Update on the ears

I thought I’d should put in an update on the sudden deafness of my right ear. Been to see the specialist again last week and had yet another audio scope test. To my not so big surprise I was still deaf on the right side. Had a chat with the specialist and he has no idea why. If my hearing was damaged, he’d expect for the eardrum or hairs to be damaged to some degree, but the inner ear looks ‘beautiful’ (then again, beauty is an inner thing, isn’t it?).

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Rufus Wainwright in De Oosterpoort

Rufus Wainwright had quite a show in Groningen last night. It takes a lot of guts in my opinion to perform solo on a huge stage. There’s no band sound to hide behind and the chemistry between the artist and audience is fragile. I’d already seen an exelent solo performance by Belgian Eva de Roovere, but on the 20th of November Rufus Wainwright showed to be a showman in class all of his own.

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Eva de Roovere in De Oosterpoort

Last night I went to see Eva de Roovere in De Oosterpoort. The concert was opened by Lennaert Maes, who did a great job, great and funny songs, lots of humour and literary poetry of the highest standers (nudge nudge wink wink) got the audience well warmed up for Eva.

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Sophie Hunger in De Oosterpoort

I seem to remember I was to take it easy for a while concerning the hearing problems I’m having, but I just can’t help myself, there are so many fantastic concert in De Oosterpoort this month that I just can’t stay away from all of them. And that brought me back to Groningen again yesterday. This time for Swiss Sophie Hunger.

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The Black Keys in De Oosterpoort

On November 11 The Black Keys played in De Oosterpoort,  well… they rocked De Oosterpoort. The even was sold out completely and well deserved. The Monroes, a garagerock band from ‘rockcity’ Groningen, served as opening-act. They played a great set and did well warming up the audience to the main act (wanted to take a coy of their album with me when I left, but the booth was temporarily deserted as they were checking out The Black Keys themselves. Oh well, another time then)

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And what a main act. The Black Keys shook De Oosterpoort to its foundations. The first part of the gig features only Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney -The Black Keys- playing mainly older songs (including my favourite Stack Shot Billy). The duo play rocksolid and the sound is awesome. When the songs from their latest album are played in the second part of the gig Dan and Partick are backed up by Bass and a beautiful Farsifa organ. Oh… and a huuuuge discoball, gotta mention that. The extra instruments fit in well, but don’t take any of the attention away that Dan and Patrick so fully deserve, their on-stage chemistry makes for a phenomenal groove that is fully taken in by the audience. The concert is absolutely fantastic

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I read a review in the paper this morning that stated “The Black Keys: Phenomenal bluesrock for a young generation” and they’re spot on, although I’m willing to bet that the ‘older’ generation loved this gig just as much.

Herbie Hancock in De Oosterpoort

I was extremely pleased when I saw the email yesterday confirming the photo-request for Herbie Hancock. I mean: Herbie Hancock, the man who was in Miles David’s band, but who is also most definitely a Jazz legend by his own making. His latest effort is the “Imagine Project”, the tour that landed him in Groningen last Monday.

While the “Imagine Project” album features a range of artists, these can of course not also follow Herbie on tour. Their place is taken by Kristina Train who is given the task to perform the vocal duties on songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine, Don’t Give up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’. Not a light task at all. In between these songs Herbie and band played older Herbie Hancock originals and an impressive solo by Herbie on piano halfway.

But as to what I felt about the concert I’m split in two. On one hand I’m very much impressed by Herbie Hancock and the band. The performance is great, but that mostly goes for the original Jazz songs and pieces. The songs from the “Imagine Project” unfortunately failed to really touch me. It didn’t grab me, as much as I wanted them to. Also at some point there was a little to much tonal-scale-duelling, something we Dutch call “Jazz gefreubel”. So on one hand I’m very happy to have seen Herbie Hancock at work and am much impressed by some of the parts of the concert, on the whole it did not give me the same kind of wow-feeling I had when I saw Chick Corea with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White perform some time ago. But in the end I’m still extremely happy I got to see the man and heard the man.

I have two sets of photos. The first is a ‘basic’ set, but I thought that the photos of Herbie might also work well as black & whites, so I also added a small set of photos in black & white, some same and a few ‘new’ ones.

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And here the black & white set

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Wende in the Stadsschouwburg

Last night Wende came to the Stadsschouwburg for her theatrical tour. Combining the experiences from her theatre performances and clubtour she’s back in the theatres now with a fantastic new show, mainly based on her latest English album, but with the passion and intensity that she’s been known for back in her French chanson singing days.

Wende enters the venue through the audience and finds a pipe organ on stage. It provides the music for the first song after which the curtains are raised and the full band is unleashed. It’s Wende’s band from the clubtour extended with a string section. The band is contained in a circus ring -the circus that Wende conducts- and dressed to suit. The band is fantastic! Small when the songs are, but they’ll just as easily produce a wall of sound if you give them half a chance.

And Wende is simply being Wende: passionate, sensual, intense, funny, beautiful and in absolute control of every muscle of her body. She gracefully moves over the stage dancing and running. Her voice is just incredible; she can sound very fragile but when the songs get louder, her voice is very powerful and strong, I can’t get enough of it.

After some songs the band leaves the stage and Wende performs some songs on piano in a more intimate setting. In the end the band is back again and a backing chorus is added. The show is well paced, has up tempo songs and intimate, fragile songs. It is funny, moving and most of all incredibly good. I had a great evening and can’t wait to see Wende again, I just love her.

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Panorama photos in Groningen

I was hoping for a bit of sunshine today, but as that didn’t happen I went to Groningen anyway to at least try some panorama photos and have an idea for locations and how to work them. Walking around I got three locations before it started to rain. I walked around a bit more hoping it would clear up, but as that didn’t happen, I went back home to work on the photos I had.

I was very happily surprised to see the amount of detail in the images that the 5D mkII delivers. You can zoom into the finished images so much and the image stays beautifully sharp and focussed.

Today was partially a test and I will do it again on a Sunday when the weather’s better. A blue sky (with a cloud here and there) looks a lot better than that white/grey background I had today. But on the whole I’m very happy with the results

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Flux in Vera

After I left the Steve Vai + NNO concert, I headed for Vera where Groningen based band Flux (formed around Irene Wiersma) had their second CD-release evening of their new album ‘Pluimgewichten’ (the first one was in Paradiso/Amsterdam).

I first saw Flux a few years ago when they were one of the acts helping along the album presentation of Meindert Talma. Back then Flux were two ladies singing along to a backingtrack. The band has been through several musical phases and bandformats and has now surfaced as a great live band with Irene as the steady value of the band.

The evening was opened by poet Nic Castle. That was a bit of a surprise, but fun to see.

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After that Irene and her merry men took to the stage for their gig. I already knew some songs of their recently released EP ‘Held op sokken’ (Hero on socks), but here live, with a band, the songs grew in power. All songs are Dutch and have a definite poetic quality to them. I thought the concert was great.

As you can see in the gallery, for the buyers of the album a letter was added to the album apologising for a fault in the CD booklet (for translation see comments on the Flickr page). A new booklet was added and Irene made a very lovely letter of apology. All is forgiven :)

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Steve Vai + NNO in De Oosterpoort

It seems ages ago that I went to my last gig (The Eels, September 7th), but due to my hearing problems I had to take it easy and will have to for now. It meant I missed out on some fantastic gigs, which wasn’t very much fun, but then.. I only have one set of ears, so I better take it easy on them.

But although the doctor said I shouldn’t strain my ears with loud sounds, he didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to hear anything at all, so after nearly two months without gigs, climbing the walls and going completely nuts on seeing gigs go by that I had my heart set on, I decided that a little music should be possible and Steve Vai playing with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO) was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

I was very happy to see that a photography-pass was easily arranged. When I got to the venue -about an hour before the doors would open- the queue was already nearly outside the building. Busy evening. I got the photo-pass and joined the queue. Eventually the doors opened and the guards told me the usual: photography only the first three songs and no flash. I had my plans built around that. Two songs in the front, getting shots of Steve Vai and Steve + some of the orchestra and than the last song further back in the audience getting shots of the orchestra. But then the bad news hit. The photographers were informed that we would only get 5 minutes for photography. Later that was changed to 7 minutes. Oh well, I’d just have to focus on Steve Vai then.

Then the orchestra settled in and after that Steve Vai entered the stage. The first two/three minutes were spent with Steve conducting the orchestra (with his back to us) and also conducting the audience. Then he started playing with the orchestra and the song was over before I knew it. Darn… not many usable shots then. But when it’s over, it’s over.

I seated myself on the stairs back in the hall as all seats were sold out. So I managed to take in the rest of the first set without worrying about photography. It was fantastic. An impressive rhythm section with three of four extensive drumkits on various places on stage, a violin section, a cello section, horn section and what not. And Steve Vai in the midst of it all centre stage. Musically Steve is, I guess, the most logical choice. Like his once tutor Frank Zappa, Steve is a master in freaky rock music, permanent member of the G3 (Guitar Greatest) tours and played with so many artists besides having an impressive career of his own. But -also like Zappa- Steve is also keenly interested in orchestration and classical music. Both have written classical scores. Steve is also no stranger to playing with orchestra as he already played (and recorded) with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra back in 2007 (album: Sound Theory).

Now Steve Vai is back and this time with the NNO orchestra, for the Steve Vai Festival (four days in total). I attended the concert on Friday October 22nd. It started with three pieces played by Steve Vai. Opening with ‘Kill The Guy With The Ball’ with orchestra, then ‘The Murder’ played solo and then ‘Salamanders In The Sun’ with orchestra again. It was incredible, magical almost. A great blend between the electrical guitar and a full orchestra.

After that Steve left the stage and the full orchestra did the the same. The stage was reorganised and a piano was moved to the front of the stage. Mike Keneally was introduced to the audience. He rewrote some songs by Steve Vai for piano. While the idea may be interesting, I found the actual performance somewhat lacking substance. For me it just didn’t work on piano.

There was more after that. A performance of Yusperof on electric violin and another piece by Steve Vai and orchestra and then a full set of Steve Vai and orchestra after the break, but I left during Mike Keneally’s set to see another gig in Groningen. I was very much impressed by the combination of Steve Vai and the NNO, I just wish I’d have had a little more time for a more varied set of photos

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Canon 15mm

I completely forgot to mention I got my Canon 15mm fisheye back. I dropped it on the streed a good two months ago and it got repaired by TechRepair and workst like a treat again. Luckily the glass wasn’t damages and only a few parts were replaced. The first tests show the lens to be working as if nothing has happened. Only a few scratches on the outer body remind of the unfortunate incident.

Say what? Part 2

I had my second appointment with the specialist at the hospital today concerning my hearing problem. The medicine cure I did in the past few weeks didn’t really do much of anything and the blood-tests and the MRI scan did not show any physical problems. So unfortunately there’s not much to report. I’m to appear for my third appointment halfway november and to avoid loud noises till then.

That means I can start going to gigs again, but I’ll have to pick my gigs (so no ludicrously loud gigs for a while). I’ll pick that up next week and see what gigs I can start. Can’t wait to get my hands on some new concert-pics :)

Vintage cameras and iPhonography

I’ve added some photos to various locations on my sites. In the first place, having received some new cameras for my vintage camera collection I have took some photos of the cameras and added those to my site over here. I’ve also taken some photos with my vintage cameras, but as the films haven’t been fully filled just yet, I’ll have to wait a bit to get them developed. New to the collection are an Olympus Pen EE camera and an old Russion Zorki 4 camera. newer than the Zorki 1E I already had and it works a lot smoother. The Zorki 4 feels lovely in operation.

Besides the old there is also the new. I’ve started experimenting a bit with my iPhone as a camera. The results are very interesting. I was amazed at the quality of basic images, but the fun of the iPhone is fooling around with the various image editing programs. Hipstamatic as a LOMO application is great, but combining the Apple Camera app or ProHDR or ProCamera with applications such as FilmLab, Photoshop Express, PictureShow or ColorSplash makes for some amazing results. And the Flickr app makes is very easy to upload the photos to Flickr. So you ca do all the work withing the iPhone. That’s just amazing. I’ve uploaded my first results and started a set on Flickr to keep the results together in a group. The first few photos are available over here.

In other news: I have my next appointment with the doctor concerning my ears next Wednesday. Hopefully then I’ll know more about getting back into concert-photography. Will keep you updated on that.

Camera gear

I’ve updated my site a bit. I added the iPhone to the gear page. I know it’s not a camera like my Canon camera’s but it does take great snapshots and with the amount of applications available to the iPhone you can take fantastic vintage looking images. Personally I’m very much impressed by Hipstamatic, but also apps like Film Lab and Photoshop Express have some incredible possibilities.

Secondly I’ve added a new site. It’s not added to the sidebars yet, but I’m working on a list with the collection of ‘old’ cameras I have. For a sneak peak you can look over here. Changes will be made, photos of and by (when possible) will be added. For now it is ‘Under construction’.

The Eels at De Oosterpoort

Yesterday I got the see The Eels again, I was very excited about that. I’ve only once seen them before, a few years ago at the Take Root festival. Mark Everett was then touring with ‘Eels with Strings’ and I still had this romantic melancholic in my mind when thinking about The Eels (listening to the album Eels with Strings helps too). But boy was I in for a surprise. But that still to come. Opening for The Eels was just about as big a surprise to be honest.

Round half past eight a ventriloquist came onto the stage. And that’s not what you’re expecting when you go and visit a band. And  if the guy was any good or fun, it would have been entertaining at least, but Jeff Dunham (link) he was not. Not at all. He got a man and woman from the audience on stage as part of his act and I’m pretty sure everyone else thought the same as me; ‘thank God it’s not me’. Luckily it didn’t take too long and then the real opening act came on.

Alice Gold entered the stage solo, no band to back her up. Just her and an electric guitar and it sounded awesome, she’s a one-women rock act and is was just perfect. Well, almost… I was instructed that I was only allowed to take photos from the side of the stage, not middle in front and I constantly had a mic-stand between me and Alice, making a lot of images nearly impossible to shoot, but to my great luck when Alice backed away from the mic, she mostly was looking in my direction and that gave me some great shots. Musically I loved it and I do hope to see Alice on a tour of her own sometime. A must see

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After Alice Gold it was time for the main event: The Eels. Like I said musically I still had the melancholic version in my mind, but a view on the stage revealed that this was not very likely; no strings-location, no piano or anything. mark “E” Everett entered the stage with a full beard, wearing white overalls, a black bandanna and sunglasses. As usual with these gigs I’m only allowed to shoot the first three songs and no flash allowed. That’s not so much a problem, but when they also add the restriction that I’m only to shoot from the side of the stage, that makes it even harder to get some interesting images. The first song was played by Mark “E” Everett without any other band-members on stage and the second and third had an extra bearded guitarist on pedal steel guitar. After the third song I packed the camera’s back into the camera-bag and watched the rest of the band come on stage.

And what a band! I guess there are two requirements to enter The Eels. You gotta be able to play like heck and you have to have a beard. You could have fooled me that I was looking at ZZ Top! All members wore huge beards (even the drummer, guess it’s not ZZ Top then). And the sound! Good God, it was loud, rocking and pounding. Nothing like the “with strings” gigs, but a rough rocking band. Lots of old songs in completely different compositions, lots of new stuff and a bunch of covers thrown in. I watched most of the concert from the back balcony, enjoying the view of a packed main hall and a band playing for dear life. Fabulous gig! In the gallery you’ll also find three images with an overview shot of the venue. They’re not up to my normal quality, but as I just have an iPhone4 and was fooling around a bit with the camera options (normal camera and Hipstamatic software) and as I didn’t have much else than Mark Everett from the normal shots I though I’d throw a few of the iPhone it. I promise I won’t make a habit of it ;)

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