Archive for April, 2011

Infected Mushroom brings the lasers

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Infected Mushroom

Israeli (well, sort of; they currently live in LA) psychedelic trance group Infected Mushroom took the stage just after midnight last night at Epic Nightclub in downtown Minneapolis. They played for over an hour and a half to an ecstatic crowd, putting on a visually impressive show full of lasers and other eye candy.

Check out some highlights below, or see the full set at Flickr. Also be sure to like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter for more.

Infected Mushroom

Epic has no photo pit, and is more of a dance club than a rock club despite regularly getting live music acts, not just DJs. I managed to squeeze my way up front for Infected Mushroom, only to get more sweat, beer, and unidentifiable other liquids on myself and my camera than at any other show I’ve ever shot except perhaps Amon Amarth at Jaxx a few years ago. After a few songs I retreated to shoot from afar – both from the floor (as in the headline shot, above) and from the second-floor VIP booths (which can be seen in the last photo below), which had excellent sight lines.

Infected Mushroom

Infected Mushroom

This being a dance club, I felt obligated to do some party-photography style shots of the attendees, all of whom were happy to oblige – and in many cases saw my camera and pretty much demanded that I take a photo. No problem… that’s what I do.

Infected Mushroom - Fans

Infected Mushroom - Fans

Infected Mushroom

Coffeehouse Grindcore

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Fuck the Facts

I wouldn’t normally think of grindcore as coffee-shop music, but last night I went to The Beat Coffeehouse in Minneapolis to see Canada’s Fuck the Facts and Ken Mode, bands that blend grindcore, metal, hardcore and noise and do it awesomely. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, I got there late, only got to see one Ken Mode song, and didn’t get to do a planned portrait shoot with Fuck the Facts. So it goes. At least I got to shoot Fuck the Facts’ live set, which was short and brutally powerful, just the way grindcore should be. It was great to get to see them, since I missed their set at MDF last year and hadn’t seen them since 2009 at Talking Head in Baltimore.

Fuck the Facts

For a coffee shop, the lighting was actually pretty usable. I got most of my best shots shooting from the side with my 85/1.4 wide open at ISO 6400, which just barely got me shutter speeds fast enough to freeze the action. For a while I tried shooting from in front using my 14-24/2.8 and flash, but aside from the above shot (which I kind of love), I didn’t quite succeed in getting anything I was totally happy with that way.

Fuck the Facts

Fuck the Facts

Fuck the Facts

Full photoset at Flickr, and be sure to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to see what I’m shooting next.

KT Tunstall at Fine Line Music Café

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

KT Tunstall

Last night at the Fine Line Music Café, KT Tunstall brought her solo tour to Minneapolis, playing a set of songs from her three albums as well as from a tour-only EP. Armed with an array of instruments and electronics, Tunstall expertly looped herself into a full backing band for her powerful voice. There were more than a few hiccups in the performance – at one point, after several minor things went wrong over the course of a few songs, Tunstall said, “I’m going to play one that I know I won’t fuck up,” launched into “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” and promptly broke a guitar string. (She was unfazed, and gave a pretty killer rendition of that song with the string dangling from her instrument.) Hiccups aside, Tunstall’s obvious talent and complete mastery of witty stage banter made her solo show a highly enjoyable affair.

KT Tunstall

Solo shows can often be pretty monotonous visually, and this one was no exception. Tunstall is a great subject, but there are only so many interesting photos to be made in three songs when there’s only one musician to focus on, from one angle, with pretty much one steady lighting scheme. Fine Line has no photo pit and the place was packed, so I was confined to a single spot in front the stage; luckily, I ended up stage left, which was perfect since for Tunstall’s set a keyboard and sundry other annoying sight-line-blocking objects were set up on stage right. The light was reasonable – dim incandescent frontlight and deep blue backlight – but it basically never changed, and between that and the lack of anyone else onstage for Tunstall to interact with, all my photos of her look more or less similar to each other.

KT Tunstall

Opener Robert Francis was a revelation, with a powerful voice and highly emotional songs. His wide-brimmed hat made shooting him challenging, as the lighting was mostly hard spotlights from above, but I do like this one I got:

Robert Francis

Ironically, the best light and the best shooting of the night was for the first band to come onstage, Miggs. For whatever reason, Fine Line gave Miggs a gorgeous lighting treatment that changed with every song, making shooting throughout their set a rewarding exercise. Here are just a couple of my favorites:

Miggs

Miggs

Check out the full set at Flickr, and be sure to follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook to keep up with what I’m shooting next.

Penny Dreadful

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Penny Dreadful

I spent my Saturday afternoon with alternative model Penny Dreadful, in the same building in which I shot with Chels a couple weeks ago. (It was about 50 degrees warmer this time around.) The environment fit Penny’s look perfectly, not to mention her penchant for climbing. The headline shot above might kind of give away the location to anyone familiar with Minneapolis – this was up on the roof of the building at twilight. We actually should have come up here a little earlier, as my shutter speeds were way lower than ideal, in order for me to get some detail in the grain elevator. This one was lit simply, with a Speedlight on each side, both with shoot-through umbrellas. The key was going wide at 14mm, lying on the ground to get the dramatic upward perspective.

Penny Dreadful

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Earlier in the afternoon, we did this look, as Penny climbed atop a stack of boards and surfed precariously on top of them for a bunch of different poses. This one was my favorite – it’s lit with a single umbrella’d Speedlight camera left as the main light. I turned the background a bit red with a Speedlight camera right aimed at the ceiling with a red gel. This is a shot that might have been better a bit later in the evening, as even at max sync speed the light coming through the windows is a bit brighter than I’d like.

Penny Dreadful

Using this same outfit, we then did a much more straightforward shot. Even though it was 60+ degrees outside, it was a simple task to make Minneapolis look wintry, by slapping a CTO gel onto a single umbrella’d Speedlight and putting Penny in front of a window with bare trees visible outside. This is probably the simplest set of shots we did, just a one-light setup and no crazy poses, and I really like the results.

Penny Dreadful

We quickly got more complicated. One of the niftier features of this particular building is this strange walk-in filing cabinet system, which we decided might look really cool with Penny’s silver vinyl trenchcoat and a splash of cool background lighting. Penny climbed around inside this thing while I shot with an ultrawide lens and the following lighting setup: an SB-900 zoomed in on Penny as a main light, with a 1/2 CTO gel; an ungelled SB-600 with shoot-thru umbrella providing on-axis fill; and a blue-gelled SB-600 clamped to the back of the structure shooting up at the ceiling and back towards the camera. Good times.

Penny Dreadful

As mentioned above, at the end of the day we found ourselves up on the roof, where I used the grain elevators as a background and then just shot up at the sky, using CTOs to turn it a dramatic shade of blue. This one is simple, again: two Speedlights with shoot-thru umbrellas, one on each side of the camera, both with full CTO gels. The only tricky thing was finding weights to hold the lights down, as it was a bit windy up there.

We did try a few additional looks than what I’ve covered here (most of which involved more climbing, like this shot on top of some unidentified piece of machinery), but the above are some of my favorite shots. A fun and productive shoot, needless to say; the location was great and Penny was a rock star and awesome to work with.

One more at the Cedar: Over the Rhine

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Over the Rhine

I’ve spent a lot of time at the Cedar Cultural Center in the past week, and capping off my run of three shows is Ohio’s Over the Rhine, a longtime favorite of mine. This was the last show on their current tour, and their set drew very heavily from their latest recording, The Long Surrender. That’s not a bad thing by any means, although I have enough of the “old fan” syndrome that I found myself wishing they’d played a bit deeper into their vast back catalog.

Over the Rhine

I always enjoy seeing the last show on a tour, as bands are often loose and having a good time, bantering and bickering and joking back and forth. This show was a bit subdued in that respect except for a few pretty amusing moments here and there. It did feature, however, a mighty struggle with the venue sound, apparently caused by some piece of the band’s equipment that was crapping out at the end of the tour. (“It’s for sale,” the frustrated soundman joked to the crowd after a particularly noisy flareup.)

Photographically, the Cedar’s incandescent frontlights were in full effect for this one, and I could shoot Karin Bergquist comfortably at f/2.8 and ISO 1600; lighting for Linford Detweiler and the rest of the band was a bit patchier, but this one was still pretty much a breeze. Three songs and then I got to sit back and enjoy. Here are a few more favorites:

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine

Full set at Flickr.

Smiles all around with Abigail Washburn

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Abigail Washburn

I’m not sure I’ve ever photographed as many smiling and laughing musicians as I did tonight at Abigail Washburn‘s performance at the Cedar Cultural Center. Washburn’s Americana is more beautiful than joyful on record, but this was a feel-good concert if I’ve ever seen one. Which makes sense, as it was a homecoming of sorts; Washburn went to high school in nearby Edina and apparently has a lot of family and friends still in the area.

Abigail Washburn

While Washburn’s banjo playing is beyond reproach, it was her voice that really captivated me. In particular, her performance of a Chinese folk song – she’s a scholar of Chinese music and fluent in Mandarin – was amazingly powerful. A second Chinese song, this one a Tibetan children’s song set to a bluegrassy instrumental backing, was a gorgeous and moving meshing of the two cultures. Aside from these Chinese songs, much the setlist was drawn from Washburn’s new record, City of Refuge. It’s a nice recording, and the songs really came alive tonight, helped on by the band’s high spirits. A highlight for me was the closing of the first set: the initial vocal melody of “Burn Thru” burst through an amorphously noisy between-song segue like a warm sunrise, and the rest of the song with its beautifully plaintive harmonies was a truly heartfelt way to head into an intermission. Anyone who was on the fence about sticking around for the second set probably had their minds made up for them.

Abigail Washburn

Photographically, this show made full use of the Cedar’s lighting rig, although the color balance was decidedly deep in the incandescent and red range for most of the show. I shot three songs crouched in front of the seated audience, and then spent the rest of the show sniping from the back and sides with a long lens. ISO 3200 did the trick perfectly well, except for when I was up close with my 85/1.4, in which case ISO 800 was more than sufficient.

Here are a few more favorites:

Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn

Full set at Flickr.

The Formidable Joy Formidable

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

The Joy Formidable

Most of the time when I shoot a band, I focus on the frontperson but try not to neglect the rest of the band – my shots tend to be distributed reasonably evenly amongst the band members (drummers excepted, but usually for pragmatic reasons – impossible to get a good angle, or no light to speak of). Some bands, though, have such a charismatic frontman or frontwoman that it’s basically impossible to tear the lens away from them. The Sounds come to mind. Add The Joy Formidable and their guitarist/vocalist Ritzy Bryan to that list.

The Joy Formidable

The Welsh trio put on a hugely entertaining show at 7th Street Entry last night; if it wasn’t sold-out, it was close, and I’d be shocked if they weren’t filling up much larger venues on their next U.S. tour. Catchy, slightly noisy indie-rock performed by very good musicians, with a frontwoman who’s simply impossible not to love? This band is going places. What’s more, they wrapped up their closing number, “Whirring,” with Ritzy Bryan slamming through a guitar freakout that probably rivaled whatever Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple pulled off at the Entry the night before (I missed that show, sadly).

[AWESOME ADDENDUM: Fellow photog Stacy Ann Schwartz has posted a video of last night’s performance of “Whirring” in its entirety.]

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the band (er, or at least of Bryan). The final shot was the very end of the show, when Bryan literally slammed her guitar down onto the floor at the end of the “Whirring” guitar-pocalypse.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

Full set at Flickr.

Black Joe Lewis and Those Darlins at the Cedar

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

I had only a passing familiarity with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears before seeing them tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. Which was a shame, because they put on a fantastic, high-energy show that had my adrenaline (and sweat) flowing despite coming at the end of a rather exhausting weekend.

It was a tough show to shoot, with the low light and the lack of a pit at the Cedar. Lewis subtly favored the far side of his mic stand from where I was positioned, and I didn’t manage to make my way over to the “correct” side until late in the allotted five (!) songs. So many of my best shots are of the band rather than the bandleader. Oops. Still, I got some workable shots, and I’m particularly glad that I broke out the 85/1.4 a fair bit. Although I have to say, focusing that thing wide open on a fast-moving musician in low light? That’s pretty challenging.

Here are some favorites:

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Those Darlins opened, and were in fact the reason I showed up; I’ve shot them twice before and both times were an absolute blast. Unfortunately, their set tonight was strangely low-energy, perhaps because it was early (8pm) and the crowd was pretty inert. It also may have been because they played almost exclusively material from their new album Screws Get Loose, which is a lot more straightforward garage rock than their unique, punky debut album. Still, as always they gave me some good photos.

Those Darlins

Here’s the full set at Flickr. And here’s a new shameless plug: follow me on Facebook for yet another avenue for regular updates on my work.