Behind the jump, a thousand words in words and seven thousand in photos on Bristol, Tennessee. (This is long; sorry! In my defense, it’ll probably be the longest thing I ever post on here.)
Rhythm & Roots. The actual festival — Bristol, TN/VA’s annual Rhythm & Roots Reunion — was absolutely fabulous. Well run, a killer line-up of both people we’d heard of and people we hadn’t but dug anyway, friendly people, tons of bathrooms, reasonably priced food, blah blah blah. Since it was the reason we drove to Tennevirginia, as I decided it should be named, that was not unexpected but definitely fantastic. We saw a bunch of great music, Justin Townes Earle played a whole set without saying fuck, and some friends of ours drew a crowd that outstripped a particular other artist’s crowd at least two times over, which pleased me a little bit in my bitter, bitter heart.
Do it better. The thing about going to a festival like this, or an all-weekend event like the NCAA Regionals which we’ve done several years, is that when you go in blind, without someone who’s been there before, you sort of have to play it by ear and figure it out as you. You don’t know how to do it well, even if you get good advice from people who’ve been before. (Stay at exit 74A is not concrete advice, Ian Thomas, although we’re sorry we missed the multi-band jam session in the parking lot next to the Super 8 and the abandoned building.) But now we’ve been, and when we go back, we’ll know how to do it better: see more sets, feel less kicked in the teeth by long days, buy less Elvis paraphenalia in antique stores. Maybe not that last one. Elvis is pretty awesome.
One great shot. My mantra, whenever I go out to shoot a show, is that I want to get one great shot. If I get a bunch of good stuff, that’s awesome too, but I always want one spectacular photo. I got a lot this weekend that I was proud of, multiple great shots, but the one, my One Great Shot from the weekend, is the shot of Justin Townes Earle that tops this post. I am immensely proud of that photo; it isn’t a technically perfect shot, far from it, but it’s the way music feels, and that’s what I’m always trying to find.
Learn something every day. I’m generally anti-flash in most situations; it flattens the light and movement that I’m trying to capture. But on Saturday night, in a tent lit with LEDs (a strong flat white light) that was open to the outside (one of those bright but overcast white lights), shooting Hoots & Hellmouth, I found myself wishing I had a flash and I knew how to use it. I could have used something to warm up the light I was getting; I found myself blowing out shots with settings that should have worked. This is a new feeling for me, and one I’m still working through. Besides which, I have a few more lenses to buy before I start sinking money into flash gear.
I love drummers. We were lucky enough to see a ton of fantastic drummers over the weekend, and we spent a good chunk of the trip home talking about them, and others that we know or have seen or listen to religiously. A charismatically excellent lead singer is a wonder, but a great drummer is a revelation; it’s just that most people don’t pay much attention to them. The next time you listen to music that makes you want to dance, or you go see your favorite band, pay attention to the drums, or watch the drummer; that’s the heart of that band, right there. I know a hell of a lot of really talented drummers, and I adore them all.
So just come back down. We took the long route home, the longest route home, over 421 through the mountains to Boone, down 321 in the fog past Blowing Rock, into Hickory for a mandatory Cracker Barrel stop, and then straight across I-40 with our eyes on Orange County. But sometimes it’s worth it to take the long route; we found a mountaintop lake just outside of Bristol, and I ate some truly phenomenal home fries purchased from a gas station in Mountain City, TN. The fog was terrifying but the mountains were gorgeous, and the drive wasn’t that much longer than the short way.
Time And Relative Dimension In Space. If you could harness the time dilation field between Winston-Salem and Greensboro, I bet you could build a TARDIS.