Last month, Laura Stevenson and her band headlined Bowery Ballroom. I’ve seen Laura perform 13 times and counting (and shot her 12 of those times) so, yeah, you can say I’m a fan. Besides that Laura, Alex, Dave, Michael, & Peter are some of the nicest people I’ve met on my music photography adventures. It’s always a pleasure hang with them.
On the night of the show, I didn’t have a working digital camera and, besides, it was their biggest headlining show to date and I thought it might be cool to shoot it on film. I used Kodak Portra 800 and hoped for the best, lighting-wise. I also took some shots of Field Mouse and Owen (aka Mike Kensilla).
Two months ago, I had tickets to one of my very favorite live acts, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Every single time I see them, there is an electricity on the stage that is rarely matched by their counterparts. Long story short, I only had a ticket and not a photo pass. The publication who eventually gave me the assignment couldn’t secure a ticket for entry of their photographer and I was their plan B.
To make it count, I waited for 5 hours in line before the show to get a prime spot at the front of the stage (There were actual people in line well before my arrival). Upon entering the venue, I was at the stage, front and center. It was the perfect spot. My plan was to shoot the first couple of YYYs songs, enjoy myself, and then head to the back and get wide shots of the band’s encore.
Xray Eyeballs was the opener and it was a departure to see and shoot them outside of Death By Audio or an equally small venue. Unusually, the lighting design was really on-point and I was pretty happy with it. Not only was there some great back-lighting, but there were bright spots on each of the 4 band members. Was a breeze to shoot. If the opener has good lighting, this bodes well for the headliner. I was pretty stoked to shoot YYYs.
Now, my normal workflow is to switch memory cards after I’m done shooting a band and prep for the next band. When I inserted a new card, it wasn’t reading properly. There were no numbers on the counter on the LCD. I figured the card failed and I switched to another. By this time, my Nikon D300 was acting very strange. It wasn’t reading or writing to the card, and eventually, the camera wasn’t responding. The camera was even ignoring my power down with the on/off switch. I had about 30 minutes to try and find an answer on my smartphone. Would I find the answer to my immediate problem and get to shoot one of the best live bands?
Yeah, I never found a way to get things working. Sadly, I left my film camera at home because I was trying to travel a little lighter. Had I not left it at home, I would have had some pretty cool 3200 ISO Ilford b&w and some Kodak Portra Color 800 shots. I’m really kicking myself over the decision to leave it home.
So, instead, I had my Fuji Instax and decided to shoot with the last 6 remaining shots in the cartridge. I was desperate.
So, what the hell happened, St. Clair?
Only 5 of the 6 Instax photos came out well. I also further confirmed that the camera on my Droid Bionic is absolutely worthless. Even with bright stage lighting. I tried to take 2 or 3 shots and gave up. Never buy from Motorola. Ever. Garbage.
In the end, the publication didn’t have enough images to warrant a gallery (I didn’t expect them to, and seriously who could blame them).
Okay, but what about the camera itself?
From what I can surmise, the CF card shorted out the card input which affected the power supply. I’ve had issues with SanDisk cards in the past (lost data, corrupted), but never this severe.
I have a semi-professional camera body that is dead in the water. So for April and May, I only shot three shows. Marnie Stern @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, Beach Day (also at Music Hall), and Laura Stevenson @ Bowery Ballroom. All of which, I shot on film with my Nikon F100. I’m still waiting to develop the last two, Probably in the next week or so.
But, this has a happy ending of sorts. My dad completely surprised me by picking me up a Nikon D600. He saw how unhappy I was about the whole situation and told me he “owed me for the last few Christmases”. I told him that he didn’t have to and his girlfriend (who is practically my stepmom) told me that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer and to just “go with it”. And I did and I’m very, very grateful.
As for my busted D300, I’m eventually taking my camera into Phototech to get an estimate on the damage, but at this point it’s probably not worth it. I’ve already put in a few hundred dollars to replace the shutter. I’m not sure that it’s worth pouring more money into. It would be nice to have a backup, but I’ll have to figure that out in the coming months. I’d rather put my money into better glass.
The new Pope has been chosen.
PHOTOS: Vivian Girls / Widowspeak / Eternal Summers / Heliotropes @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (2/15/2013)
The Vivian Girls played a rare show this week at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The last time they performed in NYC was in the freezing cold last year at a Kate Spade pop-up shop in the meat packing district.
The photos and my review have been posted over on TheWildHoneyPie.com, but here’s some additional thoughts/notes.
As many New York City venues are wont to do, most of the performers sets were bathed in a harsh wash of red light. Which I hate. It makes everyone look like the devil. Not to mention that it’s murder on my camera’s auto focus. So, if you see a black and white shot in the photo set, it’s because it looks better than the red. Widowspeak mostly played in the dark, with the exception of singer Molly Hamilton, who was fairly well lit.
I walked into Music Hall with one specific shot in mind that I absolutely had to have. A shot of Cassie, Katy, and Ali rocking out together. Not just a wide shot of the 3 on stage. That would be easy (and not as effective of a shot). So, I waited for Cassie and Katy to walk towards each other. The first time, Cassie’s back was facing the audience and it didn’t work for me. The second time, Cassie and Katy were facing each other, but they were bobbing their heads and their hair was covering their faces. This was pretty much the moment I was looking for. They look like they are rocking out. Of course, they were, but this photo captures the vibe perfectly.
Once I felt like I got all the shots I wanted from the crowd’s perspective, I snuck onto the stage to get some shots of Vivian Girls from the back and to get a different angle of Ali on the drums.
Protip: If you plan on shooting from the stage, you should always try and be as inconspicuous as possible, not to mention to get permission from the band or a tour manager. I tend to wear dark clothes as to not distract from what the band is doing on-stage. I’ll also duck behind an amp or stay to the extreme side of the stage. While I was kneeling on the stairs to the stage entrance, Katy walked up the stairs to say ‘Hi’, it was a surprise and a first for me. I’ve had shout outs from bands on stage, but never someone walking up to me in the middle of a song.
When you end up not using the the AF assist light or the infra red focus grid from your speedlight in a dark venue, you’re going to miss some shots. This happens to me the most at 285 Kent. The autofocus sees the black & white graffiti on the wall and focuses in on it. Notice that the detail on the wall is sharp, while Elias from Iceage is not. Sadly, I blew a bunch of shots from that night. Kind of a bummer.
This year, I celebrated my third anniversary as a music photographer. Overall, it was a fun year. I feel like I’ve done some of my best work, yet. It’s a great feeling to nail the shots you were looking to get. On the other hand, I went to a bunch of shows without my camera and acted like a normal person. What follows are some stats, memories, and special thanks.
We asked photographer and IHCer Andrew St. Clair to choose twenty of his favorite live music photos from 2012.
It was fun going through my photos from the last year. There’s a few shots that either have never been seen until now or haven’t been published (some of them were supposed to, but are just sitting in someone’s inbox). So, check them out and let me know what you think.
As a concert photographer, I have the pleasure of meeting a lot of cool people and have made a lot of friends. It’s always nice to see friendly faces at shows. But occasionally, I end up having confrontations with complete jerks. Here’s three of them.
Last Friday, Animal Collective cancelled their show at the last minute. So, I scrambled to get a photo pass for Sleigh Bells at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.
Shooting Sleigh Bells is not easy. The band brings strobes and other lighting with them. The stage is pretty dark until the strobes are fired off. it’s probably best to get the shot while those lights are on. But to make things more challenging, the 3 of them are constantly moving back and forth around the stage. All at once. So getting the shots you want is like playing “Duck Hunt” for the NES. You’re gonna miss quite a few ducks.
The economy is dreadful nowadays. So much so that Prefix can’t afford to pay their writers… and Amanda Palmer can’t afford to pay for a string quartet and a couple of horn players to perform in her Grand Theft Orchestra all of her 35 tour dates. What’s a girl to do? Well, she could just ask musicians to come do it for free. Nah. That would be weird.
Yep, Amanda Palmer is taking a lot of heat for asking for “professional-ish horns and strings” from each stop on her tour to play for beer, hugs, high-five’s, and merch. That’s right. Not money. Hugs. But, what about the exposure for playing with Amanda Palmer and the ‘Grand Theft Orchestra’?
Sorry, kid. There won’t be any. Trust me, your playing with Amanda Palmer isn’t going to do jack shit for your music career.
Yes, I know I haven’t shot as many shows as I did last year and definitely have not been posting on my blog as often as I should be. But that won’t stop me from compiling a year end list that will polarize & alienate my readers. Without further ado:
- St. Vincent covering Big Black at Bowery Ballroom - Legendary performance
- Spending the day with Tokyo Police Club before and after their awesome sold out T5 gig
- Seeing Screaming Females live… anywhere. As Ted Leo said at 4Knots, “Best band in the world right now.”
- Angela from Twin Sister telling me that she drew a picture based on a photo I took of her and used it on a flyer
- Wye Oak covering Danzig’s ‘Mother’ at the A.V. Club. “Wolfs Blood.”
- Heavy Cream… who are going to rip 2012 apart with their new album (produced by Ty Segall)
- Backstage with Ted Leo at 4Knots and listening to him tell stories about when he toured with Radiohead while in the band Chisel
- My photo of Oberhofer used on a Noisey.com show poster
- Hanging with Peelander-Z, The Narrative, and their crews for 2 days on the Warped Tour
- Anamanaguchi & Extreme Animals @ The Museum of the Moving Image
- Lucero. Their year end show at Brooklyn Bowl and hanging with them on stage on the Warped Tour. Plus chatting with Ben Shapiro about tattoos in the press area.
- Braids ‘Native Speaker’ getting on the shortlist for the Polaris Prize (after my predicting it would happen)
- Hanging with Marnie Stern, her drummer Vince Rogers, and members of Tera Melos at Winnie’s in Chinatown singing karaoke.
- Titus Andronicus & The Suzan @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
- Deervana @ Brooklyn Bowl and the swag I took home (thanks Deer Tick)
- Meeting and shooting Dee Snider on the Warped Tour (really sweet guy)
- Japanther’s 10 year Anniversary show at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Heavy Cream (my buddies from Nashville) & Shellshag - two of the nicest people I know. (John, you still owe me a custom t-shirt, btw).
- Lupe Fiasco’s 2+ hour record release party at Webster Hall - Which produced my favorite photo set of the year
- The Immaculates @ Death By Audio - Brilliant!
- Cheeseburger & (my buddies) Hard Nips at the Beekman Beer Garden
- Watching David Powell eat a fucking sandwich while JEFF The Brotherhood played on Jimmy Fallon
- Mueran Humanos @ Secret Project Robot
- Seeing Hunters at Death By Audio as well as constantly running into Derek and Isabel in my neighborhood
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs performance at Brooklyn Bowl to benefit Jonathan Toubin
- Making friends with Friends and seeing random members of the band at shows
It’s a great feeling walk into a venue and see so many friendly and/or familiar faces who make me feel welcome and appreciated. It makes all the late nights and hard work of early morning photo editing all worthwhile.
Obligatory shout outs to Laura Stevenson & The Cans, Bomb the Music Industry!, Oh Land, Lemuria, Fucked Up, Brian and Madeline from Cults, The Like, Cassie Ramone, The Ettes, The Suzan, Street Chant, The Get Up Kids, Grooms, Teen Witch, X-Ray Eyeballs, Thee Oh Sees, Oberhofer, Colin Langenus, Simon Henderson, Nikki Bennett at Columbia, Bryan Nelson, Eric Jimenez, Michael Azzarad, Rich Cohen & everyone at Foundations Management, Starscream, Maria Sherman, Joe Manzione, Bill Pearis, Julia @ Terminal 5, Doris Cellar, Stacy McIntyre, Alon Shapiro, Stephen Tanner from Harvey Milk, Eric Weiner & Nicole DeVita, Emily Greene, Susan Kamenar, Haley Dekle, Katie, Fred, & Dave at Brooklyn Vegan, Kristen Y. Kim, Alexandra Serio, as well as all of my fellow photography friends who are to many to list here (you know who you are). I’m sure I forgot to list a bunch of people, but I do want to get this list out before 2013.