Life on Tour: The Florida Swamps

December 21, 2009

While on tour with Modest Mouse in Florida, Pat learned that bugs are closeted rock stars, and swamps make for fantastic music venues.

During a tour, off days can be few and far between, and they usually involve driving. I love this because it means we actually get to see some of the landscape. Today, we experienced Florida. I grew up in Wisconsin and now live in London so seeing a Floridian landscape was a thrill. Palm trees coupled with those great fluffy clouds added a really nice touch to the photos I took through the bus’ tinted windows. At one point, we drove down this one lane road and ended up at the venue, which seemed to be in the middle of a swamp. The bugs seemed to be making as much noise as I knew the band would. As it turned out it rained that day which stopped me from going out in the woods too much. I did some editing, uploading and got ready for the show that night.

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Being able to roam freely and photograph from any position in a venue while a band is playing is truly a privilege, especially if the band is Modest Mouse. I have seen Modest Mouse close to a thousand times. They are my favorite band to photograph live, and I never get bored with the challenge. Every night is different, and I have learned to expect the unexpected.

I don’t take the access Modest Mouse gives me for granted, I don’t shoot without a lot of thought and respect for the band, crew and audience. I’ve been called a ninja for my creeping abilities; I figure the more I slink around the stage, the more unique my shot will be.

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The live shot typically captures the spontaneity of Modest Mouse. With earplugs fully wedged in, I knelt behind Isaac’s amp, which is far from the quietest place on Earth. I waited until they were between songs and the lights dimmed for a moment, and then quickly ducked in between the rack of guitars and drums. Being careful not to trip over any chords, I was able to grab a fantastic shot of Isaac. The absolute last thing I would ever want to do is unplug a Modest Mouse concert, and luckily I didn’t!

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After the show finished, we headed back towards the bus, ready for some sleep and to hit the road. Now it was pitch black and the bugs were almost louder than the band had been earlier in the night. The rain stopped and we had a plenty of time before we hit the road. So I thought it was a good time to have a walk into the dark and see what I could find in the Florida swamp. I was hoping to find something interesting, or at least something weird.

It was pitch black and I just kept firing my flash off, hoping I might catch a Crocodile having a snooze. The camera captured complete darkness over and over again, but the deafening sound of the bugs is what I remember the most.

PS: Pat’s first book of photography, ‘Silent Pictures,’ was released through NYC’s Akashic Books and can be ordered from www.patgraham.org. His second book, ‘Instrument,’ is being published by Chronicle Books and is due for release in Spring 2011.

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