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Street Level

Rock on: Cleveland's rich rock-n-roll legacy takes center stage at AsiaTown photo show



That time David Bowie played his first show in Cleveland back in 1972? Anastasia Pantsios was there. 

The time the Jacksons visited Playhouse Square in the late 70s, or when an emergent U2 played the Agora Ballroom? Also there.

And when Bowie returned to play the Richfield Coliseum in 1990? Yep, she was there, and so were Bono and Adam Clayton—both of whom got their photo taken with Bowie backstage, by none other than Pantsios herself.

"During the show, Bono came onstage and did a number with Bowie and his band," recalls Pantsios. "Nobody else has that—those photos are really unique."

Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, captured by Joe KleonThose photos and over 100 other gems will be on display this weekend as part of the Rock/Roll Perspectives show at AsiaTown's Loftworks Gallery. The show features the work of both Pantsios (whose portfolio was largely shot in the 1970s and 80s) and Joe Kleon (a modern music photographer who has been shooting for the last 15 years).

Though Pantsios and Kleon's work is a study in contrasts—black-and-white versus color, film versus digital—one section of the gallery will feature side-by-side depictions of artists that both photographers have shot, including Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Michael Stanley, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna.

"What we're focusing on is an overview of the Cleveland music scene as far as concerts go, from the mid-70s through today," shares Pantsios, whose work has been featured in The Plain Dealer, Rolling Stone, Creem, The Village Voice, The New York Times, and more. "[We're] pushing the idea that if anyone had a really seminal experience at a Cleveland concert, we probably have a photo from it."

Pantsios' own seminal experience happened at a 1984 Prince concert at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. One of the first to arrive on the scene, Pantsios soon discovered that there was no photo pit and that she'd be shooting from a distance in the penalty box. Discouraged but not deterred, Pantsios started setting up and talking with one of the security guards, when "in waltzed a well-known New York photographer, a queen bee type with full gear and an assistant," says Pantsios. "She started setting up in the penalty box right in front of me. It was a, 'What the f**k am I going to do now?' moment."

The guard motioned for Pantsios to gather up her gear and follow him—straight to an empty second-row seat. "One of the best things you can do is be really nice to the security guys," laughs Pantsios. "[The resulting shot of Prince] is my all-time favorite photo and one of my best-selling prints."

Chris Cornell of AudioslavePantsios' hard-earned shot is just one of many iconic prints that will be on sale at the Rock/Roll Perspectives show this weekend. The show will open with a Friday night reception and go through Sunday; Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here will provide the musical backdrop.

Though Pantsios no longer shoots concerts—choosing instead to focus on food, event, and urban street photography and her job as editor of Cool Cleveland—she's excited to showcase her work alongside long-time colleague Kleon and revisit Cleveland's rich musical legacy through their photos.

"Concerts mean a lot to people, and [this show] is like sharing memories with them," says Pantsios, who treasures her own collection of ticket stubs and photo passes (especially one for a Sex Pistols show at the Agora that never happened due to their breakup). "That's what makes our job fun."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

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