Friday, November 8, 2013

CLT music photographer celebrates two new books

If there’s one person I’ve chatted with at more concerts since moving to Charlotte in 1994 than anyone else I know, that person is photographer Daniel Coston. I sometimes see him at more than one show a night because Coston doesn’t stand around tapping his foot or sipping beer. He’s on to the next shot and usually the next show.

I first met him probably 18 years ago when I worked at Record Exchange at Cotswold. We were both getting started on this music journalism journey. He was working for “Tangents” - a local fringe indie publication. I was interviewing my first bands (Frente, Letters to Cleo) for the record store’s “Music Monitor.” Since then Daniel has become a fixture in the local music scene, working with local and regional artists both shooting them live, for album covers, and magazines. We once displayed his work at the coffee shop where I worked and a shot he took of Steve Earle during his post-Atkins diet, diet Dr. Pepper-swigging skinny period, hangs in my hallway at home.

This November Coston celebrates the release of two recently published books. Tonight he hosts “Kick Out The Garage” at Snug Harbor, which features generation spanning Charlotte garage rock from the Modern Primitives, the Mannish Boys, and Kinksmen as well as the release of “There Was a Time: Rock & Roll In The 1960s In Charlotte, and North Carolina.” Coston co-wrote "There Was a Time" with Mannish Boys’ Jacob Berger. Berger is a veteran of the Carolina rock scene who’d toyed with the idea of putting this book together for 14 years before finally talking Coston - a lover of the British Invasion and its American offshoots, as well as a growing authority on Carolina music - into co-writing it.

I didn’t grow up in Charlotte, so I didn’t have parents telling me stories about the good ole’ days shaking it down at the sock hop or anything. What I know about that era I’ve learned from talking to the musicians that played during that time, but rarely has my work taken me into the realm of underground garage rock of the `60s and `70s. Berger and Coston’s book does that with excerpts from interviews with the folks that played that music. It also touches on the other styles that were going on at the time and covers areas outside of Charlotte. It’s an interesting previously untapped history lesson (kind of like that "Carolina Funk: First in Funk" compilation that came out in 2007).

Books and music from the era will be available at the show. Tickets are $6. The show starts at 10 p.m. tonight.

Coston’s other book “North Carolina Musicians: Photographs and Conversations,” gets its own roll out Tuesday, November 19 at Evening Muse. Coston will sign copies of the book, which features his personal stories and experiences with the musicians he’s photographed since the mid `90s. Those notable names include Doc Watson, who graces the book’s cover, Tift Merritt, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Earl Scruggs (pictured with Watson above), the Avett Brothers and countless others. Coston has recruited Charlotte favorites Temperance League, the Loudermilks, and Justin Fedor, to play the book party. All three appear in the book. That’s one thing I like about “NC Musicians.” While Charlotte has often lived in the shadow of Chapel Hill - and there are plenty triangle area musicians featured - Coston doesn’t leave out our local heroes. For instance, Lou Ford (whose Edwards Brothers now make up two fifths of the Loudermilks) had a huge impact on Charlotte during the late `90s. Like Benji Hughes’ double album a few years ago, their “Sad, But Familiar” was inescapable in local stores, restaurants, and clubs.

Coston includes a few before-they-were-stars as well. There’s a very young pre-bangs Nicole Atkins at her first photo shoot (I barely recognized her) and he mentions his early work with Ryan Adams and the Avett Brothers. The book is as up-to-date as it can be with shots of predicted Charlotte breakouts Matrimony and Paint Fumes as recent as 2012.

Coston hits a variety of genres too from old time, gospel, blues, and bluegrass oldtimers like John Dee Holeman and Chocolate Drops mentor Joe Thompson (who has since passed away) to globetrotting young metal band Valient Thorr. Like in “There Was a Time,” there is a lot of regional music history in these pages. As a photographer who was getting to know the musicians from Chapel Hill’s and Charlotte’s burgeoning scenes, he was often a lot closer to the action than I was simply selling their cds and eventually interviewing some of them. Coston’s passion for his subjects - which is evident from his willingness to take on two independent book projects so close together - comes through in both. Plus, if you need to brush up on your NC music history - new and old - they're worth a look.

 The Evening Muse show is free. Show starts at 8 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. You can learn more about Coston here.