Interview with Iconic Concert Photographer, Marc Millman

Posted on Thursday November 8th in

Marc Millman has been covering shows at Brooklyn Bowl since we opened our doors in 2009. On Tuesday, November 13, we’re honored to host him for his 50th Birthday celebration with the Nifty 50 All-Stars featuring George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners with Eric Lindell, Craig Dreyer, Kendra Morris, Aaaron Comess and more! In light of his upcoming birthday throw-down, we sat down with Marc to learn the history of his concert photography, most memorable concert experiences, favorite food at Brooklyn Bowl and more in this exclusive interview.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Marc! Really excited to celebrate your birthday next week. Let’s get started! We’d love to know how you got into photography?

I always enjoyed photography. My father was an “advanced amateur” who always shot slide film back in the 1960s and 70s. We spent hours watching them projected onto the walls of our living room or den growing up in New Jersey. I was always fascinated to see things we had done as a family or all the exotic places my parents travelled to because my mother was a travel agent.

So looks like photography might run in the family! Now tell us, what’s it like shooting in New York vs. any other city?

Shooting in New York City is cool because you know that everyone thinks, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere!” The reality is that this city is dirty, expensive, and smells bad most of the time. But it really does have an energy unlike anyplace else. I’m not a world traveler, so I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to shoot in Hong Kong,Tokyo, Moscow, or Paris, but in this country, I think New Orleans is the only other place that has a similar crazy energy.

There really is no place like New York City, but New Orleans definitely vibes with the same energy when it comes to music. Anywho, what’s your favorite venue to shoot at in NYC?

When it comes to shooting around New York, I have a few favorite venues that cover different size rooms. From smallest to largest: Rockwood Music Hall, Brooklyn Bowl, Irving Plaza, Capitol Theatre, Madison Square Garden.

Those are definitely some incredible rooms and we’re honored to have made your list! Speaking of, you have an upcoming show at Brooklyn Bowl to celebrate your 50th birthday with the Nifty 50 All-stars on Tuesday, November 13! How did you choose the players?

In August of 2017, I reached out to Lucas who books the Bowl. I proposed a night where I would “curate” the band. Under his guidance, I would come up with a list of players; this “wish list” could then be culled based on availability and costs. There were two at the top of my list who I figured I could get involved: George Porter and Eric Lindell. New Orleans musicians are my thing. I love the Crescent City and just about everything it produces.

The rest of the Nifty 50 All-Stars just evolved organically. I knew I wanted a female vocalist, so I called Kendra Morris. She’s based out of Brooklyn, ironically, and I was introduced to her when she opened for the Funky Meters at The Bowl a few years back. Craig Dreyer is my favorite local sax player; his dad and mine were friends going back to the late 60s. Tash Neal was a natural choice for me. I thought London Souls were the hottest band in the New York City a few years ago and I was never really a big fan of the guitar/drum only bands. But they had this manic energy; they were dynamite. I was hanging with Tash backstage at Tedeschi Trucks at The Beacon last month and asked if he’d join in. He said he would. And that was it!

This Nifty 50 All-Stars show is a benefit to raise a few dollars and some awareness for two causes; Headcount because registering young voters is so important, and The Roots of Music, an after-school program in New Orleans. It helps kids with mentorship while they learn to become part of a competitive marching band. When you see a gem like this organization in action, it is very moving.

Eric Lindell, Marc Millman, and his daughter, Julia

It’s so awesome that some of your favorite musicians are also some of your closest friends. It’s even more awesome that they’re all getting together to perform for your 50th birthday! How long have you and George Porter Jr. known each other?

I first met George back in college when The Meters started playing out again. I think it was 1989 when they played the Lonestar Roadhouse where Max’s Kansas City used to be across from Roseland. George is the nicest guy. And he’s the best damn bass player. I caught the funk bug in college and discovered The Meters after hearing Robert Palmer’s Sneaking Sally Through the Alley album. It’s been a blessing to know George now for almost thirty years.

Peter Shapiro and George Porter Jr. at Brooklyn Bowl 

George is without doubt one of the best damn bass players, that’s for sure. Speaking of The Meters, you’ve always expressed your love for New Orleans and Jazz Fest. When did you first attend and what year was the most memorable?

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival had always been a goal for me. My first trip was in 1993. I was working with Warren Haynes and the Allman Brothers had booked two shows: The Civic Auditorium and the Fairgrounds. What a trip!!! I got to stand on the Ray-Ban Stage (now called Acura) and watch the Brothers play before the largest crowd for them at the time of around 70,000 people. Two things that trip hooked me: I was standing with Haynes the afternoon the Allmans were playing the Fest. We were waiting on his Dad and brother, just behind the Gospel tent. Little by little, I started to just feel the music and I asked Haynes if I could go check it out. Now it’s key to remember that at this point, my hair is down to my ass. They used to joke that I was Gregg Allman’s son. When people asked who I was, I used to say, “I’m the other brother.” Anyway, I walked in and Aaron Neville was singing with his church choir. If you’ve ever seen The Blues Brothers movie, that was pretty much me, dancing down the middle aisle, hands in the air. The moment that sealed the deal was the final Sunday night of the fest. It was pouring and I made my way over to Tipitina’s with a friend I was crashing with. We didn’t have tickets, but I knew the Nevilles were there and I HAD to see them! The line was down the block. I made my way to the front door and started to tell the bouncer I was with the Allmans and it was our last night in town. I had my laminate on and the bouncer just grabbed us and pushed us through the door telling us to have a good time. And we did!

The Allman Brothers with Dickey Betts + Warren Haynes at Jazz Fest 1993

That’s one hell of a first time at Jazz Fast. Hanging side stage with Warren Haynes and 2 Aaron Neville sets?! What an incredible story and experience. That brings us to our next question, if you could cover one show in history, what would it be and why?

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s, that means big rock shows. If I could be at only one show, it would be The Who at Leeds University on Valentine’s Day, 1970. I may listen to The Stones a bit more these days, but Pete Townshend and his band will always be my sentimental favorite. And to see them at their height in a theater in England would have blown my f*cking mind. Hell, they blew my mind in 1982 on the first farewell tour when Moon was already gone. I can’t even fathom how great they were live back then even from the recordings.

Great choice. The Who in 1970 would have been EPIC. We know you are a huge fan of our Bourbon St. Shake on our menu. What’s your favorite thing to order when you eat at Brooklyn Bowl?

When I’m at the Bowl, I eat three things: Blackened Catfish, Fried Chicken, and the Oyster Egg Shooters.. I started eating at the original Blue Ribbon just after it opened. The Catfish has always been my “go to” meal. One more reason Peter is a genius, is for partnering with Bruce & Eric Bromberg. And my drink is the Black & White malt. Most people are surprised but I don’t drink at all.

Marc Millman crushing an Oyster Egg Shooter at Brooklyn Bowl

In terms of top 3 menu items, you nailed it. The Bowl wouldn’t be what it is without Pete’s idea to team up with the Bromberg’s and food by Blue Ribbon. Speaking of, you’ve been shooting shows at Brooklyn Bowl since we opened. How did you link up with Peter Shapiro? Was it at The Wetlands?

I can never say enough about how instrumental Peter has been to my career. We tangentially knew each other from Wetlands, but the truth is that by the time he took it over, I was not there as regularly as the early days. When The Bowl opened, we just connected. At least from my point of view, it was one of those things where you look at the person and they look at you and you both think “yes.” I could just feel his positive energy and I loved what he was doing. To feel that type of “respekt,” as Peter always says, from the best in the business, has carried me through a lot of rough patches when my body felt broken down or when I was looking for more inspiration.

Post Allman Brothers jam at the Wetlands

Amen to that. What was the first show you covered at Brooklyn Bowl? Is there a favorite show that you’ve shot at The Bowl over the years?

I honestly can’t recall now when I first shot at the Bowl, but I do have a few favorites: Bowlive with Soulive, when Derek Trucks and Warren Hayne from The Allman Brothers came and sat in after their show at The Beacon. Aaron Neville’s PBS taping when Paul Simon and Joan Osborne came out. Phil Lesh’s first show at the Bowl was one of those moments when you saw all that Peter has worked for converging in one small place as opposed to one huge one like Fare Thee Well. Wyclef’s first time. Questlove and D’angelo as the Soulquarians in 2013, Elvis Costello with The Roots a few month later, and then Usher backed by the Roots in 2015. Like the Soulive crew, Questlove has been so important to what The Bowl has become. But Stevie Nicks coming out at Midnight with Deer Tick on New Year’s Eve 2014 was sheer Peter Shapiro magic. I mean, Rhiannon. Wow!

Wow is right! You’ve literally been there for some of our best shows in history. Now we need to know, what was your wildest concert experience of all time, as a fan and as a photographer?

My two wildest experiences behind the lens both are New York-based. They are totally different, and both sum up why I love concert photography. In June of 2015, I spent an afternoon with Jon Batiste to celebrate him becoming the bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He took his band, Stay Human, on a stroll along Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg into McCarren Park. It was his version of a Second Line and it was a great moment to share with the few fans that knew it was happen from a tweet he put out. All the locals just got caught up in the energy of the moment.

In October 2014, Jane’s Addiction headlined the CBGB Festival in Times Square. I was dead center against the stage when their set started. By that time, there must have been thirty photographers in the pit. Part way through the set, Perry crawled through the pit and hopped the railing to go crowd surf the audience. One of the female photographers I know always has a stepstool with her. I grabbed her stool and now I had the perfect view to snap Perry surfing the crowd with all of Times Square illuminating him. It’s probably my most famous image. It ran in Rolling Stone and Billboard.

John Batiste’s second line in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Perry Farrell, of Jane’s Addiction, crowd surfing in Times Square, New York

Jon Batiste with a Second Line through McCarren Park?! Unreal. It’s amazing how intimate and public these experiences were. Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring concert photographers? What resources would you suggest they look at?

This is what I tell them: you’re probably never going to make money from concert photos. Times have changed. Digital has made it easier to share and completely devalued the image. This needs to be an all-consuming passion or you’re wasting your time. But if you’re “all in,” then you need invest time and effort into honing your craft. Going out every night and shooting alone is not how you do that. Read a book. Take an online class, Go to seminars. Ask people you look up to. I love talking to guys like Clinch and Kravitz at shows. And buy good gear. Yes, it is possible to get a dynamite image off your iPhone or Pixel. But your kit camera and lens are not what you use when you’re doing battle in the pits. The last thing though, I think is most important. Find something to call your own. Find causes you care about. Be passionate about accomplishing something others can’t or simply aren’t doing.

Have that passion! Follow your dreams. It sounds silly but that’s why I decided to put this benefit together. And if I didn’t work hard to try & become known for my music photos, this dream band of The Nifty 50 All-Stars next week would never have come to pass.

I hope people can come out to share what will be a fun night of music for two good causes. And if you do, come by, say hello and let’s make an image together!

Knockdown
Alley

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