Our second guest list for March is by photographer and musician Brian Santostefano. Brian is well-regarded among artists in the Chicago hardcore punk and metal scenes and his photography is fairly ubiquitous. He also has a distinct visual style…the interplay with light and movement really helps amplify the feeling of the moment of the live show. We asked Brian to curate 90 minutes of music from some of his favorite artists and reflect on his experiences as a concert photographer and live music fan
Tell us about your beginnings, what got you interested in music?
I grew up in Mundelein. It’s a suburb of Illinois that sits about an equal distance between Chicago and Milwaukee. I was around 12 and pretty limited to the Radio and MTV, but my Sister’s CD collection was what really turned me on. She had the mainstream staples of the Smashing Pumpkins, Ministry, Soundgarden, Nirvana, The Crow soundtrack.. Oh Boy! I love that album so much. I picked up on a lot from her collection and started hanging out with friends in school that shared similar interests and I discovered more music from them. This was that golden era of swapping mix cassette tapes and taping shit from the radio.
I remember frequently hitting a small record store in Libertyville called Dog Ear Music and blindly buying obscure punk stuff that I’d see listed in the thank you section or credits of other bands CD’s that I was listening to at the time. I felt like I was Indiana Jones. It was ground breaking. Keep in mind I didn’t really have the internet at my fingertips as we do today, so this was an inspiring time to hear some of those bands for the first time.
Long story short I identified with Punk better than any other genre because it was the type of music that made the most sense to me and I sure as shit couldn’t play the guitar with any other style of music that well.
Photo by: Monica Vazquez
How did you get started with photography and shooting shows?
When I was 16 I got into photography by taking basic level courses in high school. I bought a used Canon AE-1 and started taking pictures of my friends’ bands jamming in their parents’ basements. My passions collided instantly. It started off where I shot one show, got in contact, and started spreading myself out a little more each time over and over. Keep in mind, This was Analog photography. It took a minute because I made prints at Walgreens and then I would give these bands physical copies of the prints. There was no greater feeling than seeing their response first hand. It inspired me to put myself out there even more. Eventually I was regularly hitting up a variety of small basement shows, local legion halls around neighboring towns, the Knights of Columbus in Arlington Heights , the Libertyville Civic Center, etc. My biggest jump was the Fireside Bowl in Chicago, that was the best place for shows. They always had something going on even if you didn’t know who was playing. The possibilities were limitless, that’s how I found a lot of my favorite bands.
You have sort of an implicit association with the shows you shoot, particularly for the underground hardcore and metal scenes. Is there anything about those particular styles that draws you in as an audience member, or photographer?
Hardcore punk music in general is cathartic for me. I eat it and breathe it daily. All of the bands I’ve played in have been fast hardcore punk bands, it’s really a style that identifies with me. With my photography I’m all about capturing the raw emotion. Especially with Artists that move around and come off more intense, abrasive or scary. It feels like a chain reaction with the audience. The whole room is engaged. That’s my favorite. I love being in the front and actually being a part of the show. I used to be very shy and afraid of getting hit by people or instruments so I hid in the back or the side but I got better with photography over time by getting more comfortable and confident with myself in those crazy situations. When I was a kid looking through a lot of my CD booklets and music magazines, I wasn’t only digesting song lyrics and reading articles, I was drawn to these iconic live images that were captured. The perfect moments being captured in literally in seconds. Some of my most favorite photographers that inspired me are Glen E. Friedman, Murray Bowles, and Nathan Baker.
How have you been holding up since the pandemic hit?
I spent most of it just outside the city with my partner. There was a good chunk of time I was taking photos in cemeteries and looking for famous dead people’s graves. I am privileged to have been working this entire time. I still do a lot of walking around. I’m getting better at disconnecting from my phone and reconnecting with close friends at a social distance. I’m not going to lie, this was a time that I really needed to focus on myself and well-being. I took care of a lot of personal things that I was ignoring for quite some time with my general health. I feel really good about myself and what the future brings. After a year of this, I truly realize how much I miss the community of the Chicago music scene. I seriously can’t wait to experience that Life again. I will never take a moment of it for granted.
What is it about a going to a live show that is so cathartic…why are live shows important?
It’s a release from all the pressures, obligations, and frustrations that consume our everyday lives. Seriously, I feel sick being with out it for so long. I love supporting the community of my friends and the bands I love near and far. It’s a treasure to me and I just want to document everything and share them with everyone that feels equally passionate about it as much as I do.
Guest Listcurated by Brian Santostefano
Fast hardcore out of Chicago. Formed in 2009.
88 Fingers Louie
88 Fingers Louie is an American punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois, United States, which was formed in 1993. After disbanding in 1999, guitarist Dan Wleklinski and bassist Joe Principe formed the well-known punk rock band Rise Against. The band reunited in 2009, and has continued playing shows in Chicago, Canada, Belgium, Las Vegas, and Asbury Park. The band held a 20th anniversary show in 2013. The name comes from a Flintstones gangster who sells dodgy pianos. [Bio courtesy of Wikipedia]
The Life and Times
The Life and Times has lived a thousand lives since their first record more than 12 years ago, after the dissolution of Allen Epley’s former band, little guy cult fave’s Shiner. This 5th full-length album is a sun and drug-dappled beauty, infused with a thick sonic kaleidoscope of tones. More immediate and to the point than previous releases, power and beauty hold the cards ultimately.
Ovef Ow a 4-piece post-punk/surf/new wave band. Our name rhymes with “Whoa, Jeff, Wow!”
Adam Thorseness – drums
Greg Klemm – bass and vocals
Vincent Giuliano – guitar and vocals
Brian Watts – guitar
Rudolf Schultz – vocals
He Who Corrupts
Fortune 500 Chicago-based grindcore.
“Dress shirts. Slacks. Stamp collections. The suburbs. Gardening. LaCroix. These are the calling cards of America’s Baddest Band®, Chicago’s own Bad Mechanics. No strangers to shtick, members Andy Slania (The Eradicator, ex-Galactic Cannibal) and Ryan Durkin (ex-HeWhoCorrupts, ex-KungFu Rick) take aim at ‘adult life’ in hypnotizing, rapid fire with their debut LP Precious Moments in the USA on Stonewalled Records.” – The Bad Copy
Chicago Hardcore/Raw Punk
Aaron – Guitar
Joe – Drums
Karly – Vox
Ryan – Bass
Razacore from Chicago.
” Sin Orden has been playing vicious, intoxicating thrash for a decade now. Their records are all stalwarts in my collection. I’ve seen them play in both New York and Chicago and they’ve torn it up in both cities to sweaty and appreciative audiences. As far as I know, they are never not good live. But there are a lot of you out there not yet worshipping at the altar of this band. What the fuck are you waiting for?” – MAXIMUMROCKINROLL
Pegboy is an American punk band from Chicago, Illinois with a relatively large cult following. They were founded in 1990 by John Haggerty (ex-guitarist for Naked Raygun), along with his brother Joe Haggerty (drums, formerly of The Effigies), Larry Damore (vocals/guitar), and Steve Saylors (bass). Both Damore and Saylors had been members of Chicago-based hardcore band Bhopal Stiffs, whose 1987 demo had been produced by John Haggerty. Pegboy’s 1990 debut EP, “Three-Chord Monte”, was also the first release by Quarterstick Records, an offshoot of Touch and Go Records. Steve Saylors dropped out in 1992 after job commitments prevented him from touring. Steve Albini, a longtime friend of the band, filled the bass slot on the “Fore” EP. Former Naked Raygun bassist Pierre Kezdy became the permanent bass player in 1994. After the reformation of Naked Raygun, Mike Thompson took over for Kezdy on bass.
Bio courtesy Wikipedia
Some refer to Kodakrome as a thinking man’s punk rock band. They deliver terse lyrics over a blistering blend of synths and noisy punk
The Burst and BloomHey there,We are a four piece band from ChicagoA band full of chosen family.We write music to help us bridge the gap where words fall short.Each song holds a feeling or memory that we had to put out in the world whether it is to help ourselves, a friend, or a random person that just needs to hear the right words.Sometimes those words can motivate, and sometimes those words can make you feel at that moment that you are not a lone.Sometimes music is all someone has. For the four of us, music is all we need.We areThe Burst and Bloom.
LetteringA bunch of nerds playing with things.
Noisy, sludgy, hardcore punk from Chicago, IL
“Where other heavy bands would rather barrel down the cliffside first and ask questions later, Sweet Cobra regard the speedometer with a careful, cumulative eye, with occasionally poppy results.” – Pitchfork
Angry, heavy, honest, and absolutely no care.
Since 2006 these punk vets have been blasting out their blend of rough & ear-splitting melodic punk rock that is unmatched.