80/35 2019

80/35 invaded downtown Des Moines again July 12th/13th, and while the festival was set-up slightly differently this year it didn't hinder any attendees, and if anything only made for a better experience overall. The changes were pretty clear, with new stages/stage placement, which made for navigating the grounds slightly confusing before arrival, there we a lot of great improvements. Including 2 ticketed stages allowed for shorter times between bands, and a shorter travel between the 2 stages as we bounced between bands all weekend. Additionally this year the IPR sessions had an actual stage as opposed to the tent they've been presented from in recent years. While the striped down sets were appealing, it was great to see additional sets by bands in a more complete sense, especially considering it allowed you to see performances by bands you couldn't see during other set times, as many bands played 2 stages during their Friday/Saturday commitments.

Arriving Friday we made our way through the alleys across from the Sculpture Park to gain access to the volunteer headquarters where I received my credentials, and we stretched our legs in the early July heat after a non-stop 3 hour drive west from Davenport. After a quick rendezvous at the hotel, 7 blocks from the Main Stage, we arrived in time to check out Cedar Falls based Hex Girls. Their energetic rock was a great way to kick off the weekend, and it helped get me into the shooting groove I'd need to carry me through the next 40 hours. Their set came to a close and after a brief Dumpling/Brussel Sprouts break we made our move into the ticketed area to take in Murder By Death's set. I got the chance to see MBD in Iowa City a decade ago, and was thrilled to see their name on this year's lineup announcement. They brought their Western tinged Alternative Rock to a very engaged crowd, mixing in new songs with classics such as one of my favorites, "Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue." And while their set occurred at 6 Friday, the cooler of festival days, much of the crowd took in the set with their feet beneath the flow of the man-made waterway that cuts across the park. This is a common view at 80/35, and the newly added second ticketed stage was placed perfectly to allow festival goers to cool themselves off while still holding onto a great view of the action unfolding on stage.

Murder by Death came to a close, supplying us just enough time to make our way across the grass to the Main Stage and Metric. I've been a fan of Metric for more than a decade, and they were in my top 3 favorite sets of the entire weekend. Front-woman Emily Haines is fierce, and she truly controlled the crowd while she traveled across the stage and helped fill the air with the electronic punk/alternative sounds of this Canadian quartet. I couldn't pull myself from their set, or my camera for that matter, and found myself shooting periodically through the entirety of their performance. However the heat was getting to us, and we needed a quick retreat to the hotel to refresh ourselves before returning to experience Elle King, Friday night's headliner.

I'm about as familiar with Elle as one can be without intentionally searching out her music. Of course some of her work has been unavoidable in recent years, however I'd have to say I'm still more familiar with her father's career. With all that being said, her set was very impressive, and was far bluesier, and raw than I ever would have anticipated. Her voice resonated through the faceless windows of the long closed businesses which stretch out and surround the festival, and the band which backed her shined in their own right. A great close to night one, but as the crowd spilled out into the street, making their way in sporadic direction towards the various after-parties, we knew we were in for much more the following day.

Saturday arrived quickly, bringing with it some blistering temperatures. After a quick, practically required, stop through Fong's to get in some late morning slices and specialty mimosas we found our way back to the newly added 2nd ticketed stage to see Dressy Bessy share their alternative sound before we planned on checking out the newest festival addition, Dessa. I caught someone standing off to the side of the stage wearing a Sebadoh shirt, which was highly fitting for the tone which Dressy Bessy presented.

Dessa graced the main stage just after 3, replacing Noname, who had to recently cancel her entire tour, including the 80/35 appearance. Dessa definitely didn't disappoint, taking time to address the crowd on several occasions as the midday heat crashed her band's computer more than once. However everyone was very understandable, and after some quick work from the stage crew the computer was up and running and Dessa was back on track to supply the crowd with her personal yet infectious blend of hip hop and pop music. After Dessa the main stage was taken over by the iconic, Liz Phair. Liz had some limitations with her set, so I wasn't able to capture any of the event, however it was a nice break from shooting and I took the time to just take in the set with my camera packed away.

After Liz Phair's set came to a close we pushed through the crowd, and after a brief break to shoot photos of a contortionist performing between stages, we found ourselves back at the free stage where Hex Girls first opened the night before to take in another Iowa-based band, Des Moines' own Druids. Druids is not the sound I traditionally find myself standing in front of, but I've seen them at 80/35 in the past and I definitely didn't want to miss their set. The energy they supply is always welcome, and it was a great change of pace from the other acts we saw at the festival. It was a great counterbalance to refresh ourselves before the final two acts of the day, Open Mike Eagle, and Portugal. The Man.

Open Mike Eagle was the final act on the 2nd ticketed stage, and he put on a performance that was easily my 2nd favorite of the entire fest. We had spotted him the night before at Wooly's for the Emily Haines DJ set after party, but I never expected him to fill some time on stage Saturday performing a freestyle touching on several points of the festival, dropping names of other performers, streets around the city, and even referencing the after party from the night prior where we had witnessed him at the ticket booth. His deeply personal and vulnerably revealing lines were truly absorbed/felt as the ground and atmosphere carried his down-tempo energy through the crowd. While we grew up in drastically different situations/worlds, we undeniably share common ground in way of perspective, and I've been unable to pull myself from his music/expression in the 10 days following his performance.

The festival came to a close with a performance from Portugal. The Man unlike one I've ever seen before. The set began with Zachary Carothers, P.TM's bassist, introducing Larry Yazzie, a member of Iowa's Meskawki Nation, after first explaining how members of the band are originally from Alaska and recognize the significance of Native people/cultures, and as such wanted to include someone from the local native people to showcase/share in some of their traditions. Larry came out and performed a traditional dance to a highly welcoming crowd. His moves were intense and the energy in the air was truly palpable. Larry's performance brought a wall of cheers from the crowd as the photo pit erupted with action, and I moved through the others covering the event like a cell in an ever closing artery. Larry's performance was greatly enjoyed by all in attendance, and while taking a break from shooting briefly I watched as he filmed the band and crowd with a smile, showing he was enjoying the night just as much (if not more) than those that had just watched his rhythmic motions 10 min prior. P.TM had my favorite performance of the weekend, but having the opportunity to see/shoot the performance Larry put on was definitely one of the weekend's top moments.

Portugal. The Man has been one of my favorites since the very final days of high school, and having the ability to shoot them (now more than a week ago) is a real high point of my 2019. When I first saw P.TM they were opening a "metal show" (The Fall of Troy, Horse The Band, and/or some other various Equal Vision artists) and I'm not even sure if their first album, Waiter You Vultures, had yet been released. I was familiar with one song, but the crew I went with was not a fan of the sound, opting to instead share the company of the other smokers outside. They played to a rather vacant Gabe’s that night, yet here we are more than a decade later and they are headlining the biggest festival our state offers and I watched as the pulsing crowd sang along to every word. Not to mention after Larry's show, the band had a custom Beavis and Butthead introduction, truly showcasing how large they have become. They certainly deserve the attention they are now receiving. Their performance was phenomenal, and while I'd have loved to hear some songs from the pre-American Ghetto days, coming back for the encore to play a medley of "Sleep Forever-Plastic Soldiers-Hey Jude." was a treat I never expected and a great close to the festival.

As the crowds pushed out into the humid streets of downtown Des Moines in a mess of motion, we stood in the grass still digesting what we had witnessed. Slowly we too made the walk from the park towards the hotel which had truly become our home, complete with posters and side tables which doubled as coolers, and spent the evening decompressing atop a partially closed parking garage, watching the city fold in on itself amid the gold resonance of the capital dome and the distant blue glow of a pool hidden from view by those that share its elevation.

06/06-06/09: A Weekend retrospective Featuring Ani Difranco, My First Museum Exhibit, and $10+ spent on balloons for a single shoot.

June rushed in full of excitement, promising new experiences and anxious withdrawal much the same. After the Sleep show at Codfish on the 2nd, I returned on the 6th for Ani Difranco, a show and crowd about as much of a change from the vibe of Sleep 4 days prior as one could imagine. Ani is a grammy winning artist, backed by a band which includes Todd Sickafoose, a recent Tony-Winner himself, so it was certainly an honor to be able to shoot their performance, and take it in pressed right up against the stage.

Diane Patterson opened the show and was the perfect complement for Ani. Her set was a real treat. After Diane left, Ani came to the stage and completely lit the barn up. The crowd danced and cheered as she fed into their warm energy, and I seldom see someone so openly and undeniably enjoying every minute performing on the humid early-June stage of this barn perched so perfectly outside of Maquoketa. This show was one of my favorites, and I'm forever grateful for having the opportunity to document all the events that unfold at Codfish Hollow, and truly feeling like a piece of this slice of East Iowa heaven, albeit a very, very small piece. Codfish is my favorite venue, and your life will surely not be the same after attending a show there. This night was memorable to say the least, and as has become a trend we purchased a CD and the sounds of Ani Difranco kept us company while we made the late night trek down 61 back to the QCA; a drive that has become such a common occurrence over the past year, and one I'll surely make a lot more before the year comes to a close.

However Thursday was only the beginning, and Friday afternoon I found myself traveling North on 61 yet again. Though this time the final destination was Dubuque, and more specifically the Dubuque Museum of Art (A Smithsonian Affiliate). We were making this trek because an image of mine was selected to be featured in DUMA's 2019 Biennial exhibition. This was a very special, overwhelmingly clarifying event, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the exhibit with so many other genuinely talented artists. While events like this tend to provide me connection and alienation all the same, and I always find myself a bit uncertain in such professional moments, these experiences are rewarding in ways I can't really comprehend. Expression has become so natural to me and as such it would be occurring whether it garnered attention or not, so it's difficult at times to digest my actions as anything admirable, but nights/accomplishments like that make it harder to question myself/my work as I tend to do. The image selected comes from my project, "In The Waiting Room (Somewhere Being Clarified Well-Being and Cognitive Dissonance)" which focuses on the various abstract aspects of dealing with mental health, and it's amazing to find such connection through a piece heavily influenced by alienation and holding oneself back. It was nice to interact a bit with some other local artists/board members and explain the meaning behind the work. (Call 563-293-3758 52# to hear me explain the meaning/influence behind the piece)

Please go check out all the art in this exhibit before it closes in September. There's some truly breathtaking work, and my photo is on the first wall you see when walking into the exhibit, so you can't miss it! Major thanks again to DUMA for putting this on, and to juror Sarah Humphreville for selecting one of my pieces for inclusion in this exhibit.

Side Note: What you can't see is just to the right of where my image is displayed the room opens into another little room which houses work by Renoir, Degas, and Grant Wood. So at this moment I now have work mere steps from some masters I learned about in elementary school, and the artist that school was named after. Life is beautifully peculiar.

Now Thursday/Friday supplied more than enough excitement to carry me through the weekend, however this was my first weekend in a month where I found myself essentially free/in town both Saturday and Sunday, so I took advantage of the warm/sunny afternoon and shot several more images for "In The Waiting Room". The project is taking off and garnering quite a deal of attention so I have to make sure I keep a steady output for future proposals, some of which are being submitted this week.

This shoot first took place on a rather vacant road where the tar being heated by the early afternoon sun was so soft we were leaving footprints all across the road. We then made our way to a poison-ivy lined gravel expanse just south of the bubbled tar and got a couple shots I’m really excited about that involved the use of balloons, which cost me more than $10. I often question my purchases, but have no trouble spending more on balloons for a single shoot than I would on lunch for myself, but anything for the sake of expression I suppose. I'll be updating this site very soon with these new images, so keep checking back. There will actually be a big update coming soon, as I've been really busy as of late, and for the first time ever I have created new pieces in all of my ongoing projects, as well as capturing several new unassigned images within a matter of 3 weeks. Add that into the fact that all of this was accomplished while also working full time, submitting new proposals, and shooting 10 shows 3 cities/2 states. Somehow I still don't feel like I do enough. I'm a glutton for self-punishment

Sleep and Big Business at Codfish Hollow

Sleep was a band I was familiar with yet naive to all the same, however after the experience I was thrust into this past Sunday, they made damn sure I wouldn't forget who they were. I've seen a wide array of performances at Codfish Hollow, from classic folk and Americana to post-hardcore, fuzzed-out grunge, and even comedy, however nothing quite on the level of Sleep had graced that reinforced wooden stage perched so perfectly amid the Iowa Countryside. This show was more than half sold out 30 min after tickets went on sale, and were easily sold out completely before that first day came to a close. I've seen several sold out shows within these walls, including one only a week prior, but nothing that sold out quick so quickly, so I knew there'd be a great mass of people moving along the sun-bathed hill and art-filled spaces which surround this newly shingled barn, and we were surely greeted by one of the most blatantly sold out events I've shot upon these grounds. The showed opened with Big Business, a duo that also makes up the rhythm section of The Melvins. I had never seen Big Business, but am a major fan of drummer Coady Willis' other band The Murder City Devils, so I was excited to see what BB brought to the table. I was certainly not disappointed, as this duo destroyed the stage, with Willis' performance being a real highlight of the night, but if you're looking for a sound more akin to The Murder City Devils this is not where you're going to find it.

Sleep then took the stage, surrounded by an absolute wall of amps. Dinosaur Jr. has performed at Codfish on several occasions, leaving many in attendance with brief bouts of tinnitus, but when arriving we had been warned Sleep's sound check went above and beyond what J. Mascis and crew provided less than a year prior. With camera in hand and ear plugs in, which I had neglected to use at the aforementioned Dinosaur Jr. show, I took my place, legs pressed right up to the stage. We were allowed 10 minutes to capture Sleep and the shutter was firing rapidly as the band sludged through the first half of their first song. The trip from stage to outside is never the most welcome event, however it usually occurs between songs when the crowd is slightly less engaged. However the nature of Sleep's definitive doom metal sound results in rather long songs and so I was forced to fight the crowd during the rush of the opening song these throes of individuals had been waiting weeks to see. After a few quick additional shots from the surprisingly vacant sound booth I was free to take in the rest of the show with my camera out of sight, and it was nice to take that break and simply take in the show after spending the last 2 weeks of May shooting nearly 10 shows in 4 cities.

Codfish never fails to disappoint whether I'm seeing a bucket-list band or I'm witnessing a group after only hearing their name for the first time a few minutes prior. And I heard a lot of discussion from people at their first Codfish event, hoping to return, and hoping similar acts come through the doors. And while such acts haven't been commonplace at the barn in the past, after this response, I can't imagine this will be the last time such an act finds itself up on that stage.

...Dreaming of My Demise Amid The Dawning Anniversary of My Initial Inception

...And I had a dream that I died, though I cannot recall how it felt. There was an awareness of space, however I had no ability to discern whether that space surrounded me or truly became me in some distant process I cannot completely comprehend. And while no sound arrived to break the silence stretching beyond my own process of thought, I find myself amid a revelatory morning dissecting the rhythms which paint the soundtrack of the aforementioned experience.

And it's beautifully peculiar the way which one's expression can arrive unannounced and previously unknown in ways which places meaning into the moment where true movement occupies the waning mid-morning hours where coffee stains climb the walls while our eyes chase the sun from a confined comfort we're convinced is genuine if not truly necessary.

So we pass one another upon the shared expanse, like two docked vessels in motion, aware that forms of one another exist yet still unaware of each other's true existence. Yet here we sporadically come together as one, immediately aware of exactly how much we've needed one another, even if only for the sake of not feeling so stagnant within the fleeting humidity of a delayed summer swell.

And in a flash we transcend from naivety to real need. 
A need void of reliance, and that is a truly beautiful thing.
Desires need not possess dependence
Passions need not require definition
Conscientiousness (or lack there of) need not insist upon a title
And we need not to be anything beyond ourselves
For truly discovering ourselves is in of itself a reason to live.

Lost Somewhere in Between the Immediacy of Artificial Heat and the Encouragement of Actual Warmth.

…I have been having these dreams of moving out east. Out beyond the leaves holding recognizable hues, out beyond the highways with recognizable numbers, out beyond all the cities where I recognize those who speak of home. How I long for that feeling of truly being exposed to exactly how lost we are—seeing exactly how minute we are in relation to the atoms that built themselves up in ways we pay others to comprehend. And I imagine it’s similar to the way astronauts reevaluate the meaning of existence once they absorb enough space, or the ways which we pretend to change after seeing the same views on a far less magnified and personal scale. But we are victims of a constant need to feel involved, a constant need to feel as if we are “with it,” while we fail to ever add discernible definition to what “it” is. We seem convinced that it exists, and I suppose that sometimes that is enough. I’m just not convinced that there is strength to be discovered in holding strong to beliefs while failing to apply that same blind faith to ourselves, because weakness can be hidden in ways this dimension has yet to expose us to, and incorrect exposure can remove all details regardless if you’re looking at the light or succumbing to the shadows. But sometimes we must locate the gallows for the sake of recognizing them if we happen to meet in the future. Because the ugliest pictures can be held by the most alluring frames, and the clearest framing can hold the blurriest of imagery.

And it’s always so difficult to continue to begin without feeling forced, without feeling cliché, as though every introduction I speak is composed of the same exact number and make-up of consonants and vowels, leaving me to reorganize a single ideology until a new meaning falls down to alleviate the drought our minds experience when the morning rises a bit quicker than we can. Because the nights are so misleading once the hours spill into the oncoming days and we’re left to battle our senses with the veiled intrigue of a life with the light pulled out. But the light exists beyond the sun, beyond the perception of the sun, beyond the vacant definition of light that narrates the shadows we’ve locked in our closet through the summer months.

And I’m lost again in the way these artificial sources illuminate your collar bones against the skeletal skyline we see but seldom recall with the frequency of more prideful beings. So I begin pulling at inspiration, the reminders of love lost and losses once held revisited for the sake of discovering a rise from the downfall, for the sake of reminding myself that things aren’t nearly as cynical as I made them appear through those frozen months when I buried my feet beneath the earth for the sake of feeling universal motion in an involuntarily localized way. I recall nights bent backwards upon the front step, staring east while my dreams settle along the fractures of a once untamed west, a west pockmarked by human-made steel peaks and mounds made and occupied by the men the peaks were long ago stolen from. They lay beneath the dirt they can barely claim ownership for, a reminder of the death that took down individuals who likely lived in a capacity our minds can hardly fathom. The expanse of land begets an expanse in perspective, and a means of consistent survival revokes a need for unnecessary anxieties to overtake the psyche. Worry seems less significant when such a focus on actually living is a requirement. We’ve become numb to life, committing too distinctly to these supposed realities, failing to truly recognize that reality is nothing more than a word, a self-defined ordering of letters which has only the depth you supply it with, and which will always fall short of the true depth possessed by a world shared objectively, but viewed subjectively, with experience falling somewhere in between.

So I’m revisiting those smoke-filled rooms where we pinned the constellations along the stains that recall the stories we’ll admire for years despite any true admirable qualities existing in the moment. It’s odd the way nostalgia misconstrues our conversations when we allow the present to revoke the past at nearly every occasion. I’m losing my thoughts to the rhythm, as the tempo of the music spills incongruously in relation to the processes my mind relies upon in the early morning hours. And I know how easily I could return to our conversations, to pull lines directly from the blueprints that built connection from communication, but there's some beauty to be found in leaving those ideas where they sit, from knowing there exists in these moments revolutions that only we can recollect.

Because there’s something intriguing about lost art which haunts you to this day despite only a single viewing. There's something alluring about leaving words in the dark for the melody of them being spoken is enough to light our way through dreams pulling teeth from the patterns. These patterns transfix my subconscious on conscious means and I become lost somewhere in between the two realms. It’s as if I lose the defining line that brings cancer in from the tropics, rearranging my perspective like the oncoming front of a storm outlining a weather system I have no firsthand experience with. But if rain is merely water, then perhaps I can swallow enough of the swell to avoid a premature induction to the sea. Perhaps I can combat the rise that comes to fill in the caverns I’ve built in the present to keep the memories from so many nights before beneath the ground I keep pacing into a more submissive pose. And I’m not so convinced I desire this level of submissiveness or simply look to imprint upon the land that which I’ve already imprinted upon myself so many absent years ago with the belief that if I can feel the naivety these breathing buildings represent then maybe I can allow people beyond this self-imposed security to move about my body in a way which leads us to believe that this is all but unnatural. Because these organs don’t play along with my destructive ways, and the destruction seems to birth a greater deterioration at the scene until I’m inhaling past carbon for the sake of feeling alive, for the sake of still feeling combustible, for the sake of keeping my illumination through shorter days, colder thoughts, and nights that we still feel so deeply in our bones.