It’s one thing to read a concert review, but music photography is able to capture the relationship between the artist and audience in a way that words can’t express. Art of this kind acts more like a science–besides getting the right composition, a photographer has to capture the spirit and energy of the room in a matter of moments. And, of course, it’s all about timing.
As we kick off our year in review, D.C. Music Download’s photographers gathered up their favorite shots of 2017 and offered a rare behind-the-scenes look at the moment when they got the shot.
Mutemath–The Fillmore 9/22
I have attended close to 30 shows since April and Mutemath has been my favorite thus far, for a few reasons. I have been a huge fan of their music since 2008, but I had no idea what to expect as far as a live experience. Paul Meany is a world-class performer. The energy in the building was transcendent and I feel like this photo captures a bit of it.–Gevar Bonham
Cold War Kids–Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/16
This was one of those “right time, right place” moments. As Matt [Maust] was riffing, he decided to step out on the platform in front of the stage. Before that, I hadn’t even noticed the words on his guitar. I had maybe two seconds to compose and shoot before he moved on. Eighty percent of the time, I would have messed up the shot, but I happened to get it right this time. Needless to say, I am proud of this one.–GB
Vince Staples–All Things Go Fall Classic, 10/7
There is something spiritual about a Vince Staples show. I had no idea beforehand, but he somehow commands an almost cult-like control over the crowd. He is not energetic in the sense of physical movement, but the confidence and stage presence is nothing short of electric. It almost makes you lose track of time and space as he pulls you in. If I’ve ever caught that feeling in a photo, it is this one.–GB
Frankie Cosmos–9:30 Club, 5/16
There’s something about the lighting and the colors in this shot of Frankie Cosmos that I just really love. It gives me a bit of a Ziggy Stardust vibe in a way that I’m quite happy with.–Dylan Singleton
The Dirty Nil–9:30 Club, 10/13
I’ve been to a fair amount of shows this year, but only one of them featured a band that synced up their guitar solo with blowing giant bubbles. I just really have to appreciate the showmanship that The Dirty Nil had going with that.–DS
Wilco–Wolf Trap, 6/9
Wilco is my favorite band, and one of the things that I love about them so much is how they manage to combine somewhat conventional sounds with more experimental and atypical ones. Being given the chance to shoot their show at Wolf Trap earlier this year, I really wanted to try and come up with a fun visual homage to their diverse sonic stylings. My solution: to have a little fun with double exposures.–DS
Highly Suspect–Merriweather Post Pavilion, 5/14
Covering an all-day music festival, like DC101’s Kerfuffle 2017, is a marathon, not a sprint. You get there well before the first band takes the stage and, more than half a day later, you’re one of the last to leave the venue. In between, eight bands rotate on the main stage and, at some point, it all becomes a bit of a blur.
Thankfully, Highly Suspect was there to steal the show. While they played an abbreviated setlist, they absolutely made the most of their short time in the spotlight — owning every inch of the stage during a high-energy set that captivated those in attendance. This shot of lead singer Johnny Stevens, playing a guitar solo as he writhes around on the stage completely in the moment is a perfect illustration of everything that was awesome that day. —Brian Murphy
Greta Van Fleet–DC9, 8/26
When Greta Van Fleet came to our nation’s capital for the first time, I knew I had to be there. If nothing else, I needed to see for myself how a quartet of 20-somethings is able to become a modern-day Led Zeppelin. Did some nostalgic producer work his magic in the studio? Or can four kids from a small town in Michigan actually deliver the goods live and in-person?
I’m happy to report that Greta Van Fleet is, in fact, the real deal. Not only did they live up to the ever-building hype, but after my one-on-one interview with lead guitarist Jake Kiszka, it brings me great joy that they’ve also got good heads on their shoulders. They’re down to earth and incredibly humble — even in the face of constant comparisons to one of the greatest rock bands in the history of music.
This particular photo — of Jake and his twin brother/lead singer Josh sharing center stage — is easily my favorite image from one of my favorite assignments of the year. –BM
Diet Cig–Rock and Roll Hotel, 4/13
I remember Rock and Roll Hotel being pretty crowded for this show and was glad I could get a great view of Alex of having fun during their set. —Krystina Gabrielle
Panic! At the Disco–MGM National Harbor, 3/3
This was my first time shooting at MGM National Harbor and Panic! did not disappoint. —KB
Royal Blood–9:30 Club, 6/6
This was a fun show to shoot and watch. Great lighting and energy from the Royal Blood boys.–KB