Welcome to Noise Pollution!



Noise Pollution is now a Podcast! I've teamed up with Julian Ricardo (lead singer, Strangeways) for a weekly podcast where we discuss all things music. We talk, we laugh, we disagree a lot. Subscribe to never miss an episode!



I'm a music photographer living in Los Angeles. Here is where you can read about my experiences as a concert photographer, songs and albums I especailly like, my thoughts about the latest music news, and other things that relate to music and/or photography. Enjoy!

By Sarah McLean, Mar 17 2016 07:00AM

The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (c) 2002
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (c) 2002

Last night, or, more accurately earlier this morning, I saw Bruce Springsteen close down the LA Sports Arena with an epic concert where he and the E Street Band played double album The River in its entirety.

This is, surprisingly, only the second time I’ve seen him live. If only because his shows last 13 years, not the 3 plus hours you’ve been lead to believe.

Instead of talking about how great he is live, and how energetic his shows are and how when he asks for the fifth time “Are you still with me?!” and you respond, “No, I’m tired and want to go to bed!” and blah blah blah, I want to recount the first time I saw him.

Picture it. Summer 2003. The Rising had just been released the previous summer. I traveled from Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts with a group of friends. We had 4 tickets for front row seats.

Putting it less dramatically and more realistically:

What should have been a 2 hour drive took over 3 hours due to heavy traffic, we arrived shortly before show time only to find that the ticket I was lucky enough to be holding (not any of the tickets my friends were currently in possession of, all of which I had purchased) was for a seat in the upper level that seemingly did not exist in the worst New England fog I’d experienced in a long time.

(editor’s note: we did know beforehand our seats were upper level and not “front row”, but, ya know, front row in the upper level)

So for 30 minutes I sat on a cold, slightly damp step, barely able to see the stage, while the group next us to refused to slide down the one empty seat so I could sit in an actual chair.

To clarify. They refused to even consider that, maybe, just MAYBE, the seat numbers on the tickets MIGHT be one number off, on a account of human error, and that this EMPTY seat to their right MIGHT actually be a seat for an ACTUAL ticket holder, and that this person who just so happens to be sitting on a concrete stadium step, MIGHT rightfully belong in that empty seat.

Withstanding traffic, nosebleed seats, incorrectly numbered seats, dense fog. Ah, the things we endure for The Boss.

And with all due respect to The Boss, this memory is the one that stands out the most. The fact that someone could not have cared less, been less concerned about other people, or even acknowledge a clearly evident mishap to move down one seat. Especially when every other seat in the surrounding area was occupied.

On second thought, I misspoke. My second prominent memory from that evening is, from my stadium seating of course, constantly thinking that the drunk cougar dancing on the other side of the aisle was going to fall over the rather low-for-an-upper-level railing and plummet to her death.

I feel like Bruce put on a good show. That’s at least what I tend to hear about his shows anyway.

By Sarah McLean, Mar 9 2016 07:00PM

I recently experienced a first when it comes to concerts. Being a rock ’n’ roll fan, it took me a solid hour into “I Love the 90s” before I realized, “This is the first concert I’ve ever been to where there isn’t a live guitar.”

A majority of the acts were hip-hop artists (Tone Loc, Young MC, Rob Base, Kid 'n Play) as well as singing groups (Color Me Badd, All 4 One). All of them sang live to backing tracks. Even Vanilla Ice, the closing act, who did have 2 live musicians, only utilized a keyboardist and a drummer.

What was happening to my rock n roll world?!

Sometimes you just gotta stretch outside your comfort zone. And I do loves me some Color Me Badd.

The whole night was a fun throw back to old-school hip hop and to the “Yo! MTV Raps” days, that even after I made the realization, I was quickly lost again in the music. I hear the Funky Cold Medina will do that to you.

And say what you will about packaged nostalgia shows, but I think it says a lot about an artist’s ability to hold an audience’s attention that it took me so long before I caught on to the lack of a live band. Or I’m just an idiot. Or Rob Base really does know how to hype the audience into a frenzy.

When I attend packaged shows like this, I often put myself in the artists shoes. We’d all love to be headlining major concert venues around the world forever, but the music business is so fickle that your super stardom usually only lasts a couple years. Unless you’re one of the lucky few. So then what do you do after the glitter fades?

This is where the love of performing comes in. Or the need (attempt) to maintain a certain lifestyle. Or the need to hold on to the past. Or… fill in the blank.

There are some artists that consider themselves too good to be part of these shows, let alone be billed second or third (or lower). I always admire those artists who recognize where they’re at and choose, either because they love doing what they do (my hope) or that they’re aware this is the only thing they know how to do in life, and keep going.

It does come down to personal preference. And there’s validity in everyone’s choice to say “Fuck you, I’m not doing that bullshit” or “Sure. Hey, money’s money, right?” but I think that decision separates those who just love doing what they do from those that were chasing an empty sense of glory and didn't get as far as they assumed they would.

Case in point: I recently saw Lit open up a packaged show. They went on around 430pm in an outside venue. Daytime. Outside. The sun was still out. Hardly a ‘rock n roll’ atmosphere. They rocked the three-quarter’s full amphitheater like they were fucking headliners. They gave zero fucks. They were there to rock. And they did.

I’ve never considered myself a Lit fan and I’m not saying I am a fan now, but they certainly have my respect. And they have my respect more than the bands I do like that refuse to do these type of shows because they’re “above it”.

But, hey, respect don’t pay the bills.

By Sarah McLean, Mar 2 2016 07:00PM

Photography is an art.

Art is subjective.

Therefore, one person can absolutely despise that which someone else has fallen in love with.

However, when it comes to anything subjective, I feel album title, “50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong” plays a part (or "Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong", the 1927 hit song by Willie Raskin, Billy Rose, and Fred Fisher - if you prefer the original usage).

If enough people like something then, for all intents and purposes, that thing has to be good. It just has to be valuable in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t mean everyone likes it, but probably, more do than don’t.

I feel this more than ever when it comes to photographing music and live concerts. I follow many photographers on Instagram and Flickr, not just concert photographers, and I’m constantly amazed by my counterparts in the images they are able to capture. Being a life long athlete, I always strive on a little healthy competition. However, in this case, seeing my “competitor’s” work not only fuels the fire to push myself but it also inspires me to keep going. Not necessarily to “out do” them, but because, “yeah, I can do that too.”

This business can be frustrating. It can be hard. Really hard. You can literally get pushed around and bruised (and hey, maybe that’s what can also make it kinda fun) but when you take a step back and look at this job as an art form, you see the beauty that is captured. As a result the frustration, the desperation, the annoyance, and the self-doubt goes way. At least temporarily. You see proof of your hard work, or better yet, the hard work of some one else. It’s uplifting.

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize and congratulate some kick ass photographers out there who keep leveling up. They continue to produce amazing images, capture some of the best musicians in the world, and showcase some amazing new artists.

If you don’t know them already, click through the below links to see some pretty cool photos. Check out their work and, if you’re so inclined, give them a like, because that also lessens the stress of a hardworking photographer just trying to get a good image to share with the world.




















Steve Hopson

Jason Holmberg

Walking Head

Tom Pease

Michael Booth

Lyudmila Izmaylova


Geoff Mock

By Sarah McLean, Feb 24 2016 05:00PM

Rickie Lee Jones LP (c) 1979
Rickie Lee Jones LP (c) 1979

My love for comedy rivals my love for music. Hands down I’d say those are the two biggest influences in my life. Which is why I love Saturday Night Live. Yeah, it has its ups and downs but you produce a live show almost every week for 41 years and see how you do. Rant aside, part of the reason I love it is for the chance to discover new music. For the most part, they do a great job of bringing on newer/on the verge artists and exposing them to the masses, so I’ll forgive the occasional extended streaks of “Oh, them again.”

About 15-20 years ago Comedy Central used to air reruns of the early seasons and it was there I discovered Rickie Lee Jones, just like everyone else who had watched the original airing back in 1979. With the release of the single “Chuck E.’s in Love” and her Saturday Night Live performance, she became an overnight sensation. Yet somehow, even with Grammy awards, Rolling Stone covers and more hit singles, she didn’t click they way other artists do. It’s as if she was a blip on the music radar. If you were to poll most people today I bet they will have never heard of her.

That’s a shame. Because her music is poignant, sentimental, creative, topical, and musically interesting - all at the same time. A mix of Jazz, R&B, Folk, and Pop all centered around poetic lyrics. It’s deep without trying. That’s hard, yet she makes it seem easy.

When I saw her on SNL, I was immediately struck by her “everywoman” personality. Her ability to laugh at herself and be goofy. This was clearly someone who hadn’t yet been affected by “fame”, nor do I think she ever really has been. I had no idea who she was, but I was captivated. It was comparable to my prior Fleetwood Mac moment, “Who was this? Why didn’t I know her already? Should I know her?” But unlike with Fleetwood Mac, no one else really knew who she was either.

I wish SNL was better at showcasing current new artists with the world. They still do it on occasion (Alabama Shakes) but not as much as they should. They don't have to claim discovering them, but there is so much music out there now that they can be utilized better, to bring music to people who may not watch YouTube every hour of the day.

As a birthday present to myself I bought a ticket to her show at The Rose in Pasadena, California, an intimate, club-like venue. As soon as she stepped on stage it was like I was transported back to 2000 (and vicariously back to 1979). We were both a bit older, but she was still the same person I saw on my TV screen; goofy, telling jokes, happy to be where she was and, seemingly, approachable. It was just as compelling to watch her now, live, as it was on TV 16 years ago.

If you are one of the people who haven’t heard of her, I suggest you check out her albums. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

By Sarah McLean, Feb 17 2016 05:00PM

The Wrecking Crew (c) 2008
The Wrecking Crew (c) 2008

I recently watched the The Wrecking Crew. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a 2014 documentary and an interesting look at the session musicians who not only played on some of the most iconic music of the 1960s, but created it. Created it. Those popular songs by those popular bands that you love and adore that you just assumed were written and recorded by the actual artists? Were not.

What? My mind was blown when I heard this. I’m talking Beach Boys. Elvis. The Byrds. Mamas and Papas. The list goes on.

When most of us think of session musicians we think of them as the necessary backing band for solo singers and vocalists, for those artists who don’t play their own music but rely on their vocal ability. Nothing wrong with that. But we don’t think that bands like the Beach Boys might not have actually played on their own records.

The Wrecking Crew did everything.

To think they created most of the iconic music of rock n roll bands who could play instruments is mind boggling. It’s not that these bands, like the Beach Boys couldn’t play their own music, they could. It’s just that The Wrecking crew were just much, much, much more talented and skilled musicians.

Pet Sounds. One of the most iconic albums of all time. Arguably the best Beach Boys album ever. Playing on the record? The Wrecking Crew. Creating the music you hear? The Wrecking Crew, with the guidance of Brian Wilson, of course. Yes, we can assume they would be the masterminds behind the music of The Monkees, but the Beach Boys? Wow.

I don’t use the Beach Boys as an example to deride any of their amazing accomplishments and served praise. Brian Wilson clearly played a gigantic role in shaping the music and sound and leading them in the right direction. I use them to point out that no one was immune to the talents of The Wrecking Crew. No one. Not even one of the greater bands in history and most influential bands in the 1960s.

I mean, I feel like my childhood, and by my, I mean those who actually grew up in the 60s, has been shattered. How could one group of people be responsible for so much amazing music? And how were they never given the credit they were due until 2007 when they were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame? And thankfully by Denny Tedesco, son of Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco, in 2008 via the documentary. Mind you, they are still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (save for two members being inducted as “sidemen” in 2000).

As the documentary came to an end, I was glad they all, individually and together, came to the same point: this was just a small period in their lives. Like most musicians, you think the fame, fortune and money will last forever. They might not have had the level of fame as the musicians they played for did, but they had the fortune, and the pitfalls that come along with it.

As the 1970s approached and emphasis shifted towards bands who played their own instruments as well as The Wrecking Crew, they became obsolete. A harbinger of the times. They were now the old guys that were being replaced by the new regime, just like they had done years before.

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