Well, who’d a thunk it. After about six months of shooting pictures at The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ, I get my own photo exhibit!
So, lots of people were asking me the “back story” on how it all came about. And since I’m always talking to those people while the band is playing, it’s kind of hard to really answer that question. So here goes.
About 18 months ago, my wife Dee got back into singing after a long hiatus to have a family. So her voice teacher suggested that she ease her way back on stage by trying some karaoke, of which there are several of the traditional karaoke nights at local bars. Nothing against them, they’re probably lots of fun for the singers. But it leaves a little to be desired if you’re not singing.
Then we found The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ. Red Bank was voted one of the hippest towns in NJ awhile back (I think it ranked third). And The Downtown has to be one of the hippest places in Red Bank. So of course, that’s where Arlene’s Famous Rock and Roll Karaoke Band would plant itself for the last several years.
When Dee discovered a live band, she took to it like white on rice (sorry for the cheesy simile). Of course, that was followed by pictures on Facebook. And nothing personal against anyone shooting pictures on Facebook, but they just weren’t good enough for me- point and shoot or cellphone cameras leave so much to be desired when you have a dark room and stage lighting. These cameras just can’t keep up without blasting the scene with a little tiny flash. I tried it myself, with similar results.
Blurry, lens flare, bad lighting, and sooo many other things wrong with this picture. In the world of photography, this is a snapshot.
My DSLR to the rescue.
Pulled out the Nikon and a simple 50mm f/1.8 lens and got this:
Now that’s a little more like it!
So in an effort to improve on this, I decided to hang out at Rock n Roll Karaoke a few times a month, shoot lots of pictures of lots of people with different lenses and see where it went. During this time, I noticed that The Downtown would occasionally exhibit an artist’s work on the brick wall upstairs. Then the lightbulb went on! Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the best pictures printed and hung on that wall? How cool would it be for everyone to show up and see their Rock Star Fantasy moment on stage? Hey, I always wanted to be a rock star when I was a kid. But like my other fantasy of hitting the game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series, I wasn’t blessed with the talent or desire to carry that particular fantasy through to the end.
But, lots of people tell me I can take pictures. And I remember reading all those rock and roll magazines when I was a kid (is Circus Magazine still around?) and a few of the photos reminded me of those old magazines. Cool. Maybe there’s something to this. So I kept shooting. And shooting. And about 3000 pictures later I was getting stuff like this….
… and this….
I put a bunch of pictures on Facebook and got nothing but positive feedback.
So Dee approached The Downtown and we showed them some sample prints… and they loved the idea! Then we heard about MAD Wednesday. MAD stands for Music, Art, and Drafts, and the second anniversary of MAD Wednesday was June 27th… The perfect night!
We printed about 40 or so images and had them mounted on foamcore. The next challenge was hanging them on a brick wall. The wall at The Downtown has holes, crumbling mortar, and nails, screws, and molly bolts sticking out from everywhere. So the challenge was getting a method to mount the prints. Well, not so easy believe it or not. It took several weeks to find the proper method- which turned out to be flat, plastic picture hangers with adhesive on one side, and a small cutout near the top. And all the arts and crafts places had them- like two packages each. I needed 41. A trip over to Colorest Art Supply in Red Bank netted us the mother load. Crisis averted (two days before the opening!) Add a bit of velcro to the back of each print to prevent the wobbles on the wall when the AC kicked on, and we were set. It took us about 2-1/2 hours to mount all the pictures. (And, just a note, we used EVERY single nail, screw, and hole in that wall to mount the 41 prints. There would have been no room for #42!)
So, on to MAD Wednesday. A bunch of bands were playing at The Downtown, including our buddy Poppa John Bug and the Jam Band who was doing a release of his new EP, “Before and After- Chapter 1.” What a great night! The bands were awesome, the pictures looked great with stage light reflecting off them, and the drafts were nice and cold!
But the big test was going to be the next night. Thursday. Rock and Roll Karaoke- that’s what this was really all about. How would everyone like their picture?
Let’s just say the feedback was pretty darn good. It was really cool watching some people who brought their friends all looking up and pointing at the pictures… and smiling! I sat there in amazement as person after person seemed to love their picture! Awesome.
I’d like to send out a special thank you to Chris Masi at The Downtown for thinking our idea was so great and supporting us and giving us anything we needed to make it happen.
So, stop by The Downtown Cafe, 10 West Front St., Red Bank, NJ between now and July 11th and you’ll get to see how good New Jersey really looks….