“Diehards,” Erin Feinberg’s touching new book of photographs of music fans, many of whom are captured in moments beyond words, offers little context. Mostly there are no names, places or dates — nothing but a T-shirt, tattoo, some face paint or a prosthetic limb (with a custom Dylan mural) to cue us in on who these diehards are diehard about. And that, flipping through the first time, was my literal-minded, music-geek reaction: I wanted to know who these people were, what they were listening to.
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I had flipped right past the picture on this page, at the front of "Diehards." I don't want to know too much about it. If you can't pull yourself away from it long enough to read these words, understandable. You are looking at pure rapture. The girl on the left, hands at her head, singing or screaming, is having her mind blown. She's young, and if it wasn't for the buzz cut on the girl beside her (or the mohawk behind them), she could be listening to Elvis, the Beatles, Hendrix, Sonic Youth, Kanye.
The specifics are less important than what Feinberg recognizes — that perfectly guileless connection between a song and a fan. It's often at its most intense when the fan is young and open. Bruce Springsteen, who contributes a short essay, describes that moment eloquently as "a publicly disseminated secret you and your fans make one another." Feinberg, a freelance writer based in New York (Northwestern University graduate), gets this. She has been photographing audiences for a decade — "the other show," she calls it in her introduction. There are parking lot fans wearing denim and stoned faces, kids floating over mosh pits, Johnny Cash tattoos and Jimmy Buffett diehards on the roof of an RV. There's a wonderfully funny photo of a girl screaming while holding a picture of James Taylor's blase face. That photo also says everything I want to know about that scene.
As Rush drummer Neil Peart puts it in the book's afterword: Let's not forget "that people in the audience often bring everything they have, too."
Christopher Borrelli is a Tribune features reporter.
By Erin Feinberg, Anthropy Arts, 123 pages, $50Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun