It’s hard not to notice photographer Brian Spady tramping through Summer Camp Music Festival with some pretty impressive equipment, trying to capture all those epic moments you wish to relive over and over again. Every time we see his work it brings us back to those precious moments and we can’t help but smile from ear to ear. He has a way of adding feeling to his photos and highlighting the energy of the scene like no other. His work is notorious in our community and, without it, you’d be surprised just how easily our favorite memories and feelings can be forgotten.
Spady recently joined forces with a handful of other notable photographers in a project called, Ain’t Art Grand. The purpose of this project is to put high quality concert photos directly into the hands of fans and it’s as easy as ordering a print directly from the website. Ain’t Art Grand basically gives us fans an opportunity to showcase our favorite concert photos, right in the comfort of our own homes. The moments we hold so sacred are suddenly immortalized in such a high quality manner that we can almost feel like we’re there again. It’s really something special.
Spady took some time out of his busy schedule for an interview where he answered a few questions regarding both concert photography and Ain’t Art Grand.
Carmel: What got you started in concert photography?
Brian Spady: I have always loved the way that a picture can tell a story. Good pictures that require a close and detailed examination, or images that are simple but powerful and too the point. I have also loved music and its influences on my life have been powerful. Long ago before I knew how to really use a camera beyond framing a picture, I would beg or pay my friends that had more knowledge to take pictures for me. I knew I wanted to save the moment for later reflection, or examination. Saving a piece of my own brief history. Eventually I grew tired of being able to see the picture I wanted to take in my minds eye, but not able to capture it myself. This was strong motivation for me to take classes and learn about photography, learn the rules of composition, when to follow them and when to break them and why.
C: What are some of your favorite bands to shoot? How do they support your passion for capturing live shows?
B: My favorite bands to shoot are ones that trust me to know what I am doing. Those bands that understand you can’t produce quality work when limited to the first three songs from a photo pit. Beyond that it helps to have the musicians be animated. The more jumping around and emotion that is displayed while playing the music, the better for me. It keeps me interested and coming back for more shots. Oh and the lights, my job is to capture and record light. Its hard to do that if the band does not have the appropriate hardware and an amazing lighting designer who knows how to use it.
C: What do you do with the photos you take? How are they used?
B: Depends on what I am assigned to shoot. Some photos will go out to publications, online music blogs or other editorial sources, some can be used for promotional purposes either for the band/festival/venue, or advertisements for gear that musicians are using or want to use. Some pictures will be used for various social media sources as well, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Some pictures will go to the band, some to the promoters, and some the record label.
C: Do you get paid to take photos at a concert?
B: Some bands will pay you to cover a tour or string of shows. Big events/holidays such as NYE and Halloween usually pay. Some editorial publications will pay to use photos for a review of a festival or a show. General rule of thumb is the larger a band is, the larger their budget is for photographers.
C: Does a photographer make a decent living shooting shows and festivals?
B: Shooting strictly festivals and shows is very hard when it comes to making a living. Unless your travel is being covered by either the band or the festival, this expense alone can easily eat up any profit or extra cash made while taking pictures. The biggest problem is a lot of publicity firms/record labels/bands know that they can skip paying a real photographer what they deserve to be paid in exchange for shoddy but free work. Technology is getting better and better and soon a nice “point and shoot” camera will have a sensor the same size as a pro DSLR. Publicity firms/record labels/bands don’t always see it as an art form or understand that there is more to taking a picture than being in the right place at the right time or having the best/newest equipment, but only see the bottom line and it comes down to money. One of my professors said it best “Anyone and their mother can take ‘snapshots,’ photographers take pictures.” Some times it is easier to ignore requests for payment and just go with the fresh faced fan that got a new camera and wants to work for free. Bottom line, don’t expect to being rolling in cash if all you are shooting is jambands.
C: Have you ever had your work stolen or used without your permission?
B:Yes all the time, it is almost impossible to stop. A recent article on Buzzfeed about Red Rocks featured one of my pictures. Except the photo credit was listed as “Instagram.com” I was not asked by Buzzfeed if they could use my picture for their story. I was not compensated in any way for its use. The picture was not taken with cell phone, but rather my DSLR and plenty of post editing work went into the creation of the image. I also never posted said picture on Instagram… The internet is a double edged sword, useful and necessary, but once your images go up somewhere, they are dissected and dispersed very quickly. It is easy to copy and paste an image from the web, crop the watermark out, change the metadata and then poof! You have an image that you can claim that you took. You will know that you are full of shit, as well as the Photographer who actually took the original picture. This is frustrating but also inevitable.
C: Who came up with the concept for Ain’t Art Grand?
B: Maddox Womble. Lots of people had talked with me about doing something similar, but he is the first one to bundle it all together into a package that made sense to all parties involved; band, photographer and fan.
C: How did you get involved with the project?
B: Recommendations from fellow photographers and networking. This business is like any other, who you meet while on the road and who you stay in contact with all help shape one’s career. Maddox sought me out and presented his ideas saying he had seen my work and appreciated it. But more importantly, I knew that he could handle the business end of things while letting me do what I do best, take the pictures.
C: What is Ain’t Art Grand all about? What is it’s goal?
B: I feel Ain’t Art Grand fills a missing gap in official merchandise. Founder and CEO Maddox said it best, “Before, I was stuck with my blurry iPhone pictures. Now instead of a t- shirt or poster, I can immortalize a great show and hang a piece of fine art in my house just days later, now that’s awesome.” The typical music fan is both prohibited from bringing in a full frame professional camera and also not allowed in a lot of positions that professional photographers would be as well as not usually in a sober state of mind or being to think about capturing a memento of the amazing music and light show preformed in front of their very eyes. This fills another need and desire beyond the t-shirt and poster at a comparable price point. Don’t get me wrong, I have a LOT of posters and t-shirts, but its nice to have options.
C: How can other photographers get involved with Ain’t Art Grand?
B: I think the general idea will be as the interest and demand starts to heat up, that we would add more bands and more photographers. Right now each of the photographers selected have their own unique style that they bring to the table. I would love to add more in the future.
C: How do you see people using the prints they buy off of Ain’t Art Grand?
B: My sincere hope is that these prints are hung on the walls of music fans, across the country. Shown to friends and house guests with pride, given as gifts to people of all ages and treasured or even handed down between generations.
C: Why should folks pay for these photos when they can just take them off the internet for free?
B: Besides the fact that it is stealing? Well for starters, the images one takes from the internet for free tend to be low resolution web based formats that are really only good for a maximum 5×7 to 8×10 before they start to decrease in quality very quickly. And at that point why not just blow up the crappy iPhone pic you took while you were high or drunk? No this service is really looking for the individual fan that appreciates art, appreciates the time and love that our photographers put into their work every time they go out there and shoot, appreciates the music enough to want something more than a t-shirt or poster to remember that night or tour. Something that can hang on the wall and they know with certainty that their money was well spent. So if you are looking to cut corners, don’t really care what songs are played, who you spill your drinks on or who’s view you block with your rage stick, then by all means download the pictures for free. Download the music for free, jump the fence and sneak into the show for free too while you are at it. The world is your oyster just take advantage all you can, cause some day it will come back to bite you in the ass.
When archaeologists dig up the site formerly known as Three Sisters Park in 2000 years they will find cell phones, bottle caps, tent stakes, and much more. It’s the amazing experiences had by thousands on the backdrop of stunning musical collaboration that will be hard to discern from the artifacts they find. Summer Camp in its thirteenth year continues their tradition of having a diverse lineup with wide appeal as well as providing fans with numerous other possibilities for fun and engagement. Thursday has historically been labeled the “Pre-Party” however veterans of this festival know it’s become an essential part of the experience. Primarily they save the heavy hitters for the actual three-day calendar, but Summer Camp stalwarts like Cornmeal and Family Groove Company have gotten the party started for the past few years
Early arrivers rs on Thursday were met with the typical lines and a sporadic drizzle. Weather would play a large part in this year’s Summer Camp, but on Thursday it was barely a side note to the experience. Gates opened around 11 AM and fans hustled in to mark off their territory. The woods filled up quickly as others opted to find their place in the fields that bordered the Sunshine Stage. We found a spot in the woods of VIP. They redesigned the campsite this year, making the old VIP path part of General Admission camping, and clearing more of the woods across from the VIP Lounge for tent construction. All in all it was a good move that made for easier mobility for everyone at the festival.
After setup I wandered up to the Camping Stage for Zeta June who officially opened up Summer Camp 2013. They focused on a heavy, rocking, groove oriented sound that was reminiscent of moe. in their younger days. They managed to inject a little funk and they were a proper way to get the party started.
After meeting up with this year’s crop of CITs and the new Camp Counselor Kyle Hess, I headed over to see Stone Sugar Shakedown. This was my second time on Thursday seeing a band I have never caught live before, and I have to say I was impressed. This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of going to any festival. If you have an open mind, it’s easy to get turned on to all manner of live music that you may have otherwise never encountered. SSS was a funk party lead by Nick Elwood and Tracy Gladden. They blend blues and jam to round out their sound in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. The dynamic between Nick’s deep vocals and searing guitar work with the delicate approach of Gladden made for a very pleasant set.
Heading over to the Starshine Stage I ran into Family Groove Company bassist Janis Wallin who had nothing but good things to say about Sun Stereo who was up next.
“They are a mix of David Byrne and The Beatles.” – Janis
This is quite the endorsement and I have to say she wasn’t too far off. Sun Stereo is all energy. They are basically a three-piece core band with a sprawling horn section which put a heavy emphasis on adding a jazziness to their straight groove. Sun Stereo is lead by keyboardist and vocalist Kelly McMorris who tosses in a bit of the theatrical to their performance. He is truly a powerhouse of a musician. The horns filled out their sound nicely as Kelly kicked back his stool and let it all out for the crowd. If given the chance check out Sun Stereo, they are one to watch.
Family Groove Company took the stage next and opened with a track from their newest album.
Set 1: The Charmer > Well In Hand, Professionals Here, A Misdemeanor’s Worth, Falling Off the Fence, One Eye Dreaming*, American Girl
*with Allie Kral on fiddle
Playing new material, it really felt like Family Groove Company was truly revitalized and ready to rage. This is their tenth year performing at Summer Camp and they truly looked comfortable up on the stage in front of a large crowd. The highlight of the set was Allie’s sit in which has almost become a ritual for their pre-party set. They closed with Tom Petty’s “American Girl”
Cornmeal took the stage at 8 PM and although the day had blossomed into a beautiful afternoon, we were hit with an unseasonably cold evening. Fans bundled up and put on their dancing shoes for what would be the beginning of Allie’s last run with Cornmeal. With the departure of the Nowaks, Cornmeal now performs with Scott Tipping on guitar and new drummer as well. Their performance on Thursday night would not leave any doubt that even through this transition Cornmeal still has what it takes to melt faces and make the crowd boogie. It was a moving hour long set that really felt like a celebration of how far this jamgrass band has come. Cornmeal also played a stellar version of “Dear Prudence” that seemed highly appropriate.
Caravan Of Thieves was over at the Campfire Stage warming hearts and minds with their brand of gypsy folk. These guys are just incredible, and it blows my mind that they are not getting more traction and playing to larger audiences. Talk about fun in a bottle, Caravan Of Thieves pulls no punches when it comes to their creation of music and sound onstage. With their new album “Bouquet” this band, evocative of the type of swing folk that made Django Reinhardt famous, continues to plow ahead and tour relentlessly. Fuzz, their guitarist, who sort of looks like Harpo Marx on speed, will often drop his instrument, pick up egg beaters, and pound out a rhythm on buckets strategically placed around the stage. This craziness is juxtaposed against the soft beauty of their other guitarist Carrie and her silky voice. Caravan Of Thieves is never dull and always intriguing to say the least.
We ended our Thursday with Cornmeal’s Midnight Ramble in the Soulshine Tent. This show was based on their loosely formatted residencies in Chicago. They would invite friends and basically just have a good time playing music. They invited Al from moe. up to the stage for a few songs and really kicked it up a notch playing well into the darkness. With three days of music ahead of us, I called it a night and hit the hay. As Bayliss has put it many times, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” So with that in mind I crawled into my tent with visions of moe. and Umphrey’s dancing in my head.
Well Summer Campers,
It has been a week since I had the time of my life at Summer Camp Music Festival. It’s crazy to think of all the cool things I was able to be a part of as a Counselor in Training.
I went back and read my first blog to remind myself of my pre-fest expectations and it is hysterical how off I was! I don’t think there is any way I could have prepared to be a CIT. After 9 years of coming to Summer Camp, I really wanted to share all the essential parts that make me come back again and again. While music is a huge factor, the food, vending, vibe, and sense of community is unlike any festival I have ever been to.
This year I experienced how the fest operates first hand and I met a ton of amazing people who help pull all the parts together in order to give us all a home away from home on Memorial Day weekend. Without their dedication and hard work, Summer Camp would have ceased to exist many years ago. After talking with them and seeing their passion for Summer Camp, it is clear this fest will be around forever.
So based on my experiences, these are the real Summer Camp Counselors…
Mike Armintrout organizes the vendors, helps craft the line up, books artists, and oversees operations throughout the fest. He has been with Summer Camp since it’s very first year and is extremely passionate about providing Summer Campers with a well rounded festival experience. Most of the vendors that come to Summer Camp return every year thanks to Mike’s hard work and dedication. With the help of Ian Goldberg of Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment and Don Sullivan of Jam Productions, he carefully craft lineups that provide Summer Campers with an amazing variety of music year after year. If you ever wondered whose decision it was to book Lettuce, Big Boi, and Trey Band all on the same day, these are your men.
Vanessa Robinson is in charge of the Green Team and Make a Difference, which encompasses sustainability, non profits, volunteers, Soulshine and accessibility. She is the person to thank for the Live Art Gallery, raffles, treasure hunt, and the private Everyone Orchestra show held in the barn on Sunday. While she has a ridiculous amount of responsibilities, she runs Summer Camp like a BOSS! Every project she is a part of is well thought out and geared towards promoting a healthy Summer Camp community.
Gabrielle Falconer is in charge of media, marketing, and publicity for Summer Camp. This lovely lady is the main contact for all photographers, videographers, and press. In other words, she makes sure the fest gets documented so Campers can relive their favorite moments over and over again. Gabrielle is also the person who provides communication between the fest and those that attend it through social media like Facebook and Twitter. It is her job to let us know about changes in the line up, when ticket prices go up, or where to find some awesome videos from our favorite sets at Summer Camp.
Daniyel Turner and Graham Sauser run the Summer Camp Counselor Program with the help of their intern, Adam. These gentlemen worked diligently to get the Camp Counselors and CIT’s their most sought after interviews, made sure we had everything we needed to make the best blogs for the fest, and even carted us around from time to time so we didn’t have to miss our favorite music. Without their help, I would have never gotten the chance to interview Karl Denson or Allie Kral, sit in the photo pit while Umph raged “All in Time”, or witness all the hard work it takes to put on an amazing fest like Summer Camp. There are over a dozen bloggers and cameramen they take care of throughout the weekend in order to share the Summer Camp experience with the rest of the world.
I can not tell you enough how awesome this festival family is. The effort they put forth to enhance our experience is something I have never witnessed before. I find it funny that I have been to Summer Camp so many times and yet it never occurred to me that there was such a small group of individuals pulling all the pieces together behind the scenes. I can not thank them enough for providing me with the most amazing memories and helping me feel like a kid again every year at Summer Camp.
So rain is not ideal for any festival. This year the mud and rain put a bit of a damper on the Summer Camp vibe but the good news is that the music never stopped. We all just put on our ponchos and rain boots and showed up to the sets we were looking forward to the most this weekend. On Saturday, I was able to get to Cornmeal, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Mike Dillon Band, Twin Cats, Umphrey’s, and STS9.
One more day of music to go and tons more to see. I promise I won’t let this rain get in the way of covering as much of this amazing festival as I possible can!
Its super early in the morning. You can smell the dew from the wet grass. Sounds of excitement is roaring everywhere. Summer Camp has officially started and people are pouring in!
Entering early Thursday was a great time. We were running everywhere through the woods looking for a spot. hundreds of others were fighting for spots trying to get closer to the 4 corners. We were a little late for that but still had a blast finding a new site to camp. After we set up the site and got everything in order we had to take a much needed nap.
When we woke up we refreshed ourselves with a little bit of food. I had a gyro that was delicious of course and my girlfriend had a meaty bowl from the Chinese food stand.
Around 5 p.m. I made my way to the church to meet the other counselors and to see where I would be writing for the next couple days. Its pretty nice. I have a/c and flushing toilets so you can start being jealous now. There was a press meeting where I learned about summer camp a little more than what i did.
We left the church after the press meeting and I went and got more food. I love eating and food and eating and food and food and eating with food to eat. After we ate, me and my girlfriend made are way to the general store to get our complimentary shirt and then to the VIP lounge to get our free beer. Because everyone loves free beer. Thanks SCAMP!!!
Walking through the trails all night. Meeting new people and seeing how they got here was awesome. I met this guy named Trent who was pretty sweet. He sat nest to us out in the parking lot when we were partying and i met up and saw him again when we made it inside. Our campsite neighbors is the grassroots gang so we really didn’t get to sleep a whole lot. Oh well, we are at summer camp, who needs sleep.
We took the rest of the night pretty slow, just relaxing and getting ready for the party to start. Went and saw Minnesota at the red barn to start our festival of right. After the red barn we went back to camp site to get some rest for another day tomorrow.
Well rested now, with a nice clean pair of underwear I’m ready for my Friday!
Happy Camping everyone!!!
Whoa! Thursday truly was a pre-party rager. Getting into Summer Camp was very smooth and everyone was clearly ready to party since the moment their cars entered the grounds. There was a nice mist flowing in when I first arrived in line, and it felt super refreshing and actually got me really pumped up! Every time the sun started peaking, everyone in line started getting rowdy.
My crew set up camp really fast in an awesome spot in the woods, and I was eager to go see some music with some awesome friends! I was able to catch a glimpse of Cosby Sweater on the Campfire stage and they killed it. My main goal Thursday night was to see Cornmeal since it would be my last time to see Allie play on stage and they killed it! Looking around, everyone in the whole crowd was dancing away with nothing but smiles. I was very happy that I was able to see them as that line up one last time. Right when Cornmeal ended, I wondered into the Vibe Tent and caught Positive Vibra8tions, and they killed it. I love being able to catch artists I have never heard of before, and even more so when they kill it!
Digital Tape Machine was up next and they are another act I have been waiting to see for a long time and they truly were awesome. Their set kept evolving and by the end it kept me wanting more. They really got the crowd pumped up for the weekend to come! This is the reason I love music festivals, and especially Summer Camp! You just keep going back and forth between awesome music and the stages are just minutes walk.
I went into the Red Barn at 11 to check it out in there and it was for sure a party. Minnesota killed it! He really had everyone going crazy in there, it was a rager. I love UV Hippo and was so pumped to catch them. The first time I saw them, I was hooked. They really kill it in the festival scene, and was so pumped to see them rage the Vibe Tent.
It was time for bed after that. It was an awesome first day of Summer Camp and I’m so excited for the awesome music to come. Friday is going to be a blast, announcing Moe and the awesome music to come. I’m really looking forward to Yonder, STS9, and Big Gigantic to name a few.
2013 Summer Camp Counselor
Last year at exactly this time I ended a 3 1/2 year relationship to go to Summer Camp Music Festival. Say waaah? Okay, so there’s more to the story than that one power-packed line of course. We’ve all had the feeling after a few years of holding hands, finishing each others sentences, keeping the googly eyes in check for that one special someone…..suddenly our eyes wander round and our heart wonders ‘oh what’s beyond the fence’…and we feel a panick, hot flashy sensation in our chest. Yep, that’s where I was at.
And at this time I found out that I had won a camp counselor in training position through Summer Camp’s Camp Counselor contest (an idea funny enough which was my bf’s at the time to enter into). He was graduating from college at the time and after finding out I won he told me he just wouldn’t be able to swing it with family & friends coming to celebrate him, no cash in the wallet and a potential new big boy job on the horizon. Sooo, I cried a little in my mini-wheats and rolled it around over and over in my head for two weeks. What was I going to do? He didn’t want me going without him and with each passing day I felt this need to do this for myself. to prove to myself once again that I could just show up in Chicago with a backpack by myself in the woods and I didn’t need a hand to hold, an eye to watch over me or a safety net to fall into.
I reached out to a girl on the Craigslist ride-board two days before the festival…still rolling it around in my head whether I could do this and if I could actually just hitch a ride with a total stranger. She was a sweet girl, a younger gal’ that went to the college right down the road from me and was offering the spare seat in her Prius. I told her I would let her know and explained a little of my situation. My boyfriend of course told me I was absolutely insane for even considering. So what did I do? The day before I ran to Target and grabbed a single ladies tent, lantern and granola bars then called the girl and told her all cats are a go. She told me to be ready the next morning at 8am.
My boyfriend was out of town playing a show in Tennessee so I simply wrote him a very thoughtful, compassionate letter about how I desperately needed to do this for myself. He would understand right? And then I hit the road with this very sweet young girl in a Prius with the compass set for the woods of Chicago. I showed up with a full pack hovering over me and wandered into the woods not knowing what was going to happen….
Sooo….the time has come and you’re deciding how you want to spend your sweltering, sexy summer months. You want maragaritas served to you in a disco hoodie with your shiz playing center stage right? Well who the hell doesn’t. Forget the hokey pokey, THAT’S what it’s all about! So, with all of the insane line-up releases coming through these days, why take the drive to out to the woods in ill-town to discover just what Scamp is all about? I’ll give you five killer reasons as a season two scamper: (ya’ll ready?)
- 6am Kickball with Ryan Stasik– ummm yep….it happens at breathtaking summa luva camp. All hungover with elbows and last nights disco shorts and pasties flying. It’s a pretty unforgettable experience….whether you can see well enough to actually kick the ball or not!
- Scamp family– Every festival has their crew, their long-awaited vibe that show up regardless of the year’s strife and shows up with lawn chairs, fire pits, glow in the dark panda bear hats and an extra blanket for you to crash on. There truly is no family like the scamp family (I’m pretty sure a really kick ass music video could be made to that melody this year…oooh)
- Thievery Corporation…yah THIVERY is bringing their ambiant funk chillaxness to us! No further explanation needed…
- Stepping it up to make it a truly green festy scene– We all love our mother right? And it’s more and more important that we take care of her, even when we’re gettin’ it on the flo’ to moe, yah? With bio-diesel generators, color-coded recycling for compost and garbage, and off-setting carbon emission, Summa’ Camp is keeping it real right along with us!
- If you could spend a weekend seeing a lil’ Big Boi sexiness followed by cream your face UM love and sit down and groove all in it with moe. would you? Don’t even try to say no! You crazy! And aint nobody got time for that! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFEoMO0pc7k
Whew, what a weekend in Asheville with Warren Hayne’s beloved 24th annual Christmas Jam! Coming into the hometown holiday jam-off, many people were surprised by the seemingly random line-up with a few oddballs thrown into the mix of a jam-themed Christmas show- Sheryl Crow being the main one. And many were seemingly disappointed with the last minute announcement of pop folk band, The Avett Brothers, as their sounds continues to spiral down into pop love ballad abyss.
Surprisingly for most however, a little soulful love song mix-up fit nicely into the predominantly jam and funk breakdown. After the killer horns and jazzed up set of Trombone Shorty, the Avett Brothers tore it up, breaking out a few older tunes and picking like they did pre-Rick Rubin. Sheryl Crow then took the stage and crooned her sexy heart out, jamming the classic Crow favorites we all know and love.
But the real funk began when String Cheese Incident took the stage, breaking down old favorites like Joyful Noise and Can’t Wait Another Day before pulling up the meanest sax player on the scene, Mister Karl Denson, to join in on a mean Rosie then blowing the crowd away with Phish cover Quinn the Eskimo. What a night. I think perhaps a little Cheese in the 2013 Summer Camp line-up would truly bring the scamp house down and make Scamp 2013 an epic summer to never be forgotten. You with me?