Chris Johnson’s Live Video Archive of The Black Keys

Back in 2003 when many fans were seeing The Black Keys live for the first time, few took a video camera along. Chris Johnson was an exception. As bands passed through his hometown of Minneapolis he made the effort. Now days the video/camera phone is as ubiquitous as the raised lighter used to be at gigs.

Chris Johnson was and is a fan of The Black Keys, the blues and outsider music. It’s that interest which by increments led him to set up the Deep Blues Festival in 2007. Sadly, it was recently announced that the festival would not continue past this years January 2010 event. Hopefully someone else will pick up the baton and carry it forward.

The live videos Chris took of The Black Keys now are part of a rare archive of early shows. The Black Keys Fan Lounge recently asked Chris about those shows and the taping.

Do you recall the first time you ever heard The Black Keys and the impression it made on you?

The first time I heard of the Black Keys was on the Fat Possum Records website on their June 24, 2003, newsletter.  This is what I read:

Last Monday (June 16th), MTV began introducing the Black Eyed Peas but playing the Black Keys video Set You Free instead.

This is exactly opposite of what life on the Fat Possum planet has taught me to expect. On our planet they might announce a R.L. video, then play a little Matchbox20, and three days later apologize for not announcing Matchbox20’s properly. Or worse, –our artist would die seconds before his music appears on all those American televisions. I appreciate the force was behind this and only wish I had better understanding of how it worked. The Keys 5 week tour with Beck comes to close on June 28th. They will return to the West Coast and headline a short tour of their own, before heading to the U.K and Australia. You can see the video that cause the stir, follow this link.

I watched the video several times and haven’t quite been the same ever since.  I checked their tour dates and saw they were coming through the midwest in Oct ’03 and planned to travel to a few shows.

Most fans back in 2003 weren’t so onto it to have a camera at hand at a gig as they are today, how come you started videoing?  Was it for a personal record or some other plan?

The band website said that audience recordings were allowed, so I bought some microphones and a sony minidisc recorder.  I recorded audio at the Omaha NE show 10-29-03 and the Iowa City IA show 10-30-03.  I talked to Dan and Pat at each show and asked them if I could record video in Minneapolis for 10-31-03.  I was just a fan that wanted to share this music with others.  I burned dozens of cdrs to send out.  I also started trading recordings with other tapers and collectors.  I met a lot of people through trading.

I’ve attended and recorded dozens of Black Keys shows.  I sent copies of all my recordings to Pat and Dan.  They even released a song, Work Me, from a recording I made in Boston 11-16-05 on the single You’re The One.

Do you have additional footage of this 2003 show that you haven’t published?

I have that complete show on video and a few others.  In early 2004, they changed their recording policy to audio only.  There was someone selling a dvd of the 12-31-03 Beachland Ballroom show, and that caused the policy change.  The TX promo dvd with Rubber Factory was about to come out.  Of course, they’ve since come out with two commercial releases of live dvds.

I’ve certainly been in support of all non-commercial recording and sharing of live performances.  For the most part, I think this is positive for the bands and the fans.  I can also understand the arguments against it.  With the growth of youtube and other video websites and the increase in recording equipment, it’s certainly a challenge to try to prohibit it.

The 2004 show it looks like you were filming from the side of the stage or just right down the front? If from the side obviously you had met the band and they were keen for you to video?

I asked Pat and Dan before that Madison WI show if they would mind if I shot video again.  I told them it was non-commercial and just for free trading and sharing.  With their permission, I was there in the front row with the camera.  I don’t know if keen is the best word to describe their approval.  They just knew me as a fan, and I wouldn’t be trying to sell the recordings.

You might be interested to know that Dan used to record too.  I have a few dvds of video he shot of some blues bands.

The 2004 show version of ‘Busted’ is a bit of a classic. What song do you think best sums up the band’s performance, attitude or style?

The energy of their live shows is particularly appealing to me.  Very little banter or time wasted between songs.  They just push through the whole performance.  I guess my personal favorite live song would be Set You Free.

To my knowledge The Black Keys never played the Deep Blues Festival, correct?

I certainly asked every year and made offers.  My intentions for the fest were simply to put these outsider bands in front of a larger audience.  Having a band like the Black Keys involved would have been a huge draw.  Too bad it never came together.

A recent video from Chris below of The Black Keys @ SXSW 2010. Dan gives a shout to their friend Chris Johnson before they launch into ‘I’ll Be Your Man’. Respect.


See the videos below, the entire concert and more great blues videos over at Chris Johnson’s YouTube channel.

Oct 31, 2003 at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis MN



22 September, 2004 at the High Noon Saloon, Madison WI

Set You Free




This is The Black Keys current policy for taping of shows:

4 thoughts on “Chris Johnson’s Live Video Archive of The Black Keys

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