NonCOMM 2016

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NonCOMM 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year, right?

At least, it certainly feels like that, for those of us that work in public radio. The middle of May signifies the approach of the annual NonCOMMvention — a three-day conference and festival for professionals who work in the noncommercial radio sphere. Akin to a mini-SXSW or CMJ Music Showcase, NonCOMM packs 30 bands into 3 days. But with a much smaller crowd, it should be less crazy, right? Uhh, yeah — sure. Hosted by the World Café Live's two stages, the convention is almost like a ping-pong game of running between the upstairs and downstairs stages to catch each act.

NPR Music's Bob Boilen

With live performances making up the vast majority of the three days, that's what I found myself shooting the most of the time. Each year brings a diverse and absolutely stacked lineup — and this year's was no exception, boasting everyone from legends like Bonnie Raitt to hometown heroes such as Kurt Vile. 

One of my absolute favorite parts of getting to be at NonCOMM each year is interacting with the performing artists outside of the live music space, and getting to create portraits that capture the essence of the bands or individuals. This year, I had the amazing opportunity to work with three artists, including indie rock wunderkind Will Toledo -- better known as Car Seat Headrest. After catching their soundcheck upstairs, I knew I wanted to get a portrait in the books for posterity's sake. This band wont stay underground for long. Playing on Friday, the last day of NonCOMM, they were expected to draw one of the larger crowds, as their set coincided with the release of their first major-label album Teens of Denial. In a lot of ways, the record — Toledo's whole musical career is a coming-of-age story. I was blown away to learn that he's 23, the same age as I am. He commands himself with a gravitas I was unprepared for, though after heading outside to a park nearby, he and his bandmates loosened up a bit. I wanted the portrait to capture both sides of a group of friends torn between youth and whatever is next.

Car Seat Headrest

While filming two new videos for my series The Key Presents, I was able to work with both Joseph and Esmé Patterson. The haunting harmonies and high-light during the Joseph session led me naturally to a high-contrast blackout portrait, while the charming Esmé Patterson coyly gave me one of my favorite poses I've had from an artist yet.

Joseph

Esmé Patterson

So now the most wonderful time of the year has come and gone. The photos are edited, the articles published, the artists off to the next gig. Post-NonCOMM sadness is in full-swing, but at least we've got the XPoNential Music Festival to look forward to, later this summer. The other most wonderful time of the year.

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The Key Presents: Saintseneca

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The Key Presents: Saintseneca

“I write all the songs that I want to write, so why would I need another band?”
— Zac Little, of Saintseneca

While many of his bandmates moonlight in other projects — All Dogs, Yowler, The Sidekicks, to name a few, these are not unknown bands in the slightest — Zac feels fulfilled in one sphere. One whole cloth.

It’s a philosophy that Zac takes into his songwriting, as well. Anything can be profound, everything is valuable in the right light. A question like “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” might seem inane, but in Little’s hands it finds meaning beyond measure.

Zac Little

Finding nowhere ideal to film in the post-industrial ruins, we called it a day on the Viaduct. The stairwell of Underground Arts played a low-key, yet sufficient host to the quiet crusade of Saintseneca’s emotional bars, channeled through Little’s uke and voice. This is The Key Presents: Saintseneca.

This article originally appeared on WXPN's The Key.

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Foxing

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Foxing

In 2014, Foxing came out of absolutely nowhere to have one of my favorite records of the year — the brutally real The Albatross. After seeing them play live late last year with Philly boys Modern Baseball, I knew they'd long be on my list of bands to not miss.

When this year rolled around, and my favourite band mewithoutYou announced that they'd be having Foxing on their tour as primary support, I knew that was an unbeatable show. But no stop here in Philadelphia!

Checking the tour schedule, I had an epiphany. In July, I would be road-tripping to Wisconsin for the Eaux Claires music festival — and one of the tour dates fell in Kentucky, the day before we were slated to arrive. Detouring a little south, my friend and I stopped for the night in Newport, Kentucky to catch the show at the Southgate House Revival — an old church converted into a venue.

Conor Murphy, Foxing's lead singer and frontman, is an absolute animal when they're performing live. Wild with passion, he tears about the stage, stomping and flailing, mic in hand. Murphy proves tough to photograph, but the raw emotion is almost palpable.

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Trevor & Alex

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Trevor & Alex

Do you know why we’re here yet?
— Trevor

I got the call about two weeks ago. "Hey man, can you do me a favor?" Trevor is an old friend of mine, and the way I see it, I probably owe him one. Even if I didn't, I would anyway. "Sure," I said. "What do you need?

As it turns out, Trev asked me to secretly photograph him proposing to his wonderful girlfriend — Alex, another old friend. How could I say no to that?

Travelling to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, Trevor and I figured out where I needed to be to get a prime shot. I arrived early and staked out the spot, picked a lovely little Pine tree to hide in and waited.

They came along the path (out of bounds and quite literally off the beaten path) we had scouted, and Trev led Alex up onto a dune where they looked out at the Atlantic together. "Do you know why we're here yet?" he quietly asked Alex, holding her hands.

She hadn't, but then she did.

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