Archive for May, 2011

Soundset Festival 2011

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

De La Soul @ Soundset Fest 2011

Last Sunday, one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the country took place in suburban Minneapolis: Shakopee, MN to be exact. Soundset Festival drew 20,000 fans and hip-hop groups from around the country, although local talent – including headliner Atmosphere, Brother Ali, the Doomtree crew and more – shared the spotlight equally with big-name national acts like De La Soul (pictured above) and Big Boi.

Shooting the fest was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I love shooting outdoor festivals. The lighting is obviously a breeze, but there’s also a certain vibe that goes with these festivals that’s always fun. On the other hand, Soundset offered a few challenges. A lot of the acts involved a DJ way in the back of the stage and a single MC rapping up front. These guys (and almost all of them were guys) were invariably expressive, but there was little in the way of onstage interplay to make my photos interesting. When the exceptions came up – De La Soul, Doomtree, Slaughterhouse, to name a few – I tried to make the most of it, but an extremely high stage made compositions involving multiple musicians a challenge.

Logistically, while Soundset’s stages were too close together, all pouring music into the same surprisingly small piece of land, pit access to the main stage was a nightmare. There was one side of the stage that was very easy to get to; of course, photographers weren’t allowed in on that side. On the other side, we had to push through 10-20 feet of packed-in crowd space just in order to reach the barricade. Naturally, that was the side we were required to use to access the pit. So every time a new act came on the main stage, it was time to push and shove through the crowd. Not a huge deal, but definitely an annoyance, and one that should have been easily remedied for everyone’s sake.

That said, I don’t have much to complain about. The weather was beautiful (it was supposed to rain but never did), the crowd was eating it up, the music was varied and enjoyable, the access was fine aside from the mainstage pit issues. It was good to shoot a festival again.

Here’s a roundup of just a few of my favorite images. Also be sure to check out the full set at Flickr, with 130+ photos. And like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to keep up with my work!

Big Boi:

Big Boi @ Soundset Fest 2011


Atmosphere @ Soundset Fest 2011


Blueprint @ Soundset Fest 2011

Mac Miller:

Mac Miller @ Soundset Fest 2011


Evidence @ Soundset Fest 2011


Doomtree @ Soundset Fest 2011

And, of course, no outdoor festival would be complete with a ton of fan photos:

Soundset Festival 2011

Soundset Festival 2011

Soundset Festival 2011

Soundset Festival 2011

Soundset Festival 2011

Full set here.

Sleigh Bells: hardest shoot ever?

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Sleigh Bells

Last night’s Sleigh Bells set at First Avenue was no place for a neophyte concert photographer. Sleigh Bells’ lighting consisted almost entirely of blindingly bright backlights and constant strobes. And unlike their openers CSS, they had a row of monitors at the front of the stage, so good sightlines from the pit were few and far between. They also jumped around like crazy throughout their set, and while the strobes were so bright that sufficiently fast shutter speeds weren’t usually a problem, focusing was a huge challenge between the maniacally flashing lights and the nonstop movement.

My 24-70/2.8 is in the shop for much-needed repairs (the zoom ring no longer works and the lens is partly held together by gaffer tape) so I was without a midrange zoom for this show. It didn’t really matter, as the entire time I was in the pit I was using my 14-24/2.8. I set up in the middle of the pit, where there was a small gap between the monitors, and Alexis Krauss was right up in my grill for much of the first three songs (guitarist Derek Miller, unfortunately, was largely out of view from my spot). It was ultrawide or nothing, from where I was positioned.

Check out some highlights below or see the full set at Flickr (with CSS photos as well). And make sure to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to keep up with my work!

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells

Must never pass up a chance to shoot CSS.

Friday, May 20th, 2011


That’s what I was telling myself after CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy, from Brazil) wrapped up their set at First Avenue last night opening for Sleigh Bells. Their music doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but they put just an unbelievable amount of energy and fun into their live performance. I don’t normally do multiple posts for single shows on this blog, but this pairing is well worth breaking my own little rule for.

I had a hard time shooting anyone in this band but the lead singer, who might as well have been just striking poses for the camera throughout the whole show. She spent a lot of time on the floor of the stage, including at the end of the first song where she dropped into a split and then rolled backwards out of it towards the front of the stage, right into my waiting 14-24. That’s the headline shot above.

Check out some highlights below or see the full set at Flickr (with Sleigh Bells photos as well). And make sure to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to keep up with my work!






The sun sets on Sonar?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Roof @ Maryland Deathfest VII

The incredibly abrupt and shocking news today broke that Sonar, one of Baltimore’s bigger club-size music venues (I always thought of it as Bmore’s somewhat lesser companion to the 9:30 Club), shut down amidst an ownership dispute that let the club’s liquor license go unrenewed. I actually didn’t shoot all that many shows at Sonar or its side venue, Talking Head – it seemed like most of the shows there that I was interested in also stopped in DC at either the 9:30 or the Black Cat – but I did see two epic Maryland Deathfests there, so that certainly counts for something. Here are just a few favorite shots from this venue over the past couple years, selected almost completely at random.


D.R.I. @ Maryland Deathfest VIII

Sunn O)))

Sunn O))) 17

Despised Icon

Despised Icon 03


Magrudergrind @ Maryland Deathfest VII

Wolves in the Throne Room

Wolves in the Throne Room @ Maryland Deathfest VII


Carnifex 4

General Surgery

General Surgery @ Maryland Deathfest VII

Fans at MDF 2009

Fans @ Maryland Deathfest VII

End of a long night

End of the Night @ Maryland Deathfest VII

Sounds like most future Sonar shows are being relocated, and this year’s Maryland Deathfest – set to go in three weeks – will definitely take place at a nearby venue on the same weekend. RIP Sonar.