All posts by Mara Robinson

Mara Robinson is a music photographer based in the rock 'n' roll capital of the world. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine, I Rock Cleveland, the Cleveland Free Press, the Space Rock Gallery and more. She plays in bands and is available for hire/assignment/travel.

Blackberry Smoke, Ida Mae, Kent Stage, Concert Photography

Before the doors of the Kent Stage theater opened, a long line of concertgoers waiting to get in wrapped around the building and down the block. All 642 seats were sold out, plus additional chairs around the perimeter. Blackberry Smoke and Ida Mae would have to start their sets 45 minutes later than scheduled, to let everyone get through security and to their seats.

It was clear that more than a handful of attendees had been hitting the St. Patrick’s Day sauce long before showtime, but nobody seemed to misbehave tonight beyond the occasional raising of voices. That being said, maybe it was for the best that the Break it Down tour is, as the name implies, mellow, stripped-down and acoustic.

Having successfully filled the entire theater with the smell of burning Nag Champa incense sticks, on a stage adorned with tie-dyed mandala tapestries and fractal rugs, Blackberry Smoke went on around 9:15.

“Hope you enjoy our living room,” greeted Charlie Starr. “If you feel like dancing, that’s perfectly okay.”

Charlie Starr, Paul Jackson, Blackberry Smoke band photo music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke: Charlie Starr, Brit Turner, Brandon Still band photo music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

The Atlanta southern blues and country rock band lives up to the authenticity of the sound, with a down-home Muscle Shoals feel. The core lineup is comprised of five stellar musicians: Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), Brandon Still (keys), Richard Turner (bass, vocals) and his brother Brit Turner (drums, complete with a suitcase bass featuring a postcard illustration of a peach and Cherokee Rose that reads, “Greetings From Tropical Georgia”).

Richard Turner, Blackberry Smoke full band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Starr took full advantage of the subdued atmosphere, telling stories and jokes between songs, and even stopping during Lay it all on Me to emphasize the lyrics. “We call that a tryst,” he affirmed.

Blackberry Smoke: Charlie Starr, Paul Jackson, Richard Turner, Brandon Still full band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Starr also took a moment to pay tribute to some fallen heroes, including Dick Dale’s passing that very day. Starr said he saw Dale play, “It was the loudest guitar I’d ever heard.” He then attempted to play a bit of Miserlou. “I can’t do it,” he confessed. Then, a moment later, “This one’s for Tom Petty,” he said, as the band launched into a great cover of Listen to Her Heart.

Blackberry Smoke band music photography Brit Turner, Charlie Starr, Brandon Still, Paul Jackson by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Then, after a spirited performance of Believe You Me, Starr proclaimed, “Alright, gettin’ funky on a Sunday! The fact that it’s Sunday has stopped no one this St. Patrick’s Day.”

And that was the truth. Shoulder-to-shoulder lines for beers and bathrooms congested the entire lobby. The wait for either took 30 minutes. Certainly no time to do both without missing a good chunk of the set. But people managed somehow, because by the end of the night I’d seen grown men in their 60s fall flat on their faces trying to get up to do one or the other.

Blackberry Smoke, Charlie Starr, band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke full band: Richard Turner, Brit Turner, Charlie Starr, Brandon Still, Paul Jackson, music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Blackberry Smoke at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Before Blackberry Smoke took the stage, British Blue-eyed Soul / Acoustic Americana duo Ida Mae warmed it up. On indefinite hiatus from blues-rock band Kill it Kid, guitarist/vocalist Chris Turpin plays fantastic slide guitar on a silver resonator and boot-stomps punctuations, while his wife Steph sings along and plays percussion.

Chris and Steph met while studying in Bath, England when they were about 18. “We started playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band together and got signed a year later, and have been touring together ever since,” said Steph.

Ida Mae: Chris Turpin, Stephanie Jean, band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Ida Mae at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Songs like My Girl is a Heartbreak, Reaching and Feel Them Getting Closer showcase Turpin’s strong, soulful vocals, while If You Don’t Love Me highlights the softer side Steph’s voice is taking. The dynamic works like a throatier Jonny Lang with a more muted Joss Stone.

The husband and wife team moved from the UK to Nashville only eight months ago, but this wasn’t Ida Mae’s first time playing Ohio. During their first week in the states last August, they played a rib burn off in Maumee, sharing the bill with Michael McDonald. They called it, “The most American thing we’ve ever done.”

Ida Mae: Chris Turpin, band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Ida Mae at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Ida Mae takes their name from the old blues track by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. “It’s the first song we learnt to sing together,” said Chris.

Between songs on this St Paddy’s Day evening, Chris declared that he and Steph are of Irish descent; then remarked, “But there’s no whiskey at the concession stand! What’s up with that? Oh it’s okay, we have Jameson in the back. Come see us at the merch table after the show and maybe we’ll share.”

When Blackberry Smoke asked Ida Mae to join them on this tour, they jumped at the chance. “We were touring with The Marcus King Band last November and December, and Charlie sat in on one of the shows in Atlanta. He saw our set, and very kindly we were invited to join the guys on this tour,” said Steph. “What was a little crazy is that we had our own headline show in London UK the day before the first show in Lexington KY! We finished our show in London, boarded a plane at 4am, flew to JFK, drove to LaGuardia, flew to Louisville, then drove to Lexington and arrived 10 minutes before doors! We still can’t quite believe we made it, to be honest!”

Ida Mae’s debut album, Chasing Lights, drops June 7. It was recorded by Ethan Johns and features Dweezil Zappa. Dweezil had initially reached out to Chris online, inviting him to play a guitar solo on Frank’s Cosmik Debris during a performance of Zappa Plays Zappa at The Royal Festival Hall in London. “We both joined him on stage and he was so kind and supportive of everything we were doing,” said Steph. “We asked him to do a guest solo on the record, and he did an insanely cool solo on one of our tracks called Boom Boom Boom“.

Ida Mae: Chris Turpin, band music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Ida Mae at Kent Stage concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Upcoming dates for this tour include Wabash, IN; Bloomington and Waukegan, IL; Evansville, IN; Rocky Mount, VA; Englewood, NJ; Ithaca, NY; Easton, PA; and New York, NY.

All photos by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson.
Prints, wall art, canvas, velvet and metal prints available at www.MaraRobinson.com.

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Teenage Fanclub, Love Language, El Club, Detroit, Concert Photography

Teenage Fanclub and
The Love Language
at El Club, Detroit, MI
March 7, 2019

We arrived at El Club in Mexicantown about 10 minutes early, but a late soundcheck left us waiting in the bitter cold Detroit winter air until doors finally opened nearly 30 minutes later. After security searched our bags and patted us down, we were allowed to wait inside as The Love Language finished soudchecking behind the thick black curtain separating the bar from the music hall.

It had been 8 years years since I’d seen The Love Language live, and the preview we got while sipping a legit bottle of Mexican Coke in the bar got me even more amped to hear these songs in person again.

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Signed to Merge Records in 2009 after the first album, The Love Language is often upbeat melodic powerpop, but the albums don’t adhere to any one genre.

Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Stuart McLamb has penned four full-length albums under the Love Language name: Baby Grand (2018), Ruby Red (2013), Libraries (2010), self-titled (2009) and just a few weeks ago released a single called Bees.

Whereas the first two albums draw from ’60s pop music like The Beatles or The Beach Boys, newer songs feel more like post-millennial guitar rock a’la The Strokes, The Killers or Tame Impala. McLamb explains, “The Love Language is just kind of what I’m feeling at the time, and I’m not really that concerned with it being cohesive, but I’ve always tried to make sure it’s genuine.”

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

McLamb made the move from North Caroliina to LA in May 2017 and LA is namedropped a few times on the newest album, Baby Grand. But the album was actually written while Stuart still lived in North Carolina before he even knew he was going to move.

“It was almost like art predicting life,” said McLamb. “There’s lyrics about moving, about wanting to live in other places, and it’s like hearing yourself say what you want out loud makes it come true. At the core, the album is really about taking a risk to get out of a rut.”

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
CAPTION: The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

McLamb was joined on stage by his brother Jordan (keys/guitar/vocals), Thomas Simpson (drums) and Eddie Sanchez (bass/vocals). Not a shy bone among them, each member of the band laid into every song, eeking every ounce of rock ‘n’ roll out of their voices and instruments and into the receptive crowd.

It was obvious they were having a great time up there. Between songs they’d tell quick anecdotes and crack jokes, including a story about having too many martinis the night before and that “Jordan may have had a gummy bear, so we’ll see what happens.”

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
CAPTION: The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Their set highlighted uptempo, high-energy performances from each album, including Providence, Sparxxx, Heart to Tell, Frames, New Amsterdam and closed with an extended, balls-out performance of Calm Down that brought Stuart to his knees in front of his Pedaltrain, twisting knobs as the song continued to build, and culminating in a tasteful wash of feedback as the effects were allowed to ring out for just long enough before clearing the stage.

“That song has always been a fun moment to just go crazy at the end,” said McLamb. “We never really know where that’s going to go. You can go a million different ways with it because you’re not confined to a chord progression. We’re still figuring it out, and I hope we never do. It’s always different every night.”

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Stuart McLamb, The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

“This tour has been really inspiring and we’re having a really great time,” says McLamb. “It’s a ton of work, but it’s felt really gratifying. For a cold-weather tour with some dudes in their mid-to-late 30s, we’re kicking ass.”

Yes, it’s clear that they’re having a blast. Just Saturday, McLamb wrote the following Facebook post: “I don’t know how or why but we’re all crazy sleep deprived and old but me & the boys are absolutely killing it and i am 100000000% down to rock until I die 🖤”

with Teenage Fanclub music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Stuart McLamb, The Love Language at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

 

 

With the energy of The Love Language’s set still reverberating through the crowd, Teenage Fanclub rode that wave and started their set with a bang. Their first three songs, About You, Start Again, and The Cabbage kept the big-chord rock songs coming, bringing a heavier bend to some of their most reknowned songs.

with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Having released 11 studio albums since forming in 1989, the Scottish Brit-Pop band continues to craft solid powerpop tunes, often compared to Big Star. After all these years, the band hasn’t lost their approach to earnest expression and big-hearted love songs. 

with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Teenage Fanclub charted in the US with 1991’s Bandwagonesque, and the crowd’s biggest response of the night was, predictably, singing along to The Concept.

with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

The two bands complemented each other well and made for a fantastic night. We definitely recommend catching this tour even if you have to drive a ways for it, like we did. Upcoming dates are in Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philly, Washington DC and Saxapahaw, NC. Highly recommended!

with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
with The Love Language music photography by Akron concert photographer Mara Robinson
Teenage Fanclub at El Club in Detroit concert photography by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

All photos by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson. Prints, wall art, canvas, velvet and metal prints and more available at
www.MaraRobinson.com. Simply click the images you want to purchase, click Add To Cart, and select the sizes you want.

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Loudon Wainwright III Kent Stage Concert Photography

“But keep lifting up your left leg
And sticking out your tongue
There’s nothing else that you can do
And you’re too old to die young”
~ Loudon Wainwright III, The Home Stretch
(More Love Songs, 1986)

Loudon Wainwright III sticking out his tongue by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III and his trademark tongue, at Kent Stage, concert photography by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson

Loudon Wainwright III is one hell of a storyteller, and his show last night at the Kent Stage highlighted that skill both in song and in prose. He played his songs, yes, of course, and talked about their backstories. But there was more. 

He also performed material from his album and Netflix special Surviving Twin, where he combines some of his songs with his late father’s writings. His father, Loudon Wainwright Jr, wrote a column for Life magazine during the ’60s-’80s called The View From Here

During last night’s show, Loudon Wainwright III also read aloud from his book — On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things — recalling the story of how he lost, and lost again, then finally won his Grammy. 

He played songs from last year’s double-album of 42 rarities, Years in the Making. “No home should be without it; and I’ve got a Sharpie,” Wainwright quipped, pulling the black marker from his shirt pocket. “Just look at the size of that Sharpie!” 

Wainwright talks openly of his life and family, warts and all, with lighthearted humor, pulling faces, and, of course, the signature sticking out his tongue. 

best concert photographer Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III at Kent Stage, concert photography by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III music photography by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III at Kent Stage, concert photography by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III at Kent Stage, concert photography by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III sticking out his tongue Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
Loudon Wainwright III and his trademark tongue, at Kent Stage, concert photography by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson

 

Concert photography by Akron portrait photographer / Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson.
See more photos at www.MaraRobinson.com.   

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Sloan Live at the Grog Shop, Cleveland

Canadian rock band Sloan has been making music together with the same lineup since 1991, and Blown Speakers recently caught them on the latest leg of their tour at the Grog Shop in Cleveland. 

Sloan released their 12th full-length album on April 6, simply called 12, and it’s every bit as strong as their prior releases. In fact, I think they keep getting better, and I find myself reaching for the more recent releases more often than even their most acclaaimed earlier material. 

Sloan by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson Photography
Sloan by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

It’s not lost on me to be incredibly grateful that Sloan continues to make Cleveland a stop on their tour schedules. Whereas Blown Speakers has been forced to cross state lines for other bands who don’t come closer than New York, Chicago or Detroit, Sloan thankfully keeps coming back to the Grog Shop regularly. 

Tonight, the front row is peppered with teens and pre-teens; budding musicians commenting on the band’s gear and oohing over the pedal boards. Athough we still feel 21 — and you can’t convince us that we’re the same age as those middle-aged grey-beards at the back of the house — it’s nice to see that Sloan still resonates with today’s kids. As Sloan said their goodbyes for the night and exited the stage, Chris Murphy gave high-fives to the kids in the front.  

Chris Murphy of Sloan high-fives the crowd by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson Photography
Chris Murphy of Sloan by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Patrick Pentland of Sloan by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson Photography
Patrick Pentland of Sloan by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Sloan band live in concert by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Sloan by Mara Robinson

All photos by internationally published Cleveland / Akron music photographer Mara Robinson. See more photos at MaraRobinson.com 

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Red Wanting Blue, Will Hoge, The Building at Goodyear Theater

Internationally published music photographer Mara Robinson visited Akron’s Goodyear Theater last night and captured Red Wanting Blue, Will Hoge, and The Building live in concert.  

First up was The Building, featuring quiet and pretty songs by Boardman’s own Anthony LaMarca (The War on Drugs) and his brother, Angelo, who wasn’t playing.  His band featured Andrew Carlson on bass, Jason Lawrence on drums and guitar, Sam Buonavolonta on guitar and organ, and Nathan Phillips on piano.

Anthony LaMarca by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
The Building by Mara Robinson
Anthony LaMarca by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
The Building by Mara Robinson
Anthony LaMarca by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
The Building by Mara Robinson
Anthony LaMarca by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
The Building by Mara Robinson
Anthony LaMarca by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
The Building by Mara Robinson

 

 

 

Next, Will Hoge took the stage for a solo acoustic set, save for one last song where he was joined by Red Wanting Blue. It really would have been nice to see more of that go down.

Will Hoge by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Will Hoge by Mara Robinson
Scott Terry, Will Hoge by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Scott Terry, Will Hoge by Mara Robinson
Scott Terry, Will Hoge by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Scott Terry, Will Hoge by Mara Robinson

 

 

Lastly, Red Wanting Blue took the stage, giving an outlet to a crowd  that had become increasingly more restless as they chattered nonstop through the first two mellow acts. People took to their feet, and by the third song huddled into the space between the stage and the first row. Apparently that’s a no-go at the Goodyear Theater, but people quietly complied as police ordered everyone back to their seats. 

Red Wanting Blue by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Mara Robinson
Will Hoge sings with Scott Terry of Red Wanting Blue by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Will Hoge, Scott Terry by Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Red Wanting Blue by Mara Robinson

All photos by internationally published Cleveland / Akron music photographer Mara Robinson. See more photos at MaraRobinson.com

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