Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shooting the new Chad & Jeremy live album

Shooting The Reflection album

You might ask, what does it take to shoot a Chad & Jeremy album? It involves a lot of factors, but for this album, key ingredients included ingenuity, a bit of strategy, and an erupting Icelandic volcano....

Like many of you, I first heard Chad & Jeremy through the radio, although it was 1960s oriented radio stations by the time I started listening to them. I knew that they had been part of that remarkable first wave of the British invasion, but there was something different about their music. The harmonies, the wistfulness of many of their songs. There was something a little more grown up about their sound, and a little more thoughtful. I collected their albums at record stores and flea markets, and hoped that I would someday get to some them in person.

In the early spring of 2007, Chad & Jeremy booked a show at the Newberry Opera House. The venue was a restored 1882 opera house in the middle of Newberry, a town in South Carolina that is less than two hours from Charlotte, NC, where I live. I already had a gig booked that night in Charlotte, shooting an event for the local daily paper, but I couldn’t say no to this. I also saw that the Opera House had a no-camera policy, which I decided to deal with when I got down there.

Newberry is still very much an old southern town, and has the rural roads to prove it. I have gotten myself very lost on a few occasions since then, but remarkably, I made it to Newberry on this inaugural trip with no problems, despite running late from my other gig, and only a rough idea of directions.

The band was already into their second set when they arrived, so no one at the theater thought to ask for my ticket (which I had not purchased), or noticed that I had put a 35mm film camera and two lenses into my coat, with my camera flash in my shirt pocket. Let me say that I usually do not do these things like this very often, but this seemed like a special occasion. This was a Chad & Jeremy show, for crying out loud! I went with my gut feeling that things would be okay, and off I went.

I found a seat in the balcony where the ushers couldn’t see me, and I snuck a few photos here and there. At the end of the show, Chad and Jeremy both came out to sign autographs in the lobby, and everyone’s pocket cameras started appearing from their pocketbooks. So, I pulled my camera from my coat pocket, and took photos of the band talking to fans.

I decided to purchase a CD, and took my place in line. Because I was at the end of the line, Chad and Jeremy had a little more time to talk to me, and they were happy to pose for me. Jeremy eventually headed off, but Chad and I ended up talking a good while, with Chad talking about plans for a new album. This was all very cool stuff for a fan like myself. Later, I got in touch with Jason, who ran the Chad & Jeremy site, and they put my posed photos of the guys on the website. I also sent the photos to the production manager of the Opera House, which has led to me doing photos at the venue ever since. My instincts were correct!

Jason and I stayed in touch, and I kept looking for another Chad & Jeremy show. In the spring of 2010, the duo booked a show at the Don Gibson theater, a newly renovated 1939 movie theater in Shelby, NC. It seemed a no-brainer for me, but when I emailed the venue about photos, I got an email saying that the venue had a very strict no-photos policy, and there was no hope of changing that. Soon after, I was hired to shoot a huge reception for the Charlotte Symphony the same night as Chad & Jeremy’s show, and it seemed like the Shelby show was not going to happen, for me.

The week before the Chad & Jeremy show in Shelby, a major volcano is Iceland erupted. I visited Iceland in 2005, and saw this volcano from a distance. I remember our guide telling us that while the volcano had not erupted in a couple of decades, it could still go at any time. The week of Chad & Jeremy’s show, flights all across the world were grounded, as volcanic ask filled the jet streams. One of those flights was for the special guest of the Charlotte Symphony event, and I received a phone call from the Symphony, telling me that the event had been canceled outright. Unbeknownst to me, Jeremy had taken an earlier flight to the US, and got over to these shores before the cancellations began.

So, there I was, a couple of days before Chad & Jeremy’s show, and now my schedule was free. I had also seen on their website that the Shelby show was being recorded for a live album. Yet the whole no-photo thing was bothering me. One of the things in the venue’s original email was, “We don’t want the concertgoers to be disturbed.” Hmmm, I thought, concertgoers.......

The Thursday before the show, I decided to again play to my instincts, and I wrote Jason an email. I know that the venue has a no-camera policy, I said, to protect the concertgoers. But what if the concertgoers weren’t there? What if I happened to show up at soundcheck, and took photos there? I sent off the email, hoping that Jason (or the band) would see if it before Saturday.

Five minutes later, Jason emailed me back. “I don’t believe this,” said Jason. “Chad and Jeremy were just talking about you, and they had the exact same idea! What’s your number? Chad will call you shortly.” Sure enough, Chad called my cellphone, and I made plans to arrive at 4pm the day of the show.

At four o’clock that Saturday, I arrived at the venue. As it happened, I got there the same time as Chad & Jeremy, so we all walked in together. Soon, the guys were ready for soundcheck. My instructions were simple. Wear your stage clothes, don’t worry about me, and just do your thing. This allowed the guys to focus on soundcheck, which was a little more daunting, due to the live recording. Shooting in an empty hall meant that I could go wherever I wanted, and get the angles I wanted. Despite not knowing about me when they arrived, the lighting folks were thrilled to have a “real photographer” get shots of their lighting setup, and put up a set of lights that looked really good, and very natural. We also got some posed pics onstage after soundcheck, as I pretended not to be as excited and nervous as I was.

After a few posed shots, I said, “Let me get some shots from behind you.” During soundcheck, I had noticed that I had crouched down behind the band, and utilized the key lights, you couldn’t see the empty seats. Once I started shooting from behind, I also realized that I could also see the reflection of Chad and Jeremy in the top of Chad’s piano, which I immediately shot, as well. During those photos, Chad held up two fingers (the “peace symbol”), which looked great. This was soon followed by the reverse of the peace symbol, followed by the good old American middle finger. “This will be our photo when we retire,” said Jeremy, as I took photos, all the while laughing my head off.

After soundcheck, the venue’s manager said that it was okay if I took photos during the show, as long as I stayed out of the way of concertgoers. “We’re done,” I replied, “but I’ll get a few photos from the side of the stage.” The show was, of course, great, and I also made sure to shoot Chad & Jeremy’s name on the marquee outside.

I had a great time shooting the band, and now I’m happy to say that you can see the results of that evening. One of the great things about what I do, is the experiences I’ve been lucky to have with many of the artists and musicians that I admired. It’s something that I know that not every listener gets to have. First, you’re a fan, and then, you’re shooting an album for them. Chad and Jeremy were a lot of fun to work with, and if Gered Mankowitz ever allows the guys to go out on loan again, I’d do it all again. I’d even sneak a few photos for them, if necessary.
-Daniel Coston

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