“Where Were You?” Sonic Youth at The I-Beam, San Francisco [July 7, 1986]

This was a memorable evening for two reasons:

The opening slot was supposed to have been one of the first dates for fIREHOSE, which had assembled after the tragic death of d. boon, from the Minutemen.  Twas not to be, as Sonic Youth took the stage a bit after the slated “start time” for the opening act, and proceeded to inform the audience that fIREHOSE would not be making it, as they had some transport problems preventing them from getting to the gig on time.

Sonic Youth flyer - I Beam copy

Poster/flyer, courtesy of Cary [December 2017]

So, in much darker lighting than usual, the band proceeded to play.  After about 30 minutes into the set [as far as I can recall], one of Thurston’s guitars was having problems with its tuning, and after attempting to get it sorted out for about 5 minutes, the neck of the guitar suddenly snapped off the body of the guitar!

Thurston: “Oh, man!….. Well, there goes about 4 songs from the set that we can’t play now…..”

Kim: “No s*&#!  That was Thurston’s first guitar!….”

There was a bit more exchange with the crowd, which surprisingly, wasn’t at capacity, so it was quite easy to be heard from all corners of the club; much bemoaning about the fact that the set might be cut shorter than planned [it was]; and then the band finally proceeded again with playing. And, for added atmosphere, a disco ball hanging from the club’s ceiling would occasionally be turned on [some of its effects can be seen in a few photos].

In the end, it was a great set, played through very small amplifiers [in my estimation, anyway], but for some reason, the stage lights were kept very, very low, so I was forced to use a flash with my camera.

This was something I did not like to do, as I had learned from taking photos with a flash at a Weather Report concert, years earlier, that some artists did not appreciate the interruption of their concentration.  I’d say from further experience, that this reaction was more common with jazz musicians than with rock performers, but a few times, over the years, it did come up…..

Additionally, I have always preferred the way the lights play on the performers, giving other textures and shadows, which create some very interesting images, at times.

Anyway, this show, I had to use the flash quite a bit.  The results are mixed, and it took quite some time to work on these frames, but keep in mind, these are “proofs”, and not the “final product”.

Nice image of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore with available lighting

For this shot of Mr. Renaldo, I did not need to use a flash

Another fave image of mine, as the disco ball reflections stretch on the back wall, and the house lights are nearly full, Mr. Renaldo is deep into tones and feedback

The only truly clear shot I was able to catch of Mr. Shelley

This is a moment when Ms. Gordon is either tuning or playing harmonics between songs, while Thurston is changing his guitars

The mix of hand placement and closed eyes give this a “reverent” feel

This one I played with in Photoshop and am fairly pleased with the result, especially with the boombox in the background

Very satisfying image, personally, as it is without flash, and captures a good moment

Note the reflection from the disco ball that would appear from time to time

One of the more vigorous moments in the set

Stage lights were up high for this one

One from afar, as most of my shots would be on this night, of Thurston Moore

Lee Renaldo plays slide, a la dobro-style

One with Thurston in full motion, given the size of the stage

It was difficult to get Mr. Shelley in a clear shot, and without having to use a flash

One with available lighting, at very close range

One of Ms. Gordon with just stage lighting

From the left side of the stage

Sonic Youth Official:


Nice site with lots of photos of the band, over the years, and more:



While many of you who arrive here, to look at these photographs may get turned off to my use of watermarks [thinking they ruin the image], let me explain why I choose to do this.

No one paid for my camera equipment but me. No one paid for the film I used to take these photographs.  On occasion, when I free-lanced for a free monthly newsletter, and they published a photo of mine, the payment for each photograph barely paid for the fuel to get my vehicle to the show [when I *did* have a vehicle], and the film I used on that night. 

Not too many of my photos were published, at the time, because the artists I chose to capture images of, were not hugely popular then.  Hence, the old dictum, “Supply and Demand”; I had the supply, but the demand [pre-Internet], was not there. You can argue the relative merits of the quality of my work, and that is precisely what a blog offers:  a venue for discussion.

Back to the watermarks: no one is subsidizing my time to scan and then clean up the images I am presenting here. Start to finish, each negative will take approximately an hour-and-a-half to reach “proof” quality – which is what you will see here.  This is my labor of love, and until there is some measurable return on my efforts, what you see is what you get.


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