All Photos and Text by Bobby Cochran
It’s a unique opportunity to be invited to travel with an established band and document their time on the road, both onstage and off. I connected with the band back in June, then started messaging with Colin van Eeckhout, Amenra’s singer and primary creative architect, for a week or two before the tour, discussing logistics and some creative collaboration. He was warm, gracious and engaging in a way I hadn’t expected, and it was gratifying to know that he and the band appreciated my photography work as well as my desire to spend time with them making art.
I connected with the band in Seattle on their first night of their west coast tour with Converge and Neurosis. The band welcomed me into their space with grace and kindness, making it clear they were happy to have me tagging along for a little while. They are a band I love and respect and they’ve worked with some amazingly gifted photographers and filmmakers during the course of their 20+ year career, so in my mind the bar was set pretty high from the get go.
The afternoon drifted into evening as soundchecks were done and dinners were eaten, and Colin manned the Amenra merch booth for the entirety of the show, save the time he was playing. This struck me as unusual, especially because it seemed like he would need some time to get into and out of the space that performing requires. But nope. He can get himself there just fine.
Amenra only have 35 minutes to play, which is challenging logistically (they tend to have fairly long songs) and frustrating for those of us who want to hear them play for much longer. Their sheer intensity and raw power are almost distracting in a way… I had to remember to keep shooting and not just stand and stare.
Whereas Amenra’s delivery and performance is solemn, sonically monolithic and visually ritualistic, Converge are the raging animal brain, prowling the stage and provoking the writhing, shoving mass of rabid minions in the crowd below. Converge are a different kind of animal.
Neurosis are the granddaddies of them all, having established themselves back in the late 80’s and pretty much inventing a genre of metal that countless bands have emulated (and sometimes straight-up imitated). Their live shows are more subdued now than they were 20 years ago, but the energy that was previously devoted to overwhelming people with volume and visuals and hurling bodies is now concentrated on performing intricate and extensive pieces of music with precision and perfection. They’re still just as fucking heavy too.
At the end of the night, the bands load up and are driven to the next city while they all sleep on the bus. Since I’m traveling in my van, I have to leave the show early and try to go to bed early so I can get up early to meet with them later the next day. Tonight, however, they were heading to Vancouver BC and I wasn’t joining them since I hadn’t got my passport renewed in time for this trip. I decided spend a “day off” in Seattle, then join up with them on Sunday in Portland.
7/8/18 Sunday – Portland
Woke as planned and got myself down to Portland by 10 AM. I headed to the venue to join the dudes in taking a walk around the neighborhood. We checked out some used clothing stores, a huge bookstore, and managed to find a Hawaiian-style shave ice shop, where Colin waited in line for almost 30 min to get himself a towering hulk of fruity goodness. Back at the venue, soundchecks were done, merch was hung, phones were stared at, and the familiar hurry-up-and-wait scenario unfolded. I managed to spend some time talking with a few folks from the crew and other bands, edited some photos from the last few days, and appreciated the fact there was space next to the tour buses for me to pull my van in and park for the evening.
Tonight’s show was another one for the books. I love getting shots of the audience watching the show, and I also love getting shots of Colin performing with his back to the audience (which he does for 90% of their shows) but facing me. The entire band is magnetic and a joy to photograph, and I love trying to figure out new ways to shoot them every night.
Since tomorrow’s show is in Sacramento, which is a 9 hour drive from Portland, I had to leave the venue early and drive part of the way down tonight. I saw Converge’s powerful set but only saw a song or two of Neurosis before taking off and heading south.
7/9/18 Monday Sacramento
Drove about 4 hours last night, then did the almost 5 hour drive down that doozy of a boring interstate 5, stopping only to gas up and make myself a sandwich. Arrived in the baking oven that is Sacramento by 4:00 and found the dudes returning after a sweltering walk around the neighborhood. I took advantage of the Wifi and air conditioning in the bar and worked on editing photos from yesterday, then walked down to a local taqueria for some chow.
Tonight’s show was just Converge and Amenra, as Neurosis had scheduled this as a day off and the two other bands were in no mood to rest. The club was pretty small and of course the show was sold out. It also seemed like the upstairs dressing rooms were the only rooms in the whole building that had no A/C, which was a bummer. The light in those dressing rooms was gorgeous though, and I took some portraits of the Amenra dudes as well taking candid photos as the opportunities presented themselves.
Since the stage was so small, there was barely any room for Amenra’s projected images on the wall behind them. They opted to have no stage lights and just rely on the projector, which looks pretty great but made it nearly impossible to get any good photos. I did my best, and enjoyed watching them play again regardless.
The temperature in the venue got swelter-y and gross, and I decided I just didn’t have it in me to get into the mass of sweaty dude bodies to make photos of Converge, even though they thrive in small, packed environments like this and crushed the shit out of it. I just tried to find cool pockets of air wherever I could, and hung out till the end of the night. Everyone crashed in the buses outside the venue after the show, so I followed suit.