By the Power of Grayscale: Black & White Live Music Photography Exhibit Hits The Verb

For the past 15 years, the photographer known, endearingly and cryptically, as Johnny Anguish has been covering the small and dingy nightclubs and musicians of Boston and beyond as one of the city’s go-to sonic archivist.

Known for his stark black-and-white portraits of some of music’s most famous and up-and-coming acts, Anguish’s work is currently on display at The Verb Hotel through mid-April and is not to be missed. With big name national acts like Superchunk, Slayer and X appearing side-by-side local luminaries like Dirty Bangs, The Organ Beats and Sidewalk Driver, Anguish captures that local vibe and proves a good photo is all about being in the right place at the right time—and that’s right in the front row.

“A photo from a rock show should capture a moment,” says Anguish. “A good collection of photos should tell a story. If you were there, it feels like a memory. If you weren't there, you wish you had been. I hope I always feel like a fan photographer. The whole reason I do this is because there's no other feeling in the world like seeing a great band in a rock club. My primary motive will always be selfish. I want to be right up front taking pictures of the people who make the music I love.”

Each of Anguish’s photos on display at The Verb were taken in Boston-area clubs. “I tried to convey a sense of what it's like to be in one of these dark rooms with a great band playing,” says Anguish. “To me it doesn't matter if it's a nationally known band like Slayer or a homegrown favorite like Sidewalk Driver. They all put on great shows.”

And the musicians appreciate Johnny’s eye. “Whenever I see a shot Johnny took I can remember how it felt to play that show,” says Will Dailey—veteran of the scene and reigning BMA male vocalist of the year.

“The thing about Boston,” says Tad McKitterick of Sidewalk Driver, “is that we not only have a lot of talented people,” but also a lot of great personas. Johnny does a great job of visually completing the persona that an artist creates with their music. It was obviously great to be on the wall with a few people that I consider icons. I love the photo [of us in the exhibit]. I look exactly like how I felt at that moment—like some sort of stark and sparkly tornado—shiny and refined yet careless and destructive.”

One of the most striking focal points in Anguish’s exhibition is a down and gritty portrait of Dirty Bangs giving it their all at a recent local show. “It was a honor to be part of Johnny's exhibit at The Verb,” says Dirty Bang’s singer Evan Kenney. “He captures something honest in his photos, something sad, something strong and altogether real. The photo of us caught the band in a moment of sonic worship and a slight vulnerability of an honest performance praising the gods of rock ‘n' roll. When I perform, my brain transports to another galaxy full of sparks and buzzes; I think Johnny caught that world perfectly.”

As The Verb continues its unmatched tradition as a hall for Boston’s rock relics, Anguish is proud to be the latest part of the hotel’s most recent installation.

“The Verb has an amazing collection of music artifacts in the lobby,” says Anguish. “They support local visual artists with installations. They're sponsors of the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble. They even have bands play special events in the rooms! I'd love to see what the Boston music scene could be like if more companies stepped up their involvement like The Verb has.”

This fits perfectly with The Verb’s story thus far. “Our roots are authentic and based in music, with a heavy emphasis on local rock ‘n’ roll,” says Lauren Recchia, marketing director at The Verb. “And, as you can see from all the artwork and photos on our walls, we span the decades.”

Once Anguish’s work leaves the walls of The Verb, many of his photos will find a new home in some of hotel’s rooms. Keep an eye out during your next stay at The Verb!

Check out The Verb’s gallery and Johnny Anguish’s photos in the lobby until mid-April.

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