Sunday, July 31, 2011

Epic Fail energizes the Emerson

I've been remiss. And busy. And most of it has to do with photography, but when more important things -- family and friends, specifically, but also work (as in paid employment) -- enter the mix, the photography has to play second fiddle to all of the above. Which is OK; it's never a bad thing to get a perspective/priority check.

I'm going to try and play catch up with this post, and hope that later in the week, I can creep back into the pattern of staying current. Shoots I've done in recent weeks include off-camera flash lighting classes; a cycling competition in Downtown Indianapolis; a photo documentation of the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis; an Indiana Tornados semipro football game that was delayed for three hours -- and that I ended up leaving an hour before start time (but I did shoot some pregame stuff); and, in the most current of all these, an appearance by the Indy rock band Epic Fail at the Emerson Theater on the Eastside of Indy.

To begin my crawl back to keeping up, I'll begin with the most current shoot -- Friday's Epic Fail show. Actually, the band was one of several on a bill of an ongoing series the Emerson hosts to give local bands a chance to get stage time and visibility. Among others performing were Push, Jump Eli Black and Everyday Losers. Epic Fail took the stage last not just because band members and fans sold the most tickets to the event, but also because, as it turned out, the band put on a wonderful show and was deserving of the "save the best for last" position.

I'd photographed the band almost two years ago to the day -- Aug. 1, 2009 -- in Garfield Park, Indianapolis, when it gave a free show for a community Back to School Day event. The lineup of vocalist Nick Smith (far right in photo above); guitarists Andrew Day (far left in photo above) and Aaron Hernandez; bassist Mike Hererra; and drummer Wolfgang Amadeus McMurray welcomed guest vocalist Julie Young -- an Indianapolis freelance writer -- to sing lead on three tunes that day. Bassist Hererra has since joined the Marines, replaced by Gabe Elam (middle in photo above).

The 2009 show was good; Friday's show, I felt, was very good -- italics for emphasis -- indicating how much the band has improved, grown and benefited from the experience of practicing, performing and composing together. It also had the biggest fan base Friday, making the atmosphere for its show the most electric all evening. "Epic Fail" might have been a clever name idea for a band in its fledgling stages, but there may be a time not too far down the road that it will be a misnomer -- assuming the guys stick with this for a while.

The big difference for me between Friday's show and the one in 2009 was lighting, although both shows presented photographic challenges. Photographing the Garfield Park gig was hampered by sunlight blasting through a white tent backgrounding the stage, forcing some experimentation with proper exposure -- and blowing out that background. Friday, the battle was low light. My plans to use my fastest zooms -- a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS were quickly doomed when I pushed the ISO to 6400 and still was not getting the exposure I wanted. I turned to a lens I hadn't used in some time, the Canon 50mm f/1.8, and the "nifty-fifty" delivered like a pro. I found myself moving around a lot more, as I fully expected I would, and the fans were kind enough to give me space in the front when I went after my closeups. I also resorted to a lot of low-to-the-ground vantage points, angles that positioned me below the stage, and therefore, allowing me to dodge backlight from the colored spotlights (unless I wanted it) and most lens flare. The only disappointment was that 50mm wasn't enough reach to get me very close to McMurray, the drummer.

I used shutter priority with first 6400 ISO then 5000 ISO; I started at 1/60 but quickly boosted that to 1/100 when I wasn't getting many freeze shots. The aperture was almost always wide open -- f/1.8. I would say that 99% of the shots I took were at that aperture. Nifty-fifty, you are still a sweet option.

To view a complete gallery of images from my shoot of Epic Fail at the Emerson, follow this link.

Above: Taking advantage of backlight to frame Andrew Day, caught in a calm moment checking his guitar moments before the show. 

Above and next two below: Lead vocalist Nick Smith bounced around the stage and used lots of arm movement to create a more riveting stage presence than I recall from the 2009 show in Garfield Park. 

Above: Wolfgang Amadeus McMurray, gets gritty during a rhythmic segment. Above him, fans bring out their cellphones and light up the darkness during a number. Above that, bassist Gabe Elam, who replaced Mike Hererra when the latter joined the Marines, hasn't shortchanged the band on energy.

Above and next four below: One can't say Aaron Hernandez's guitar-playing lacks spirit or emotion. He adds teeth-strumming and instrument gyration stunts to the show late in the set for good measure.

Hernandez isn't in sole possession of Epic Fail's emotive flair. Above, Smith uses fist power to accentuate a lyric, while Day (below) allows himself to visit another dimension while unleashing a series of guitar licks.

Above and next two below: Finding an angle to capture McMurray was one of the bigger challenges Friday. The shot above was a rare, front-and-center square shot opportunity. The next two below -- showing that McMurray, too, has theater in his blood -- were from stage left. By these points in the show, McMurray had long dispensed with the shirt in a venue cooled by ceiling and stages fans.

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