Nathan Hunt and Josh Hamler
First of all, before I get started with my own thoughts on this band…Good old Wikipedia was kind enough to provide me with some of the history and demographics of “Shaman’s Harvest”. My English teacher would be so proud. Without any further ado, here’s a little cut and paste before I get to my write up.
Shaman’s Harvest is a rock band from Jefferson City, Missouri. Bassist Matt Fisher, singer Nathan “Drake” Hunt, and guitarist Josh Hamler founded the band in 1996. Ryan Tomlinson joined the band on lead guitar for their 2009 album Shine. Shaman’s Harvest released their fifth full-length album titled Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns on September 16, 2014. This release marked their debut on Mascot Records.
Here is a link to some cool info related to Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns album.
Wiki link to Smokin’ Hearts
The band released three albums in their early years: Last Call for Goose Creek (1999), Synergy (2002), and March of the Bastards (2006). In 2009, the single “Dragonfly” reached #16 on Billboard’s Active Rock chart, #9 at Heritage Rock, and #34 on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart. The single sold over 130,000 copies and the album sold 33,000+ copies. The song appeared on the soundtrack of the motion picture Legendary.
In early 2010 Shaman’s Harvest recorded “Broken Dreams” as the theme song for wrestler Drew McIntyre of the WWE. They continued that relationship, supplying “End of Days” as the entrance track for Wade Barrett and The Corre. Their song “Anger” appears in the feature film No One Lives.
During the recording of their album Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns, Hunt was diagnosed with throat cancer and received treatment during the recording of the album. Lead guitarist Ryan Tomlinson left the group in September 2014 to concentrate on his band Driving Wheel and the new country act Murphy’s Ford. He was replaced by guitarist Derrick Shipp for the tour supporting Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns. Drummer Joe ‘Baggins’ Harrington also joined the band during this period, but left during the course of the tour. Jeff Nations, of Various Hands, played drums for shows the band had scheduled in September 2015. Adam Zemanek joined on drums, full-time, in October of 2015.
The bands current line up is as follows.
Nathan Hunt – lead singer
Josh Hamler – rhythm guitar
Matt Fisher – bassist
Derrick Shipp – lead guitar
Adam Zemanek – drums
Derrick Shipp and Josh Hamler
I had the opportunity to first photograph these guys in the summer of 2015 when I was hired to shoot the K-Rockathon festival in Syracuse, NY. They were on this bill along with many other killer bands including Shinedown, Breaking Ben, In This Moment, Nothing More, Adelita’s Way and more. I had heard of Shaman’s Harvest before having really liked their single “Dragonfly” which I heard a few years ago. You can read my previous blog about K-Rockathon and the bands here.
As typical at a concert, most photographers are bound to the 3 song (or less) rule when it comes to shooting bands. At K-rock I was happy to get some nice shots and didn’t have to worry much about lighting since it was mid afternoon. I was able to use some of my shots from that show to create some artwork of the band using some new editing tools I had just started to experiment with. Here are a handful of the K-Rock shots. More can be found here on my website.
Derrick Shipp and Josh Hamler
Nathan Hunt and Matt Fisher
I was super thrilled when the guys decided to use some of my artwork for their fall/winter tour. I had started a dialogue with a few of the band members on social media after posting some shots on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that got their attention and had been chatting back and forth about a few things when I heard they were going on tour with Hinder and would be playing semi-close to me in Rochester, NY on November 28, 2015. I had expressed to the guys that I would be interested in shooting the show in Rochester at the Main Street Armory and they quickly put me in touch with their tour manager Jordan and we worked out the details. I was super excited when the band offered to grant me access to shoot the entire show as well as have stage and backstage access. Previously I had picked up some cool merch including a couple shirts a signed copy of “Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns” CD for my girlfriend and I got a killer signed vinyl album from the guys which is nicely framed in my studio. As the date approached I continued to get more excited. I was looking forward to getting some different shots and angles and hoping to meet the band. Then tragedy struck. Not for me, but for the guys in Hinder. I had learned that on Wednesday November 18, Hinder’s tour bus was involved in a crash on I-40 in Cookeville, TN. The bus driver had to be extricated and two other passengers including the band’s bassist, Mike Rodden suffered broken ribs. Thankfully no one was killed or seriously injured in the accident and the bands announced the tour would be postponed until January. As long as everybody was ok, which is all that really mattered, I was most definitely ok with waiting until mid January to shoot the show. However, I forgot how cold Rochester, NY can be in January !!
January 12 was a cold day and the forecast called for a potential of 5-8 inches of snow in the Rochester area. And, as typical, I worked overnight the night before so I didn’t get much sleep the day of the show. Thankfully the show didn’t kick off til 8 p.m. so I knew I had a few hours to nap before hitting the road. My girlfriend and I decided to leave around 3 in the afternoon just in case there was bad weather. I had made sure I was packed and all my gear was tip-top the day before. I got up at 2 p.m., met my gal, loaded the car and we hit the road on time. Luckily the weather forecast was wrong. We did hit two pretty bad snow squalls with white out conditions on the way to Rochester but when we hit the city there wasn’t more than a dusting on the roadway. It was cold and very windy however. We were checked into our hotel in the lovely cold city of Rochester by 5 and had enough time to hit the lounge for a quick bite before heading over to the Main Street Armory.
I had always heard the Armory was a cool old large building build in 1905 by the US Army for training and processing of war bound soldiers and that it had lots of character and was very spacious. Over the years the 35,000 square foot main arena hosted many professional and local events ranging from basketball games, circuses, auto shows and concerts. It became abandoned in 1990 and by 2005 had fallen into a state of disrepair from years of disuse and neglect. In 2005 the 7 story building was purchased by a local entrepreneur for a mere $1,000 who has invested thousands of dollars into refurbishment and repairs, and the building is now once again hosting events. Unbeknownst to me, there is another large stone-castle looking building directly across the street from the Armory called the Auditorium Theater. After parking our car in the lot across the street (right next door to the Armory) and walking to the venue only to be greeted by a mob of people standing in line outside in the cold waiting for the doors to open at 7 as the ticket said, we stood, and froze until the doors were open at around 7:15. I pushed my way inside to the will call office only to find out there was no photo pass or credentials waiting for me. I went to the box office and explained who I was and my situation only to find out that the Hinder/Shaman’s show was across the street at the Armory and that this venue was in fact the Auditorium Theater where Criss Angel – Mindfreak was performing tonight. Ugh. Really. OK. Back outside we go across the street to the Armory which looks as if it still could be in its abandoned state. It was pitch black inside with not a soul to be found wandering outside it. I was totally dumb founded at this point. We walked up to the main entrance of the goliath building to find several notes taped to the massive front doors “Please use the side entrance for the Hinder show”. Ok. We walked around the side and saw a couple of people walking into the door and quickly learned that the show was being held in the basement of the Armory. Cool, I suppose. I really wanted to see the inside of the main room. Maybe next time. At any rate, I already sensed the underground rock and roll atmosphere. For one, the crowd was way different than those standing in line across the street for Criss Angel. Secondly, I saw people holding beers wearing Shaman’s and Hinder T-shirts. Cool. There was no “ticket booth or will call”. Instead, there was a dude checking ID’s and a gal collecting tickets from a card table with a metal lockbox. Interesting. I greeted the folks and told them who I was and by that time Jordan, Shaman’s tour manager, met me and apologized for the confusion, hooked me up with my creds and let my gal hang with me for the show behind the barricade and backstage if she wanted. I gave her one of my extra cameras and told her to have fun and shoot away. She declined but did have some nice cold beers with me in between sets.
Once inside the basement of the Armory I noticed immediately how dark it was. Man was it dark. Did I say it was dark? There weren’t more than a few hundred people and the large room that was painted black from floor to ceiling seemed empty. The bands had their merch tables set up in the far end of the room and the bar was near the back on one side of the wall. The sound/light board was set up in the center about 20 yards from the stage. We scoped the place out, introduced ourselves to some folks including security and made our camp right by the back stage entrance then headed over for some cold brews and checked out the merch. There were four bands on tap for the night. The first was a band who I had also seen at K-Rock, “Revolve” from Baltimore, Maryland. Second was “Within Reason” a band from Birmingham, Alabama. Then “Shaman’s Harvest” and finally “Hinder”. I grabbed a few shots of the first two bands and got my camera settings to a good starting point in the super dark room, however I knew the light would most likely change and hopefully improve as each band took stage.
“Shaman’s Harvest” came right out of the gate around 9:30 p.m. and opened their 9 song set with the gutsy, grungy, southern, moody sounding “Blood in the Water” off their newest album “Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns”. The song is powerful vocally with an intro reminiscent of southern gospel. The guitars are grungy and dirty and even features Derrick with some killer slide work. Next up was the second song off the “Smokin'” album, titled “Here it Comes”, another great hard rock song with driving beat. Great chunk with a sound that reminded me a bit of “Queens of the Stone Age”. Third was “Devil’s Gift” from the 2009 album “Shine”. Next was one of my favorites from “Smokin’ Hearts” the powerful “Dangerous”. “Dangerous” is the first track off the new album and it takes me to great place every time I hear it. Well, It pumps me up and gets the adrenaline flowing. “A grenade without reason” !! “Dangerous’ is a great heavy stomping track with a rock radio station appeal that sets the pace for the rest of the album. Great hooks. Number five on the set list was a remake of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” which catches people off guard if they’re not ready. What a groove and soulful tune that ends with a blistering guitar solo. Another solid track. Next was a song with the newly released video “In Chains”. I think this will be the sleeper hit off the album plus the video is killer. “In Chains” features probably the best vocals on the album along with awesome backing vocals as well. The chorus is simply killer and being a guitar player turned photographer, I truly dig the guitars on this track as well. Stellar!! The last three songs of the night were “Hero”, another off the “Smokin'” album which has more of a ballad feel and sound to it. The only real “mellow” song of the night. Finally the band played the country-blues foot stomping mid-western tune “Country as Fuck. Again, for me the dual guitars in this song knocked me off my feet to the point I couldn’t stomp them if I wanted to. Loved it. They closed the set with the song that introduced me to the band several years ago “Dragonfly” which again features brilliant vocals and songwriting. I dig Nathans acoustic work on this song and this track contiunes to stand up well with all the rest of them. The one song I was really hoping to hear was the third track off “Smokin’ Hearts” was “Ten Million Voices” but hey, the nine songs they played included seven kick ass hits from the album plus “Dragonfly”. I was not disappointed at all. I thought the show was great and all the bands played killer sets despite the smaller crowd which I felt was more intimate. The band did a very nice meet and greet after their set. You could not ask for a greater bunch of guys. Super musicians, humble hard working mid-west guys who write from that side of life. They are real. Period. I am glad I had the opportunity to cover this show. Despite the challenging lighting, the bands were great, super friendly, and appreciative of the fans. The beer was cold, the whisky I drank with the band was very good, especially on such a cold January night and the staff at the Armory were super cool.
Set List – Main Street Armory – Rochester, NY 1-12-16
1). Blood in the Water 2). Here it Comes 3). Devil’s Gift 4). Dangerous 5). Dirty Diana 6). In Chains 7). Hero 8). Country as Fuck 9). Dragonfly
Nathan Hunt and Matt Fisher
I think I am still pinching myself due to the fact that not only did I get to see a great show in such an intimate manner and that I had the opportunity to photograph the show, hang out with the guys a bit and toss back a few cold ones, I was asked to collaborate with the band on some future projects which I am more than excited to begin working on. They even offered my a spare bunk on the bus. Man how I would love to hit the road again. I don’t play guitar in bands anymore when I used to be gone every weekend playing shows and hittin’ the roads in all kinds of weather, eating at Denny’s, sleeping in parking lots with the band, But how cool would it be to be on the other side of it documenting cool bands on the road. It’s always in the blood in some way. ‘Til next time. Keep Rockin’
Be sure to check out “Shaman’s Harvest” web site and stay tuned for tour and band updates.