Having missed Kurt Vile's solo acoustic performance at Whelan's last year (after taking a week off due to burnout creeping in), the opportunity to catch him with a full band came around some 18 months later, so I put the request for a pass in, not having any idea what to expect. For me, Kurt's stuff post The War On Drugs has been hit and miss, and that's not an attack on Vile as his absence was noticeable on "Future Weather". But "Wakin On A Pretty Daze", and his latest release, "B'lieve I'm Goin Down" are evidence that his work been pretty solid over the last three to four years.
Somewhat less of an intimate setting tonight (compared to the Whelan's show anyway), as the capacity increases to Vicar Street, holding roughly 1,500 people combined standing and tiered seating. I walk into the venue, and the first thing I notice is that I can barely see any instruments or microphone stands on the stage. No, the crew hadn't left the stage set up ridiculously late, but there was a massive cloud of fog throughout the stage. I knew there and then that I was going to be in for somewhat of a rough night. Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
Our opening act for tonight, is in the form of Lushes. A Brooklyn based duo who aren't afraid to turn it up to 11, with a sound that I can only describe as being the bastard love child of Godflesh and Neu! This is by no means a bad thing, but for my ears, it's definitely something different. Given that there's only James Ardery and Joel Myers to focus on, this doesn't pose as a difficult shoot by any stretch of the imagination. Just as the show kicks off, Ardery makes a really nice gesture by addressing the unfortunate events that unfolded in Paris two nights earlier, and reminds everyone what a concert should really be about, a good time, which gets a pretty good reaction. A classy move considering this show was probably a lot of peoples first attended show since the shootings at Le Bataclan.
The smoke clears for Lushes, and we get a great deal of front light in the centre of the stage with both James and Joel in clear view. Film speed is ISO 1600 tonight, which I set as soon as I walked in the door, because if I'm going to get a lot of fog later on, I'll be better off shooting with low exposure. For Lushes, I also kept the shutter speed constant at 1/160sec at f/3.2. The light didn't change for any of the songs, and I had gotten everything that I needed by the second song, so I kicked back for a while. My quiet time wouldn't last very long though.
Returning to the pit in time for Kurt Vile, and the fog machine gets cranked up again, as predicted. So this will be a low exposure shoot. While photographers are allowed up the front tonight, we are limited to two songs "I'm an Outlaw" and "Dust Bunnies" as opposed to the usual three. That's a total of approximately ten minutes which isn't too bad in terms of time, but it means we've two sets of lights to work with as opposed to three. Welcome to the world of music photography, because if you can't account for variable change, then you're going to find it difficult to fit in.
The first song gave us low front light, and a mixture of blue and purple lighting, which to the crowd, looks atmospheric, but to a camera lens, it's the equivalent of acid in the eyeballs (especially when you import them into Lightroom!), while the second song gave us a mixture of red, and purple, but again, very little in terms of front light. Credit where it's due, the back lighting looks stunning, which is the primary reason I included a wide shot in for the banner. But trying to get shots from the front was difficult, between the lack of lighting, and Vile's mane covering his face for most of the set, press quality shots were hard to come by.
My shots of the set were relatively hit and miss, I think the shots that came out of the red and purple lighting came out better than the blue and purple set. Too much messing around with blue and you end up with unnatural looking pale skin tones which I really dislike. Each to their own when it comes to what they publish, but I really don't like straying from what the show is meant to look like. It's an insult to the lighting technician who worked at the show and it's an insult to the gig goer who was there, only to come back, see a photo set and say "The show looking nothing like that".
I might try an experimental black and white set of these sometime and see what the results are, but for now, a few images were submitted to the press earlier in the week. Hopefully I'll see one of them in print over the weekend.