Phil Shepherd: Blog en-us (C) Phil Shepherd [email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Wed, 21 Jun 2023 14:31:00 GMT Wed, 21 Jun 2023 14:31:00 GMT Phil Shepherd: Blog 120 80 Happy Mondays Returns! Happy Mondays is Back! The free Monday night event at the Wonder Bar gears up for a steady itinerary, bringing back to us upcoming local acts as well as some seasoned veterans that made the night so popular before that dreaded virus disrupted everyone's lives. Thank You to Brian Erick and Biff Swenson for resurrecting this event and to the Wonder Bar for allowing it to happen. 

Happy Monday's was my first steady gig in the world of Music photography back in 2014 while shooting for Speak into My Goodeye. It has been a while since I have shot any shows, but this will surely get those juices flowing once again. And, as I am currently without an outlet, y'all will have pitch in and help spread the word with me while I go on the hunt and/or grow this page.  

Already on its third week of billings, this event featured Heather Hills, Strange Neighbors and Magic Ghrelin. Heather  is a local rapper and provided a great introduction to the night as witnessed by the moves my former dancer daughter was putting in during her set. Links to all of Heather's work can be found here

Strange Neighbors have that unmistakable, soothing NYC sound and turned in my favorite set of the night. Billing themselves as power pop, a constant 12 string electric creates a vibe that makes me think of the east village all day, everyday.  Their next gig is Jun 25 at Arlene's Grocery. 

Cranking up the volume, the guys in Magic Gherlin closed us out. It sounds like they were missing a member, Id be very curious the dynamic adds with a fifth person on stage. They were already layered very well, adding another would enhance their sound nicely. 

Number One in the books for me. June 26th will feature We're Ghosts Now, Julia Kirk Band and Drewsie. Doors are officially at 7:00 PM, and the first band goes on between 7:30 and 8:00.  Remember there is NO cover charge so there is no excuse not to come out and see some live music.  

Thanks for hanging till the end. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. It may take me a few to get the formatting locked in, please bear with me. 



[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Mr Music Photo Music Photography New Jersey Music Photography NJ Bands NJ Music Wonder Bar Wed, 21 Jun 2023 14:31:12 GMT
Date night, Badflower and Deal Casino I first saw Badflower a year ago. After that show I informed my wife she would really like them and tried to bring her along with me the next couple times I covered them. She finally got the chance to experience the passion and energy they create during their tour with Shinedown, and now she is hooked. Discussions on doing road trips have ensued so we can see them more. Tour junkies. Would I do that? Hell yes. Well, within reason of course. Then again, I did plan a vacation around one of their dates with Deal Casino in Tennessee back in May. So I guess anything is fair game.

If you have no idea who I am talking about, go stream them. They are the freshest, most compelling act I have seen in a long time and it is safe to say the only band where I have actually listened to and understood every syllable sung. Most of the time you have no idea what someone is singing, maybe you can pick out a few words here and there but what is actually being said? Mud. It is also very interesting to hear the transformation they have made since 2015. The emotion is the same, but the style is very different, much more aggressive and much less pop. 

Anyway, we did not have to travel very far for this show as it was at House of Independents in Asbury Park. Very cool for both of us to be able to get out for a date night at a local venue. Originally I was gonna put in some coverage as well, but the front of the stage filled up way to quick, there is no pit and we were in a sold out venue. I just got what I could get and did not worry about anything. Have to say it was very relaxing not sweating the shots. Except the drummers, got skunked on the drummers. I always get the drummers. I could not even see the drummers.  

The first band of the night was called Dead Poet Society. Very cool band (Boston/LA) that is now entrenched in the playlist. Reminded me a bit of Highly Suspect, but more to my liking. Great alternative, bluesy sound, hard and energetic.  I had not decided my direction for photos yet. So only shot a little bit. The first thing I thought though, was it was great to be back in Asbury at a show. Still on a bit of a motivational hiatus. Who knows where that is going. I was also trying out some new gear of which I am not totally comfortable with yet. I have entered the mirrorless world. Did not think that day would come for me, but it is here.  

Putting in some tour together time, the guys in Deal Casino have developed a bond with Badflower over the past year, so it was very natural for them to play this night and to finish out the remaining three dates on the OK, I'm Sick tour. Icing on the cake for me. You all should know by now my feelings for Deal Casino. My only regret here is feeling the old man out of shape bones creep in and not going to the after party they hosted. Probably would have been a bit out of place anyway. Half joking. 

For the Badflower set Natalie and I were on the side, stage right. It was going to be profile central for me. This I did not mind at all. Considering this is the fifth time in the past year I have seen them and second as a headliner, I was pretty relaxed with that angle. A couple of take home thoughts for me from this night - they changed their set list. Very important and so happy they did this. Just keep chalking up the points. I am so tired of seeing huge bands on a yearly basis and their set lists do not change. Like, really? You have albums worth of songs and you just keep playing the same set. Badflower has one album and one EP under the John Varvatos/Republic Records label and they get it. My heroes. 

I actually have a concern about them though. They have been busting their ass for a while now, traveling throughout the states and trips back and forth to Europe and have not taken much of a break. They say they will be back in the studio after the new year so hopefully they will be able to relax a bit and spend some time at home.  I guess that is how much I like them. Felt the same way about Deal Casino only slightly turned around. I wanted them out of Monmouth County and traveling the country. They have been doing a fantastic job on that front over the past year. 

Enough of the sappy old guy shit. Back to stage right. I had the pleasure of Joey being in my ear throughout the set. I never realized what a great sound he puts out. I mean really freaking awesome. And, I could hear his vocals! Perhaps I never had the correct angle going to pick him up like that. Who knows, but I was diggin' it and that is all that matters. I even got a rare shot of his face. And to hear the crowd sing every word from almost every song was magical. We couldn't get the security guy to sing along though. Have to work on that. 

I love, love, love back lights when they are used as accent lights.

The lighting for the night was great, and quite a few images translated -not just the red ones - quite well into B/W. Nice and contrasty. 

Always keeping it colorful


Another great night courtesy of Badflower and Deal Casino. Also on the bill was the band Weathers. I did not catch much of them due to personal obligations. For the local folk, DC will be play House of Independents on December 20th with The Happy Fits and Shoobie 

Thanks for stopping by!


[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Badflower Deal Casino Mr Music Photo Music Photography NJ Music NJ Music Photographer Phil Shepherd Photography Sun, 03 Nov 2019 17:58:02 GMT
The Lost Year and a Little Rebirth The latter half of 2018 and so far, 2019 has been a bit of an unusual year for me musically. I lost motivation to get out and see our locals in action for reasons that I am sure do not qualify as valid. Too much going on at work and at home would be a couple, and while they will certainly sap your strength, love for something should overcome. Mind you, I still am out at shows, just very picky nowadays. I do still pay attention, listen to everything I can and miss everyone terribly. 

A funny thing though about that, especially since I am a visual artist, I got tired of the fight. Two battles ensue every time one of us photo types hit up a show. The first is jockeying for position. Without an actual pit, real estate is fair game and to secure a spot normally entails arriving with the doors and staying put throughout the night. Where's my beer! The self conscious person in me says I should not be taking up that real estate for people who want to have a good time and see the show. Am I getting in their way? The selfish in me says I have a job to do and need that space to do it. Of course when there is room I find myself moving forward then moving back to stay clear of sight lines.  The second and most important is light.

I went through a string of shows where the light was horrible for capturing the performers and after that I said screw it, time for a break. I cannot spread the word if I cannot capture them. These were venues where good light is available, but to be awash in red and otherwise dark, well can't do it.  To me the best visual experience is when the light is steady up front, and mixed on the sides and in the back. A few sound/light people I interact with get that. I am an aficionado of light and if it ain't good it ain't worth my time. This is why I am very picky about where I shoot. 

So with that sob story now out there for everyone, what prompted this was the rebirth and remake of song from a different period, actually not too long ago. 2014 to be exact.  4.5 years ago.  While we may think of that time period as minimal, when your baby grows, it makes major gains in the beginning of their life. From crawling to baby steps, on to walking, running, carving out a territory, taking a trip to see the country and making titillating advancements, before taking on the world.  

Bang, Bang, Bang was a huge song Deal Casino put out back then off the HECK EP. An absolute incredible piece of work that told New Jersey - we are here and we are not going to be stopped.  As growth occurs, things change and Bang, Bang, Bang was put into suspended hibernation. Well, it is BACK! 

Revamped, retooled, and updated to reflect the current sound, all while retaining the base feel that made the song so popular when it was first released.   

Good shit man. I have always wanted the guys to bring back LA. I know of at least one other person who feels the same way! If you know which song I am referring to pepper the socials! See ya around. 


[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Music Photography New Jersey Music Photography NJ Bands Phil Shepherd Photography Wed, 14 Aug 2019 18:00:11 GMT
The Drummers of Asbury Back in the day. How I dislike that saying. Just like saying your time is done, and life does not matter anymore. So far from the truth. I never use that phrase when describing my past and all the revelry I use to intake or create. When I was younger is a much better statement, and yes, I am older than the majority of the members of the scene I choose to spend my time in, as are a few of my counterparts. We enjoy what it is and cherish watching the lives of others succeed in their own revelry and mayhem. Anyway, for those who do not know. I used to play the drums in a couple of bands in the late eighties and early nineties. Visiting haunts like The Pony, T-Birds, The Fastlane and The Brighton. The weird thing is, as much as I now love hanging at the Wonder Bar I have never played there. 

Every now and then I will sit down and jam out and occasionally even sit in with some friends. Oh how out of shape one gets when certain muscles are not used. So that it my history in a nutshell and one of the reasons why you always see me posting shots of those drummer types. I can identify with them the most. 

Now, I call myself retired. But you never really retire from music, your view just changes and y'all know the view I take now. The drummers I come across today are a thing of beauty, they are all incredibly talented and very in the pocket. The biggest thing I have noticed in this day and age is the scaled down kits they use. Seems the majority of people use a basic four piece kit, some even just two piece. Lots of double pedals though. I would imagine this is just a product of the style of music that dominates the scene. 

The beat masters never get the attention they deserve so I make sure and grab shots of the hidden ones to share when I can. It does remain a tough catch though. Small stages, gear and band members occluding a direct line of sight, and the light. Oh, the light. Not every venue produces a decent amount of light to get a good drummer shot, but I always try. I may hit pay dirt one night and be shut out the next. Such is the life of a photo guy. 

So, do I have a favorite. There is no single person, plus I am not allowed to have a favorite, but I do have a few that have touched me more than others. Featured here are drummers I have seen in Asbury Park. New Jersey Drummers to be specific. I only selected from the 2016 calendar year and although I did my best to choose shots that have never been shared, a few did make it in. 

I chose four masters that I could watch and listen to everyday, in no particular order. 

Jack Biamonte from Deaf Rhino

Dude is showman, and he backs up his showmanship with some incredible chops utilizing every inch of his kit, on beat, off beat and beats in between

Natalie Newbold of dollys

Pure fun. Simplicity with an incredible amount of feeling.

AJ Dumm from The Shady Street Show Band

All groove and lots of soul. Feeling him for days after I see him.

Colin Ryan of Lowlight

Deceptive. Watch and listen the next time you see him. Amazingly quick and a great feel.

A slideshow of the other drummers I have come across during my travels around town. There are a bunch.  Three second transition between photos or you can go to the gallery or click on through.  

What would you all think about a series featuring a different drummer every month?   Yes? No?  Let me know!

Thanks for stopping by! 


[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Drummers Drums Music Photography NJ Drummers NJ Music NJ Music Photographer New Jersey Drummers Phil Shepherd Photography Sun, 26 Feb 2017 21:18:02 GMT
Drummers Faces and the Stories they Tell Having no idea what to call this, we will just get right to the point. I was culling photos from a recent Happy Mondays and came across this series of drummer shots and for me, each one held a small meaning within a larger story. I will often take a series of shots, especially of drummers, to capture different expressions and movements. Not auto burst, just singles. I was cracking up at the story they were telling me of a drummer and his crash cymbals.  

They feature John from the band Gravity Well. A NJ Based hard rock band with tons of energy and loads of talent. John is a beast behind the kit. Hard hitting, rhythmic and super quick. So this style would naturally entail lots of effort and lots of strange, drummer type faces. I would be hesitant to put these up, but since I know him I am going to share the fun I had while going through all the selections from the show. 

We begin: Comment, then photo. Make sure and really look at the expressiveness, eyes, position of head. 

The confident strike. Concentration, intent and purpose


The rebound - Uh oh, I think I hit them too hard, I hope they are ok


Well they look OK, they are metal after all, they have to be ok. I hope so because I am about to hit them again. 


K, here goes nothing. Hope they do not go flying off like some frisbee. 


Yes! Awesome, this is so much fun, look at them move, what a great time and my cymbals are still in one piece! I want to do that again! 


And back to business

Somehow I think I may have gotten more enjoyment out of these than most people.  Thanks John,  Love you man.  


[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Drummers Drummers Faces Drums Music Photography NJ Bands NJ Music NJ Music Photographer New Jersey Music Photography Thu, 08 Dec 2016 03:58:56 GMT
A Day in The Pinelands - Owel, Head North and some wild color temps  It is three in the morning and I am at work listening to Owel, the first band to hit the main stage at the Pinelands Music Festival. Perfect for this hour, smooth and melodic. I went into the event with very little preview of the acts, almost all were brand new to me, and I wanted to have no preconceived notions about anyone on the bill. I love the feeling you get when a band reaches you. The NJ Based group gave me great hope for the rest of the day, creating sounds that soothed my soul and brought out the warmth in an otherwise chilly day. This quintet has a tremendous depth to them filling out their sound with keys, violin, and intricate, powerful guitars. Most people may know I am a big fan of the backbones of a band and always try and do them justice. Dudes were in the pocket tight, and took really nice photos. Going to be checking the group out in Asbury Park at The House of Independents on December third. Looking forward to that one.

The second band that piqued my interest I have been jamming on more than any other for the past week. Coming out of Buffalo, Head North had me confused when they played their first tune. Setting a very quiet and somber mood, I did not know what to expect for the remainder of their 30 minute set. This is one of the hazards of not knowing what to expect, but it is also a thing of beauty.  Polished, with a raw sound, the group reaches into your soul to take you on a very mesmerizing journey through life and its challenges. Lead Singer Brent Martone looks so low key and laid back, but he is full of passion and emotion. I am never one to listen to the lyrics, nor interpret their meaning. I react to the inflection and how it makes me feel. They hooked me in good. 

The sun was side stage as the afternoon passed, creating what we figured was at least a four stop difference between stage right and stage left. That will create  some unusable images for sure. When the stage lights became the dominant source of light things got really interesting. We all know about the dreaded red wash. Pretty easy to overcome, make it black and white. 

The LED lights being used today have a wild color spectrum. While there is only one was to fix red, you can actually get a fairly nice balance with Blue or Purple LED's. I think the blue has the more drastic change and is more pliable. Purples still go black and white for the most part. With the blue, I have come to learn is you can get close to accurate with a bump in the slider. A big bump.

The before image came out of camera with a manually set temp of 4600 and a tint of +7, normally where I set it at in camera for these lights. With the processed image I settled on a temp of 34,728 with a +140 tint.  Super drastic. But very effective. Pretty wild stuff right there. 

Such are the trials and tribulations of photographing music. Would not want it any other way. 

If you would to see more from the show head on over to the Flickr gallery, and for some more thoughts check out the post over at SIMGE

Thanks for stopping by!  





[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) LED Lights Music Photography NJ Music New Jersey Music Photography New Music Phil Shepherd Photography Sun, 16 Oct 2016 15:55:33 GMT
Big Thanks to The Vansaders I am more of a fan of live music than of a recorded piece. I gather much more satisfaction from seeing, feeling and hearing the emotional side of things during an on stage performance and trying to record what I see than I do vegging out to an album. Yes, I still remember the days of putting on the head phones and chilling to a side of Genesis, Yes or Zep. Now things are just to hectic to stop for 40 minutes and take it in. Recorded stuff for me is mainly secondary these days. I do have my favorites that I crank up through the headphones, enough that my wife yells at me for it being too loud. This is a shame, but it is, what it is. Always multitasking. Listening and feeling, but not stopping.  We would gather that this may be a majority reason why I do not do many reviews of new releases. I really have to connect with it in order to get those juices flowing. And that just does not happen very often with the recorded stuff. 

So I was sitting at my desk at work the other day, usually have or Spotify going, and my phone buzzed with a notification so naturally, I had to check it out. An artist I have seen and shot numerous times, and greatly admire, was asking for followers for their Spotify account, and offering a free T-Shirt contest to boot! Since that is where most of my local favs reside I obliged without hesitation. And listened to their latest release. 

I have to say, there are only a couple other times where a studio recording totally stops me in my tracks and makes me pay attention. Love my locals and usually I know what to expect but this time, blown away. A sound and style that brings you back to the era of late 70's - early 80's euro punk bands - which is probably why I like it - with a fresh, modern twist on it. Great stuff.  

This Time Around, the latest release from Asbury Park's, The Vansaders is what all this fuss is about. Thank you to Doug and the boys for keeping the fire burning for me.

Thanks for reading, see ya round. 





[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Music Photography NJ Bands Phil Shepherd Photography Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:30:00 GMT
Playing with Starbursts and Cooke at the Wonder Bar Well, it seems I did not like the shutter speed I was able to muster when I dropped the iso to 3200. I went through one set before I cranked it back up to the 5000 mark. I was getting around 125 which is way to slow for the amount of movement going on. I think the new lights were turned down a bit too, as the 160 - 200 seemed the norm again. I did get to the point towards the end of the second set where it was time to try something different. I had all my shots in and it was time to for me play around with all these LED'S shining me in the face. 

So right off the bat, this is a "normal" shot for me. Sporting the 135mm at 2.2 and 250th

The thing I picked up on here was how the lights were shining in an almost starburst pattern and just tempting me to close it down and see what happens. The dangerous thing about doing this is the correlation needed in shutter speed to get a usable exposure. That is what keeps things interesting though right? Trying new things, learning your limits, figuring out what works and what does not. This is how we grow. 

I did not even consider doing this with the longish lens on, so I put the 35 back on and spent around 20 clicks figuring out what worked and what did not. I kept four out of the bunch, this one being my favorite.

It helped that the band had moments of very little movement. Four moments to be exact. 1/20th of a second, f11 for this one. The rest just could not contain the movement which is why they were trashed.

I even found myself at 1/13th for a couple of shots and you can certainly see the movement going on in the arms here. 

I will continue to play around with this to find out the proper balance to use and retain a quality shot. And of course I will have to use the long lens for some close ups and see what I can come up with. I always see awesome photos with killer starbursts in them, makes for a very interesting shot. 

This one was a little more contained at f8 and 1/40th. The key of course is to find out how open you can get and still maintain the effect. We will be finding that out soon enough.

The band we are looking at is Cooke. A very soulful, folk and indie rock outfit out of Brooklyn. Good stuff indeed. You can check out the full post and more shots from the show here

Thanks for stopping by, talk to you soon. 


[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Music Photography NJ Music New Jersey Music Photography Phil Shepherd Photography Wonder Bar Wed, 31 Aug 2016 19:59:28 GMT
New Lights at The Wonder Bar! Out with the old and in with the new. It has been quite a long time coming for the sound engineers at Asbury Park's world famous Wonder Bar. The new lights have arrived, and man are they a treat. Performers are now bathed in the warm streams of LED's, nary a dark area on the stage and just about any color combination possible. I still dig the all white look though, very dramatic, and previously we only saw it when there was a problem with the former lighting set up. 

A couple of days before the install, we were jamming out at Happy Mondays and out of no where, darkness hit.  Sound engineer Frank Natale busted ass and hit the reserves, one of which was a huge old fashioned pot front and center. Frank had reached his breaking point, stated his case, and two days later up they went. There has been an ongoing renovation of both the inside and outside over the past couple of months, and many updates are still to come. The lights were already on the agenda, this just pushed things along a bit. The place really looks and feels great.  

These lights though. I think the days of throw away shots are done here. Well, due to image quality anyway. There will always be throw aways. We will save that discussion for another time. I am pretty certain a crop bodied SLR could manage some amazing images at a decent iso without the need for flash. Yes, that good. For my first show with the lights I left iso and aperture alone. I just played with the shutter speed. My iso when covering gigs at the Wonder Bar normally stays at 5000 with an aperture no greater than 2.2 here, 2.8 if I have the wide angle on. Room for lots of light. Well, theoretically anyway. At times 1/160th was a struggle. Not anymore. Reviewing my shots I was averaging 1/500th, pretty much unheard of here. 

Thing about LED's though is white balance can be all over the place depending on the colors coming through, the angles you take and how wide your shot is. Not complaining! Sliding left will also never be a concern any longer. Hallelujah. I just love it when you take the dropper and auto select comes back at 50,000 and +/- 150. Let us just say I cool those down dramatically. Red wash is still a bitch, though I am thinking the purple might be my new nemesis. Drummers seem to be more affected during the dreaded red but I think we may be on to something now in the corner. A nice mix going on here. 

One more item on the install agenda is a new smoke machine. Since it still on the to do list, i brought along a can of Atmosphere Aerosol. I love this stuff and have been looking forward to using it during a portrait session but have not yet had the opportunity to do so. Every now and then I would give a little five second burst which gave me about 90 seconds of shooting time before it dissipated. The new AC unit circulates the air super fast. 

I will be dropping the iso next week now that I know what I am working with. Pretty certain I will still get a shutter speed I like. And I will be looking forward enjoying some more colors. 

Thanks for stopping by! 



[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Music Photography NJ Bands NJ Music NJ Music Photographer New Jersey Music Photography Phil Shepherd Photography Wonder Bar Fri, 26 Aug 2016 20:20:50 GMT
A New Offering We formerly featured some Nature and Landscape Photos within these walls, but now, the time has come to change gears and have a place for some of my extra music images and to offer a different train of thought during blog postings. These will probably turn out to be a bit on the photo geeky side, discussing the technical aspects of an incredibly difficult discipline, but we will also include a featured artist portion once or twice a month to keep it interesting.  

We will not be doing reviews here, those are faithfully taken care of over at  Speak Into My Goodeye and Cool Dad Music

I will continue to be very active in publishing content for SIMGE, as well as covering the Asbury Park Music scene and beyond. 

[email protected] (Phil Shepherd) Music Photography NJ Music Photographer New Jersey Music Photography Phil Shepherd Photography Fri, 19 Aug 2016 14:44:46 GMT