It all started one sweltering afternoon in July.
While wandering around Umbria Jazz with my inseparable DSLR, in search of something to shoot that would help me portray the festival, I see (and hear) three fellas who, with maximum grit continue to play through the heat.
I had seen them the year before. Suddenly the light bulb came on: I would capture the festival through their story.
I wait for them to stop for a few minutes so I can talk to one of them: Roberto (some call him Rob), the guitar/bass player.
I introduce myself and tell him about my idea. After a couple minutes Nate and Frank are listening, and are in fact surprised that nobody has pitched this project before…and so it begins: telling the story of Heavy Wood at Umbria Jazz.
Before I started to shoot, we spoke a lot about what they do; their lives, their work, musical tastes, ambitions, and what drives them to play, even under that blazing sun.
This year they managed to establish headquarters at Feltrinelli, the bookstore in Piazza della Repubblica.
Four times every day, they set up and broke down their instruments and equipment, storing it in the bookstore on the second floor.
It struck me hard, as I understood the magnitude of the passion and dedication they had for their music… it was absolutely imperative for me to capture.
In the following days, I tagged along wherever they would perform along the main drag. Doing so, I managed to capture a few moments of down time spent having an ice cream, or a beer, or a cigarette, replacing countless strings, and most of all recovering from day after grueling day of shows.
Of course, there was also some spare time to spend with fans and friends that would stop by.
One of the last days of Umbria Jazz, if was a solid 98°F in the shade. While other musicians would understandably find some shade to get some relief from the sun while they played, Nate, Frank, and Rob…well they would play under the blazing sun, leaving the shaded area free for people to stop and listen.
That day, Nate invited me to his house for lunch. He was so exhausted he could barely stand.
At Nate’s home, I was able to gather some more intimate aspects of the life of the band, like the preparation of CDs, including stamping the labels one by one.
Thank you Nate for the truly great lunch…
We get to the last day of UJ, July 20, 2015. I knew that once all of these shows were finished, there would be a celebration, and I was prepared to stay with them the whole evening and long into the night.
The last show was literally crazy, running on pure adrenaline with even a few splashes of “placid protest”, which must be fundamental for any band that wants to crash a music festival.
There were loads of people, a varied crowd; kids, young adults, tourists, and locals, all brought together by the energy of genuine, original music.
After who knows how many encores, the show came to an end at 11:30pm: Nate’s hands say it all.
Even though it was the last in a series of exhaustive days and nights, they were not tired, but in high spirits, probably running on fumes.
So, after putting their instruments away for the final time, we stayed in the center of Perugia to hang out. Of course we would end up and Dempsey’s, Heavy Wood’s favorite local spot. Here, I was able to see another side of their personalities.
The night was finally over, the next day about to begin, and I had not even thought about how to get home. Luckily, Rob was more than happy to give me a ride home, allowing me to get the shot that would solidify my project: Heavy Wood at Umbria Jazz 2015.
More about Heavy Wood:
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