Eat, sleep, wake

Despite my best efforts over the years, I’ve never managed to train my body to become an early riser. I’m a stubbornly sleepy person by nature—as a fifth grader, I generally refused to get out of bed in the mornings until my mother threatened to dump ice water on my head—and no amount of pre-bedtime planning or morning yoga in my adult life has been enough to get me hopping out of bed early of my own free will.

When I can get up for them, though, there are few things I love more than a good foggy morning.

I like to walk into work when I can, a practice which quickly became one of my favorite activities when I first moved to Squirrel Hill in 2017. The forty-five minutes it takes to get from my apartment to Oakland wakes me up, clears my head, gives me time to catch up on some podcasts or listen to new albums. And on a morning like today, it provides a great opportunity to take photos along the way.

Traversing fog is like walking through a dream. It might be my favorite way to interact with the world—where everything is quiet and vaguely mysterious, where the familiar becomes unfamiliar, where it’s possible to be alone but not lonely.

Days are noticeably shorter now, and the trees around Oakland and Squirrel Hill are starting to show the slightest tint of orange. The changing seasons doesn’t bode well for my efforts to get up earlier… but maybe it’ll make for more foggy mornings, which could be a worthwhile trade-off. We’ll see.

The swing of things

It should be said, in case the total lack of updates over the summer wasn’t indication enough: a daily photo blog was maybe a bit ambitious of me.

In the months since my last post here (show recaps aside, and I’m behind even on those), I took a few classes, traveled some, started shooting music for a local alt-weekly, bought some cameras, sold some cameras, etcetera etcetera… I’ve kept busy, you get the gist.

Most importantly, I moved back to the city after an 11-month absence. And now that I’m settled in Squirrel Hill, I’m taking time to re-evaluate some things.

Daily photo blogging is fun in theory but a bit much to keep up with in reality. For as much as I wish I could spend all day, every day making photos, other responsibilities tend to take precedence… never mind the fact that I’m often a human potato. (It’s in my nature, take your judgment elsewhere.)

Weekly photo blogging, though? I can handle that. Maybe even bi-weekly blogging, if I’m feeling saucy.

It also occurred to me that I have yet to talk about film on this blog, which is a little nuts, given that the topic takes up maybe 65% of my brain space on a day-to-day basis. I don’t know yet what those posts will entail… features on various cameras or emulsions? A guide to home developing? Film Fridays, if that’s of interest to anyone? Bueller??? We’ll figure it out, I’m not worried.

Whatever I come up with, I’d like to focus more on the quality of what I’m posting than the frequency. Sharing is good, but so is thinking things through. And there are enough other things in life to stress over—it’s important to me to keep sacred the things I enjoy.

So I’ve got some half-finished drafts to catch up on, a LOT of photos to sort through and share, and even more ideas brewing up in the ol’ gray matter. Not to mention, a slew of shows lined up for September… things are about to get real busy real fast. All the more reason to make time for the little moments.

Hop Along @ The Rex Theater (July 9, 2019)

Am I blogging about this show well over a month after it actually occurred? Yes. 43 days after, if we want to get nit-picky about it.

Am I sorry about that? Also yes, a little, but better late than never.

June was a dry spell for me, at least as far as live music is concerned. There wasn’t a whole lot going on in Pittsburgh that I was excited about, and work obligations kept me from attending the few shows I did want to shoot. (Like when I missed a FREE downtown performance by Tank & The Bangas… yay, day jobs!)

Then July came, and so did Hop Along.

I remember precisely where I was when I first fell in love with Hop Along: at the back of a classroom in Penn State’s Visual Arts building, watching in awe as Frances Quinlan serenaded the crowd with an unplugged rendition of ”Some Grace.”

Quinlan, for the uninformed, is a vocalist without equal—not just in the indie rock scene, but in music period. She can growl, bark, croon, scream, often within the same song (hell, the same line), remaining always one step ahead of your expectations. Strip these songs of her vocals and they’d still be good… it just wouldn’t be Hop Along.

There is no describing Frances Quinlan’s voice. There just isn’t. It’s something that demands to be experienced.

Several years have passed since my first Hop Along show, but as the band (Quinlan, her brother Mark, Tyler Long, and Joe Reinhart) have grown as musicians so too has that original sense of awe. Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band’s third Saddle Creek release, is Hop Along at their very best: full of the richly empathetic narratives, peerless vocals, and intricate, unpredictable compositions the band is known for, delivered in a more meticulously measured, artful package. 

That said, though, Hop Along is a rock band at heart, a fact most clear whenever they’re performing live. There will be shredding, headbanging, perhaps even a mosh pit when they close their set with ”Tibetan Pop Stars.” Mark Quinlan will banter with just about everyone. It will be a damn good time.

This show was particularly exciting for me in that it doubled as my first show for Pittsburgh City Paper, a gig which high school Erin would’ve shit her pants over. Pretty incredible to think that my first “official” photo pass was my favorite band, shot for my favorite local publication, in my favorite city in the world.

Not a bad deal at all.

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