2015: A Year in Pictures

Hello, darlings. I hope you are having excellent holidays, or at least excellent days.

Normally this feature is just a year’s worth of shows – or a year and a bit – but I’m doing something a little different this time around. 2015 has been amazing, at times, and brutal, at others, and as I uploaded my images, it occurred to me that some of the silences had as much of an impact as the instances of joyful noise.

So, here it is: a year of pictures of rockstars, and some other things, too.

Book of Love, Terminal 5, New York, NY, Dec. 31, 2014

Andy Bell, Erasure, Terminal 5, New York, NY, Dec. 31, 2014

Kennedy (tuxedo) and Nikita (fluffball), dozing, New York, NY, Jan. 17, 2015

Nikita, 2001-Feb. 16, 2015

Kennedy, Feb. 28, 2015

Alina in the snow, March 1, 2015

Snow, birds, intrepid traveler, Brighton Beach, March 20, 2015

Fort Tryon Park/George Washington Bridge, Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Nick Morrison, Mumblr, Emerson House, Brooklyn, NY, April 24, 2015

IMG_6917 Mumblr,
Emerson House, Brooklyn, NY, April 24, 2015

Bonfire at the Mumblr show, Emerson House, Brooklyn, NY April 24, 2015

Flowering tree, Brooklyn, April 24, 2015

Kennedy, 1998-May 21, 2015

The beach at Corpus Christi, TX, June 27, 2015

Karma Killers, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

The Dirty Nil, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

Metro Station, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

Family Force 5, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

Black Veil Brides, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

Rivers Monroe, Warped Tour, Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

The beach at Jones Beach, July 11, 2015

Z Berg, the Studio at Webster Hall, New York, NY, July 21, 2015

Alex Greenwald, PHASES, the Studio at Webster Hall, New York, NY, July 21, 2015

Z Berg and Michael Runion, PHASES, the Studio at Webster Hall, New York, NY, July 21, 2015

Father John Misty, Central Park, New York, NY, August 5, 2015

Austin Plaine, Rockwood Music Hall, August 12, 2015

Plastic Cannons, Rockwood Music Hall, August 12, 2015

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH, Aug. 20, 2015

House band at the Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge, TN, Sept. 23, 2015

Patriotic finale, Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge, TN, Sept. 23, 2015

Elvis Presley at the pancake house, Pigeon Forge, TN, Sept. 24, 2015

Elvis Presley (impersonator) at the State Fair, Jackson, MS, Oct. 10, 2015

The Famous Maroon Band comes marching in, Starkville, MS, Nov. 14, 2015

Tombigbee River, Columbus, MS, Dec. 13, 2015

Miss Gay Oklahoma 2014, Rick’s Cafe, Starkville, MS, Dec. 15, 2015

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Graceland Too

This week, we do a little rewind as Jennifer shares her take on one of the more… exceptional places we visited on NTSIB’s Great Southern Roadtrip of 2010.


Graceland Too, Holly Springs, MS

If I could return to any one town from NTSIB’s Southern voyage last summer, it would be Holly Springs, home to, among other things, Graceland Too. NTSIB stopped by Graceland Too the day after visiting Graceland itself. We happened to arrive at the same time as two ladies from a Tupelo paper, which is how I learned about the concepts of “Birth Week” and “Death Week”, two of the major annual events in Elvis country. In somewhat belated honor of what would have been Elvis’ 76th birthday this past Saturday, here are some pictures from the experience:


Elvis Presley trading cards

The collection of Elvisiana at Graceland Too is the hard work of one man: Paul McLeod. He’s been collecting since 1956, and basically, if it involves Elvis Presley in any way, shape or form, he’s probably got it in his house. He also has hundreds of binders of Elvis-related news clippings, and maintains three televisions devoted to recording mentions of Elvis in popular media.


Photographs of Elvis Presley

The amount of visual information present is actually overwhelming. We only spent a couple of hours there, but I could easily have spent several days absorbing it all. Unlike Graceland – both a rigorously curated time-capsule and a genteel, if glittery, G-rated memorial to someone who lived an R-rated life – Graceland Too embraces all of the chaos and highs and lows of Elvis’ pop-cultural (after)life, from Reese’s Pieces boxes and curtains and rugs with Elvis’ face on them to stuffed toys that sing Elvis songs.


Flowers and other items left at Elvis’ grave

Also, dear readers, I must tell you: I’m an archivist by day, and I was as entranced by the volume and diversity of McLeod’s collection as I was by his methods of organization and preservation. I was very glad to hear some of it had already gone to the Smithsonian.


A corner of two of the four walls covered in Elvis Presley records

In addition to the massive collection inside the house, McLeod is also engaged in outdoor projects. The house changes color now and again – it’s been pink in the past, it was blue and white when we arrived – and there is what I think is a very special Jailhouse Rock exhibit under construction in the backyard, complete with a startlingly realistic representation of an electric chair.

In conclusion, I give you a snapshot of one of the highlights of the visit: Mr. McLeod, singing an Elvis song in his kitchen:


— Jennifer

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Graceland

On our Great Southern Roadtrip, we trekked over to Graceland, home to Elvis Presley and his family from 1957 until sometime after Elvis’ death in 1977, after we visited Sun Studio. Personally, I was underwhelmed and a little weirded out by the experience. To my mind, it was a sad comment on the deadening excess that too often accompanies the success of music that is born out of raw passion.

Jennifer has a different take on it, so in honor of Elvis week, we give you Graceland…


The first time I went to Graceland I was 17. It was during a particularly packed (and fraught) college visiting trip with my mother, an hour or two taken out to do something that probably wouldn’t result in mutual seething. At the time it seemed enormous and glittery and truly awe-inspiring, and I loved it. I got a small metal pink cadillac key-chain as a souvenir, which I have referred to as the “pink cadillac of freedom” ever since. It represented everything I thought college would be: my chance to get out of the house, to be glamorous, to be, essentially, not what I was, which was dumpy, suburban and square.

Of course that dream only partially came true. I got out of the house, but remained who I was (and I more or less still do), but I still have the pink cadillac in my pocket, to, I suppose, remind me to dream big. Or maybe that the road is there, and I just have to get in the car and get on it.

The second time I went to Graceland was almost approximately seventeen years later. To my adult eyes, Graceland seemed much smaller and far more pedestrian, and yet, readers, can I tell you a secret? I still love it.


The Pool Table

I love it because it is glittery and awe-inspiring, frankly ugly in places, and kitschy in a way that is oddly comforting. I still feel incredibly peaceful when I step into the Jungle Room, even though it is not as Jungle-like as I remember, as if they had renovated it, which of course is not possible.


The Jungle Room

Everything about the place is just a little bit overblown. It appeals to the part of my heart that also loves Brandon Flowers (The Killers) for wearing his sequins unironically. If you’re going to be a rock star, if you’re going to glitter, best to do it in a gold suit:


But on a more sober, detached note, it’s a little sad to walk past the movie posters and the platinum records and feel the narrative shifting. To watch the years march on and the costumes become more ornate and have to start the internal countdown to the end of the story. Graceland itself doesn’t soften the blow; you walk out of a room full of awards and jumpsuits, it’s only a short path to the end:


But even the stark finality of the grave seems somehow unreal. Elvis Presley died 33 years ago this week, and yet, he lives forever. At Graceland, in our hearts (yes, even mine), in the pages of supermarket tabloids, on the radio, and blasting out of the speakers at beach bars. His spirit is still backstage at dirty rock clubs everywhere, hair slicked back and ready to walk out on stage to swivel his hips, make the rafters ring and the girls swoon. He’s bigger than life, he’s rock n’ roll, he is, indeed, the King, and Graceland is his castle.


— Jennifer

Roadtrippin’: Sun Studio

Some people wouldn’t understand. This is not conceit on my part but an observation based on the fact that people were all around, but I was the only one standing at the glass wall, gazing in glaze-eyed wonder. I may or may not have pressed my face to the glass. I was at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and behind the glass was a mixing board from Sun Studio. I was imagining the hands that had turned those knobs and the music that had been monitored through that console. I was transfixed.

About ten years later, driving down Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, I grew giddy with excitement when I spied the huge (and impressively accurate) Gibson guitar sign that now marks the original home of that piece of unassuming equipment I had swooned over at the Rockhall. Walking up to the old storefront studio is a little like stepping into a time vortex for a moment, like straddling an invisible boundary between Then and Now. This feeling is instantly wiped away when you step into the Sun Studio gift shop housed in the adjoining building, crowded with tourists and merchandise, but that’s forgivable enough when you look at the photos displayed on the walls of the artists who recorded at Sun and see things like a reproduction poster announcing a “The Howling Wolf Vs. Muddy Waters” gig ($3.50 advance/$4 door).

At the half-hour, our tour was summoned up the stairs to the museum where a modest collection of photos and artefacts are displayed, and we were introduced to our tour guide, Jason, who was part rocker/part classic deejay/part carnival barker (more about him on NTSIB in the near future). Jason prepped us for our eventual step into the actual studio by giving us a condensed history of the studio (which began life as the Memphis Recording Service where Sam Phillips would record artists and then sell those recordings to labels like Chess Records before he decided to start his own label), sharing interesting trivia (the distortion effect for guitar was born when the guitarist for Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston’s band damaged his amp en route to the studio and repaired it with paper before recording what is considered by many to be the first rock ‘n’ roll record, “Rocket 88”) and sampling some of the msuic (Howlin’ Wolf, “Rocket 88”, Elvis Presley’s very first recording).

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fnow-this-sound-is-brave%2Frocket-88&show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=ff8700 Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston

After viewing Elvis’ controversial, pelvis-swinging television debut, it was time to enter the studio. Descending the stairs and passing through the former office of Marion Keisker, Phillips’ secretary and the first person to record Elvis, I suppressed a giggle as I recalled the Sun Studio scene from Jim Jarmusch’s film Mystery Train in which the tour guide’s rapidfire spiel leaves a young Japanese couple mystified and exhausted. But when I walked into that small, simple, white room, I began to fight back tears. Scholars could argue for ages about where and when rock ‘n’ roll actually started, but I believe I’m safe in saying that if it wasn’t for the events that occurred in that room, NTSIB would not exist. Whether or not the songs recorded there started rock’ n’ roll, they were integral to the evolution-revolution that created the music I love, the music that is sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. When I stepped into that studio, I could feel the weight and power of that and was overcome in the most invigorating way.

Tour guide Jason continued to tell us about Sun and the great artists who got their start there, but I had a difficult time concentrating as the room itself and the spirit in the room (spirit, not ghosts – that room is alive) monopolized my attention. That small, humble, slightly age-worn room where Wolf, Ike, Carl, Elvis, Johnny, Roy, Jerry Lee and others effectively changed the world.

When the tour was over, I asked Jason, “Do you ever get used to it?”

I didn’t have to explain what I meant.

“Not really.”

Sun Studio Official Website