon and are hoping to announce some dates within the next month or so.

If you were planning and playing at your own dream music festival who would you want to play alongside?
It'd definitely be The Killers, as they're amazing artists, great people, and our friends.  But, it'd also be a dream to play alongside Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, and Iggy Pop, as these guys are a few of our rock heroes.

Thank you, very much, Phil!

Twist and Bend was produced by The Killers’ guitarist Dave Keuning and will be released on July 8th in all of your usual outlets. Blackout Balter are Philip Cohen on vocals and guitar, Chris Dorsey on drums, Amelia Gormley on bass, and Misha Kostandov on keys and guitar. Find out more about Blackout Balter on their Facebook and Twitter!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tomorrow night at the Boardwalk: Andy Black (yes, he of Black Veil Brides)

Andy Biersack, vocals,, Black Veil Brides
Black Veil Brides, Aftershock 2015
Tomorrow, 27th June, Andy Black aka Andy Biersack aka the lead singer with Black Veil Brides will be appearing at the Boardwalk in Orangevale. His solo album, The Shadow Side, has had some pretty great reviews, and reached high in both the rock and alternative Billboard charts.

This is a solo project, music in a different direction--a mix of pop, rock,  to what you'd expect from Black Veil Brides: take a listen... and I think there might just be a ticket left for the show tomorrow.

See you there!!! (If you haven't heard The Shadow Side yet, check out this video...)

Gemini Syndrome: Anonymous from new album Memento Mori... preorder now!

Aaron Nordstrom, Gemini Syndrome, Aftershock 2013
Aaron Nordstrom, Gemini Syndrome
Gemini Syndrome's new album is about to become a reality--and here's a taste: Anonymous

Memento Mori is available for preorder from both iTunes and Amazon, but if you order through PledgeMusic the extended set of offerings includes this beautiful double vinyl, which will absolutely be added to my own collection, more "syncards" with the beautiful artwork introduced with Lux, and a large set of Tshirts, hoodies, and more. Take a look!

Gemini Syndrome's first album, Lux, was released in 2013, and it's a stunning set of layered, heavy and beautiful songs. Fans have been waiting patiently, (and some of us, or not-so-patiently!) for Memento Mori, which is the second album in a planned trilogy. The expected release date is August 19th.

A couple of lineup changes since Lux: guitarists are now Charles Lee Salvaggio and Daniel Sahagun, joining Aaron Nordsrom on vocals, Brian Steele Medina on drums, and AP (Alessandro Paveri) on bass.

Catch Gemini Syndrome on tour or at Chicago Open Air and get ready for something special. Personally, I can't wait.

In case you missed it, check out previous reviews here and here  and here 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Enter Shikari, new video, and chatting about touring the USA

Enter Shikari
Enter Shikari in Sacramento during the recent USA tour
Enter Shikari have a new video for their single, Redshift, and you can see it here: it was recorded at London's Alexandra Palace, at their biggest show to date, and certainly conveys the energy of their live show. (Alexandra Palace opened in 1873 as a place of entertainment for Victorian London, and in 1936 became home to the birth of broadcast television in the UK.),

While on the road recently over here for their latest USA tour, Rob, drummer with Enter Shikari, was kind enough to answer a few questions. 

We're seeing more very interesting British bands starting (at last) to make inroads into the USA market again. For example, Bring Me The Horizon started to make it big here last year, and I'm thinking Catfish and the Bottlemen will really break through here soon. What are Enter Shikari's latest plans for the USA market--this is a huge tour of the USA and Canada, including several major festivals. Is this side of the pond a focus area, will you be spending more and more time here?

British music has often done very well in the US, I think maybe the audiences find our accents exotic but still speaking a language they understand! We realised that this is our 22nd trip over to America over the last 10 years. It is a very difficult thing to do without losing a lot of money, just the flights alone can be crippling to a touring band but we keep at it because there a lot of people who want us here. There is of course a lot of online marketing that helps get our music spread across the world. Any activity we do anywhere over the world sends ripples through all other countries so really anything we do will have an effect on the US, not just direct tours / festivals.

I know of several British bands who have had visa challenges at the beginning of their USA tours in the past few months (and I very much hope yours are all OK!)  Are the visa struggles and taxes, plus all the regular touring expense, a big deterrent for British bands touring over here?  What extra steps do you have to take when preparing for a USA tour versus Europe?

I think they are. I myself could not get a visa for two years, we had to hire other drummers to fill in for me for a few tours which was gutting. I know of a lot of bands that have either decided not to carry on with US touring or just not go in the first place. The vast majority of our tours over here have lost us thousands of dollars. We do a lot to cut down our expenses like taking a smaller crew out with us, having a much smaller lighting package, hiring a smaller bus and shipping a minimal amount of equipment from the UK.

Great that you're playing Rockville and Rock on the Range! Any plans to be back later in the year for other shows on the festival circuit? (We have a big one here in Sacramento--Aftershock festival.)

Yeah we are looking forward to those shows, it has been a while since we have done a US festival that wasn’t Warped. We don’t have any solid plans for coming back as of yet but there will always be more stuff in the pipeline. Obviously with the said expenses of touring here we really have to tie festivals in with other shows, we can’t unfortunately just fly in for the one show like we can around Europe. Not to mention the awful affect it would have on the planet, we try to keep that to a minimum. That being said, feel free to let us know about more festivals we can do, maybe we can find enough to string a tour of festivals together!

Enter Shikari

What parts of England and British culture do you miss while you're touring abroad?  (If you say HP sauce, I know where to find it)

We were literally just talking about how we can’t buy a kettle out here. How do you boil your water for tea? On the bus you often find a lot of half drunk bottles of water that no one wants to drink because we don’t know who’s mouth has been around it. So having a kettle really helps but we can’t seem to find one that you can just plug in, they all seem to need a stove.

Thank you so much for sparing the time for this chat! I'll take you to the best electric kettle shop next time you're in Sacramento--I had to hunt high-and-low for one when I first moved to the USA, but Target sometimes has them now.

Enter Shikari will be spending the rest of the summer appearing at European music festivals--the tour dates look like a dream road trip through eastern and central Europe--and then will be touring Japan and Australia at the end of the year: keep an eye on their tour page for a return to the USA sometime soon!

Monday, June 20, 2016

First Festival (the second First Festival) was this past weekend, and yes, you should have been there!

Conceived in Chaos
Conceived in Chaos, First Festival, 2016
This past weekend saw Sacramento's second First Festival, held in Southside Park; a wonderful location with plenty of shade trees (it was hot, this is Sacramento, this is June), meandering paths along which many cool vendors set up shop (I sampled delicious coffee, corn-in-a-cup, french fries, a henna tattoo, admired the jewellry and the clothing, found out about a great boarding kennel for the next dog I might have one day, drank loads of water... everything was reasonably priced and good)... three stages, one sponsored by Submerge Magazine, one by Cloud, and one in the Craft Beer Lounge, an open-air hangout with yes crafty, local beer...

Face The Horizon
Face the Horizon, First Festival, 2016
The second First: last year, First Festival began on May 23rd, in West Sacramento, with 18 bands: this year, it grew to 43 bands! All good, all local, all music, all-in-all, a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

Surviving the Era
Surviving The Era, First Festival, 2016
The lineup this year: many of the best of local Sacramento bands; all genres ranging from pure folk to rockabilly-rock-n-roll to heavy, thrashy metal and more. And every one of the bands putting on their best-yet show. (Sometimes it takes an event like this to show just how much talent this city and suburbs has. And not only were the performers there, but also members of other local bands who were not in this years lineup. but there to support their friends and colleagues and to have a good time. Father's day? The children were there too... and even an inflatable obstacle course, more fun than any bouncy castle!)

Heat of Damage
Heat of Damage, First Festival, 2016
The murals on the Southside Park amphitheater, used as the Cloud stage, made for a wonderful backdrop to the music. You'll see from the photos (which I will be busy with for a while: check back here often to see updates on the galleries, links below). The murals were created by the Sacramento-based art collective, Royal Chicano Air Force, founded by artists José Montoya and Esteban Villa.

Slaves of Manhattan, First Festival, 2016
Standouts for me during the sunlight hours were Heat of Damage, the young rockers from Folsom who played both days of the festival; Surviving the Era, who have a new EP available now, Conceived in Chaos, The Nickel Slots, Slaves of Manhattan... really good to see Zeroclient again... great to hear some nice folk music too, a hurdy-gurdy, a mandolin... heck, it was all good!

And I came away with a new must-listen-to-again list.

Chowderheart & Friends
Chowderheart & Friends, First Festival, 2016
The only thing missing was the huge crowd. And all I can say is this: you really, really should have been there.

More information about First Festival:

Photo galleries: this list will be updated as the photos are published:

- Conceived In Chaos
- Heat of Damage (Saturday)
- Surviving the Era
- Chowderheart & Friends
Face The Horizon

Thursday, June 16, 2016

From horses, to music, and back again. It's all good. White Horses. All good.

Andalusian with rider in traditional costume
Andalusian horse, related to the Lipizzaners, the White Horses
Last weekend was full of horses, and it was stunning, memorable, a new kind of festival. This weekend will be First Festival: music, local bands, people, crowds, and probably not a horse in sight. But for a moment, I want to step back in time, to a place in my story where horses and music came together.

For years, when I was a kid, I had weekly singing lessons. Not because I had any sort of perfect voice, but because I liked to sing, before I became too teenage-shy to do so, and because my parents thought it was a good thing to learn all about music, for which I am forever grateful. Every week I walked to my singing teacher's house, stood beside her as she played the piano, listened to her teaching, tried excruciatingly hard to hit the right notes, and practiced to compete in those days' equivalent of The Voice: singing or music festivals. Those particular forms of torture might still exist.

I remember two teachers: one was a much older lady, probably about 45 at the time (that's really really old when you're ten). She was kind and encouraging and I don't remember her name, but I do remember that I liked her. The other teacher was the mother of a school friend, and while I know that she was an excellent and well-respected teacher, for some reason she frightened me to bits. Every week. She wasn't angry or loud or nasty. I'm sure she was kind and a good mother and everything else, and she was much younger than the other teacher, but she frightened me to pieces. Maybe it was her military bearing or the way she hit all her notes pitch-perfect like a pistol on a target. Maybe I was in awe of her daughter, my friend, who could sing so perfectly and enunciate each-and-every consonant and vowel like they were staccato lyric videos in person. But anyway, my teacher scared me and I still can't explain it.

Arabian horse breed
White horse, not a Lipizzaner, but just as beautiful
So one day, we're preparing for a singing festival where I know I'll have to go all-alone in front of a bench of listening judges, all even more scary than my teacher, and they'll listen and make scratchy marks on paper, and then decide that OK, thank you dear for participating, but someone else won. Exciting, right? And my teacher, she asks, Alison, what song would you like to sing at this festival?

"On White Horses!", I say, immediately and innocently. I'd been watching the TV series, black-and-white, rerun of badly-English-dubbed Yugoslavian series about Lipizzaner horses being stolen and recovered and kids having adventures, and the theme song was bursting out of me all the time. "Yes, 'On White Horses', that's what I'd like to sing at the festival!" (The TV series, The White Horses, played again, and again, and again on English TV for so many years...)

"Don't be so silly. You can't sing that. You'll sing Bessie Was A Black Cat. Again."

That was the end of that.

Bessie was a boring, old, black cat who sat beside the fire from morning to eve, and that warm spot she never did leave. And if you search YouTube you'll see young girls still singing that darn song about that darn boring old cat. I think someone needs to record a metal version. It would work. The cat dies in the end.

I think I faked illness and missed the festival. I don't think I went to many more singing lessons; or maybe it was then that we changed to the other teacher; all lost in the passage of time.

But I do know this: white horses are forever connected with singing.
And I also know enough about singing to cringe when I hear a singer repeatedly slide up or down to notes that they can't hit. Forgive me; I was taught, too well, to know my own mistakes.

If you've never seen The White Horses, some of the episodes can be seen on YouTube, in their glorious, damaged-black-and-white format, overdub and all. This is the song. Enjoy.

(And if you want more horse-related music, check out the theme to Follyfoot... and for a really, really entertaining and beautiful movie, watch Into The West, about some Irish travellers and their magic horse, Tir-Na-Nog. Tell me you didn't crack up at the scene with the elevator; tell me you didn't cry.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Are you jumping on a plane to Chicago Open Air? See what else is happening there! And FOOD!!!

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson will be performing at Chicago Open Air
If you're in Sacramento and looking for a rock-and-metal festival between now and Aftershock, Chicago Open Air is a great idea--just one direct flight from Sacramento International. It's the first year of this festival, and there is very little overlap with what was announced for Aftershock last week, apart from Disturbed and Korn, and who wouldn't want to see them twice???  Rammstein, Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, Ministry, Breaking Benjamin, Marilyn Manson, Of Mice And Men, Alter Bridge and Gemini Syndrome are but a few who will be playing Chicago Open Air... it's well worth the trip!

Slipknot, headliners on Sunday of Chicago Open Air
Oh and it's three days. THREE DAYS! Yes... July 15th, 16th and 17th. Summer heaven.

(And it's about time we saw Gemini Syndrome again... and heard the new album. I believe it's going to be here. Soon. Soon.)

And there's more... and more... and more! All the festival experience... all the good folks like FXCK Cancer and Take Me home and Dyin 2 Live (who make dreams happen--check out their website).

One thing that will be very Chicago-unique is the selection of local food vendors.  Chicago Open Air will feature selections from Chicago-area favorites such as: Bruges Brothers (Braised Oxtail Poutine, Currywurst, Comeback Fish and Chips), Chicago Doghouse (Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage, Smoked Alligator Sausage, and believe it or not, French Poodle... go read the menu), Crème Of The Crop Food Truck (Grown Up Mac & Cheese, Strawberry Chicken Wrap, Tater Skins), Dia De Los Tamales (Cuban Tamale, Spicy Black Bean and Corn Tamale, The Chicago Beef), Dinky Donuts, International Spud Station (The Spudnik, Apollo-Mash, Nebula Chips), Kuma’s Corner (Led Zeppelin Burger, Iron Maiden Burger), and loads and loads more... see here to make your mouth water. You will not go hungry. You may come home heavier. Don't worry about it, you'll work most of the calories off in FFDP circle pit.

(Now I'm hungry. Must. Eat. Dinner. Now.)

Otep will be headlining the pre-party at Concord Music Hall
As it's the very first Chicago Open Air, there's a special event the evening before, Thursday July 14th (which is, of course, Bastille Day in France, so it's an extra good excuse to have a party, if you are even a tiny bit French). The official Chicago Open Air Pre-Party presented by 95 WIIL Rock and 100.7 QRock will be held at Concord Music Hall, with Otep headlining, (check out the latest album, Generation Doom, it's unique), supported by Shaman's Harvest, Islander and Through Fire. If you have a ticket for Chicago Open Air there is an oppotunity to buy $10 discounted tickets: full price is $17, tickets here.  There are also a limited number of tickets available for a very special festival kick-off dinner, presented by Chicago's Goose & Fox, starting at 6 p.m. July 14th--five courses, all local and seasonal food... darnit, I'm really, really hungry now.

If you're looking for the beer at the festival, there will of course be craft beer, local beer... and the Headbangers' Beer Hall, a metal-themed dive bar complete with Marshall amps lining the wall (what else?), plus a load of other beer and booze opportunities, and of course there will be Monster Energy and free sampling on their viewing deck (always a good place to go!)

So you can tell Mom not to worry. You will eat well. You won't go thirsty. You'll have fun. (And if you're taking the kids, make sure you're around for Five Finger Death Punch. They always do something special.)

Ivan Moody, vocals, Five Finger Death Punch
Five Finger Death Punch will play Sunday at Chicago Open Air
There is much, much more than the music at this festival: check out everything here, on the Chicago Open Air website. There are a few tickets left... don't procrastinate!

So... if you are in Chicago and ready for this huge, monster-sized metal experience for the very first time,  or if you're booking a plane ticket or planning a road trip, you're going to have a very loud, very well-fed, very enjoyable and very full weekend.

See you there? I hope so!

(Now I'm going to find some food. No poodles involved... yet.)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Western States Horse Expo, and what a concert photographer learned there: fun weekend!

Paint(ing horses
Painted horses at the Western States Horse Expo... so patient while children paint them!
As a photographer, writer, artist, performer, athlete... as anything, really... it's sometimes fun, and always educational, to step outside of one's "comfort zone" and do something related, but very different. You're forced to rethink your craft, to adjust techniques, to learn new things, to evaluate what you are doing wrong, and then learn from it. And, in this case, to discover something very special.

This weekend, that's what I did. I was at the Western States Horse Expo all weekend, watching and photographing the horses (and riders); making a load of mistakes, learning some lessons both about horses and my photography, meeting lots of wonderful horses, very nice people, finding-out about some very cool programs (more later about this), and--hopefully--coming away with some good images too. As with a weekend-long music festival, I have about a million or so (slight, but not huge, exaggeration) images to sort through, edit, and publish, so be aware that the photo gallery will be updated regularly. You might want to bookmark it!  <--- click here!

Here are a few things I learned this weekend at the Horse Expo. I had fun and yes, I learned a lot! I'm already looking forwards to next year... and to maybe setting up some equine portrait sessions soon!.

1)  MOST IMPORTANT! Horses move much, much faster, and are much, much bigger, and jump much higher than the average rock star. Therefore, if you frame your horse photo to allow for the movement of your average rock star, even at a very high speed setting and when you're expecting the singer to jump, you're going to end up with horse images without the rider's head, the horse's hooves, or the horse's flowing tail. While headless riders are fun in spooky movies, they don't really make for good horse expo images. I discarded lots of photos on day one! Lesson learned: frame the shot large. You can crop stuff out later, you can't crop a head back in if it wasn't in the frame in the first place.

Spirited Arabian horse
Arabian horse and rider in traditional costume
2)  I also learned that it is really, really difficult to correctly expose a shot of a beautiful, glossy, incredibly-jet-black Friesian horse on a really bright-and-sunny California day. Just keep working on it, expose for the horse, and try to find a shot where the background is lower in contrast. Not so easy with action shots, but...

Friesian and rider
3) Some horses are like some people, and really don't like a camera anywhere near them. They show you with their eyes, their ears, and body language. Accept it. That's what long lenses are for.

4) While up-the-nose shots are something to be avoided in a music situation, they can be real fun when the performer is equine. And especially if it's Lazarus, because that gives me yet-another chance to share his story.

Lazarus, Percheron, Hope For Horses
5)  Speed is everything. The flick of hair that you might capture on a musician at 125/s will be a total blur when it's the shake of a mane of a horse who is cantering. Go fast. Go very, very fast.

Friesian on the move
6) Horses are bigger-than-the-average rock star: move further back, to have the entire animal in the frame, or be happy with just part of the animal (which can make for interesting shots, too).

Andalusian with ribbons
7) Be aware of the distance between you and the horse. Or horses. Things can change very fast. A crowd-surfer landing on you in the photo pit at a show can be nasty--a 16-hand horse landing on your toe might be just a tad more painful.

Andalusian and rider performing at the Western States Horse Expo
8)  There are rock stars in the horse world, too. Watching a trainer like Richard Winters show how to work with a horse through some training challenges, or Julie Goodnight, or any of the other team of speakers, trainers and clinicians who were at the Western States Horse Expo, you know these people are special. Even if you don't (yet) know all the correct names for the colours of the horses. I need to learn the correct names for all the beautiful horse colours.

Richard Winters clinic at the Western States Horse Expo 2016
Richard Winters clinic at the Western States Horse Expo
9) There was a lot of talk about A Perfect Circle. I learned that it's not a rock supergroup, it's part of training your horse.

10) I learned that I want to photograph more horses. Gypsy horses, Freisians, Morgan horses, all kinds of horses. Seriously.

Gypsy Horse (Gypsy Vanner)
Gypsy Horse (Gypsy Vanner)
11) I want to ride a horse. One with a kind face. Like Azul, trained by the Sacramento County Sherriff's Wild Horse Program, at Rio Consumnes' Correctional Center. Azul was sold by auction to a very happy man today. You'll hear more about this program here soon.

Azul looking at the children
Azul, wild mustang, trained through the Sacramento County Sherriffs program
12) Cowboy Dressage is a wonderful thing. For one, it's horses moving like a cowboy needs them to move. For two, three and four, because it's a competition where your kindness to your horse triples your score. Be kind, and you will be rewarded. I think that's something everyone should learn.

13) I still love crowd shots. Horse crowds.

California Cowgirls
California Cowgirls at the Horse Expo
14) Just like at a major rock festival, stars can be anywhere. There might be one right behind you, just watching the show, like you are.

Watching the show
Behind you!!!
This was a wonderful weekend at the Horse Expo! I hope you enjoy the photos as they are added to the photo gallery (just click this link).

Richard Winters clinic at the Western States Horse Expo 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

Something different this weekend--horses!

Horse, Connemara, Ireland
Horse, Ireland
For years, I thought that the only thing that happened at Calexpo, the site of the State Fair was the State Fair. How very wrong!!! There are events happening throughout the year, including the City of Trees music festival later this year, football/soccer throughout the summer, the State Fair (with lots of concerts) of course, and this weekend too. More info for all upcoming events can be found on the Calexpo website.

This weekend, it's the location for the Western States Horse Expo... and we're going. And there will be photos. There will be rock star horses, and riders, no doubt. It starts today and continues through Sunday; horses, riders, education, shopping, art, clinics, everything horse... fun! You can even "test drive" a new horse...

There is a full schedule here and the website has all the details.  Ticket info is here, and children aged six and under go free!

Remember when we went to the zoo?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Aftershock lineup is out, and it rocks! Tickets go on sale tomorrow noon!

As promised, Aftershock announced the festival lineup today, at midday--and it's looking very, very good for metal fans in October!

Headliners at this year's Monster Energy Aftershock festival at Discovery Park, Sacramento, are Tool, Avenged Sevenfold, Slayer, Primus, Korn and Disturbed, with a whole list of other huge bands and not forgetting Sacramento's own Some Fear None,

Jonathan Davis, vocals, Korn, Aftershock 2013
Korn, returning to Monster Energy Aftershock in 2016
Here's the full lineup:
Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday 8th at midday:

Remember that these are the early-bird prices: the longer you leave it to buy, the higher the price may be--if they don't sell out first! After the success of previous years' festivals, I would expect to see an early run on tickets; tomorrow, 12 pm, OK?

And there's more to Aftershock than two days of wonderful music... as with all the Danny Wimmer Presents festivals, there's not only music, but a lot of other, really-good things that will be happening. Check out the Experience section of the Aftershock website, with info about the Dyin 2 Live/FXCK Cancer organizations and what they do (and see this story from last year's Aftershock), and new this year, Take Me Home animal rescue and Life Looks Good On You... among lots of other good stuff!

People of Aftershock 2015
Last year at Aftershock... are you ready for this year's festival???
Concerned about parking? New this year, you can park at Sleep Train Area and take a shuttle bus to the festival. And there are hotels close to Discovery Park, and in and around downtown Sacramento. Check the website for details.

Also worth noting: LTD (Living The Dream) Foundation: A portion of all Monster Energy Aftershock ticket fees will be donated to Living the Dream. LTD Foundation bridges the music industry together with fans who are fighting terminal illnesses by giving them All Access VIP experiences backstage with their favorite bands and artists.

It's going to be a good, great, fantastic, wonderful weekend!!!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Aftershock lineup announced tomorrow... and First Festival very soon!

People of Aftershock 2015
(A few of the ) people of Aftershock 2015
So, Sacramento, NorCal, California, the world... are you ready for tomorrow? (In addition to voting in the California primaries, I mean. Go vote early!!)

Do you have an alarm set, for one minute before midday, so that you can zoom over to Aftershock's website or Facebook, to see the lineup for this year's festival? Who do you think will be included? What surprises will this year bring? Can you wait??? Have you seen the recap video from last year?  Did you find yourselves in last year's photos, and are you ready for this year????

I have a few on my wishlist. Fingers crossed!!!

(And seriously... don't forget to vote in the excitement of the lineup. Go Rock the Vote, too!)

Aftershock will certainly bring huge, national and international stars. But each and every one of these bands all started as "local" bands once-upon-a-time... in fact, no matter how huge they are today, they are still somebody's local, hometown band. In a couple of weeks, June 18th and 19th, we have the opportunity to enjoy a whole slew of local music heros, at the aptly-titled First Festival. It's two days of music from a great variety of local bands, and it's all happening at Southside Park in downtown Sacramento. Check out the website, get your tickets, and go have some fun!.

Heat of Damage will be there. Zeroclient will be there. And oh so many more!!! One band I'm particularly looking forwards to seeing and hearing again is Face The Horizon, after seeing them for the first time on Saturday at Harlows, where they opened for Fair Struggle. Might even get to see them in the light...

Face The Horizon
Face The Horizon, Harlows, Sacramento

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Fair Struggle release their album, Limerence

Fair Struggle
Fair Struggle, Harlows, Sacramento
Last night, at Harlows in midtown Sacramento, Fair Struggle launched their CD/album: Limerence, It's been worth waiting for: the opening song is the blistering single, Say My Name, and it continues with nine more songs, the sort of gritty, hard, American rock that is evocative of road trips and roadhouses where the band plays in a cage to be safe from the barfights.

Fair Struggle
Fair Struggle lanch Limerence
So what, exactly, is "Limerence"? According to, it's a noun used in the realm of psychology, meaning "a state of mind resulting from romantic attraction, characterized by feelings of euphoria, the desire to have one's feelings reciprocated, etc." The title track of the album is moody, heavy, interesting. Take a listen.

Vince Keegan, vocals, Fair Struggle
Vince Keegan, vocals, Fair Struggle
After seeing Fair Struggle in several versions--different vocalists--I think we can safely say that today's Fair Struggle has found the magic with Vince Keegan on vocals. Great fit.

Fair Struggle
Fair Struggle are Vince Keegan (vocals), Wayne Burkett (guitar), Ivan Parra (lead guitar), Scott Garrett (drums) and Miles Daniels (bass). Find more info on the Fair Struggle website, or on their Facebook.

You can buy Limerence on iTunes today! And more photos in the Fair Struggle gallery too.

Fair Struggle