Keeping an eye on the local music scene, photographer Clift says “get off the couch.”
Scott Clift is one of San Diego’s most dedicated supporters of local live rock.
“My family moved to El Cajon in 1960,” says Clift, who celebrates his Granite Hills 40-year reunion this year. “In the ’70s I went to 300 to 400 concerts at the Sports Arena and Jack Murphy Stadium.” The best show? “Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, and Loggins & Messina at the Balboa Stadium. I’ve been a music freak since the first day I heard Jimi Hendrix music. But I stopped going to shows when I started working.”
Clift worked long hours as a concrete cutter after high school. “I worked primarily on the freeway. I’d say 80 percent of the wheelchair off-ramps between San Ysidro and Oceanside were cut out by me.”
But then came a stroke in 2009. “I had to retire. It took a year to recover [he says he’s about 80 percent recovered]. Then I realized I couldn’t work and I had to find something to do.” So Clift became a rock photojournalist.
“I just saw Goatwhore and Eukaryst at the Soda Bar. I love to shoot at the dive bars...Shakedown, Bancroft, and Soda Bar.”
Clift says he is almost always the oldest guy in the room.
“Bands come up to me and ask who I’m shooting for. I tell them I’m just documenting the night. I put all the shots up on my Facebook page and tell them they are welcome to use them. I don’t copyright any of my stuff.” Clift says he happily welcomes gas money if it’s offered, but he often shoots for free. “It’s my way of showing my appreciation for their skills.” Clift says the Taz Taylor Band used his photos for their album, “And there was this band from Sweden, Crash Diet, who asked to use my work for their promotion material. The bands are very grateful. I’ve gotten a lot of CDs and T-shirts.”
Sometimes his passion pays off. “I have gotten a few wedding gigs out of the deal. Sometimes a band will offer, like, $100, but it’s infrequent.”
Clift admits that mosh pits can present a problem. “I avoid Soma. Those kids go nuts in there. But I am saving money to buy a zoom lens. I prefer dealing with drunk adults. I can handle them much better.”
He uses natural light. “Some of the dive bars are dimly lit so its harder to shoot. The House of Blues is excellent but the best place to shoot is the Ramona Mainstage. That place has perfect lighting.”
What does Clift make of this perceived downturn in support for live rock?
“Some nights these places are packed and the next night there might be ten people. I always tell people to get off the couch, turn off the TV, and go see a band. I’m on Social Security and I don’t have a problem mustering up $5 or $10.”