OKC reporter captures musical moments with concert photography

Nathan Poppe said goodbye to March and hello to April while photographing eight bands on four shows over four nights at three different Oklahoma City venues.

“It only really hurts in the morning. Today I slept longer than usual,” he told The Oklahoman. “I attribute it to over two years of very low gig productivity.”

But his recent post-pandemic flurry of concert photography could also be seen as a snapshot of his enduring passion for capturing the live musical experience.

“A lot of concert photography says, ‘Hey, this really wonderful moment, it happened. …And I’m just happy to be here and lucky to capture this moment,'” Poppe said.

The OKC reporter shares a collection of his favorite concert moments – mostly shot in Oklahoma – in his first solo photography exhibition, on view through the end of April at Lively Beerworks.

“I believe this was one of Wanda Jackson’s last live performances, and was shot at Tower (Theatre). That Charley Crockett moment was a sold-out show, and it was right before the launch of ‘omicron,” Poppe said, pointing to his photos on display in the OKC Brewery Tavern.

“It’s just fun to be able to watch and get all those memories back, like thinking about Kacey Musgraves at the Diamond Ballroom. She’s never gonna play the Diamond Ballroom again. I mean, she’s playing arenas now…so it’s not gonna happen again more.”

` Oklahoma City photographer and journalist Nathan Poppe's first exhibition of his concert photographs is on view through April at Lively Beerworks in OKC.  Photo provided

The OKC Rally platform puts art in unexpected places

Rally, an artist-led platform advocating for Oklahoma artists, presents the first public group exhibition of Poppe’s concert photography.

“We cultivate community through creativity…and a big part of our heart is getting art to unexpected places. I love watching someone walk somewhere, and when they’ve started their day, they had no intention of coming into contact with art And then they came in and it surprised them because it was placed in front of their path,” said Josh Vaughn, co-founder of Rally.

“Most people just say, ‘Well, that’s cool,’ or they don’t really watch it. But then there’s this little percentage that starts watching it, and they buy a piece or they start watching it. ask questions. Or, some people will come across stuff like that and start creating.”

Photographer, writer, videographer and purveyor of enamel pins, Poppe is a chronicler, champion and sometimes critic of his home country.

He and Vaughn met in real life — as opposed to just Instagram — when Poppe served as a juror for the annual Paseo Photofest show in 2018. They had both featured featured work in Photofest in 2019.

“I’m a photographer myself, so I’m really very particular about photographers. But I saw a certain spark in his work,” Vaughn said.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl sings during a 2015 concert at the Chesapeake Energy Arena (now Paycom Center) in a photo taken by Oklahoma City photographer and reporter Nathan Poppe.  Grohl performed the show while seated on a throne decorated with guitar necks and moving lights due to a broken leg he suffered earlier that year while on tour.  Photo by Nathan Poppe

The photojournalist started documenting local music while in college

Poppe’s interest in documenting the Oklahoma music scene was sparked while he was studying journalism at Oklahoma State University.

“Stillwater at that time was kind of in a supernatural time for talent, because you had Other Lives about to go on tour with Radiohead. Colourmusic was still around, and DEERPEOPLE had formed and were doing ridiculous house shows So there was a lot of really fun and interesting music,” Poppe recalled.

“But I was terrified of even picking up the camera at that time. You know in ‘Jurassic Park,’ where they’re like, ‘Is it heavy? So it’s expensive, put down -the.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m going to drop this. … I’m just going to write the story, and I’m not going to drop anything.’ But I had really talented friends, and they pushed me to try.”

His internship at The Oklahoman inspired him to start a video-based music show at OSU called “on”. By the time he graduated in 2011, he was hosting house shows and filming bands while riding around in a Volkswagen bus for “The VDub Sessions.”

“(Longtime Oklahoman photographer) Doug Hoke was a big help to me in learning that there’s more than one goal,” Poppe said. “He had hired me to shoot a Taylor Swift concert…and it was overwhelming. It was kind of a baptism of fire, but I got some good shots. But that’s where I I learned, ‘OK, there are other lenses and other ways to shoot this. … And I just wanted to keep doing that.”

Kacey Musgraves performs at the Diamond Ballroom in 2016 in a photo taken by Oklahoma City photographer and reporter Nathan Poppe.  Poppe's first exhibition of his concert photographs is on view through April at Lively Beerworks in OKC.  Photo by Nathan Poppe

Journalist moves from music community to homeless community

From 2014 to 2018, Poppe covered movies, television and music at The Oklahoman.

“That’s when I got into gig overdrive. I was probably seeing about 200 to 250 sets of music a year,” he said. “I had a lot more energy back then. You hit 30 and things start to hurt.”

In 2018, he changed his focus and became editor of The Curbside Chronicle, an OKC street newspaper that employs and empowers people coming out of homelessness. Poppe helps write, design and edit the magazine, which works to build community between homeless and non-homeless people, increase awareness of social issues leading to homelessness and reduce the stigma of homelessness. shelter.

“Much of what I was doing at The Oklahoman when these photos were taken covered the music community: a group of like-minded individuals who all strive to make art, host shows and to do their thing. And Curbside isn’t a huge change from that; it’s just an entirely new community,” Poppe said.

“It drives me crazy that I have to be so close in the pit to shoot a lot of these gigs, and with Curbside I get invited into people’s homes after they’ve ended their homelessness after a few years or five years or so. 10 years or 20. It puts me front and center and extremely close to a community – and I hope I never take any of this for granted.

Oklahoma City photographer and reporter Nathan Poppe takes photos of the crowd at an outdoor concert.  Poppe's first exhibition of his concert photographs is on view through April at Lively Beerworks in OKC.  Photo courtesy of Tom Dunning

The photographer still rocks the love of music

Alongside his work at the Curbside Chronicle, Poppe continues to photograph concerts, music festivals and publicity shots of local bands. The opportunity to show his work at Lively Beerworks gave him the chance to do something out of the ordinary.

“I’m so used to – and you know the drill – where you write a story or take a picture, you post it and you move on to the next thing. That’s how I’m wired. So, taking time to sit and look at pictures is not something I normally do,” he said.

“Going through and picking out a few favorites for this, I’ve – no kidding – gone through all 10,000 photos on my Flickr. … But I think these are the best or some of my favorite things I’ve taken over the years. years, going back to one of the first gigs I ever shot.”

Working as a concert photographer has allowed him to capture many rare moments, from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on his 2015 OKC tour to stopping sitting on an elaborate rock ‘n’ roll throne after breaking his leg in a drop from a concert stage in Sweden to OKC’s Flaming Lips playing a series of “Space Bubble” shows at the Criterion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was one of the most surreal, dreamlike concert experiences ever,” said Poppe, who was part of the videography team hired to document the Lips’ “Space Bubble” concerts.

“I’ve been to a dozen Flaming Lips shows over the years. Nothing can quite prepare you for the adrenaline rush when ‘Race for the Prize’ kicks on and confetti explodes right next to your face and that you’re just like, “Oh, my God, he keeps moving and spinning stuff. I don’t know what’s going on. Do I even get anything?” It’s so rushed.”


When: Until April 30.

Or: Lively Beerworks, 815 SW Second.

Information: www.rallyokc.com.

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