Fitz & The Tantrums

Last night I got to shoot the Fitz & The Tantrums concert at the beautiful Boulder Theater. I've only recently begun listening to these guys, but given their style (self-dubbed neo-soul, Motown-inspired), I figured they would be fun to watch live. They didn't disappoint. This concert was an overload of energy and emotion, which made it a really great experience to shoot. Thanks to the Boulder Theater crew for providing the photo pass and making it easy for me to get these shots. I don't often get to shoot music, but I'm pretty pleased with what I came away with.



This has to be one of the most misleading portraits I've ever made.

Despite the serious demeanor, this guy is about as animated, cheerful, and smiley as they come (he struck a pose when I asked if I could shoot a picture). I couldn't help but get pulled in by his enthusiasm when we were talking. If you live in Boulder or have visited in the last 20-something years, you probably know this guy as the local contortionist. His name is Ibashi-i (not his legal name, but the one he prefers) and he performs on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. I would have never guessed it based on his energy when I see him perform, but he told me today that he just turned 58. He was born in St. Kitts in the Caribbean and moved to the states in the '80s. He's been performing for over 40 years and he says the main reason he does it is to convince people to stretch and take care of their bodies. Healthy bodies make for healthy minds and healthy minds make for better lives.

For the past week, the snow has blanketed the city of Boulder with a shiny coat and a dense silence. When I was sitting waist-deep in snow at Chautauqua Park a few days ago, my ears almost ached at the lack of noise around me, soaked up by the snow.

I don't know if it's the cold or just my unique internal clock, but I've been waking up earlier since the weather changed. The scenery provides a nice backdrop for contemplative early morning walks. There's nothing better than starting your day with a fresh outlook and a clear mind. It's taken me until now, but I think I've also finally figured out how to dress in order to remain somewhat comfortable in below-freezing temperatures.

The temperatures are rising now and the snow is melting away. My Texan self was pretty worried about how I would handle my first Colorado winter, but now that this little intro to cold weather is passing, I'm feeling much more confident.


"I don't have many songs that are younger than 100 years old. And very few are in English."

There's always something happening on Pearl in Boulder. I've heard this man's powerful voice and plucking of the harp once before but was unable to stop and enjoy it. Tonight I had the chance to talk to him for a few minutes – more importantly, I had the chance to listen to him while he wrapped up his evening. His name is Gaffer and he's been performing in Boulder since 2000. Very few musicians I've met seem to care as little as he does about the amount of money he makes on his music. It is so visible on his face while he plays that the satisfaction he gets from the music itself is much more valuable. He told me that he's had downloads of his songs available online for ten years and has made a total of $30 from it, though he did repeat that financial earnings aren't the point. He also made the case that the generosity of this city has shifted noticeably since he started in Boulder almost 15 years ago (today, people more readily give to those with cardboard signs than to individuals trying to share their art and enrich the community). The manner in which he said this made me think he wasn't hurt by this personally, but on a more humanistic level. 

He finished his set with an English song, one made famous in the '60s by Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World. And it was obvious he meant every word.

Gaffer took a moment with eyes closed and sat with his harp after he finished a song.

Gaffer took a moment with eyes closed and sat with his harp after he finished a song.

I'm a sucker for anything cheesy and creative, so I had to stop when I saw someone in floaties, an inner tube, and a "fishing pole" collecting donations. When I first walked by, he kindly and energetically reached his tip jar out to a group of girls and said, "Whoa, that's a good cast!"

Turns out his name is Adam and he's originally from Utah. Given the heavy downpour today, he chose appropriate attire. Thankfully the rain stopped long enough to shoot a picture.



Bayard was sitting by the Boulder Post Office the other day and we started talking after he saw my Mamiya film camera. He told me he used to shoot film when he was younger and said he'd be interested in seeing how the film portraits compare to the digital ones. I took a few photos with my digital camera, then with film. I haven't gotten the film developed yet, but I'm looking forward to another conversation with him when I do.


I suppose I've been gravitating towards photographing musicians lately. Some sing about love. Some sing about pain. Some sing just to sing. The individuals in this photograph were singing Christian hymns today and talking about their faith between songs.

Regardless of how I feel about the content of a particular song, I seem to generally be able to find a connection with the people creating the music. The passion of musicianship seems to rise above even controversial topics like religion. While I didn't get a chance to talk to these people (I think they're a family group), it was pretty easy to tell that they invest a lot of time and emotion into their beliefs and their music. And for that, I can find gratitude.


When I introduced myself and asked his name, he told me he goes by "The High Plains Drifter." A friend of his came up and started talking to him shortly after I took the photo but another friend, Bayard, told me that he is a veteran and has quite a few interesting stories. I generally see him with his feathered cap near the Boulder Post Office, so I'm looking forward to talking to him more at a later date about his past.


Days like today make me wish I had a more sizable income to share with amazingly talented artists like the ones in this photograph. This group is called the Coyote String Band, and they were playing at the Pearl Street Mall today. They sang and played their folky, soulful music with an intoxicating passion and I couldn't help but stay and listen for a while. I gave some money before I took the picture, but after a few minutes I decided I needed to buy a CD as well (which I never do). 

These guys made my day and served as today's reminder of how powerful music can be. Check them out on Facebook: