The Church at the I-Beam, San Francisco CA [August 5, 1986]


Today’s post concerns an early assignment as a free-lancer after arriving in the Bay Area, and making contact with the local music newsletter/magazine, BAM Magazine. As “alternative” performers came through town in the mid-80s, I would get first crack at covering them, since most photographers on staff were only interested in the big names that would appear at the larger venues. I was especially keen on seeing new, and less-known performers in clubs, where the sound was much more likely to be mixed well, and so I would often get to cover groups, such as The Church, as they would pass through.

On this occasion, the editor asked if I wanted to see the band and bring back some snapshots, and while their earlier catalog didn’t do much for me, their most recent release, “Heyday”, was getting a lot of attention on college radio stations, so I was curious to check them out.

Marty Wilson-Piper, on the left, and Peter Koppes on the right.

I took my usual position, at the lip of the stage, nearly in the center, and tried to get by without using a flash.  For the most part, it was a successful set of images, although a bit dark, for some of them.

The set, itself, was enjoyable enough, but somehow I was expecting a bit more energy in the performance.  Instead, the musicians just concentrated on their instruments, and weren’t seemingly very interested in a “show”, as it were.

Marty Wilson-Piper appears in both stills, along with Steve Kilbey on bass.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Peter Koppes closeup dark LG [The Church

Peter Koppes on guitar

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Steve Kilbey closeup vertical LG [The Ch

Steve Kilbey on bass guitar

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Richard Ploog on drums LG [The Church -

Richard Ploog behind the kit, and in the shadows, as it were.

Marty Wilson-Piper, at different points during the show.

While I wasn’t particularly impressed with this performance, I am a huge fan of the lp they released next, “Starfish”, a beautifully composed and produced release, which sounds as great today, as it did on its first issue.

The Church discography link

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Peter Koppes closeup head down posterize

Peter Koppes

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Peter Koppes closeup head down LG [The C

Peter Koppes

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Marty Wilson-Piper soloing LG [The Churc

Marty Wilson-Piper solos

Links related to The Church:

The Church official website

Set list for this particular show [not guaranteed to be accurate]

Hope you enjoy the few images that I captured on this occasion.  Constructive criticism is always welcome, and should you wish to contact me, you can do so at:


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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