Words and Images by: Adam McCullough
Full recap below photo gallery!
One year ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to see how many shows I could photograph in one night, and thought it would be interesting to do it on the busiest night in New York City, New Year's Eve. I lined up 7 shows at 7 venues to showcase not only the wide variety of music that can be heard on any given night in the city, but also the unique venues. I unfortunately only got to 6 of the 7, only because an opening band cancelled, which meant the headliner finished 30 minutes earlier than was initially scheduled for. This year, I had wanted to setup the same number of shows, but as of the morning of December 31, 2012, I only had 6 shows lined up. But by the time I left for the city, three more shows came through, and my schedule went from pretty easy to now overpacked, and I had to cancel one show, to be mentioned later. As I got myself ready for the big night out, I had eight shows lined up, and two times in the night where I would have to try and hit multiple shows in a short amount of time. The first conflict was my first set of shows. Wynton Marsalis at Dizzy's Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center and little known band to JamBase called Phish at Madison Square Garden. I was told by the PR liaison at MSG that I had to be at the venue by 8:10 or else they would not come back out for me, which left me 40 minutes from Wynton's start time of 7:30 to photograph, leave the venue, catch the subway and walk to the press entrance.
As I rode the bus cross town, through waves of people heading to Times Square at around 7pm, to my first stop of the evening, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, I was already nervous if I'd have enough time to photograph Wynton and get down to MSG in time. I arrived to JALC at around 7:20 and checked in with the very friendly front door staff, who had already seated a pretty full house of guests for the first of two shows with "the boss", as Wynton was referred to, because he is the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and one of the main reasons it was created in the first place. The crowd was enjoying their delicious smelling meals as 7:30 hit the clock and I started getting more anxious. I started calculating how much more time I could give the band to hit the stage before I'd have to bail on this show and possibly try to hit the 11pm show later, which I was told was going to be more crowded than this show was. At about 7:38, I was ready to leave when the lights dimmed and the emcee walked on. Every word he said was one too many for me, as I needed that time to try and get some shots of Wynton and the band before having to jet out of the building. The band hit its first note right at 7:40, which left me about 5 minutes to get the shots I needed before I felt I had to leave. The band was going to be covering the music of Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five and Hot Seven, recorded between 1925 and 1929. The opening song was highlighted by a nice back forth between Wynton and clarinetist Victor Goines. New Orleans music is some of my favorite to listen to, so I would have loved to stay for the whole show, but I had to move on after only one song. I was hoping to get a shot of Wynton standing and taking a solo, but with only one song to work with, I did the best I could and left the building.
|Wynton Marsalis by Adam McCullough|
I made it down to the subway with twenty minutes to get down to MSG. The trip should only take about 6-7 minutes and there was a train only two minutes away, so I figured I had another ten minutes to play with if needed. As the subway arrived, the crowd on it was already in full New Year's Eve mode, with the most rowdy getting off at the next two stops closest to Times Square. The subway got to 33rd street, giving me about ten minutes to get to the press entrance. Outside MSG was a sea of phans, with dozens hanging outside with fingers in the air looking for that last minute ticket to the biggest show on the island this night. I met my photo escort on time and was brought through the back tunnels, hearing The Disco Biscuits sound checking from the Theatre at MSG, to the rather large photo pit lined with a fake grass-like carpet usually seen at mini golf courses. There were also two large ramps in front of the stage that was also lined with this carpet, which I assumed was part of Phish's "stunt" that they are known for every year at midnight. Unfortunately I was only given the first fifteen minutes, so I would not be around for that. The crowd on the other side of the rail was mostly sitting as they waited for Phish to take the stage. I imagine they had been waiting most of the day to get such prime locations, but when the lights went down, the entire crowd jumped to their feet. From the first note of "Garden Party", the crowd was having the time of their lives and the band sounded great. It's tough to enjoy the music when you're photographing, but when the band started "Roses Are Free" and I had only a few minutes left in the photo pit, I tried to enjoy the music, and as we walked out, I wished I was spending the rest of my night there. But as I was led out of the venue in the load-in elevator, it was time for me to figure out the next few shows, as my first challenge was achieved. The next four shows were all starting and ending around the same time and I had to decide which show I wanted to try and be at when midnight struck.
|Phish by Adam McCullough|
The third stop of my tour was to head back to Jazz at Lincoln Center to the Allen Room, the second of three venues at JALC. They were having a swing dance night with the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra carrying on the big band tradition. When I first walked in, there was a big ballroom where they had a full open bar and a full dinner buffet, both of which looked very tempting to check out, but I followed the music coming from the adjoining room, the Allen Room. The Allen Room is a beautiful three-tiered room with a full dance floor at the bottom and three levels of tables and various sofas and chairs all of which overlook not only the dance floor, but also the three story glass wall that overlooks Columbus Circle. The crowd was made up of all ages and all seemed to be happy and having a great time. The band came back on and the dance floor filled up quickly as the band went right into a fast number that got crowd doing what they came here for, swing dancing. There were people who had obviously been swing dancing for most of their lives and some who obviously had not, but the veterans were willing to give pointers to those less experienced. Musically, Phish was going to be the show I would have loved to be at all night, but this party seemed like the place to spend a New Year's Eve: not over crowded, plenty of food and drink and some great music and dancing, with a group that were enjoying each others company, even if they'd never met them before. A classy way to end 2012. But yet again it was time to move on to something on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
|Harlem Renaissance Orchestra by Adam McCullough|
A ten block walk brought me to the edge of the Times Square celebration, which meant having to go through a police barricade to walk down the block to Roseland Ballroom. Pretty Lights was headlining the second of two nights at Roseland on this night. Outside the venue was an organized chaos, with at least one to two hundred people all trying to escape the cold and get into their show of the night. But with the clock hitting 11pm and needing to hit this and two other shows by 1am, one of which in Brooklyn, I knew I wouldn't have time to wait in this security line. After about 5 minutes in line and not moving, I asked one of the security guards how long he realistically thought it would be. He said ten minutes, but I knew that was wishful thinking. When he saw my cameras, he said I could try going up front and seeing if they'd let me cut the line, which I knew wouldn't be the case, but figured at this point, it was worth the shot. As I got to the front, I was lucky to see a security guard who I knew from the many festivals I've shot in the past. He was about to walk into the venue, so I grabbed him and told him what was going on. This is why security guards are important to make nice with. He brought me right in the door and I got my pass from the will call and walked into Roseland. The venue was packed and the music was unbelievably loud, but the crowd was loving it and the lights were magnificent. This was really my first DJ/electronic show and despite how amazingly loud it was, I was really digging the music, and so were the people in the front row. I walked around for a bit, and unlike the swing dance party, this show was exclusively young people, making me feel old at 31 as most of the crowd seemed to be in their twenties. But just like the swing dance party, in a way I wished I was staying here all night as well. The music was really good and the crowd all seemed to be having a great time together. I had also made a decision earlier to go to Terminal 5 for midnight, thinking the bigger venue would have a big celebration as the year turned.
|Pretty Lights by Adam McCullough|
The show I decided to go to end 2012 was Amanda Palmer at Terminal 5. Amanda's show was one of my day-of confirmations, and the reason I had to cancel my photographing an up-and-coming band called Moon Hooch. I saw Moon Hooch sit in with The Soul Rebels in October and really wanted to see them perform, but there was not enough time to hit their show in Brooklyn and make it back for JALC, Pretty Lights and Amanda Palmer. I was told Amanda would be doing a set of original music with her band Grand Theft Orchestra at 10:30 and then coming back out before midnight to perform Prince's Purple Rain. I don't really know much about Amanda Palmer, but playing at Terminal 5 on New Year's Eve, I figured it's a show I should probably hit. The venue was about 2/3 full when I got there, as it was between Amanda's sets, so they had two guys doing funny covers on Saxophones. It was not what I was hoping for, especially coming from the heavy beats of Pretty Lights. A few minutes before midnight, Amanda came on stage dressed in Prince's well known purple outfit and the band started playing. As midnight came, Amanda counted down from ten, and at the stroke of midnight, confetti filled the air as the crowd hugged and kissed 2012 away and headed into a new year. I didn't stay for very long because I had to get to Brooklyn by 1am, but the music sounded pretty good. I'm not overly familiar with Purple Rain, so I can't be completely sure if they were doing it justice or not. The crowd, many of which were dressed up as if this was a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" showing, were fully invested in what Amanda and the band were playing, so I trust they were doing ok. I left Terminal 5 with less than an hour to get to Brooklyn for my sixth show of the night, Holy Ghost!, another band I knew nothing about. Last year this is where I faltered, and I was determined not to let that happen again. With Times Square starting to let out, I knew it would be slow going, but I had to jump in a taxi to have any chance. The first ten blocks took a while and I thought about getting out of the cab, but then the cabbie drove like only a NYC cab driver can and I made it down to 14th street to catch the L train to Williamsburg.
|Amanda Palmer by Adam McCullough|
I got out of the subway in Brooklyn a little after 12:30 and was told Holy Ghost! would only be playing till 1am, so I quickly walked through the chilly, windy night to my favorite venue not in New Orleans, Brooklyn Bowl. Brooklyn Bowl is the latest venue by former Wetlands head man, Peter Shapiro. The venue has 20 or so bowling lanes, a first class restaurant run by the folks who run Blue Ribbon Restaurants throughout the city, and great bars that feature local breweries, including Brooklyn Brewery which is literally made next door. It's a great venue with plenty of room, although it was quite full on this night. It's the type of venue that many go to, no matter who the band is. I hadn't heard of Holy Ghost!, but caught the last two songs of their set and enjoyed what I heard. I'm not usually very good about classifying music, but I got a vibe similar to The Killers and could imagine this being a band that becomes quite popular in the future, although probably not in the sector of music I usually listen to. When they headline MSG one day, I'll have to remind myself that I should have been following their rise more closely. Brooklyn Bowl was still quite full and both the bar and restaurant were packed, so despite wanting an order of their delicious fried chicken and my only beer of the night, I decided to move on as I was starting to wear down and get tired. With my last two shows of the night being late night shows, I knew I had some time so I took my time walking to the subway and give myself some time to reflect, like I think most of us do on New Year's Eve. 2012 was the best and worst of my 31 years so far, so my trip back to Manhattan from Brooklyn was filled with thinking about both of those things. As I observed many people heading home from their nights, I don't think I was the only one. New Year's Eve night, more so than any other night, is one where people either celebrate their good year, or celebrate that their bad year is over.
|Holy Ghost! by Adam McCullough|
I was somewhere in the middle and hoped that the good things of 2012 would grow in 2013 and the bad would fade away, but I knew the first few months of 2013 would be tough for me, so as I left the subway at 14th and 6th Ave for the short walk to the Blue Note, I decided to continue to live in the moment and get ready for show seven of the night, up and coming soul artist Nigel Hall.
|Nigel Hall and Alecia Chakour by Adam McCullough|
Nigel Hall, part of the Royal Family (Soulive, Lettuce) had a great 2012, having played consistently with Soulive, the Warren Haynes Band and I believe a stint with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Nigel was joined by the wonderful Alecia Chakour, Adam Smirnoff and a bassist and drummer that I did not know. Nigel sounded great on the baby grand piano and Alecia sounded as soulful as always. On the last song before I had to leave, Adam Smirnoff had a great solo and played off very well with the drummer, all of which were having a great time with the crowd at the Blue Note, which is usually somewhat tame, but at a late night soulfest on New Years Eve, there was a large contingent who decided they were dancing, even if that's not what usually happens at the Blue Note. While one of the most well known venues in the city and maybe the world, I always find the Blue Note to be cramped and crowded, which it was for this show as well, but when the music is as good as Nigel and his band was putting out, you tend not to notice your surroundings as much.
My last stop of the night was back to MSG, although this time to the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, for the Disco Biscuits. By the time I got there it was almost 3am and I have to admit I was exhausted. My contact with the Biscuits also didn't have a photo pass for me, so I was only able to shoot from the seats, which meant I would only get a couple shots of the stage and crowd and that's it. The only other time I've seen the Disco Biscuits was at the 2003 Jammy Awards, also here at the Theatre at MSG. I enjoyed their short set that night and as I walked around trying to get some shots of the great light show accompanying the music, I was wishing I wasn't so tired so I could enjoy the music as much as the crowd in the theatre. But the night was catching up with me, and I only got to hear about 15 minutes of some good music before the Biscuits took their last set break of the night, but I wasn't hanging around for the 330am-430am set like the hundreds of other fans still loving every note the Biscuits were putting out. I had reached my goal of eight shows in one night and it was time to head home. Although a stop at the local diner for some chocolate chip pancakes was my way of celebrating my goal being reached.
|The Disco Biscuits by Adam McCullough|
JamBase | New Year's Eve
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