Photography show chronicles superstars and local stars
It helps to have talented friends.
I get the title of guest curator, but it’s the work of some of the area’s best and most experienced concert photographers that will be the lure when “First Three Songs, No Flash: From Hometown Heroes to Hall of Famers” opens Saturday at Trumbull Art Gallery.
The idea was hatched by Bob Jadloski and me, a combination of his desire to show off some of the concert photos he’s shot over five decades and my desire to do something to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the dedication of David Grohl Alley in downtown Warren on Aug. 1, 2009. It’s made possible with a generous donation from Covelli Enterprises.
The exhibition will feature the work of:
• Jadloski, a Warren native whose concert photos have appeared in the Tribune Chronicle for more than 30 years and who started photographing bands as a teenager;
• R. Michael Semple, a Warren native who has been a photojournalist for the Tribune Chronicle for 42 years;
• William D. Lewis, a Warren native who started his professional career with the Tribune Chronicle and has worked the last 34 years with the Youngstown Vindicator;
• Daniel Montecalvo, a Warren native and photographer who also has been soundman for Michael Stanley for more than 40 years;
• John Patrick Gatta, a Niles native whose work has been featured in such national magazines as Rolling Stone, Relix and Pollstar and online for Jambands and American Songwriter;
• Chara Politte and Geneva Anderson of Flashblind Photography, house photographers for the Covelli Centre and JAC Live since 2010;
• Eric Broz, who chronicles the Mahoning Valley’s current music scene on the popular Facebook page Drink Up Youngstown;
• Erika Rock, a Warren native now living in Nashville and documenting its music scene with her camera.
The title of the exhibition refers to the constraints concert photographers work under. Most acts let photographers shoot, at most, only the first three songs of the show, and using a flash always is a no-no. And these days, photographers often have to take those photos from the back of arena floor instead of the pit at the front of the stage.
“We’re older and need to be up close,” Jadloski said. “They’re older and want us farther away so we can’t see them.”
“Shooting from the soundboard is incredibly hard. Everyone stands up in front of you and they do this with their cell phones,” she said, holding her arms over her head. “I was shooting Lionel Richie and had a great shot lined up when this guy puts his cellphone over his 6-foot head, and I got nowhere to go.”
Politte said the challenges are part of the fun.
“I have a hard time shooting a family portrait,” she said. “For me, I’m in the moment. I’m right there watching the lights … Sometimes you don’t have great lighting. It can be a challenge, but I love that challenge. They’re up there giving their all, and I’m lost in the moment.”
Today’s technology makes it easier to overcome some of those challenges.
“The way we do it today doesn’t seem fair compared to what we had to do back then,” Jadloski said. “You took two cameras. You’d shoot 72 pictures because you didn’t have time to change film. It was really good if you got one or two shots out of the 72. With digital, you can shoot thousands in the same amount of time.”
About 150 photos will fill the main gallery at TAG and its downstairs exhibition space, which now is handicap-accessible with the recent addition of a lift.
Shots of Grohl from the alley dedication in 2009, the Foo Fighters’ Record Store Day concert at the Record Connection in 2015 and the band’s 2018 concert at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena fill one wall, and some of the works will be donated for permanent display in David Grohl Alley after the exhibition closes on Aug. 24.
The walls will feature a who’s who of music greats — Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, George Clinton, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Elton John, Alice Cooper and Bob Weir among them — while also documenting the Mahoning Valley’s music history.
Jadloski went on the road in the early ’70s as a teenager with Mom’s Apple Pie, the Warren band signed to Brown Bag Records, and some of the photographs he shot of the band will be on display. Mom’s Apple Pie bandmates Bob Fiorino and Bob “Rollo” Miller, who now perform together as FM Acoustic, will play at the opening reception.
Also featured will be images of Glass Harp, Leavittsburg native and 14-time Grammy winner Jerry Douglas and the current generation of Valley-spawned acts, including Dennis Drummond, Demos Papadimas, The Vindys, JD Eicher, Spirit of the Bear and Hoss Jarman.
One of the photographers who didn’t have to deal with those “First Three Songs” limitations is Montecalvo, who chronicled the Michael Stanley Band with his camera while handling the band’s sound. His large black-and-white images include intimate recording studio shots, a behind-the-scenes image from the band’s appearance on “The Merv Griffin Show” and a portrait of guitar player Gary Markasky in western gear taken during a music video shoot.
“I had my camera with me all the time, on the road and in the studio,” he said. “Because I was so intimately connected with these guys, I sort of disappeared after a while. I could snap a shot and it wasn’t like there was a photographer in the room. I was more of a fly on the wall.”
Rock also is used to getting more than three songs. She often is hired by the acts themselves, capturing their shows from soundcheck to post-performance bash. For Rock, specializing in concert photography was a way to connect with her passion for music.
“I’ve loved music my whole life,” she said. “I always wanted to be in that world, but I’m not musical by any means … I always had a camera, I was always taking pictures but I didn’t connect the dots until right after high school. I moved to Nashville in 2012, and it all clicked. I love music, I love doing photography, creating images. There’s nothing better for me to be doing.”