i(heart)music festival @ Cafe Dekcuf

Modernboys Moderngirls by J B Hildebrand

Matthew Pollesel founded i(heart)music in 2005 and has been doing an amazing job bringing lesser known Canadian acts to the masses since then. This weekend was the massive i(heart)music festival at Cafe Dekcuf. Spanning three nights and bringing together twelve great Canadian acts the festival was a blast. I missed a couple of the bands but the acts I did catch were amazing. You can find a full list of who was on stage at i(heart)music.net.

I won’t bother with a review of the show or my favorites as all the bands were top notch. They all put on a great show with a unique stage presence. I’ve wrote before about looking and playing the part being majorly important for emerging bands, this goes double when you’re playing in a twelve band, three day festival. Usually I have to make notes on each band so I can sort out my shots later, but everyone I shot stuck out in my mind visually and this wasn’t a problem.

I see so many bands that sound great, but look like mannequins on stage. If you’re playing a festival like this, you’ve probably got a decent fan base, but most people at the show were there to see one, maybe two bands, each night and hadn’t heard of the rest. This is a prime time to spread the word and you MUST leave people with an impression that’s going to stick, or they’re probably not going to remember you the next day. This is one of the biggest problems I’ve found shooting big festivals. If bands don’t have a unique look or stage presence… I end up with 500 shots of what may as well all have been of just one band. Luckily this wasn’t the case, every band I shot gave me a great set of pics to post.

Like bees to honey, shows like this always attract photographers and there was a really good turn out all three nights. I’ve got a slightly different style than most photogs I meet at shows around Ottawa but it seems to work for me.

First off… I rarely use flash. For one it bugs some performers, especially in a really dark club. Most bands are used to people in the crowd popping away with point and shoots, but the flashes on something that small aren’t really that annoying. Put two or three photographers blasting away at point blank range with pro flashes at center stage though and it’s enough to throw anyone off their game.

Giant Hand by J B Hildebrand

Secondly and more importantly for me… I hate the look a flash gives at concert. There’s a reason most bars turn the lights down really low… they look like crap in the light. If you take a look at most stages with the house lights on they’re hardly more than a raised wooden box with wires running along the walls, up the walls and on the ceilings. Half the time the walls and ceiling aren’t even finished, they’re just drywall or plywood painted black. Some bars don’t even have a permanent stage, it’s just a corner of the bar re-purposed for that night. Take this craptastic wooden platform, turn the lights off and throw on some spots… and suddenly magic! Same with the band… with the house lights on they’re a bunch of guys in plaid shirts and jeans, put a spot on them and suddenly they’re rock stars. Given this… why would I want to blast the band with half a million lumens of daylight balanced flash power and kill the mood completely. If I wanted my pics to look like that I may as well have brought my point and shoot like everyone else and left all my expensive gear at home because the pictures will look about the same.

Lastly, I tend to stay in one spot for most of the show. I come early, figure out where the best place to shoot from is going to be and camp out. I have all my exposure levels figured out before hand for all the main stage areas and I know what each of my lenses are going to see from my spot. I might move around a bit during the show, but not much. For one, this lets me be more consistent with my exposures as I’m not having to adjust for every new position. Also, it means I’m not bumping into people annoying them… and more importantly, my gear isn’t being bumped into by a hoard of energized… and inebriated… concert goers holding drinks, dancing around and definitely not thinking about the guy weaving between them with a big camera and unwieldy camera bag. I may miss some shots by not crowd surfing, but the last thing I need is to have a rye and coke dumped on two grand worth of camera equipment.

It’s always nice to find a new band to listen to, this weekend will probably keep my playlist fresh for months.  There wasn’t a band a wouldn’t recommend so if you get a chance to see any of them live… do it.  You can see more shots from the i(heart)music festival on my Flickr.

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Snowblink, Bear Claps and Bruce Peninsula at Cafe Dekcuf

About a week ago I went to a three band show at Cafe Dekcuf. I originally went just to see Snowblink, you might remember them from a post I made a while ago about Luxury Pond. It’s the same pair with their roles reversed. I liked Luxury Pond and Snowblink didn’t disappoint either. I ended up sticking around for the other two bands as well. Bear Claps was enjoyable and Bruce Peninsula was amazing, although with nine band members crammed onto a tiny stage they were a bit difficult to shoot.

I like shooting Cafe Dekcuf, they do a pretty decent job of lighting the stage, although the spots aren’t always aimed appropriately and I’m left waiting for the singer to move into the light. Lighting really makes or breaks the photos… and there’s not a whole lot I can do if the light is bad. Good lighting can make anyone look like a rock star… bad lighting will make Jim Morrison look like a high school drop out playing in his parents garage.

Besides the fact that I like their music, I’ll definitely come out to shoot Snowblink/Luxury Pond next time they’re in town because they do one thing right that any band can and should do. They dress the part. I’ve said this before, but it can’t be said enough… you don’t need to go all Ziggy Stardust or show up in tuxes… but look like you put even 5 minutes of thought into what you wear on stage. And make sure all the band members look at least semi coordinated. Again… it doesn’t matter what you wear… just wear it with purpose. If your band suits ripped jeans and worn t-shirts, no problem, just make sure everyone is in on the plan.

I went to a show once, definitely a ripped jeans affair, the drummer got the note but the rest of the band missed the memo. The lead singer was in gym shorts and a baggy t-shirt, The bassist had on those adidas tearaway type workout pants and a tank top and the guy on keyboards had on slacks and a v-neck sweater. This does not project committed musicians… this projects “I just woke up… Bob just got off shift at Walmart and Joe swung by after hitting the gym”. At this point the audience is already thinking “why the hell did I pay $10 to see these guys” and you have to work doubly hard to impress them, and it does nothing to help them remember you for next time.

It’s even worse when I get asked to shoot a band and that’s what they look like when I show up… I just have to hope to god the lighting is good or I’m going to have to get REALLY creative to make them look good. Fortunately this night I was treated to three good looking bands. You can see the rest of the night on my Flickr.

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