'Reigning Rock' Concert Photo Exhibit To Open at Survival Kit Gallery on Oct. 18

click to enlarge From the left, Anastasia Pantsios, Joe Kleon and Michael Stanley. - JR Eaton
JR Eaton
From the left, Anastasia Pantsios, Joe Kleon and Michael Stanley.
Locally based rock concert photographers Anastasia Pantsios and Joe Kleon, both of whom have contributed to Scene during their respective careers, have teamed up to present what they’re saying is the largest exhibition of Northeast Ohio concert photography ever assembled in Northeast Ohio.

Dubbed Reigning Rock, their exhibit opens at 78th Street Studios’ Survival Kit Gallery on Friday, Oct. 18, with special reception that takes place from 5 to 9 p.m.

You can see photos from the exhibit here.

Pantsios and Kleon have “dug deep” into their archives for this year’s exhibit, printing photos never before seen. The exhibit will include photos of national acts as well as a new section devoted to local and regional performers.

In conjunction with the exhibit, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20, Michael Stanley will record part two of his oral history at the gallery, covering the years after MSB to the present. Part One was recorded six years ago during Kleon’s solo exhibit at the Space: ROCK Gallery in the Waterloo Arts District. David Spero will again host this video interview, which will be open to the public free of charge.

From noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, The Classic Metal Show will broadcast its six-hour weekly show live from the gallery and re-name itself The Cleveland Metal Show. Local metal musicians will join CMS hosts Chris Akin and Neely throughout the day. A raffle will also be held for a photo prize package.

More than 200 photos will be on display at Reigning Rock with additional prints available for sale. The exhibit will close on Friday, Nov. 15.

In separate interviews, Pantsios and Kleon talk about the exhibit.

What made you first want to start shooting concerts?
I was a theater student at Case Western Reserve, shooting stage productions for The Observer. We got tickets to the big rock shows, which were mostly at Public Hall then (early '70s) and I got them because back then, CWRU students didn’t like to leave campus and I loved music! I would take my camera with me and saw rock concerts as a sort of theater.
Kleon: I bought a camera I couldn’t afford to take on my honeymoon. When we returned home, I was looking for ways to turn the camera into cash.

What other photographers have influenced you?
Most photographers I like do (or did) work that is completely different than mine, such as Richard Misrach, Geoffrey Crewdson, Joel Meyerowitz, Geoffrey Winningham, Algimantas Kezys and Lee Miller. They make me see things in a different way. I like a lot of “street” photographers too, such as Brassai (one of my all-time favorites), Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank and Vivian Maier, which is a lot closer to the work I do. My favorite music photographer is jazz photographer Herman Leonard, who was a master at capturing the essence of musicians and the atmosphere of the venues where they played. I couldn’t get the shots he did though, because they depended so much on cigarette smoke and all clubs are non-smoking now!
Kleon: I have been a huge Fin Costello fan since I was a kid. The images he captured of bands such as Rush and Kiss were magical to me, growing up immersed in these bands.

What was the first Cleveland concert you shot and what was the experience like?
I honestly don’t remember! The first concert I ever shot was in Chicago where I’m from. I shot several major shows at Public Hall/Music Hall that first summer I came here, such as the Doors and Led Zeppelin. It was looser, more freewheeling and dark — very hard to shoot, and film was expensive. But no one cared if you brought a camera and walked up front to take photos. There were also lots of bikers hopped up on sopors (anyone remember those?) and Boone’s Farm. VERY freewheeling!
Kleon: The first show I shot was Wish You Were Here at The Odeon in 2002. I was working as a crew member for the band and brought my new camera to the show. I had maybe taken 100-200 photos in my life before that day, mostly with disposable film cameras.

You held your first exhibit of Northeast Ohio concert photography two years ago. Talk about what it was like to put that exhibit together.
I had done other shows, but they were selective, focused on a particular era or genre. I put together a multi-photographer show called Visual Music back in 2011, where I curated work by a dozen area music photographers. We did that at a gallery in Akron and one on Waterloo. But this was the first time I went through everything I had shot since I started, and it was pretty overwhelming, especially since I printed or reprinted most of the work myself (It’s mostly black & white negatives and little of it is scanned). Since I’ve been shooting digital since 2004, it was the first time I’ve spent that much time in the darkroom for a long time!
Kleon: It was a lot of work, but very rewarding in many ways. From a personal standpoint, I loved it because it was the first time I saw a lot of my photographs in print. Most of the time, all my work is created and published digitally. Seeing them in print brings a whole new dynamic and vibrance to the image that is often lost on a computer monitor. From an artist/photographer point of view, seeing so many people reliving shows they attended, hearing stories of how my work takes then back to that day, and seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they see pics of artists they like is a great feeling.

This is your third exhibit. How will it differ from the previous two?
I’m focusing on two things I didn’t get into so much before: my local band photos and the pre-digital color work I did, mostly on slides. Almost none of the latter has ever been printed and none has ever been displayed, because honestly, before 15 years ago with digital, it would have been prohibitively expensive to get decent quality prints from slides. Now it’s not. And because we are doing the Michael Stanley oral history and the Classic Metal Saturday where we have many local metal musicians coming in to be interviewed and to play live on the air, both Joe and I are including far more local stuff. I started shooting promo shots for local bands back in the ’70s, working for both the big talent agencies as well as independent bands. There are bands like First Light and Love Affair that I did most of the photos they ever used. I also shot all of Bill Peters’ bands on his heavy metal Auburn label in the ’80s, while Joe shot a lot of them when Bill revived the label in the ’00s. I think I took one of the first shots ever of Mushroomhead, back when they thought the band was going to be a side project from their “real” bands (the original reason they wore the masks).
Kleon: We have both dug extremely deep into our vast collections and unearthed many photos that have never before been printed, published, or seen. I will be displaying multiple photos of many bands, something I only did in a limited capacity at the last two galleries. I will have multiple photos from bands like Rush, Rolling Stones, Scorpions, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, Yes, Aerosmith, and others. We will also be exhibiting a ton of local artist photos.”

You’ll both have photos of Michael Stanley on display. Talk about what it’s like to work with him and why you think his music has such strong appeal.
We’ll have loads of Michael Stanley shots! Joe’s been Michael’s official photographer for the last 15 years, and I have shots going back to the beginning of the Michael Stanley Band — many appear on the Stagepass, the live album MSB recorded at a way oversold Agora in late 1976. That was hard to shoot! I think Michael is Cleveland everyman; he has songs that people in a — I know it’s a cliché but — blue-collar town relate to, without making idiotic party music that tends not to age well. He has always done an amazing show, and he just seems like a guy you’d know. He actually IS a guy a lot of Clevelanders know!
Kleon: Working with Michael and The Resonators has been one of the highlights of my career. When I first met Michael, I was working on the air at WNCX. I would do his show when he was sick, or on vacation. I had just bought my first camera and Michael allowed me to shoot his shows. He still uses a band promo pic I took in the very early days of my shooting; it is used for almost every full band show to this day. His fans started buying pics. Working with Michael was a huge motivator to continue shooting, try to get better with each show, and turn this new hobby into a paying career. I would never have shot the 1,500 shows I have, without Michael’s encouragement and access to his shows at the very beginning of my photographic endeavors. His music has such a strong appeal because it is genuine, written from the heart, and is done for the right reasons. Michael is a master songwriter and excels at emotional, thought-provoking lyrics that lay perfectly overt the magical melodies that fuel the message.”

On Saturday, October 26, The Classic Metal Show will broadcast its six-hour weekly show live from the gallery and re-name itself The Cleveland Metal Show. You’ve both covered Cleveland’s metal scene during your careers. Talk about why Cleveland has had such a great metal scene for the past few decades.
I think it has to do with mutuality, the fact that metal bands have always supported each other and fans have always followed the whole scene, as opposed to just their favorite band. I talk about this a lot because I saw the opposite in the new wave/modern rock scene in the ’80s, where a fan might complain about there being no scene for that music in Cleveland out of one side of his mouth and out of the other he’d be sniffing that the only band worth hearing is Exotic Birds and he’d never go hear the Adults or System 56 or Lucky Pierre. When you went to hear Breaker, you’d see the guys from Shok Paris, Destructor, Purgatory, all there cheering them on. A lot of that had to do with Bill Peters and his Auburn label, as well as his Metal on Metal show on WJCU 88.7 FM, which has been on the station Friday nights since the early ’80s. Bill is very modest but I don’t think any of that would have happened without him.
Kleon: I have always loved being part of the Cleveland metal scene. The camaraderie and friendship between bands has always been something that has been inspirational. I loved seeing Cleveland metal bands always striving to excel musically. Musical prowess seemed a lot more important to metal bands. Playing to the edge of their ability and beyond, always striving to grow and improve, and always putting 150% on stage secured Cleveland a spot on the map as one of the country’s greatest metal scenes. Anastasia and I have captured a lot of that local magic and will have it on display at the gallery“

We live during a time when just about everyone thinks they can take photos. What distinguishes a good concert photo?
Emotion, mood. A lot of people are proud when they take a decently exposed, in-focus photo, but modern cameras have made that easy. For me, having originally studied to be a lighting and scene designer, a lot of it is about light and space, and the relationship of the body to them, which can be express emotion in a subtle way.
Kleon: The same thing that distinguishes any good photo. Accurately capturing the mood of the subjects and the vibe of the scene, in a well composed, focused, dynamic, emotional, and visually interesting manner.

Shooting concerts has become much more difficult over the years as artists now often make photographers shoot only two or three songs from the soundboard. What keeps you motivated to continue shooting?
Well, I’m not! I’d be happy to never set foot in Traffic-Jam-on-the-Falls (Blossom) or the Q, excuse me, the FIELDHOUSE, again. I’m always amazed at the shots Joe gets because shooting from the soundboard traps you in a static viewpoint and doesn’t let you play around with light, space and angles, as I like to do. You have to rent a long lens, and lug a tripod and often a stool or small ladder, and wait for the performer to do something interesting in front of your camera. Ugh. I just don’t do it. But last weekend I shot a dozen bands at the Ingenuity festival, where I could walk around, look for angles, wait for moments, and get really good stuff. I’ll gladly shoot a band at the Beachland or Grog Shop or Bop Stop. Plus the music is usually fresher and more interesting. I’m well past the point of subjecting myself to the rules and whims of some superstar band that I probably got better photos of in their heyday.
Kleon: There are a few things that keep me motivated. I love to capturing the vibe of the venue and the emotions of a performance. Knowing that others enjoy my work doesn’t hurt!! It is increasingly difficult to work effectively and enjoy the work, when more and more artists are demanding things like free copyright to exploit all professional photos taken at their shows, without compensation. What a deal!! The restrictions are progressively getting worse, with some only allowing one song, or photos during 30 or 60 seconds of one or two songs. I refuse to shoot under such ridiculous conditions and would rather stay home.

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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