The Portishead Experience - ATP & NY, 2011

How can I even start? In the mid to late 90's my little sister and I listened to very different music. She would go off on 3/4/5 day raves somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the south of France, listening to all sorts of techno/hardcore/dub/goa/drum and bass. I would mainly be found in goth clubs dancing the night away, or at an extreme metal show. Neither of us were very mainstream, and still aren't today, and although I would sometimes jump in a car and go off to find a rave with her, or she would come out dancing with me, there really was no musical common ground between us at that time. Until Portishead and Massive Attack. That musical middle ground between the two of us, bands we could both love equally.

I had never seen Portishead live until this week. And this week I had the amazing opportunity to see them FOUR times. Twice at ATP thanks to my wonderful friends Dana and all of the Thought Forms band members, and twice here in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom, thanks again to my Charlie, Deej and Guy from Thought Forms. They all made a dream come true not just once, but four times. Every single time Portishead played I was blown away by the amazing sound, by the fact that they may just sound even better live than they do recorded (and yes, this IS possible), and by the effect they still have on me. I had goosebumps, cried, laughed, jumped up and down, felt immensely sad and then immensely happy and wanted to tell all my friends I loved them. All within the 90 minutes they played each night. Over and over again, all kinds of different emotions and feelings with every song, every note.

Seeing the same band four times in a row, especially with a setlist that remains very similar on each night could have been a little boring towards the end, but not with Portishead. I was mesmerized from the first note of the first performance to the last note of We Carry On last night. I feel so lucky and privileged that I was able to attend all of these shows...

It was wonderful to see how the crowd reacted in the same way as I did: some had tears pouring down their faces, others were dancing, singing along and just really enjoying the amazing show. I already knew Beth Gibbons had one of the most beautiful, powerful and emotional voices I have ever heard, but live it is so much better than you can imagine. During the stripped down live version of Wandering Star, with just Beth on vocals, Adrian Utley on guitar and Geoff Barrow on bass, Beth's voice sounds so haunting it still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it. I do wish they had played It's A Fire, just once, because that is the song I send to my sister whenever I feel sad, but honestly, the setlist is amazing enough as it stands.

I don't have the exact setlist for each night, but you are sure to hear most, if not all of the following songs if you are going to see them on this tour: Silence, Nylon, Hunter, Mysterons, The Rip, Sour Times, Magic Doors, Wandering Star, Machine Gun, Over, Glory Box, Chase The Tear, Cowboys, Threads, Roads, We Carry On (if you are front row you may even be lucky enough to give Beth a hug during this last song).

I can't wait for my little sister to see them when they get to California, just so that she can have exactly the same experience I did.

And this is why I love music so damn much, for this amazing effect it has on me. I really don't have anything else to say, as I want to be able to keep some of the experience close to my heart, so just listen, and enjoy.

Dana (distortion) Yavin – firecracker music photographer!

I’ve wanted to write about Dana for a while now, and I think this is the perfect time to do it, because I feel that this time next year she won’t be anywhere near as available to sit down with me and answer my questions. This talented lady is going places, and fast!

Dana is one of my closest friends, and we have been through a lot together. We are both strong-willed, opinionated and emotional, and we always find strength and comfort in our friendship. I feel grateful to have Dana in my life today. I will never forget that our first conversation was the life-changing discussion of whether Keith Richards was shaggable or not (Dana no; me yes). Anyway, let’s not get off topic, or I will spend hours trying to entertain you with all of the different antics Dana and I have got up to over the years. This piece is about Dana and her talent, and how I have had the privilege to see her not only discover her passion, but also work her backside off for it.

Kim Gordon

Although in the form of an interview, this is more of a conversation, so please forgive me if I wander off into memories and describe a few funny stories along the way.

When I asked Dana what prompted her to go into music photography she explained that it was all really a chain of events. She was already working in film and music videos, and was on tour with Gogol Bordello, filming their shows. One of the venues had a no video camera policy, so instead of sitting that show out she picked up her point and shoot and began snapping away, and just loved the feeling she got from photographing the band in motion. Once she got home she purchased her first DSLR (and ended up getting it for free thanks to her credit card points – so the banks aren’t actually bullshitting about those points adding up!). Her next photography gig was the New York Dolls, and from there onwards Dana hasn’t stopped.

Dana and I share a huge passion for music. I’ve been to more live shows with Dana than I have with anyone else, and she understands music in the same way as me. The sound, the emotion, the crowd – altogether makes for an energy that you can’t really translate or reproduce elsewhere. And Dana captures this essence and gives it to us in the form of a picture.

The Flaming Lips

Dana does not consider her work as a job. It’s a passion, a dream come true. How many of us spend years looking for what we do with our lives and never really feel that we accomplish this? I know for a fact that Dana feels blessed by the fact that she is living her own dream, but I also know that she worked so hard to get where she is right now. Once she had discovered that music photography was the path she wanted to explore and make into her own journey, she started to build her portfolio up, continuing to go to as many shows as she could, but now bringing her camera along every time, and hustling for photo passes as much as possible. I don’t know many people who have the guts that Dana does. She never relied on any of her connections in the music industry (who often notoriously become absentee friends when you ask them for a simple favour), only on her own pure willpower and ability to never give up. So the band’s PR company isn’t getting back to you? Why not go straight to the manager and see what he or she can do for you? If Dana has taught me one thing it’s to never, ever give up, and to fight for what you want. The old saying is true – you are never going to get what you want if you just sit back and wait for it to happen.

Once Dana had created a portfolio she was happy with she shopped it out to different publications. Brooklyn Vegan published her Wanda Jackson and Jack White photographs, realized what a talented photographer she was, and she has since become a regular contributor to this popular online magazine. You just need to go to the Brooklyn Vegan site to see how much stunning work she does for them, and she’s also extremely vocal in how much she appreciates them, and for giving her the chance to shine. Dana also works directly for bands and PR companies, and also contributes to another awesome music blog (and a personal favourite of mine), Fucking Nostalgic.

Dana embodies passion – she lives to shoot live music. When I asked her what she felt when she was up there in the photo pit taking photos of different artists, her response was simply “passion”. Photography is art, not just a desire to take photographs of famous people, or a way to pay the bills. Dana explained how she would go to shows feeling physically ill and leave rejuvenated, shooting live music brings a type of excitement that just grows as the shows goes on. She feels like she “comes back to life whenever the show starts”.

Eugene Hütz

Dana’s least favourite question is one that everyone tends to ask (especially other photographers in the business): “what camera and lenses do you use?”. Dana is all about the style and the creation of the shot rather than the camera itself. Of course, having a really good camera is going to help you get a sharper shot than a cheap point and shoot, but in the end there are so many music photographers out there with amazing cameras. Dana’s main aim has always been to create her own personal and unique style, to create photos that tell a whole story within one shot, to capture the emotion of a moment in time. When I personally look at Dana’s photos I feel that I am right there with her. I can breathe the air, hear the voices and the music, and feel the energy and the power of music. Dana’s photos have SOUL, which is exactly what makes her photography stand out from other people’s. That soul and passion and drive portrayed in one simple shot. That’s what art is.

One thing about music photography is you never really know what to expect. You can’t stage a shot, or ask a musician to strike a pose again. You need to have a six sense and know when you are going to get the best shot on the spur of a second. Dana spent a lot of time learning how to use her camera, how to control certain elements, like the lighting and the exposure, practicing what works and what doesn’t work for her on different bands, teaching herself new tricks, renting all types of different lenses to see which ones fit her work the best, trying out all different types of shots on her camera but admits, that in the end you can give yourself all the tools to succeed, but you never can know what to expect once the band starts to play. And that’s the key to enjoying her profession: the complete excitement of the unknown.

I asked Dana what type of advice she would give to budding music photographers. Her response? “Get a good health insurance!” – that photo pit can be a dangerous place! I’ve seen Dana get hit by an empty glass right on her head during a Motörhead concert, and not even stop for a minute. Or get pushed around in the middle of a mosh pit while trying to capture the crowd’s energy in motion. Dana’s not very tall (to say the least), but she has more energy than your tallest metalhead around. Festivals are the worst places for short, women photographers, but she’s never seen a hurdle she can’t climb yet. High stage and drummer tucked away in the back? May just have to climb up on this stack of amps to get that shot then! That ability to just go the extra mile has got her some more than memorable shots.

Never take no for an answer. Ever. You can’t be insecure or shy in this business, you have to push your way to the front and get that shot. And THAT shot may be any shot – so don’t lose any chances and go in there and get it. I’ve seen Dana work so hard to get what she wants, long after everyone gives up. Not too long ago we were both at the Flaming Lips/Weezer show at Jones Beach. There was a strict 3 songs for each band policy, but the tour manager messed up and the photographers only got to shoot the first three Flaming Lips songs, and were kicked out of the pit afterwards. Coupled with that, it was an outside show and the rain was pretty much torrential (no exaggeration, I had to empty the water out of my boots I was so drenched). Dana didn’t let up with security, long after the other photographers gave up and went home. They finally gave in, found the tour manager who arranged it so that she could go back into the pit and remain there for the rest of the show. “My photo pass says Weezer on it so I am not leaving without photographing Weezer!!”. That dedication and perseverance made it so that not only was Dana one of the only ones to get shots of the entire show; she also shot some of the best photos of her career.

Richard Ashcroft

Other important advice she gives is to know your camera, whatever camera you may be using, and use it. Try the manual settings out and play with them, see what you can do. Create your own style and don’t always count on the automatic settings to get you through the show. Experiment, be adventurous! In Dana’s own words: “explore, have confidence, develop your talents, learn all the time. If you are really passionate about becoming a music photographer, try things, screw up, try again and get better. ” In my opinion this advice should go for everything in life – we only live once so fuck it, get out there and be passionate!!!

Some of her favourite shoots: Weezer and Flaming Lips, Paul McCartney (show of a lifetime), Jane’s Addiction and Suede. Bands that she will never be able to shoot but wishes she could? The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. But knowing Dana… Everything is possible if you go for it. I’m sure by this time next year she will have created a time machine and captured The Beatles in 1966.


Quick links for more information:

Distortion Films - Dana's website

Distortion Dust - Dana's Blog

All photos posted within this article by Dana (distortion) Yavin .Copyright ©.All rights reserved.

Happy Monday! Nick Cave & Warren Ellis LOVE

Just because it's Monday and most people are sitting at their desks now hating life (not me!).

I took shot this at the Grinderman show at the Best Buy Theater on November 14th 2010. One of the best shows of last year. I know I have posted about this before, but I'm obsessed with these guys, so you will just have to deal with it :)

For some amazing photography from that night, please have a look at super photographer Dana (distortion) Yavin's collection HERE

In the next few days I will be posting an interview with Dana - look out for it!


Carl Cox Mixer app - shooting the commercial

Back in 1996 my sister and our friend Daphné wouldn't stop going on about Carl Cox spinning at our local techno/house room in one of the nightclubs surrounding Grenoble (CO2 was the name of the room). I even think that they dragged me along, and I probably danced my ass off when I was there (even though I was the token goth on the techno dance floor, nothing has really changed there!).

Fast-forward to today and I had the honour to not only meet the Techno/House DJ legend, but also star in a commercial with him!
My close and extremely talented friend Dana Distortion was shooting a commercial for the Carl Cox Mixer app, developed by Musicsoft Arts. The commercial took place in a room at the Thompson LES (rockstar haven apparently), and included about 12 of us dancing our asses off around Carl Cox himself, who DJ'd for us using his iPad. SO COOL! He's SO nice and down to earth. This guy literally DJs to hundreds of thousands of people at a time, and we pretty much got a free show. i seriously had a blast, and wish I could do this type of production more often.
So much fun!

Here's the man himself, with Dana, Mariné and me :)

Peter Murphy @ Highline Ballroom, NYC, 04/02/2011

I must say... this has been a great week for shows. LCD Soundsystem last Tuesday, The Strokes with, yes I am not joking, Elvis Costello on Friday and then, the one I was most looking forward to, Peter Murphy last night. I'm not going to go into the gushing Peter-Murphy-is-my-husband mode like I was yesterday (Facebook and Twitter friends were subject to that enough already), but I LOVE the man. From the early days of Bauhaus, to looking forward to buying his new album, Ninth, when it is released this year. I'm the person who has a limited edition Resurrection Tour print hanging on my bedroom wall (thanks Michelle Hel - one of the best birthday gifts ever!!). I'm the person who listens to Dark Entries and starts immediately dancing, wherever I may happen to be. So, yes, Peter Murphy and me go a long way back.

(For those who don't get the "husband" thing it's a long-standing joke. I have quite a few husbands, some are dead now, but they all happen to be famously talented and amazing musicians).

Jessie Mayer (Official website) was added as a last minute opening act. Beautiful voice, just her and her guitar on stage. I need her album.

Livan (Official website) was on next, and so much fun - great band and showmanship... And that DRUMMER... He was SO FUCKING GOOD. I came home and downloaded the last Livan album, so we will see if they are as good as I thought they were last night.

And then Peter... I was the first one in the building so literally front row, slightly to the left of the mike stand. Yes, I looked into his eyes several times... Those eyes...

He's still got such great presence on stage, less austere and "dark" as he appeared in the 80's, more approachable, a lot more interactive with the crowd and really appeared to be enjoying himself, as much as all of the adoring fans watching him were. He's very witty and funny, loved talking about his tits and how we should all touch them... My favourite quote of the night "Oh my GAWD, the King of Goth has gone erotic! This will be ALL OVER Youtube by tomorrow!". At one point he pushed Dana's camera away from her face, grinned at her and then pinched her on the nose - I never knew what he was going to do after that...

My favourite part was when Strange Kind of Love morphed into Bela Lugosi's Dead, with Peter staring right into the white spotlight, and looked uncannily like Bela Lugosi in Dracula... Amazing.
I could go on gushing forever, but I love him as much as I did 15+ years ago, and I will continue to do so. The setlist was fantastic - I just wish they hadn't had a curfew and therefore hadn't had to forego the last two songs in the second encore. Maybe next time he comes this way...

The show made me immensely HAPPY. Best show I have been to so far this year :).

The pictures were taken with my iPhone, but Dana took some really really good ones, so I will post a link to them as soon as she confirms they are up (link to her website HERE)

Grinderman @ Best Buy Theater NYC 11/14/2010

I NEED to blog about this show, but I have been having the week from hell at work, and haven't even had a chance to really sleep (literally), let alone do anything else outside of working. It's all worth it though, I hope.

Anyway, back to real important news. Grinderman. Nick Cave. MY HUSBAND Nick Cave. Ha! In my eyes Nick Cave can do no wrong. Musically, lyrically, physically etc etc. I have loved him for so long that I can't even remember the time that I disliked him (and yes, I did, back in my very young years when my Aunt Louise kept going on about how amazing he was). I love him in all of his incarnations, The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Nick Cave the Novelist, Nick Cave the Poet, Nick Cave the Screenwriter, Nick Cave the movie soundtrack score writer. Ok I need to stop. Let's just say that I am obsessed with the guy.
Oh I nearly forgot - he's even in my second favourite movie of all time, Wings of Desire.

Enough. You all get the idea. He's a genius and I LOVE HIM. I don't even have one favourite song or album - ask me that question and you will get about 20 answers, depending on my mood, the time of the day, if I am hungry or thirsty or bored or happy...
I'm blown away whenever I see him, be it on stage in one of his bands, walking down the street, or reading his writing. He has such a presence and a magnetism...

Anyway, the show was of course, amazing, and I still feel like it was very surreal. Dana and I were pretty much at the front (we would have been right in the front had I not been stuck answering work emails until the last minute), and there were moments that Nick Cave was literally standing over me, staring into my eyes (I mean of course, what else would he be doing?!). Grinderman take me back to The Birthday Party days, to the tongue-in-cheek Nick Cave, to the Nick Cave who likes to ROCK and have a blast. 90 minutes of pure (smart) rock n roll. Nothing is bad or goes wrong in the presence of my husband.

I can't forget to mention Warren Ellis, who is another genius - Bad Seed, brilliant and super eccentric violinist. Another amazing presence on stage.

I filmed one song for my brother (who happens to have inherited my obsession):

I also took some pictures

HOWEVER, my friend Dana Yavin is one of the best photographers I know, and excels in musical photography. She happens to be a lot shorter than me AND only had her point and shoot on her, and despite all of that took a PERFECT set of photos, that pretty much portray the who experience that the show was. Please check out her pictures here: Grinderman by Dana (Distortion) Yavin
(Feel free to browse through her other selections - she has some amazing shots of some amazing bands).

I'm going to stop gushing right now and will leave you to look at the shots. If you get a chance to see them do not miss it. You will be disappointed if you do.