The Best One-Day Music Festival I’ve Ever Been To – The Whitaker Block Party

A little background.

Whiteaker Block Party is a neighborhood event for the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon. This was the 11th year of the block-party. The neighborhood residents and businesses in the hood pull together and volunteer to throw a ten-hour party. Which is more like a music festival than block-party.

I had been approached a few months back by Mick Dägger of the band Dick Dägger to see if I was interested in shooting the Whiteaker Block Party and then he later asked me to manage the photographers. I was excited to volunteer for the job. The word got out that I was working the festival and people I know would come up and be enthusiastic that I was shooting the show. It feels good to know I have fans of your work.

Planning the job.

How do you plan a job like this with two photographers? You have to know the players and the layout of the event you’re shooting. I tried to put a plan together, I had a Google Doc of the bands that needed to be photographed. I planned out different routes between stages where I could get to a good vantage point to photograph the attendees, vendors and volunteers. That was the plan at least. I started my planning process weeks in advance. I needed to prepare and purchase any supplies necessary for the event. I worked on a project a month earlier and already bought extra batteries and memory cards, so I was well equipped in that area. I only brought one too many lenses, which is pretty good for me. I brought a mono-pod and never used it and I didn’t bring a tripod and didn’t miss not having it.

When Tyrone Russ (the other photographer) and I arrived on location at 09:45 we re-evaluated our plan. We decided on a new plan; abandon the orginal plan. New plan: Shoot everything and anything interesting.

How was the music?

The music was amazing. Just amazing. Almost all local acts. There is such a deep talent pool of musicians in this place. It is a little ridiculous. There really was music for everybody, and every musical taste. I just wish the schedules were staggered a little better, but with eleven stages I could see that being difficult. There were a lot of acts that I like that I had never heard of, but I really enjoyed seeing. There were several stages, I couldn’t get to because things were so to tight.

It’s not just about the music.

There was a lot going on the at block-party, more than just music. There were street performers and arts and crafts for the kids and just a bunch of neighbors hanging out together, playing out with their dogs and children. I think I saw some people having a beer together. This event is nothing like I’ve ever been too. Ferry Festa in Dobbs Ferry and Ferrogosto in the Bronx are a lot like a big block-parties, but hanging out in the Whit with these clowns was the highlight of my time in Eugene.

I left at 10:15pm and I woke up at 10:15 the next morning, I walked down to the zone and if I didn’t see the party for myself, I probably would have assumed that it didn’t happen. Man, the cleanup crew really did a great job.

Nice work guys.

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Off stage
On stage

Good Night Folks

Broken Heart Rodeo

Next month I am having my first solo gallery show in town. The photography show’s theme is the musicians of Eugene, Oregon. Fortunately, I have good friends that are musicians. They decided to get together and volunteer to play the opening event for me. I am very excited about this event.

One of the bands is called “Broken Heart Rodeo“, and the members come from four different bands. Le Rev, Pancho + The Factory, Booty White and his Contraband and Holler House. They are getting together to play some honky-tonk songs. I decided I needed to get some promo shots of the band. They let me come to the last hour of practice to shoot some pictures. However I thought this might be more of a dress rehearsal. It was not, but we made it work.

Show details

Eugene Musicians in Pictures: May 5th at Shadowfox, 5:30—8 pm (First Friday Tour Stop at 6:30 pm)

Over the last several years, Tom Chamberlain has photographed more than his fair share of live music. All of the images he will exhibit are of Eugene musicians performing on stage at various local venues. He enjoys photographing musicians because of his love for live music.

The opening reception will feature musical performances by SurfsDrugs and Broken Heart Rodeo, who will both perform again at Luckey’s for the post-reception party.

About a dozen prints of various sizes will be exhibited and for sale at Shadowfox. Every penny that Tom collects for prints will be donated to Eugene MASV (Musicians Against Sexual Violence), a non-profit coalition of musicians, artists, entertainers and activists working to prevent sexual violence in the community’s night scene and to empower victims/survivors who are performers and audience members.

Women’s March in Eugene

I walked out my door at 11am to go to the march. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how any people would be there. My plan was not to document, but I always carry a camera. The 15 minute walk to downtown Eugene was pretty quiet, so I just assumed this event would be fairly mellow. I knew I had friends there so I hoped to meet up with them. The crowds poured on the little street in front of the Courthouse from all directions. It was amazing. I don’t think anyone was expecting such a turn out.

I was completely surrounded and somewhat overwhelmed. The idea of trying find my friends seemed too daunting of a task. I wandered a bit through the crowd and settled on a nice spot. The people all around me were in such a great mood, it was a lovely scene I found myself in. Sure, there were a lot of signs that weren’t very flattering to the incoming administration, but it was clear everybody here came from a place of a peace, love and respect.

It’s time to march

The organizers over-estimated the crowds patience to stand around in the pouring rain. Everybody was a bit antsy to get to the marching part of the march. Everybody was great, the traffic was patient and the police did a great job of getting the marchers where they needed to go. When we made it downtown a resident of the Tiffany Building put a speaker on the ledge and played some pop music for the crowd, it went over well.

Don’t call it a protest.

This march was a call for solidarity. Many people are worried and angry that the incoming administration will destroy what we have left of democracy and the planet. I’m certain the pro-DT residents of Lane county are angry about the match, but that anger will eventually lead to hate. That hate eats away at person’s soul and it’s so hard to come back from that. Events like these really just bring people together and let everyone know they’re not alone.

Happy New Year!

Eugene Psychedelic Ball

No New Year’s Eve party is complete with a bunch bands crushing it all night long.

This was a lot of show. I caught a piece of every band that played and I tried to get good shots of each band but you know how it can get crazy at a NYE show.

The Film from Manifestivus

Sadly when you have a busy you tend to forget with somethings. In my case, I forgot to process film I shot from Manifestivus this summer. It was a lovely surprise to see these negatives after they came back from the lab.

I shot a these images on Pentax Spotmatic F with Agfaphoto Vista 200. I love this film, it’s affordable and fairly sharp. This film really works well on bright sunny days. The camera is good for any time.

Mississippi Studios, My Favorite Music Venue

Why is Mississippi Studios my favorite venue?


I just like everything about it. MS is not very big, but still has a balcony. They have a great bar inside the music room. The restaurant Bar Bar has great food, a good selection of beer on tap. I love the outdoor patio with the bonfire going strong on chillier nights. The crowd is generally really chill. The staff is absolutely professional. I’m just very comfortable there.

The main room has the balcony above that overlooks the main floor and the stage. The stage is damn near the perfect height. You can still get a good view from the rear of the room, but not so high that the band seems far away. They also keep a rope about 3 feet from the stage. The rope gives photographers a little room to navigate from one end of the stage to the other. I like to get there early to grab a beer or two and post up as close to the middle of the stage as I can get. I try to avoid standing directly in front a mic stand to get a clear view of the whole band. Unless it’s a paid job to photograph a band, I’m happy just standing in the middle as not to disturb my fellow show-goers.

I’ve photographed my fair share of live music, and Portland is my favorite place to see shows. With so many interesting bands and venues, there are many options for photographers, shooting live music is fairly easy to do. If you can get on the guest list, great. Paying the cover is almost always worth it.

Most venues will not have issues with photographers shooting most local bands. I did say most venues will not have issues with shooting live music. A photographer is going to have a hard time shooting at the Crystal Ballroom without a photo-pass, and the Star Theater won’t let photographers bring in camera bags. Most other places are pretty laid back of course. There is just one rule every photographer needs to heed when shooting in any venue. Don’t be a dick!

Nine out of ten shutterbugs photographing live music in Portland are not shooting for a publication, there is no real need to bully your way around a venue to “get the shot“. I understand we as photographers have a desire to do capture the best images. We need to be conscientious to the people around us. I’ve had many people try to clear a path for me in the audience, but I don’t want to affect the dynamic too much. When I need to get closer, I try to be as patient as possible and move up as people start to shift.

Lighting is the most important thing to me.

Without good lighting, getting a good images is very difficult. Mississippi has above average lighting. Despite being mostly LED, the lighting is very good. I don’t like LED lighting. Some photographers say they can’t tell the difference between LED and other types of lighting, but I certainly can. The overall quality of LED is just not there. The light is flat and lifeless and doesn’t look as clean.

As with most venues on a multi-band night, the opening acts don’t get much attention with the lighting treatment as the headlining act does. That’s fine for me, as long as it’s bright enough on the stage to get good shots. Now there is one particular musician in Portland that attempts to build a closeness with the audience by having the lights turned down as low as possible. At that point I put my camera away and just enjoy the set. At the end of the night, the most important thing is the band puts on a great show and we shouldn’t whine about it.

Magenta lighting is the photographers worst enemy, in my opinion of course.

I’ve found that Mississippi Studios doesn’t use nearly as much magenta as some of other venues, but they still use it far too much for my liking. When watching the show, magenta light look just fine, as long as there is some lighting dynamics. When shooting the show, magenta is just terrible. Skin tones are NOT enhanced by magenta. I just cringe when I see it.

As long as newbie and veteran photographers can keep it together and not disrupt shows, we should be able to as often as we want. Mississippi has been really cool with us coming and shooting, I would hate to see that end.

Here is a small selection of my favorite shows.

The Manifestivus 2016

On the last weekend of July, I attended my first Manifestivus. Hopefully it wasn’t my last one either. The Manifestivus takes a place on the Pranksy farm in scenic Cabot, Vermont. I tend to get around, but I never thought I would’ve attended such a small and charming music festival in rural Vermont. I have some close friends in Vermont and before my planned visit they asked me if I wanted to go to a low-key music festival. I couldn’t resist, so I stuck around for a few extra week. Woe is me.

These days music festivals are all the rage with the young kids. They are getting bigger and bigger year after year. I love going to music festivals, but I tend to get annoyed by the drunken hordes. This is simply because I’m getting old. I was a part of the drunken horde in my younger days.

Turns out The Manifestivus is not the giant overcrowded music festival that Coachella or Bonnaroo have become. People go to The Manifestivus because of the low-key environment. You can bring your kids. I wouldn’t bring kids to Bonnaroo. The Manifestivus doesn’t pull in super-mega-pop-star acts those other guys do, but they do bring some seriously talented touring acts. This year the big act they brought in was Talib Kweli and he put on a great show. I’m sure he pulled in some fans that would not normally drive all the way to Cabot for a homegrown music fest.

This year the festival was primarily a Hip Hop and Reggae festival. There were two stages with really spectacular sound and lighting. The main stage was fairly tall and we could see the stage from our camp site. The “small” stage was called the Backwoods Stage, it was a lot more intimate back there. The experience the show-goers get feels a lot more inclusive because the stage is much shorter. The sound and lights were still fantastic back there.

The farm even had a great little swimming hole off in the woods. On a hot summer day in Vermont you better believe that there was some swimming. If the festival were much bigger, you can bet the swimming hole would become a complete shit-show.

During the festival, carpenters were crafting a large wood sculpture with the intent to set it on fire and become a massive bonfire. This year they made wooden turtle and the bonfire was amazingly hot.

I would definitely head back again. It was an incredible experience and it was just my style.

The Lineup:

  • Talib Kweli
  • Collie Buddz
  • Locos Por Juana
  • Rootz Underground
  • Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite The Akae Beka
  • Cast of Characters (a Dave Pransky Project)
  • Pete Bernhard (of the Devil Makes Three)
  • The Huntress and Holder of Hands
  • Fear Nuttin’ Band
  • Balla
  • Electrolads
  • Afri-VT
  • Festivus Family Band

Four Bands at The Boreal

Living in the Pacific Northwest affords me with the opportunity to catch independent music almost any night of the week. Last night in Eugene was another great evening of music. Berg and I hit up The Boreal to see some friends and four great bands perform. The bands hail from Eugene and Portland, so some homegrown music was on the menu. I had a lot of fun, the music was loud, the scene was chill and everybody seemed to love the music and the venue. The show was definitely worth the $5 cover.

Last night’s bands; Cheesepuff (eug), Killed by Health (pdx), Hey Lover (pdx), and VCR (eug).

World’s Shortest St. Paddy’s Day Parade?

I am a sucker for a parade. I have been to all kinds of parades. I love them, but this parade is one of my favorites. Local organizations get groups together and march up and down 13th street. They only go about two blocks and turn around. Some years are bigger than others, this year there were about ten groups. It was definitely a lot of fun out there.

Conor O’Neill’s parade is more than a decade old and is officially the shortest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the country. People come from far and wide for this event. I met a couple that came to Colorado for a ski trip to Breckenridge and the hotel concierge told them about the parade and they drove the two hours to Boulder. They had a great time.

I look forward to this Parade every year.