10 Years: Spring 2011-2021 (A Visual Retrospective)

by Steven Spoerl

Knowing what the future holds, no matter how certain you think you are, is an impossibility. For now, it appears we’re on track to find a return to live music at some point this year, for better or worse. Safety and sustainability will be key in the pursuit of giving back an aspect of life most audiences and performers have been sorely missing for over a year. In the spirit of that looming return, it felt appropriate to return to some of the visual materials of live shows I’ve archived over the last 10 years.

Dating back to Spring 2011 and spread across multiple cameras, states, and festivals, I’ve put together a visual retrospective of some of the work that helped me feel at home across that time. Maybe nostalgia has gotten the better of me as I’ve forced myself into extended isolation but I firmly believe this type of work has greater meaning. Documentation can exist outside of stock archivist nature and connect to something deeper, exploring past the boundaries of generic time stamps into qualities that are more complex and intangible. Whether that be something as pointed as the evocation of a specific feeling or as sweeping as the nature of the human condition, there’s often an implicit value that’s more difficult to define but crucial to capture.

Understanding how to respect the possibilities of photography and videography has become critical to not just myself but to my favorite photographers, a few of which I’m fortunate to consider friends. Throughout the 700 photographs and 50 videos featured here, there are intentional reflections of the places and people that continuously made me understand the gravity of my surroundings. From feeling awed by those close to me as they came into their own as artists to the acute understanding that the conditions cultivated around Stevens Point, WI basement shows around the start of the 2010’s could never be truly duplicated. All anyone with a camera can ever hope to do is capture a modicum of what makes those moments singular.

To that extent, I hope this collection stands as not just an example of the tenderness I felt towards the people and venues featured here but as an extension of my gratitude. From DBTS and its residents, who took me in for a time when I moved to NYC in 2015, to Baby’s All Right, where I was fortunate enough to work doors over a summer in 2015, to the people who made up the acts that became my friends, chosen family, creative partners, and confidants: Good Grief, Heavy Looks, Charly Bliss, LVL UP, Perfect Pussy, Tenement, and so many more. I remain indebted to the people, places, and moments that have helped shape the person I’ve become and am hopeful that the near-future holds more of that type of importance for us all.

Take a look back as we collectively look forward to live music’s return by clicking on this Flickr link to access those photographs and by rifling through the videos embedded below. Enjoy. Hopefully some of this will mean as much to some of you as it does to me.