‘This magic moment’

Boulder rock-concert photographer Lisa Siciliano breaks down five of her favorite images ahead of annual showcase

Courtesy: Lisa Siciliano

Lisa Siciliano has certainly grown up from the days when she first fell in love with music as a kid in Ohio — having since developed a remarkable career as a celebrated Boulder rock-concert photographer — but it’s a hoot to listen to her geek out on the musical heroes of her youth. Van Halen’s 1978 party-on-wax debut album, she says, “brings me right back to high school and everything I love about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Over the last 25 years shooting concerts — always on film, almost always in black-and-white — Siciliano has been smelling-distance away from many of the artists she grew up admiring, from the Van Halen brothers themselves to Pete Townshend and B.B. King. She’s also forged many relationships with local bands before they became stars, establishing herself as a vital part of the Colorado music scene in the process. She’s a fixture in the photo pit at Red Rocks, the Pepsi Center and really any renowned venue you can name.

Siciliano’s career behind the lens will come into focus during her 14th annual Rocking in a Winter Wonderland at Vapor Distillery on Dec. 17. It’s a party with live music, showcasing her concert photography. (She also does wedding and graduation photos, family portraits and more under the banner Dog Daze Photo.) She sells everything from small, discounted prints to framed wall-sized shots meant to be the centerpiece of a music lover’s home.

In a recent sit-down interview, Siciliano — who got her first camera from Kmart at 10 years old — pored over five of her favorite concert photos from the last two-and-a-half decades and described not just the works themselves, but the moments behind them. 

Tom Petty: Mile High Music Festival at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Commerce City), 2008

Credit: Lisa Siciliano

“I always like when there’s a movement, up or down, because it’s something different. You’re just feeling the song. Sometimes, too, they’ll repeat that kind of motion and you’re, like, ‘OK, when he gets to this part again, he’s gonna do something interesting.’ It was kind of like that; it was kind of like the ending of a song, and endings of songs are usually good. That was at Mile High Music Festival, and he was the headliner there. He also just looks really into it, to me, in that picture — really focused.” 

George Clinton: Ogden Theatre (Denver), 2018

Credit: Lisa Siciliano

“This is a perfect example of where the light technician comes in, because that shot would be cool in itself, but the lights — the ways they’re coming down around him — just make it a thousand times cooler. I have four shots of that same [moment], because he stood there for a minute, but that one is the shot because of the lights coming down and the light in his eyes. And it’s just so rock ‘n’ roll. Everything about that is perfect to me.”

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers): Pepsi Center (Denver), 2012

Credit: Lisa Siciliano

“This was one of those shots where it was like, ‘OK, I got it,’ and that was right when [Red Hot Chili Peppers] came out. He came out and started the show and I was like, ‘I don’t even need to shoot anymore.’ Of course I did, but I knew. I knew I got it. I also like these kinds of photos where it’s not obvious who it is, but if you look at it you’re gonna know it’s Flea, if you know. I love the reflection on the shiny floor …It looks like a street that’s all slick.”

Dolly Parton: Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Morrison), 2016

Credit: Lisa Siciliano

“It’s just so Dolly, right? I have some of her playing guitar from that concert that I like a lot. This one, though … she just looks friendly and inviting, and you wanna go to her house and eat some biscuits, you know? [Laughs] It’s like the quintessential Dolly Parton. She was very excited that night. That was right before she started singing ‘Jolene.’ … When it’s a song I love, I have to make sure I’m not moving around, especially because that was from the soundboard and I was hand-holding a 300 [mm lens]. She’s amazing — especially at that age. It sounded just like the record.”

David Crosby: Boulder Theater, 2017

Credit: Lisa Siciliano

“It’s intense, and I like the half-shadow thing, too. I’m a big fan of half-lit faces. … It was a really special concert … his voice still sounded the same, and that picture, I just absolutely could feel how into it he was. That was probably the best I’ve seen him solo, and I’ve photographed him a bunch. I photographed him with Crosby, Stills and Nash at Red Rocks when I first became house photographer [there] back in the late ’90s. …He was [backstage] like, ‘Is this the house photographer? She won’t do.’ I was freaking out. I was like, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ And he said, ‘She’s much too beautiful. She’s gonna distract me.’ He’s such a jokester guy. He’s a ham. He’s kind of an asshole at the same time, but cool. He doesn’t give a shit; it’s just who he is. I love that picture.”

Rocking in a Winter Wonderland: Rock Art Show and Sale by Lisa Siciliano, featuring live music from Koret with special guest David Hinojosa. 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, Vapor Distillery, 5311 Western Ave., Suite 180, Boulder.