Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Four recent challenges

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

LTW

I shot four concerts in four different venues recently, and encountered four challenges which can briefly be summed up as: crappy light, crappy light, crappy light, and crappy light. Case in point: the above photo of local metal band LTW at the Black Cat backstage, the EXIF data of which reads: ISO 12800, f/1.4, 1/30s shutter.

OK, to some extent this is an exaggeration for effect. In fact, for a minute or two I got to shoot at Empire (formerly Jaxx) at ISO 400, which is utterly unheard-of. But aside from a few isolated moments, each of these four concerts had some severe challenges on the lighting side. I’m not complaining – this is pretty standard fare for concert photography – I was mostly just looking for a way to post about four completely different shows all in one post, and this is the best my feeble mind could do. In reverse chronological order, here’s a super quick recap of those four shows – one photo per band.

Last night (in descending order below): Coheed and Cambria, Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles at the 9:30 Club. I was excited about this mostly because the last time I shot Coheed I got an unforgettable photo. But I’d forgotten how tough a shoot it was – all dim light with lots of strobes. Same deal last night, except for Russian Circles, who literally played with zero frontlight. Here’s the full set.

Coheed & Cambria

Between the Buried and Me

Russian Circles

Last Sunday: Doro, Sister Sin and A Sound of Thunder at Empire. Doro had a spotlight on her for much of the show, which was a huge surprise to me, not having shot at this venue since it was Jaxx. But the rest of her band was in the dark recesses, which made wide shots hard. The light for local openers A Sound of Thunder was pretty tremendous, though. Here’s the full set.

Doro

Sister Sin

A Sound of Thunder

Last Saturday: Duos Buke and Gase and Ahleuchatistas at DC9. The light here was actually better than I remember it, but again, super uneven light across the stage made it hard to get both performers in one nicely exposed photo. Here’s the full set.

Buke and Gase

Ahleuchatistas

Finally, last month was Jucifer and LTW (who are pictured at the top of this post) at the Black Cat backstage. Jucifer always plays in the dark, and LTW made things complicated by only having their drummer onstage, with the other two band members on the floor with the crowd – where, of course, there’s no light. That was a fun show, nevertheless. The below shot of Jucifer isn’t very good, but I like how it shows that Jucifer’s monstrous rig takes up literally half of the stage real estate. Here’s the full set.

Jucifer

Delta Rae: pleasant and unpleasant surprises

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Delta Rae

Last year, North Carolina’s Delta Rae were playing tiny venues like 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, and not even coming close to selling them out. Fast-forward to 2013, and they’re playing to a capacity crowd at the 1,200-person 9:30 Club in DC, and looking so comfortable onstage that you might think they’ve been playing arenas for years. The pleasant surprise referred to in this post’s title was Delta Rae’s performing chops: they stunned me with how much better they were in concert compared to their record. The band has boundless energy and it’s put to good use, not just in the stage show but also in the music: every song sounded more powerful and convincing live than on record.

The unpleasant surprise, though, was the lighting. I expected the beautiful lighting treatment that most non-metal bands get at the 9:30 Club. Instead, the lighting was all deep color washes and intense strobing backlights, only occasionally augmented by some very dim incandescent frontlighting. Very challenging shoot to say the least, but the band more than made up for it. You can’t go wrong with six people completely freaking out onstage, no matter what the lights look like.

Still, I’d love to shoot this band again sometime with some nice white frontlights. I got zero shots with catchlights in the eyes. That’s a bummer.

Check out the full set at Flickr for more, plus photos of the openers, The Wild Feathers and Jillette Johnson.

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

The Joy Formidable @ St. Stephen’s Church

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

The Joy Formidable

I try not to ever pass up an opportunity to shoot The Joy Formidable, whose band name is a pretty accurate description of how they approach their live show. This fall, they did a mini-tour of the US, playing only small nontraditional venues rather than the big clubs they’ve recently graduated to. In DC, that meant they played a fairly intimate benefit show at St. Stephen’s Church – fun to be a part of but very challenging to photograph.

There were basically no lights aside from what the band brought with them, so none of these shots can compare to what I got from the last time I saw them. At the end of the set, Ritzy Bryan jumped into the crowd right next to me, played for a second, tossed her guitar back onto the stage, gave a random fan a hug, and stalked off backstage to the close the show. I had the wrong lens on and no flash, so I didn’t capture any of that. Frustratingly, I might never get to shoot a whole set of this band again, since they’ll be playing clubs that enforce a 3-song rule – so that might have been my last chance to capture the inevitable end-of-show mayhem that has become their trademark. Oh well.

Here are just a couple highlights; for more, see the full set at Flickr. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with my work.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

For more, see the full set at Flickr. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with my work.

Earth @ Rock & Roll Hotel

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Earth

A pretty stellar bill of Earth, Eagle Twin and Stebmo (a jazzy side project of Earth’s keyboardist/trombonist Steve Moore) rolled through DC in November. This was probably one of my favorite shows of the year from start to finish. Earth is a truly hypnotizing band to watch and listen to live. Their ultra-slow songs feel heavier than most grindcore bands, and drummer Adrienne Davies is truly mesmerizing in action, keeping the slow tempos with huge, sweepingly dramatic gestures.

I last saw Eagle Twin opening for Sunn O))), but I didn’t remember them being quite so fantastic. At this show they played for an hour straight, with no song breaks or even discernable songs at all – just nonstop loud, pummeling, mostly instrumental metal. And Stebmo was a real highlight as well; their record sounds like avant-jazz, but live they were stripped down to just Steve Moore and Earth’s bassist Don McGreevy, and the duo’s version of Stebmo’s songs felt heavy and doomy – just what you would want out of two members of Earth playing jazz.

For more, see the full set at Flickr. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with my work.

Earth

Earth

Earth

Earth

Earth

Eagle Twin:

Eagle Twin

Eagle Twin

For more, see the full set at Flickr. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with my work.

Epica @ Howard Theatre

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Epica

The fall concert season has been a slow one for me due to loads of work-related travel and other life factors. Still, I’ve done a few fun shows, and I’ll do a few retrospective posts about them here, since I’ve been neglecting the blog rather severely for much of the year. First up is a rare metal show at the Howard Theatre – gothic metal stalwarts Epica in late October. I really like this band, despite the damage that does to my metal cred, and haven’t seen them since 2010, when I did a fairly pedestrian band portrait with them in the parking lot of what was then Jaxx.

This time around, I did a portrait with just Simone Simons, the band’s frontwoman. This is of course easier than a full band shoot, but I was given 5 minutes with her in a terrible location with only about 10 minutes to set up. So I didn’t even try to get creative; instead, I did a simple two-light setup and avoided all backgrounds. I used my 85/1.4 stopped down a bit to f/2. As far as boring headshots go, I’m pretty happy with it:

Simone Simons

The show itself was fun to shoot, but I got stuck right in front of Simone’s mic stand, which was irritating because she didn’t even really need it – she was using a wireless mic. So I didn’t get the kind of wide-angle shots I tend to favor at metal shows, and in fact some of my better shots came from when I stepped away from the front of the stage and sniped from the back with a long lens. Lighting was par for the course for a metal show – pretty crappy and red, but good enough.

For more, check out the full set at Flickr, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Epica

Epica

Epica

Epica

Epica

For more, check out the full set at Flickr, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Virgin Mobile FreeFest: the fans

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

One of my favorite things about outdoor festivals is the opportunity to take lots of crowd shots. People having fun and going nuts for their favorite performers generally makes it pretty easy to take interesting photos, especially at a fest like this where there’s inevitably (in the memorable words of my editor at the City Paper) lots of peacocking going on.

Before diving in with a few of my favorite shots (the full fan gallery is here, or you can sift through my Flickr set), a note on the above headline photo. This was the first time I really felt like I was pushing my new Nikon D4. There was no foreground light aside from the light from the hula hoop; I shot at ISO 25600 and even then was only getting 1/80 (just fast enough to freeze the action enough) at f/2.8. The blue trees in the background – lit by the stage effects – was a nice bonus for this shot. I spent probably 10 minutes shooting these hula dancers, who were crazy good, and got some really cool photos.

Alongside the hoopers, most of the peacocking was happening in the dance forest:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Just a few more favorites, outside the dance forest:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

End of a long day:

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

For more, see the full gallery at the City Paper, or my Flickr set with all the fan and music photos combined into one huge photoset.

Virgin Mobile FreeFest: the bands

Friday, October 19th, 2012

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

In 2009, as the country struggled through the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, the two-day Virgin Festival became a one-day FreeFest. Richard Branson and co brought big-name acts to Merriweather Post Pavilion and gave away free tickets to 50,000 people. The tradition has, remarkably, continued, and 2012’s incarnation of FreeFest felt quite a bit like 2009, albeit with a bit less gimmickry (that year featured skydivers and Branson handing out free beers with Flava Flav of Public Enemy).

There were some challenges shooting here. The fest had three stages as usual: the “pavilion stage” (Merriweather’s main stage), the “West stage,” and the dance forest. The lighting at the pavilion stage generally sucked and the pit was tiny, making it impossible to move around for the later acts. The West stage had a nice huge pit but the stage was extremely high, probably five and a half feet, and featured a big extension in center that, bizarrely, almost none of the performers used. So, wide-angle shots at this stage were generally fruitless. Finally, the dance forest also featured a very high stage, and all of the DJs stood behind a table, and we weren’t allowed onstage to shoot. For all these reasons, I’m only moderately happy with my band shots, and actually am much more excited about the crowd shots I got (some favorites of which I’ll slap up in a separate post).

Here are a few of the decent performance shots I did get, in chronological order. Local favorite The Dismemberment Plan is highlighted above.

Justin Jones (well, his drummer):

Justin Jones @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Future Islands, by far the photographic highlight:

Future Islands @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Portgual. the Man:

Portugal. The Man @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Trampled By Turtles:

Trampled By Turtles @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

The Dismemberment Plan again:

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Nervo:

Nervo @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Santigold:

Santigold @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Nas:

Nas @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

ZZ Top:

ZZ Top @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

M83:

M83 @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Skrillex, for whom we had to shoot from FOH without any raised platform:

Skrillex @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

For more photos, check out the article at the Washington City Paper. It’s a huge and unwieldy slideshow combining my photos with those of fellow WCP photog Erica Bruce, so here are direct links to each individual artist:

Pavilion Stage:
Jack White (Erica’s photos only)
ZZ Top
Alabama Shakes
Trampled By Turtles
Allen Stone
Justin Jones
West Stage:
Skrillex
M83
Nas
Santigold
The Dismemberment Plan
Portugal. the Man
Future Islands
 
Dance Forest:
Above & Beyond
Thomas Gold
Nervo
Alvin Risk
Volta Bureau

Finally, here’s a link to my full photo set on Flickr, which includes some band photos not included in the City Paper slideshow.

My last shoot at First Avenue: Dragonforce

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Dragonforce

I’m moving back to Washington, DC in late May (and am likely to re-start the music photography gigs I had there, albeit with a bit lesser frequency), so the show I shot at First Avenue three weeks ago was almost certainly my last time shooting there. It couldn’t have been more over-the-top awesome for photography, as the trio of power metal bands Dragonforce, Holy Grail and Huntress made it easy to get some great shots.

There’s plenty more at the full Flickr photoset, and follow me on Facebook for more of my work.

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Holy Grail:

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Huntress:

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Here’s the full set.

Red on Red: Turisas and Paganfest America III

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Turisas

On Friday, April 6 (I submitted my photos a while ago but am just now getting to writing about them), the third Paganfest America tour stopped in at Station 4. This was Turisas‘ first headlining tour in the States; they’re fun to shoot, but the lighting at Station 4 was awful. Adding red light to red facepaint makes dynamic photos pretty tough, and my best shots of Turisas all look like the above: dark and monochromatic red. The lighting was almost as bad for Alestorm and Arkona, better for Huntress, and weirdly, was actually kind of excellent (by Station 4 standards) for local openers Minos.

The full photoset is here, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more.

On to the highlights. Here are a couple more of Turisas:

Turisas

Turisas

Most of my best photos are of Huntress, largely because the lighting was better and I had pit access for their full set; I also got to do a super-quick portrait with them beforehand:

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Arkona:

Arkona

Alestorm:

Alestorm

Minos:

Minos

Minos

Obligatory fan shot:

Paganfest fans

Birthday bash with I:Scintilla

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

I:Scintilla

Chicago’s I:Scintilla, who mix melodic electronic music with tinges of metal, made their first appearance in Minneapolis since 2008 on Friday night, thanks to a friend of theirs who decided to put on a great show for her 30th birthday celebration. (Thanks, Renee.) They were missing two of their members, unfortunately, but that certainly didn’t make itself evident in the music, as their set sounded great. Visually, vocalist Brittany Bindrim and guitarist Jim Cookas both have great stage presence with tons of energy, and combined with Ground Zero’s gorgeous lighting, I got some shots I’m quite happy with. Drummer Vince Grech, unfortunately, was placed extremely far back on the stage with no lights on him, so I have zero drummer shots from this show.

Beforehand, I did a backstage portrait shoot with the three band members who were present (my thanks to all three of them for the shoot). Ground Zero’s backstage area is tiny, and I tried doing some shadowy, creative lighting at first, but after a few shots it became clear that it just wasn’t working. So I slapped a softbox onto my main light, got rid of my other lights, and resorted to an incredibly basic failsafe scheme, lighting the trio nearly straight on with nice, diffuse white light.

I:Scintilla

Here’s an alternate take – both shots have elements that I like. Following are some more favorites I got from the live show. Ground Zero uses colorful LED cans for backlight and two big incandescent cans to provide nice white frontlight. Combined with judicious use of a fog machine, it’s a recipe for beautiful lighting.

If you like these, be sure to check out the full photoset at Flickr, and follow me on Facebook for more of my work.

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

Local opener Thought Thieves, on the other hand, played in the dark for almost their entire set. They filled the venue with fog and then barely used any lights at all – not even any backlights, so I couldn’t get any silhouette shots. Eventually the fog cleared and the backlights came on, and I was able to get a couple shots towards the end of the set. My favorite is this one:

Thought Thieves

And finally, openers Cwn Annwn had the more typical gorgeous Ground Zero lighting treatment, and I definitely got some great shots of them. They play a kind of melodic metal that was a bit incongruous to the rest of the show (they closed out with a cover of Rush‘s “Subdivisions,” which was unexpected and wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Rush cover, but they did it well). Regardless, the unusual combination worked, and seemed to go over well with the crowd.

Cwn Annwn

Lots more photos over at Flickr.