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Averaging 200 Concerts a Year, D.C. Music Photographer roXplosion Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Roxplosion

RoXplosion has been to more concerts in the past few months than most people have in a lifetime.

Averaging 200 shows a year, the prolific D.C. concert photographer–who only goes by his hallmark moniker–knows the city’s music scene from the inside out. RoXplosion’s choice venue isn’t necessarily the obvious, large-scale venue, but the smaller, lesser-known places where emerging acts have gotten their start. For all the important moments that have happened in D.C.’s underground music scene, roXplosion was front and center to witness it. His distinct style of photography makes you feel as if you were there to see the action for yourself, capturing the intensity and energy of a performance in a way that few photographers can.

So who is the man that has actively brought independent music to the forefront over the last 15 years? We spoke with him to find out the answer.

D.C. Music Download: How did you get started in photography? 

RoXplosion: I have been dabbling in photography since 2001, when I took a Circle Cruise around the Hudson River just before September 11. I got some great photos, and realized the moments captured were of interest beyond just mine. I have been a regular at live shows since the 1980s and everything sort of fell together after that. Lots of my friends are musicians.

What are some of your most memorable highlights from shooting shows over the years?

Favorite moments? Some of my favorite bands in D.C. had a concert last year at Rock and Roll Hotel, and declared the event to be my birthday party. I will never forget that! Every time I walk into a venue and see posters that feature a photo of mine, it’s a memorable moment.

How many shows do you attend a year?

Last year I saw over 380 bands (many more than once.) I’ve probably averaged 200 shows a year for at least the last six years.

What are some best practices for those who want to shoot live music?

If you are taking pictures of a show, be nice. Never assume. Ask permission, and don’t whine if you don’t get it. The fans’ experience is more important than your pictures (that’s what they pay money for.) The ability of the venue’s staff to do their job is more important (that’s what they’re paid for.) The music is more important (which is the point of a show.)

Be mindful of the disruption you are making, and try your best to minimize it. Don’t use a flash! Don’t use a tripod! Don’t bring enormous gear bags! Don’t step on toes (if you do— apologize!) Only publish the best of the set— nobody needs hundreds of photos that look the same.

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The Scotch Bonnets (featuring H.R. of Bad Brains) at Comet Ping Pong in 2014. Shot by roXplosion

How do you go about choosing the shows you shoot?

I try to spread out and get a mixture of venues and genres. My own biases and tastes inevitably flavor my choices, but efforts to diversify have broadened my tastes.

What draws you to D.C.’s music scene?

From my myopic perspective, I see a lot of camaraderie and unselfishness. Musicians seem to be more interested in making sure there is a good show than they are in their own fame and glory. I really love it when the larger venues dedicate key nights for local shows. But my favorite part of the whole scene is when I am up front as the band starts playing… and they are killing it on stage. As I turn to look behind me, I see the faces of all the brand new fans that band just made. Yeah!

RoXplosion will host a show at Comet Ping Pong this Saturday, July 29 featuring More AM Than FM, Thaylobleu and Company Calls. Show 10 p.m./Tickets $10 DOS

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