Local Spins continues our ‘concert photo rewind’ series spotlighting our photographers, today showcasing Kalamazoo honcho Derek Ketchum. Here are his favorites and the stories behind the action-packed shots.
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Over the past several years, Kalamazoo’s music scene has grown to become a force in West Michigan, with a variety of unique concert venues and events.
And through it all, photographer Derek Ketchum has been Local Spins’ go-to source for Kalamazoo-area concert images — an indispensable shooter with a keen eye, a boundless passion for music and an uncanny ability to be almost everywhere there’s a live show on any given night.
He’s also traveled from Benton Harbor to St. Joseph to Grand Rapids and beyond while on assignment for Local Spins, experiences that he’s documented and treasured over the years.
“The memories poured in while combing through and consolidating my archives — five-plus years of music photography (and 600-plus shows) that I have contributed to galleries at Local Spins,” he notes.
“It has been an incredible journey — all while also working as a commercial photographer, having shot everything from homes to automobiles to portraiture work — and has been a lot of fun getting creative in that aspect my craft while capturing and documenting the robust music scene we have in West Michigan from a photojournalist’s perspective.
“I’m looking forward to the return of live, in-person music and continuing my journey in music photography and capturing the incredible people that make our music scene a giant family.”
Here’s a look back at some of Derek’s favorite concert memories, with commentary about those photos — part IV of a Local Spins series spotlighting the work of our freelance photographers. In case you missed them, browse the “best of” concert photos by photographers Tony Norkus, Jamie Geysbeek and Kendra Petersen-Kamp.
Editor’s note: Photographers retain copyright to these pictures. Used with permission.
Dacia Bridges Project (Bell’s Brewery 2018) – Late Southwest Michigan singer and guitarist Dacia Bridges was always one of my favorite local musicians to photograph. She was always high energy and you couldn’t help but be put in a great mood from her laugh, smile and powerful voice. I always enjoyed the way she was able to bring people together for different projects and take people outside of their comfort zone and grow both on and off the stage. We all miss Dacia on stage and I feel fortunate to have been able to capture many of those moments. Finding some of those memories during my archive discovery project has brought me a smile and am excited to share some of the moments with the readers of Local Spins. The silver lining to the global shutdown is giving me a little extra bandwidth to get my 10-plus years of digital photography a bit more organized and accessible. The photographic memories shared here were some of the first memories that popped into my head from the hundreds of shows that I have shot over the past few years. A mixture of these photographs cover musicians and crowds that have had an impact on my life since I have started seriously shooting live music over the past five years. Some performers are no longer with us here on Earth and I feel fortunate to met them in this journey of life. Dacia Bridges, Jeff Austin and Neil Casal are three that I have featured in this photo collection that includes some of my best work or work that has had a lot of impact on me.
Greensky Bluegrass (State Theatre 2016 & 2019) – Top photo is of Greensky Bluegrass at the Kalamazoo State Theatre the opening night of their 2019 Thanksgiving weekend run. It’s a band that is not only a lot of fun to photograph (Lincoln’s light shows year in and year out continue to blow me away), but their fans can be the best; what an incredible family of people. The bottom photo came during a really special moment during the Greensky Thanksgiving weekend run in 2016 when Josh Davis brought his whole band back on stage to finish off the weekend, playing the whole final set with Greensky. (More Greensky photos in the gallery below.)
The Avett Brothers (Wings Event Center 2017) – With stadium shows being few and far between at Wings Event Center, it’s almost one of those things that you don’t want to miss a show at Wings because when they have them, they are a big deal! This one was from the Avett Brothers a few years back.
Andrew W.K. (Audiotree Music Festival 2015) – Andrew W.K. was an Audiotree Music Festival headliner five years back when the festival was held on two stages at the Entertainment District in Kalamazoo Wild Bull/District Square. Andrew W.K. is one of those performers who goes all out from the start of the show playing it up for both the camera and the fans. Some might think that makes for an easier show to shoot, but it takes a lot of extra focus on what’s happening on stage and what’s going on in camera to get that shot.
Arlo Guthrie (State Theatre 2018) – Getting a chance to photograph one of the legends of Woodstock, Arlo Guthrie, was a big highlight of the past five years and that it was celebrating the famous cult/classic “Alice’s Restaurant” album and movie made it that much better.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood (Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden 2018) – Neil Casal performing in the Bell’s Beer Garden with The Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the crowd before social distancing was ever thought about.
David Crosby (State Theatre 2018) – Always feel fortunate when I get chances like this to document shows of performers that played at Woodstock.
Goo Goo Dolls (State Theatre, 2019) – A great experience capturing photographs during the Goo Goo Dolls show at the Kalamazoo State Theatre on a night when the band was filming a full concert movie.
Here Come the Mummies (Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden 2019) – There are outdoor shows that happen “rain or shine,” like this one from last summer at Bell’s. Here Come The Mummies always put on one of the best shows that Bell’s Beer Garden hosts, and on this night, they had people dancing in a downpour. A challenging one to capture due to the elements, a photojournalist’s job is not just a fair weather game.
Jake Kershaw and Jonny Lang (State Theatre 2015) – This marks that one special time when blues-rock star Jonny Lang invited a local 14-year-old kid (Jake Kershaw) up on stage to perform “Angel of Mercy” with him. Over the past few years, watching Jake Kershaw take command of his own stage and hearing the evolution of his music has been a lot of fun, and for quite a few people, this was the first time they heard about this teenage blues guitarman from West Michigan.
Jeff Austin Band (Benton Harbor’s The Livery 2019) – The late Jeff Austin performing at The Livery. One of the incredible talents that the music world lost last year and one that I felt fortunate to be able to photograph.
Out of Favor Boys and Tab Benoit (Old Dog Tavern 2017) – When Tab Benoit is in town, it’s always a good idea to see where the after-party might be. Here is Tab performing on stage with Kalamazoo’s own Out of Favor Boys at Old Dog Tavern following his show at the Kalamazoo State Theatre
Sir Mix-a-Lot (Bell’s Brewery 2018) – Sir Mix-a-Lot at Bell’s performing to a sold-out crowd.
Stephen Marley (Bell’s Brewery 2018) – Stephen Marley bringing the love to the Backroom at Bell’s, in a photo from June 2018.
The Verve Pipe (Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden 2016) – The Verve Pipe: Always a great show and always better when it’s outside in the Beer Garden.
ZZ Top (Wings Event Center 2019) – Not only was it great to be part of capturing this ZZ Top 50th Anniversary tour stop at Wings Event Center for Local Spins, but I got to shoot for part of the first song from right up front through a bit of miscommunication between venue staff and tour manager. The rest of the time the show was shot from the soundboard, but I was able to capture this one before heading back.
Juice Wrld (Party in the Park 2019) – Last summer’s Party in the Park hosted by 104.5 SNX was a memorable one. I brought my daughter out there to celebrate her sweet 16 and to see Juice Wrld perform (one of her classmates’ favorite hip hop artists). It was a pretty wild set of music and I left there really digging what I had heard and was looking forward to hearing more new music by him. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few months back at the age of 21. The last rhymes by Juice Wrld are guest vocals on a new track from Eminem.
UV Hippo (Bell’s Brewery Beer Garden 2016) – One of my personal favorite photos shot in the Bell’s Beer Garden was this one of UV Hippo from back in 2016. (The photo also was featured in the 2017 Local Spins Calendar.)
George Clinton (Bell’s Brewery 2017) – The legend of funk! Really cool to be up close and personal during the first part of the set.
Umphrey’s McGee with Joshua Redman (Wings Event Center 2016) – Umphrey’s McGee with special guest Joshua Redman on saxophone was incredible. Joshua was on stage performing through much of the first set from January 2016.
Victor Wooten and Sinbad (Bell’s Brewery 2018) – Yup, this was that one time at Bell’s where Sinbad played percussion for Victor Wooten.
PHOTO GALLERY: A sampling of the best of Derek Ketchum