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2020 Year In Review

In early 2020 I was eagerly awaiting lineup announcements for music festivals and planning my concert calendar for the year. Little did I know that the concert calendar for the year would be only ten weeks long. So, needless to say, I’ve struggled to figure out how to write a 2020 year in review in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. How do I wrap up a year that only covered nine shows? I finally settled on focusing on the decade of the 2010’s (that’d be 2011-2020, article if that is confusing) to look back at my favorite moments, photos, albums, struggles, and triumphs that have made the decade what it was.

FIFTEEN YEARS OR FIFTEEN MINUTES?

Fifteen years ago on this day I was sitting at my parents’ house, having just been released from University Hospital after a night that changed my life forever. The first twenty one Christmas Eves of my life were spent surrounded by my amazing family at my grandparents’ house eating, playing games, celebrating and laughing. It was basically a storybook example of the holidays. In 2005 there was a dark cloud over the holiday as mere hours before we all gathered, I was in a terrible car accident that claimed the life of one of my friends (you can read more of the story in my 2017 Year In Review). I was nearly catatonic and I’m sure my family struggled to figure out how to best support me in the moment. Did I need support and a shoulder to cry on? Did I need to escape into a brief bit of normalcy of the holiday? Did I need to just be left alone? I’ll be honest, I barely remember any specific moments of that Christmas Eve. What I do remember was the feeling of love that surrounded me.

Me, John, and my brother Mike on vacation in 1997

Today is the fifteen year anniversary of that day and the death of my friend John. It’s strange looking back on it. It seems both so far in the past and so recent. Has it been fifteen years or fifteen minutes? Maybe that’s healthy. The pain and the sadness is still close enough to recall and feel, but has lost its power over my life. As time marches on and the years since add up, it becomes more like a scar from an injury long past. I can see the evidence of the trauma I went through and remember the intensity of the pain, guilt, and fear I felt then. But, over time it’s become less a representation of the anguish and more a reminder of the time, love, and patience from my friends, family and even myself that helped to heal it. Now it’s a reminder to keep my shit together and live for all of those who helped me through the darkest time of my life. This year has been a real test of the growth I’ve had over those 15 years.

SMALL SUCCESSES

When the pandemic began and we all were asked to make the sacrifice of refraining from social gatherings, I began to worry a bit. My struggles with alcohol abuse in the past have mostly stemmed from depression and isolation. I really was concerned about how I would react to the extended alone time mandated by the situation. Would I grow depressed? Would I retreat into the dark place I spent nearly fifteen years distancing myself from? Would I be tempted to turn to alcohol again to deal with it all?

I’ve been seeing a bunch of posts on social media to “share something you’re proud of from 2020.” As I looked back on a year filled mostly with solitude, I’m proud that I’ve managed to stave off the temptation to drink as a coping mechanism. Have I been depressed? Yes. Have I struggled with loneliness? Yes. Have I felt out of control? Yes. Have I despaired at the lack of family and friends in my life? Yes. Have I turned to alcohol as a solution to those feelings? No. Whenever I feel down, I pour myself into things that give me joy. I pick up my bass and start playing. I call my mom and dad and talk, sometimes for hours. I facetime with my friends. I listen to music. I escape into a novel. I watch my favorite tv shows and movies. Do all of those things alleviate the depression and loneliness? Of course not, but they help me through the darkest moments and remind me that this too will pass.

As I sit alone in my condo, preparing to spend the first Christmas Eve of my my life without my family, I’m reminded of the love that I felt that Christmas Eve fifteen years ago. The strength my family and friends have given me over the past decade and a half helps me know that even though we can’t be together this year, we can all still feel the love between us.

If you’re struggling with depression during this holiday season, or anytime really… please reach out to me. You can use the contact form on this site, message me on facebook or instagram, or if you have my number, call or text any time. You’re not alone and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is tough on us all and we need to be there for each other.

A LOOK BACK AT THE 2010S

THE DECADE THAT WAS

Looking back on the decade was a pretty fun exercise. It was a way to relive the feeling of shooting a show and seeing live music that I haven’t had since March. I think that’s what I love so much about concert photography. Each photo is like a bookmark in my memory to that specific day. Without them, it’d be easy for the moments to slip away quietly into the dusty corners of my brain, perhaps never again to be rediscovered. Instead, I can see my photos from Capital Cities back in November of 2013 and remember when my battery grip stopped working while in the pit for our 3 songs and I didn’t have the battery door to use if I took off the grip off, rendering my camera useless, but the ever-prepared Steve Ziegelmeyer of course had an extra battery door in his bag. That specific memory reminds me of the camaraderie that the concert photographers in Cincinnati have built up. Or I wouldn’t be able to look at any of the hundreds of photos from my years of covering Nelsonville Music Festival and immediately remember tons of memories of the people I’ve met there and who have become what I call my “festival family.” I really hope that when I share my photos they can be a small part of helping those that were also at that show or have a memory associated with a specific artist keep those memories for a long time.

Obviously, this year has been tough for those who make a living of the live event industry. That includes bands, venues, promoters, security personnel, bartenders, publicists, sound techs, lighting engineers, stagehands, and so much more. If you have the means, buy physical music from your favorite artists, buy merch from a local venue, donate to Save Our Stages or tip an artist doing a livestream. Every little bit makes a difference.

Whenever I make a compilation of my photos I struggle to decide what criteria upon which to judge them. Do I pick the most interesting? The most technically perfect? The ones that best capture emotion? The ones of my favorite artists? Usually at the end I end up with some combination of all of those and this list of my favorite 100 photos of the decade is no exception. Here they are in their biasedly curated splendor:

TOP PHOTOS OF THE 2010s

TOP ALBUMS OF the 2010s

As with my compilation of favorite photos from the decade, this list is completely subjective. With the help of SlyVinyl concert reviewer, Aaron Weaver, I homed in on my favorite releases from 2011-2020. It was more difficult than I thought. Some artists, like Father John Misty or Courtney Barnett put out multiple albums during the decade that could are worthy of being on this list. Other artists put out albums recently that it’s hard to see how they will stand the test of time. Hopefully this list will help you discover something you missed or rediscover something you forgot about. Enjoy!

TOP ALBUMS

  1. Father John Misty – Fear Fun (2012)
  2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)
  3. The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream (2014)
  4. Jason Isbell – Southeastern (2013)
  5. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You (2018)
  6. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (2012)
  7. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)
  8. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center (2019)
  9. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat (2015)
  10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
  11. Strand of Oaks – HEAL (2014)
  12. The National – Trouble Will Find Me (2013)
  13. Tobias Jesso Jr.  – Goon (2015)
  14. Anderson .Paak – Ventura (2019)
  15. Conor Oberst – Ruminations (2016)
  16. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong (2011)
  17. Orville Peck – Pony (2019)
  18. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (2019)
  19. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (2020)
  20. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest (2011)
  21. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (2020)
  22. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN (2016)
  23. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee (2016)
  24. Of Monsters & Men – My Head is an Animal (2012)
  25. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me (2012)

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

RUBATO BY THE NUMBERS

THE BIG PICTURE

  • 931 Artists photographed
  • 15,932 Photos posted
  • 32 Music Festivals photographed
  • 297 Individual events photographed
  • 338 Days shooting shows
  • 1233 Sets of music photographed
  • 218 Artists nominated for at least 1 Grammy Award
  • 1,720 Total Grammy nominations by those 218 artists
  • 125 Artists have won at least 1 Grammy Award
  • 473 Total Grammy Award wins by those 125 artists
  • 75 of those 104 have won multiple Grammy Awards
  • 36 artists photographed are in Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAMERS PHOTOGRAPHED

  • Beach Boys
  • Neil Young (solo and Buffalo Springfield)
  • Eagles
  • Hall & Oates
  • Dr John
  • BB King
  • John Mellencamp
  • Rush
  • Steely Dan
  • The Temptations
  • Jackson Browne
  • Van Halen
  • Cheap Trick
  • Chicago
  • Steve Miller
  • Heart
  • Gregg Allman
  • Billy Joel
  • Buddy Guy
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Jack Casady / Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane)
  • Journey
  • Pearl Jam
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Mavis Staples (Staple Singers)
  • Rod Stewart (Solo and Faces/Small Faces)
  • Green Day
  • Graham Nash (CSNY and The Hollies)
  • Parliament Funkadelic
  • David Byrne (Talking Heads)
  • Jeff Beck (Solo and in Yardbirds)
  • Alice Cooper
  • James Taylor
  • Bob Weir (Grateful Dead)
  • Brian Wilson
  • The Doobie Brothers

MOST GRAMMY NOMINATIONS

  • Chick Corea – 67 nominations
  • Willie Nelson – 55 nominations
  • Dolly Parton – 48 nominations
  • Emmylou Harris – 47 nominations
  • Allison Kraus – 44 nominations
  • Taylor Swift – 41 nominations

MOST GRAMMY WINS

  • Alison Kraus – 28 wins
  • Chick Corea – 23 wins
  • Yo Yo Ma – 20 wins
  • Pat Metheney – 20 wins
  • BB King – 16 wins
  • Herbie Hancock – 14 wins

MOST PHOTOGRAPHED ARTISTS

  • Jason Isbell – 7 shows
  • The National – 6 shows
  • Walk The Moon – 6 shows
  • Dawes – 6 shows
  • Father John Misty – 6 shows

MOST PHOTOGRAPHED VENUES

  • Taft Theatre and Ballroom – 56 shows
  • Riverbend Music Center/PNC Pavilion – 53 shows
  • Southgate House Revival – 27 shows
  • Memorial Hall – 17 shows
  • Madison Theater – 16 shows