music photography

Dance Gavin Dance || El Ray Theatre

Having just missed Dance Gavin Dance at Chainfest last week, I was thrilled to be able to shoot them at the El Ray Theatre. I have also been trying to shoot Good Tiger and The Contortionist for a long time so I was thrilled to check all three bands off of my bucket list. 

With a very unique lineup, the entire show was fun, start to finish. I arrived just before Good Tiger went on stage. I've been a fan of them from the first time I heard them so I was really excited, especially to see Alex Rudinger (former drummer of Threat Signal). This is the first time I think this has happened in my life thus far; Alex Rudinger is the same age as me (24) and he's one of my favorite drummers. Good Tiger's set was awesome and they played all of my favorite songs like Snake Oil, Where Are The Birds, and All Her Own Teeth. Their debut album, A Head Full of Moonlight, is now available.

Hail The Sun was a lot of fun (yes I intended to rhyme) and I believe this is the 2nd time I've seen them perform. Phenomenal set and what is really distinguishing about them is that their lead singer is actually their drummer. Great performance and stage presence though. At one point another drummer came on stage to give the vocalist a break and so he could be more like a frontman of the band.

The Contortionist, if you haven't heard them, are a very technical band that also have very chill vibes. The 6 piece band had the crowd entranced with their melodic, relaxing music. It was definitely different from the other bands, but because it was such a unique and beautiful experience, I didn't mind one bit. 

Finally the moment came and Dance Gavin Dance came on and  the crowd went wild. Tilian Pearson seemed to have broken his knee recently as he came out on stage with crutches. Sadly, this kept him pretty locked down at his microphone for the rest of the show (naturally). Post-hardcore band, Dance Gavin Dance, formed in Sacramento in 2005, starting their wonderful careers. Since then DGD has gone under many different lineup changes, but still continues to put on amazing shows. Their seventh studio album Mothership is set to release on October 7th, 2016.

Dance Gavin Dance Setlist:

Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise, Stroke God, Millionaire, On the Run, Spooks, Tree Village, Flossy Dickey Bounce (Live Debut), Death of a Strawberry, Strawberry Swisher Pt. 3, Betrayed By The Game (Live Debut), Lemon Meringue Tie, We Own the Night, Alex English

Nightwish || The Grove Anaheim

Next to the Observatory, The Grove in Anaheim is probably my favorite venue to shoot at due to the fantastic lighting, massive open spaces, and accessibility as a photographer. That being said, Nightwish put in an incredible performance at the Grove that was quite refreshing for me. Also, due to the length of Nightwish's songs, I was able to stay in the photo pit longer. Usually the first 3 songs gives me about 12-15 minutes to shoot up front, but this time I probably had around 17-20 minutes.

Coming from Finland, Nightwish has been one of the most well known European metal bands in the last decade. Their highly popular musical style has been categorized as symphonic metal and is unique because of their phenomenal female opera vocals. Lead vocalist Floor Jansen joined the band in 2013 after the departure of Anette Olzon and is currently a permanent member of the band. Having never seen Nightwish live, I had no idea how tall Floor was until I saw her 6 foot 1 inch frame for the first time on stage. She was an absolute pleasure to photograph, giving me so many different faces and reactions along with the rest of the members of Nightwish.

European metal bands, especially Finnish bands have such a different feel from the American bands I usually listen to and shoot. Their chord progressions, vocals, and song structures are completely different from other cultures which truly gives live shows a unique feel. There is more passion from the fans in the crowd and they seem to love paying for concert tickets, merchandise, and the bands albums. I have found that metal heads and fans outside of the US support their bands financially more than most other genres.  The crowd was extremely energetic during the show and Floor Jansen’s stage presence and crowd interaction only helped to improve the show.

For the first time, I experimented with a camera technique called “prisming” where you put a glass prism in front of your camera lens to manipulate the light and image. While I had zero experience doing this, I’m very pleased with the results and will continue to experiment with this. I chose to do this while using my 70-200mm lens in order to blur out as much of the prism as possible. I tried it out with my 16-35mm but I thought the prism was too noticeable in the image. Be ready to see more of this soon!

Setlist:

Shudder Before the Beautiful, Yours Is an Empty Hope, She Is My Sin, Storytime, My Walden, While Your Lips Are Still Red, Élan, Weak Fantasy , Bless the Child, I Want My Tears Back, Nemo, Sahara, Stargazers, Ghost Love Score, Last Ride of the Day, The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker), The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter IV: The Understanding; Chapter V: Sea-Worn Driftwood)

Breaking Benjamin || House of Blues Anaheim

After driving over an hour to the House of Blues Anaheim, I couldn't have been more excited to shoot Breaking Benjamin. While the music was well played the on stage performances were a little lacking. Each member stood at their designated microphone playing their respected instrument for most of the show. As a photographer, up close performances can really help my work shine.

The music was fantastic though and the crowd was really into the show. The venue was packed to its absolute maximum making for a very intimate experience, both with the band and unfortunately some of the people around you.

One of the many highlights of the show was when Ben made a short Star Wars speech followed by the band playing the Imperial March. When bass player was supposed to start the next song, there was only silence. Then Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper came into stage and surprised Ben with a Death Star birthday cakes and an awesome Kylo Ren guitar because his birthday was the next day. Well done Disney. 

The song “Give Me A Sign" was really sick because Ben instructed the crowd to whip out their phone flashlights and light up the room. The House of Blues turned off all of the house lights making the flashlights the only source of illumination.

From time to time, there would be massive pillars of smoke bellowing from the stage which really added to the intensity of the show. After attempting to wander around taking pictures and failing due to how packed the venue was, I decided to find a seat in the balcony. While it was a good place to watch the rest of the show, the lighting designer kept shining retina melting beams of light directly into my eyes.

Ben also had some of his other bandmates sing main vocals on some songs which I thought was a very interesting choice. It definitely changed the sound of some of the songs and made them more unique to the live show. During the song “Breath,” Dustin, the vocalist from Starset, came on stage and joined Ben with the vocals. Usually opening bands do this in order to bring extra hype to their show but I haven’t seen a headliner bring the vocalist from the opening band on stage for a very long time. It showed how close Breaking Benjamin and Starset truly are.

It was great to finally check Breaking Benjamin off of my bucket list as I have never seen or photographed them live before.

Setlist:

So Cold, Follow, Sooner or Later, Angels Fall, Firefly, Unknown Soldier, Simple Design, Ashes of Eden, Blow Me Away, Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk, (Birthday celebration for Ben), Polyamorous, Give Me a Sign, Believe, Breath (With Dustin from Starset), Failure, Fade Away, Until the End, I Will Not Bow, The Diary of Jane