Gather 'round the fire children, for I have a story to tell...
It's no secret I have a fiery passion for live music photography. Blame it on the paint chips I ate as a child. Blame it on working in a music store since I was 17. I'd just go ahead and blame it on The Beatles. I have nasty memories growing up of my father asking "who sings this?" on every car trip, every 30 minutes as a kid. I didn't care about pop music. While I loved classical music and anything with pipe organ (don't judge), I basically only cared about Fruit Roll-ups and Super Nintendo. I almost began to spite my dad. He was relentless. But he also had a record collection, and I was fascinated by one particular record. It was blue vinyl. Nowadays, with the resurgence of vinyl it's no big deal, but back in the day, only special albums came in special colors. The bottom line is that I *had* to know if a blue record really worked the same as a black one. So I powered up the stereo, loaded the turntable, and dropped the needle. Now if any of you are familiar with The Beatles 1967-1970 (The Blue Album), then you know it's basically their greatest hits from the period of time where they were doing their best work. I went from 0-60. I went from not caring about pop music in the slightest, to being pummeled by While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Sgt. Peppers, Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, Hey Jude, Revolution... you get the idea. I must have sat there listening to this double disc all afternoon. Let's just say that I was the only sixth grader I knew that knew all the words to I Am The Walrus.
So began an (un)healthy obsession with The Beatles. While they were a bit pop and a bit progressive... they first led me into the pop realm. For the next two years I listened to my local pop radio station and got a healthy dose of late '90s Madonna, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, Marcy Playground, Natalie Merchant, Alanis... which then briefly morphed into a little alternative consisting of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Powerman 5000... you know. But really, the lightbulb didn't explode until eighth grade. I was in the computer lab, probably supposed be doing something important for class, when my friend said "put these headphones on and shut up and listen." I had never heard anything like it. It was like The Beatles met Beethoven and then partied with Metallica. It was Dream Theater (click to hear exactly what I heard for the first time). Their magnum opus Scenes From A Memory to be specific. It was my musical gateway drug. There was no going back. This level of musicianship... both compositionally and technically... was an entirely different world from *anything* I had ever heard on the radio. I had now joined the progressive rock world, and there was no escaping. With bands like Liquid Tension Experiment, Riverside, Pagan's Mind, Porcupine Tree, Symphony X, Transatlantic, King's X, Fates Warning, Marillion... all of them citing sources like Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull... It was almost more than I could handle... but I knew I was in love.
Looking back, a love for technical proficiency has always been in my blood. Hell, I was a second grader who was listening to Bach while building giant roller coasters out of K'nex... or massive structures and spaceships out of Legos and Erector. I graduated to being a computer nerd at a young age, writing visual basic programs on an old Mac during recess in 5th grade. Wow. Reading what I just wrote, and I'm pretty embarrassed. This story needs to speed up to the point:
I have something very special I want to share.
As you now know, Dream Theater will always hold a special place in my life because of its massive musical influence. Well, it turned out that I caught that Beatles connection early. The recently-departed-the-band drummer, Mike Portnoy, also had an (un)healthy Beatles obsession. Back in 2003, he got a few of his buddies together to do a Beatles tribute band. They played two shows. Two. Lame. Fast forward to 2011. They have announced three new shows. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. I'm only 3 hours from downtown Chicago, so it's a no-brainer. I snatch up my tickets immediately. Annndddd of course I e-mail Mike Portnoy and the venue about photographing it. Why wouldn't I? They're busy. No response. Damn.
So it's the day of the concert and I do something I actually have never done before. I roll the dice and just walk in with my camera. I have Molly put the 85mm lens in her purse, I leave the grip in the car, and I stock the D700 with the 50mm. It's a lean and svelte rig... err... comparatively. Well, what do you know... no questions asked at the door. Maybe because cameras are allowed? Maybe because I hid it in my jacket and they didn't do pat downs? The world may never know. So the concert goes on. It's amazing. Like. For real. It's a few of my favorite musicians playing some of my favorite songs of all time... and they're doing it like they wrote them. It's pretty epic.
So I just photographed Mike Portnoy and Paul Gilbert, two of my favorite musicians of all time. Of course I'm excited, so as soon as I get home the next day I'm sharing with you fine kids on Facebook and Flickr. They're a hit. They turned out really well if-I-do-say-so-myself. And then a couple weeks later I get an e-mail. Long story short: "I'm with MP4 productions and we are doing the CD/DVD of the "tour" you attended. Could we use a couple of your pictures for the liner art?" "Yes."
...a month later I get this in my mailbox:
Oh! SWEET! They sent me complimentary copies of the DVD and CD. They didn't use any of my pics for the cover. As cool as that'd be, it's okay. I didn't expect that, and they were going with a theme I couldn't provide support to. Let's take a look at the inside!
That's cute. They have a pic of them walking across the street in New York just like the Beatles did on Abbey Road. Normally I'd say that's cliche and cheesy... but then again, they are a Beatles cover band. It's totally acceptable. And the on the other side we've got the concert poster from the New York show... which was the one that was filmed. Mkay, well, let's take a look at the inside of the booklet.
Woah. I count 20 pictures. I also count 16 of those as mine. As if it weren't already cool enough that Mike Portnoy used one of the pics for the profile image on his fan page...
So there you have it. The story of the liner art. Okay, more like the story of my musical existence with a brief sentence about liner art. I doubt most of you got far enough to actually notice there are even any pictures. Why did I write that? You didn't get far enough to see pictures, you're not getting far enough to read that. I'm talking to myself. Well if any of you imaginary friends of mine are interested in Yellow Matter Custard, here are a few links of interest:
Yellow Matter Custard Videos on YouTube (might I suggest this one in particular?)
Buy their CDs and DVDs
Facebook Fan Pages: Yellow Matter Custard, Mike Portnoy, Paul Gilbert, Kasim Sultan, Neal Morse
Mike Portnoy: Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, Liquid Tension Experiment, OSI, Avenged Sevenfold, Transatlantic, Cygnus and the Sea Monsters, Amazing Journey, Hammer of the Gods, Neal Morse, Steve Morse, John Petrucci
Paul Gilbert: Racer X, Mr. Big, Neal Morse, Marco Minnemann, G3, John Paul Jones, The Evil Stepsisters
Neal Morse: Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Eric Burdon
Kasim Sulton: Cherry Vanilla, Utopia, The New Cars, Meat Loaf, Todd Rundgren