I first met Pentimento in March 2013. I'd been following the band and listening to their music for awhile, and I'm glad I skipped studying / paper-writing to go to the show: they definitely didn't disappoint. Mike (drums / vocals, as well as the band's primary lyricist) and Jeramiah (vocals / guitar) were both incredibly well-spoken in the interview we did that day (check that out here), and they, along with Vinny (bass / vocals) and Lance (guitar), have always been so kind and welcoming to me at their shows. It's rare that you find a band that are not only such great musicians- both recorded and live- but great people as well, and I'm grateful to be able to call Pentimento friends of mine. One challenge I made to myself this year was to photograph bands multiple nights in a row, or at least multiple nights on the same tour. I want to focus on being able to produce images that are unique, yet have a certain consistency from night to night. I've found that doing so gives you a different insight into a band's performance- you really start to pay attention to and get to know how they move on stage, who stands where and who does what, when.
From mid-October to early November, Pentimento went on their first proper headlining tour in the East Coast / Midwest, where they were joined by Better Off, A Will Away, and Caleb and Carolyn. One of the perks of living where I do in New Jersey is that there are so many cities within an easy driving distance (or an easy commute on public transit), and I'm glad it worked out for me to photograph five dates of the tour! I photographed each band that performed each night (Better Off didn't perform the last few shows I was at, as they had to leave the tour early; and I missed Caleb and Carolyn's set the first night), and some of the shows had local openers as well.
Check out the full blog after the break!
Day 1: Baltimore, M.D.- 10/29/15- Metro Gallery
On October 29, I knew I was in for a long day- I'd photographed New Found Glory the night before (check those photos out here), and was up late editing. After working in the morning and getting some photos up, it was off to Baltimore! I've done that drive a handful of times over the past year, and it never fails to surprise me how small Delaware actually is when I drive through it.
After stopping for coffee and snacks on the way, I made it to the venue right around doors, and was immediately greeted with hugs! It was so great to catch up with Mike, Jeramiah, Vinny, and Lance- and they were equally interested to hear what I'd been up to. It was good to see the A Will Away and Better Off guys, too. A Will Away just signed to Triple Crown Records and re-released their (fucking amazing) EP Bliss, and Better Off just released a new record Milk on Equal Vision Records that I absolutely love, so it was cool to chat with both bands.
Immediately, I began a super top secret project: getting members of the other bands, as well as fans who were at the show, to sign a birthday card that I'd be giving to Mike on his birthday a few days later. I got a few serious notes and a few silly ones- it was exciting to see how many people were already signing it and showing how much they appreciated Mike, and it was fun to keep hiding it from him!
After catching up with everyone, I headed with Mike and Lance to their van for an interview. It was my third interview with the band (the second being the Inner & Outer Portraits piece), and we ended up talking for 38 minutes. The coolest part for me was that as much as I've talked to these guys and as much as I already knew about the band, I felt like I learned so much in that interview, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. You can check that interview out here.
I'd never been to Metro Gallery so I wasn't sure what to expect shooting-wise. The stage was small, but a pretty average height, and the lights were a wash of blue. I decided against using my flash because the lights were pretty bright, but all of my photos from the show ended up being black and white- in situations like this, making a photo black and white really helps preserve detail that gets washed out in color. But as you'll see, they aren't straight black and white- I played with curves to both give the photos a very subtle tint, as well as to lift the blacks (make the pure blacks a lighter charcoal gray) and lower the whites (so they weren't so blinding). I've found that using curves is a much more subtle way to "tint" photos than using split-toning, and offers much more control. With so many shows in a row, I knew I had to get in a rhythm for my workflow so I'd be on top of my editing and posting- what I ended up doing was shooting a few songs of each band then immediately going to import photos to Lightroom and begin basic edits, before going to shoot the next band. I continued that routine for the next few nights.
A Will Away was up first. I've always been impressed by their performance, and this time was no different- they played a new song that I absolutely cannot wait to hear recorded. They're going to be the biggest band in the world some day (some day soon). Mike from Pentimento would be jamming the bass with Better Off- it was wild seeing him not behind the drum kit. Better Off's new songs sounded great live, too!
Less than a week before this show, Pentimento released their new album I, No Longer, and to no surprise, played a handful of new songs live. "Gateway" is one of my favorite songs on the album and it translated really well live. It was also my favorite to photograph- during that song, they all totally rocked out which provided for some great photos.
Pentimento / 10/29/15 / Metro Gallery / Baltimore, MD
Day 2: New York, N.Y.- 10/30/15- The Studio at Webster Hall
Living in the suburbs of North Jersey, New York has always been the city to me. Even when I lived in Cleveland for school, I always thought of New York as the city to which I'd compare every other city. Webster Hall has become one of my most frequented venues; I've now shot shows in the small Studio downstairs; the mid-sized Marlin Room; and the large Grand Ballroom upstairs. I'd shot Pentimento at the Studio at Webster Hall when they were in town with Have Mercy last summer, and man- New York showed them a lot of love, so I was definitely excited for this one. It's a hotspot for some of the biggest mainstream acts in the industry but it's also a vibrant hub for any and all forms of punk and alternative music- and I think this show proved it.
Have Mercy's former tour manager, Kevin, was at the Baltimore show and- to my surprise- came up to the New York show too! He's definitely a goofball- so he fits in well with Pentimento.
There's something so special about New York. There was definitely a point where the magic of the city was lost on me, but I think I've found it again. If I had to pinpoint a moment, I'd look back to CMJ Music Marathon last fall, where I was running around the Lower East Side, schmoozing with publicists and doing interviews with artists from Tasmania, Israel, and Taiwan. I've gotten to shoot a few shows at Madison Square Garden, which is incredible, but I think what really stands out to me is seeing artists like Caleb and Carolyn, A Will Away, Better Off, and Pentimento playing the most incredible music to an audience as eager to hear as they were to play.
After a local opener, I was SO excited to finally see Caleb and Carolyn perform. They're an acoustic duo (and husband and wife!) and their harmonies and simple, yet beautiful lyrics are spinetingling... they're so good. It was definitely a change of pace from everyone else on the bill, but wow- they're so talented.
The Studio has a pretty low stage (maybe around the height of my knees) and the lights aren't too great; I alternated between using my flash and not using it. With space being tight, it's definitely a challenging shoot. Since there wasn't really anywhere to sit down, I used the wifi adapter on my camera (at $42.95 it was a small purchase that's totally paid off- I love being able to post photos instantly- this is what I have for my Nikon D610) to post some preview photos, and edited photos on the train back and when I got home that night. In the past when I've shot the Studio, I've done a lot of color correction to get things looking "just right", but I stepped back this time, and I'm happy with the results.
Everything's better with friends; I was standing on a staircase right next to the stage, when I saw Matt "Ford" Carlson and Collin Waldron of A Will Away behind me. I stepped to the side and they jumped up on stage to sing with Pentimento, which was a blast to see.
Day 3: Philadelphia, P.A.- 10/31/15- Voltage Lounge
Man, I love Philadelphia. Although I live much closer, in miles, to New York, sometimes it's just as easy to make the drive down to Philly, so I'm there for shows pretty frequently. I love how vibrant the scene is there- and I also love that Blackbird Pizzeria (an all-vegan pizza, cheesesteak, and wing place... that also makes great desserts) is just a short drive from most of the venues in town. Surprisingly, I'd never seen Pentimento in Philly before this, but man- what a show.
After stopping at Blackbird for sweet and spicy vegan wingz and two slices of their "Brunch Bird" pizza (which is honestly the BEST pizza I've ever had), I headed to Voltage Lounge. It's become one of my favorite venues to shoot at. The staff there are always helpful and friendly- the door guy recognized me from shooting there before and we chatted for a bit. Some really great tours have come through and everyone always seems to be in a good mood there.
There was only space to get on one side of the stage (stage left), as the other side was against a wall, but what I really love about shooting at Voltage Lounge is being able to go up on the balcony. This provides me with some really unique angles that I'm not able to get at other venues.
The lights weren't too bright and there were plenty of times when it was just a complete wash of a dim green or blue... not too pleasant. I didn't want to use flash so I bumped my ISO during those times. Like I did in Baltimore, I made all of the photos from the Philadelphia show black and white, with the same subtle split tone. This is something I did to keep things consistent from night to night, but having such different venues definitely resulted in different shots.
Since it was Halloween, some of the band members dressed up. Sean Dibble (drums) from A Will Away wore a Hawaiian shirt, and I joked that it looked like he was dressing up as Ford (who's known for his Hawaiian shirts). All of Pentimento wore bowler hats and fake mustaches- when they got on stage, Jeramiah introduced himself (with a heavy accent) as Tony Pentimen, the gangster.
The night started off with a pleasant surprise- a friend of Caleb and Carolyn's joined them to play violin with their set. Those songs will make you feel things with the acoustic guitar, but the added violin was really something else.
Philadelphia showed Pentimento so much love- which was so freaking cool to see. People sang along to every single song, and it made me so happy to see how stoked the band was. I made sure to position myself on the balcony overlooking the stage during "Gateway", which allowed me to grab some really shots of the band from above.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia ended up being Better Off's last show of the tour. After the show, the whole tour package gathered for a group photo- which happened to be behind a sign that said "School of Rock." Maybe they're all graduates?
Day 4: Howell, N.J.- 11/1/15- GameChanger World
I don't think I've ever been so nervous for a show as I was for this one. Why was I so nervous? My dad was coming! I had brought my brother, Luke, to a Pentimento show in July, and they were all so welcoming to him; I could only hope my dad, Travis, would have as much fun as Luke did. I wanted to show him a big part of my life and I wanted him to meet some of my friends- and I think I definitely accomplished both of those.
Pentimento has played GameChanger before, though it was on the main stage. The main stage is nice because there's a photo pit and the lighting's usually pretty good. This time they'd be playing "The Lab" which is GameChanger's side stage. There's no photo pit and the lighting was pretty rough, but the size of the stage and the layout of the room- the stage is in a corner- ended up feeling just right. Once again I kept all of my photos in black and white; I found that even with flash, the colors just didn't look right, and I liked the consistency of having everything in black and white.
Before the tour package, two local New Jersey bands that I love- In Theory and Pines- opened the show. The first time I saw In Theory, they were opening for Major League, and the first time I saw Pines, they were opening for Forever Came Calling- it was cool to see them both open for Pentimento.
Carolyn (of Caleb and Carolyn) is actually a New Jersey native, and it turns out she's from the same town my mom grew up in- what a small world!
Although A Will Away is technically from Naugatuck, Conn., New Jersey has always been a home away from home for them, with the Garden State showing them a lot of love. This show was no different, and seeing them play "Home"- for which they were joined by several other members of the tour- was something else. I can't wait till five years from now when I can say I saw them way back when.
Since it was the eve of Mike's birthday, the wonderful Gabby brought him some cupcakes, and the whole crowd sang to him just before their set. After blowing out the candles, Mike shared the cupcakes with people in attendance.
My dad really enjoyed In Theory, Pines, Caleb and Carolyn, and A Will Away, and I was so glad to see he enjoyed Pentimento's set as well! He later complimented their musicianship as well as the fact that they were all so friendly and helpful to the other bands that were playing.
As an "encore", Pentimento closed their set with "The Bridge". This was the song that first got me in to their music, and what's cool is every time I listen to it, and every time I hear it live, I experience it in a different way than I had before. Jeramiah began the song solo, singing and playing guitar, and the rest of the band came in later on- I love the shot of Lance and Vinny walking out to join him.
Tori- Collin from A Will Away's girlfriend- had been at a few shows, and while running around the venue to get a different angle, I snapped these quick shots of them singing along and enjoying the show.
After the show, I made sure to take a group picture with my dad and all of Pentimento. It was so cool to be able to introduce him to them.
Day 5: Amityville, N.Y.- 11/2/15- Amityville Music Hall
Amityville was the final show that I'd be photographing, but knowing how great Long Island shows always are, I knew it would be a good one. It's a good thing I'd made the trip to Amityville several times before, because my phone broke the morning of this show and the GPS in my car wasn't working- the GoogleMaps directions I'd printed out at home wanted me to go over the George Washington Bridge, and anyone who's done that knows that it's never a good time. Instead, I drove through Staten Island, going over the Goethals and Verrazano Bridges.
Up first was local band Makeshift; I'd first seen them at this venue almost two years ago, when they opened for Major League. I don't know their songs but they definitely have gotten tighter as a band which was cool!
Amityville Music Hall was probably the toughest venue to shoot. The stage was low and really small; it's against a wall on one side and the other has a half-wall with a ledge so people could sit and have their drinks. The lights weren't too great but- as I always do- I made it work! I did a decent mix of color and black and white photos, and of using vs. not using my flash. I also pulled out my 50mm/f1.4 lens; I usually stick with my 28-70mm/f2.8, since I like the flexibility of the zoom, but I love the depth of field and low-light capabilities of the 50mm.
This night was sure proof that Caleb and Carolyn and A Will Away are two of the most insanely talented groups out there right now- after seeing them so many nights in the row I only had confirmation of that fact. I highly checking both of them out.
On New Year's Eve in 2013, I saw Pentimento play Amityville Music Hall, although I didn't shoot, so it was cool to finally shoot them at the venue. They rotated a few songs in their setlist each night but I honestly don't think I could ever get sick of watching or photographing them; they've got so much passion and raw emotion, and yet they're just such a tight live band.
A few minutes after their set, I snapped some quick portraits of Mike and Lance.
Since it was Mike's birthday, I gave him the card I'd been working on for the previous five nights. There were notes from people at every one of the shows, as well as notes that had been sent to me from people who couldn't make it to a show (or who wouldn't be at any of the shows I was at). I really appreciate all that he, and the rest of the band, have done, and this card was my way of showing that; he was so grateful for it.
It was such a pleasure to shoot a few of Pentimento's headlining shows, and I can't wait to see what they do next- keep up with them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and their official website to see what they're up to.