When going through all the concert photos I took at the end of each year, I am always struck by the same thought: "Boy, are you LUCKY to be able to experience live music this way!" It's a great privilege to be able to be so close up -- closer than close with a zoom lens -- and to take on the challenge of capturing moments of performance that go by with lightning speed. Much conspires against you: poor lighting, fast stage movement/lack of stage movement, TALL PEOPLE IN FRONT, people bashing into you, shooting time restrictions, sweaty hot venues, and any number of technical failures. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it really doesn't. But most of the time I come away with good stuff.

You can't judge how well each shoot went down until you get back home and get the photos onto the computer and begin to edit. Many of them I turn into digital dust right away because of whatever combination of above failures. Then it's the task of selecting the few that I'll take into Photoshop to process. These are the three questions I ask: 1. Is it in focus and well-composed?; 2. Does it give a good feel of the performance? and; 3. Is it beautiful, and can I make it more beautiful with thoughtful editing? I take my time with each image because my biggest goal at the end of the whole event is to offer you concert photos that are worth your time to look at and enjoy. These are the 17 photos I took in 2017 that I loved the most, and I hope you love them, too. (Click on each image to enlarge, and amble over to my Flickr account to see more if you wish!)

(Me at work, Burger Boogaloo, Oakland, CA., 7/2/17. Photo by Johnny Samra)

Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley, Chop Suey, Seattle, WA. 1/17/17

It had been far, far too long since I'd seen Tim Presley play, a painful stretch of time since he is one of my all-time faves, so I was incredibly excited for this show. Seeing Cate Le Bon for the first time was mind-blowing, and this trippy/quirky/beautiful evening was a delight. Appropriate to the music, I chose to use a double exposure effect.

Ty Segall and Gazebos, Neumos, Seattle, WA., 3/3/17

Another marvelous show with favorites that I've been able to shoot many times over the years. Shannon Perry of Gazebos is such a compelling figure to photograph, and I will always jump at the chance to do so! This photo combines a double exposure effect with the weirdness of the glowing hand prop that she was using.

What would I do without Ty Segall??  He makes the best music and puts on the best shows, and ends up on every list of bests and favorites I ever make. This was a challenging shoot as the audience, as expected, was very moshy, and it's just too risky for me to get in the middle of that now. Thank you, Neumos, for allowing me to shoot from the ADA area side stage, where I could work safely in order to bring you this adorable photo of Ty looking like the Pun Dog meme.

The Woggles, Funhouse, Seattle, WA. 6/23/17

Hardest working band in showbiz? The Woggles are serious contenders for indefatigable performance kings, with frontman Manfred Jones summoning up the energy of a kid who just ate a 5-lb. bag of sugar washed down with a liter of Coca Cola. NEVER miss this band if you have a chance to see them! 

This show holds a personal record for me as Most Sweat-Drenched Ever. TMI.

Stallion, Timber Room, Seattle, WA. 6/16/17

If you are not familiar with Stallion, The World's First and Only Pro Wrestling Rock n Roll Band, this photo may be confusing for you. It depicts the very moment that Luscious Luke, Hollywood Capponi, and Mr. Dynamite won, by default, the NorthWest Alliance World Rock n' Roll Championship belt, and would soon be defending it at an epic event a month later.

You should become familiar with Stallion.

Redd Kross, Nobunny, Guitar Wolf, Iggy Pop, Burger Boogaloo Day One, Oakland, CA. 7/1/17

After years of wanting to attend this festival, this year I flew down to Oakland, California for this year's Burger Boogaloo! I can't quantify my level of STOKED for you, as it was so high as to be scientifically unmeasurable. Gorgeous weather, unbelievable line up, wonderful friends.

The always-amazing Redd Kross is one of my favorite bands to shoot, FUN FUN FUN! Bassist/vocalist Steven McDonald leaps and pouts and kicks and HAIR.

A man, in a bunny mask, in black underwear, in a leather jacket, performing in a beautiful park where people enjoy throwing themselves into the crowd every few seconds. This was Nobunny.

Japan was represented perfectly as the manic Guitar Wolf appeared wearing a Godzilla mask and chugged a PBR, just to start.

This photo of the great Iggy Pop, who closed out Day One of the festival, brings up a lot of big feelings for me. I look at it now, and I'm bit awestruck that it happened at all. He is a rock n' roll hero of mine -- intelligent, thoughtful, funny, strong, resilient, and so talented --and I was beyond thrilled to be able to photograph him. 

This was during his first song of the set. He was moving so fast, running back and forth across the stage, the crowd was surging, and I was just trying to focus and refocus while keeping an eye on the crush. Seconds after I took this, a partial fence collapsed and pinned me at my hips and I was terrified, screaming for help and holding tight onto my camera bag so my insulin pump controller wouldn't be lost or crushed, or that I wouldn't be either, for that matter. Help came quickly, I was checked over, and was just banged up, but couldn't shoot for the rest of the set, a deep disappointment.

My gear was OK, I was OK, everyone else was OK, and accidents happen. I expected when I got back there would be no usable Iggy Pop photos, much less any really good ones. But, by god, there it was. There it was.

Jacuzzi Boys, La Luz, X, Burger Boogaloo Day Two, Oakland, CA. 7/2/17

Let me tell you, there are very few bands that I would willingly lie down on the ground for in front of a Port-A-Potty to get a photo! Much less the day after the Iggy Incident where I was hobbling around like wobbly marionette! I love these guys, duh. Always wonderful to see Jacuzzi Boys, and that potty was immaculate, by the way.

I had a tough shooting spot for La Luz's set, but this beautiful light on Shana Cleveland made me gasp.

This kid was my favorite crowd surfer at the Boogaloo -- he was jumping and jumping and jumping and was so joyful. What caught my eye here was this jump during X's set -- this young kid being held up by the older hands of fans of an older band. Rather poignant.

Pink Parts, Wrestlers, Stallion, The Backyard Bunkhouse BBQ Brawl and Rock n' Roll Rager, Sisters and Brothers Bar, Seattle, WA. 7/15/17

The Rager was the culmination of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears by headliners Stallion in order to bring the first hybrid REAL rock n' wrestling show to Seattle. A wrestling ring with real pro matches, a 12-ft.-high chain link cage for bands to play in, hay bales to sit on, beer to swig, and delicious food from Sisters and Brothers to eat? YES PLEASE! 

This show brought some unique challenges for me. First, learn how to shoot through a chain link cage. Pink Parts were awesome, and just about stole the whole show.

My second challenge was to shoot wrestling matches, which I had never done before. This was surprisingly hard! Your best shot changes direction often and quickly, the ropes are kind of a problem, and I was skittish about getting a collateral damage hit, so I stayed back further than was truly optimal. But still, I think this shot is odd and amusing, with the demoralized wrestler just sitting there, waiting for this guy to land on him from several feet above, not even looking up.

Oh, how I am not kidding when I say that Stallion spilled blood for this show. Luscious Luke here did, REAL blood and a whole lot of it, with a stunt that got out of hand a few minutes later and landed him in the ER. I thought long and hard about including one of the bloodied photos on this list -- yes, they are incredibly dynamic, technically very good, very unique, and beautiful in a perverse way. But I am not just the photographer; I am Luke's friend, and it was highly upsetting for me to see him injured -- so much so that I stopped taking photos, walked away from the stage, and cried. I promised the band I would do my best to capture the event, and I think I did, but it was tough. I'd make a lousy war photographer. If you'd like to see all the drama, oh you can.

When I was up to working with the photos, there was one of Luscious Luke sitting at the top of the cage with his trusty bullwhip, trash talking and cracking the whip in the sky that really called to me. I took it down to its essentials and gave it a vintage/damaged patina and blurred movement. It's one of my favorite photos ever.

And when Halloween came around, who went as Bloody Luscious Luke? THAT'S RIGHT, ME!

(photo by Kitty Page)

Lars Finberg, Highline Bar, Seattle, WA. 12/8/17

My shooting year of 2017 closed out in the best possible way with seeing ol' fren Lars Finberg at the Highline performing with the Bakersfield Moonlighters, featuring songs from his new album (wait for it), "Moonlight Over Bakersfield." I decided to use a double exposure effect along with some vintage grain and boosted color, and cropped it square for a stronger composition and Instagram-friendliness.

My endless thanks to all the bands and their bookers/agents, venues and staff, promotors, my friends and family, Canon USA, and every single concert-goer who helped in big or small ways to assist me in taking these photos, and thousands more. What a dream.