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.


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.