This was almost nine months in the making, and it's not what you're thinking. Back in February, I got my first taste of Otherkin at Whelan's when they were supporting Pond. A rather strange pairing as both bands music are poles apart. On a performance level, I genuinely felt that Otherkin stole the night, and this sometimes happens (unless I caught Pond on a very off night!). They were definitely a lot more interesting to catch through the lens as well (I think half of my photos of Pond ended up being a beard behind a synth.)
The band had contacted me and asked if I was interested in working with them at their next show which was only a week or so away from the Pond show. I won't lie, the interest was there, but it had clashed with my trip over to Montreal which I had planned months in advance. I asked them to keep the invite on hold and that we would definitely work together in the future once logistics got out of the way. I didn't think it would take so long, but sure enough, we eventually found ourselves at The Grand Social on the same day and I ended up with a AAA pass to cover six hours of the evening from load in, right up until they left the stage.
Access All Areas shoots are always a special event. When a band give you full access, there are so many possibilities to tell a story in photos. I like to get in as early as possible because there is so much to putting on a show than the band arriving and departing the stage. Every band will have a crew that put the whole thing together, setting up the lights, making sure everything sounds well, the frustration and pain staking agony of sound checks, the merch, etc. All this stuff that nobody ever gets to see, not to mention the work involved by these guys that often goes overlooked by the casual concert goer. So for me, this is also an opportunity to give these guys their time in the sun to the public eye.
The Grand Social is a dark place to perform a typical show, and even more difficult to take photos in. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Otherkin had brought their own lamps for the show. Unfortunately for Thumper, the support act, they didn't get to share the lighting rig. In fact, they had played that venue in the darkest I have ever seen it that even my 50mm f/1.4 couldn't save my photos. This was a shame because they actually put on a pretty energetic live show, especially towards the end when guitars and microphone stands go flying. It didn't help that there was so much stuff on the small stage behind them to the point that they were literally squashed up to the edge of the stage. Maybe another time?
For the set up and sound check, everything and anything goes, and flash is allowed. For most of this portion of the shoot, I stay back towards the middle to the end of the venue with a 70-200mm zoom lens and work from there, if anything, to ensure that I don't end up getting under the feet of the crew who are under enough pressure without having a camera up their rear end. I kept my settings at ISO 2000 with the aperture alternating between f/2.8 - f/3.5 with faster shutter speeds of 1/160sec - 1/200sec. I probably could have adjusted these a bit given that the flash was being used but upon checking what I got occasionally, I was happy with what I was seeing in preview, so if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
The backstage portion is relatively easy for as long as you know your boundaries. If the band are happy for you to hang back, then great, but a lot of the time, you'll spend little time back here. In this particular case, the band made me feel very welcome, so I was able to get a few shots as well as have some general banter as well as interesting discussions about Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam amongst others. At one point, I did walk in on them mid interview (I wasn't even aware this was going to happen), but it was well timed in terms of a photo opportunity. A few more shots taken of the band doing their thing and a couple of promotional shots, and I was out of there to cover the set.
This is a dark performance to say the least, despite the impressive back lighting, the front lighting is minimal for all except vocalist/guitarist, Luke Reilly with occasional light catching guitarist, Conor Wynne. ISO was alternated between 1600 to 2000. Aperture also had to vary, for the extreme dark conditions remained at f/2.8 however once the full back lights went up, I adjusted it to f/4 to prevent the lights from being blown out. Shutter speeds were slower for the most part at 1/125sec however this setting was adjusted between 1/100sec - 1/200sec throughout various points of the night.
The banner shot was arranged earlier in the night before the band took to the stage, with a funny moment trying to get the guys to divide in half as they were attempting to link together. The problem with that idea was that the ceiling was quite low and the drum riser wasn't exactly high so they would have blocked the crowd out of the background. After a little jiggling around and we got there in the end. The original was slightly over-exposed but fixable in post later on in the night. This shoot went perfectly from beginning to end, and I was delighted with my results.
The only thing that I wasn't happy with was the fact that I had to dash without saying goodbye. This ended up being a late show and the band were busy with the load out and wouldn't be available for a lengthy period of time. This happens more often than you might imagine, be it load out, or guests mobbing the bands, or showering etc, and I was determined to get my feature live the following day, so my work was nowhere near finished. I asked their tour manager to send my regards, but I'll publicly say a huge thank you to Conor, Luke, David and Rob as well as the rest of the crew for allowing me to crash their space for the day. Let's do it all again soon.