Thursday, December 7, 2017

Latest Additions to the Photo Galleries with Shows from The Ergs! and Charly Bliss, 12/3 & 12/5, 2017

The Ergs!

Prime Directives

Warning: There's going be a lot of photo geekery in this post as I tell you about the two most recent shows I got myself to this week. CoolMom politely pretends to listen to me as I tell her about this stuff, but I know she's thinking about other things. Since I run things at this space, I can just put it here.


On Sunday night, beloved New Jersey punks, The Ergs!, played Asbury Park's House of Independents. They were just coming off of a triumphant opening slot for Descendents at Starland the previous night, and Asbury was a family affair. The Ergs!, Exmaid, Nervous Triggers, and Weird Fantasy Band. A four-band bill, but shuffle the personnel a bit; and you can make at LEAST seven bands out of that (All of the members of Hunchback, Black Wine, and -- of course -- The Hamiltons were on hand, playing in other bands.).

The show was one, big, sold-out party. There was a mini Hunchback reunion before Weird Fantasy Band's set. Weird Fantasy Band played a wild set that ended with Mike Hunchback in the crowd and drummer, Josh Jurk, playing while he stood on one of his floor toms at the front of the stage. Nervous Triggers managed to get a few of their trademark political jabs in between their politically-charged songs while sticking to their allotted set time. The songs from Exmaid's excellent Neurotic Fantasies sounded great coming through the big sound system. The Ergs! screened the Norm Macdonald classic, Dirty Work, throughout their entire set. The crowd went bananas from beginning to end, and the whole night ended on a punk super-jam that included members of all of the evening's bands.

I knew the show was going to be packed, and I've really grown to hate lugging my camera bag around, especially in huge crowds. It's almost winter. My coat has big pockets. I decided to go to the show with just one camera body and two prime lenses:

1. Sony a6000 mirrorless, crop-sensor camera (a6300 was in the shop.)
2. Sigma 30mm f1.4 (normal lens)
3. Rokinon 12mm f2.0 (manual-focus, wide-angle lens)

Everything fit in my jacket pockets.

It was weird not having my Sigma 18mm-35mm f1.8 zoom. I've used that lens about 85-90% of the time this year. It is beautifully sharp, and it can take the place of three prime lenses. But it weighs about two pounds by itself. Plus, it requires an adapter to use on my camera, which adds a few more ounces. Include the camera body, and we're up to about three pounds or more. My coat-pocket rig, with the lithium-ion battery, didn't weigh two pounds in total. I can't even imagine how I would have fared with the big lens when the crowd crush came during The Ergs! set. I got wedged up against the stage, and a camera bag and heavy lens would have been tough to maneuver.

Initially, I found the 30mm to be a bit too long, but I got used to it. It ended up being the perfect length for crowd shots from the balcony. I think I got some pretty good shots with just two lenses. Maybe noisier than I'd like, but ok.

Josh Jurk on drums
Nervous Triggers
Mikey Erg

A couple of months ago, I saw that Charly Bliss would be headlining the second annual Stereogum Christmas show at Brooklyn's Baby's All Right on December 5th. Joining them on the bill would be Philly bands Mannequin Pussy and Remember Sports (née just Sports). Charly Bilss's Guppy is one of my favorite albums of 2017, so I bought a pair of tickets deciding that I'd figure out the logistics of the Tuesday night show when the time came.

As it turned out, there was nothing really to figure out. I didn't have any carpool responsibilities on Tuesday, and I was able to leave for Brooklyn in plenty of time. The only issue was, again, what camera gear to bring to a sold-out show in a small venue. I decided to go with:

1. a6300 mirrorless, crop-sensor camera (back from the shop)
2. Sony Zeiss 24mm f1.8 (slightly wider normal lens)
3. Sony 50mm f1.8 (short telephoto for drummers)
3. Trusty Rokinon 12mm f2.0 (This wide-angle ended up being important for the tight quarters.)

That Zeiss 24mm was my favorite lens for a long time, and it's probably the sharpest (and most expensive) one I own. It kind of got pushed aside when I started using the Sigma zoom. I've even been thinking about selling it, but I decided to break it out for the evening. I brought the 50mm in case I wanted to get a little closer.

There was an open bar for the first hour of the party, so the crowd arrived early. I got a spot right up front like the nerdy photographer dude I am and ended up being stuck there for most of the night. It was a great spot for watching and shooting the show, but photos can get kind of same-y after a while.

Remember Sports opened, and I really enjoyed them. Their sound reminded me of Swearin' (who I was thinking of because their song "Kenosha" came over the PA just before Remember Sports took the stage) or Waxahatchee at their most rocking. I later learned that Remember Sports (when they were still Sports) have worked with producer Kyle Gilbride (Swearin', Waxahatchee, All Dogs, more), so that all made sense. My friend Dean told me that I would love Mannequin Pussy, and damn if he wasn't right. Their set was wild, and lead-singer Marisa Dabice is a forceful personality up front. Charly Bliss are just a damn fine band both recorded and live. The way they combine pop accessibility with indie / DIY street cred and serious chops should take them even farther than it already has.

The lighting at Baby's All Right is always a challenge. There's quite a bit of backlighting from the wall behind the drummer, and the rest of the stage can be kind of dark. As is usually the case, the shots I got were pretty noisy; but that's life with a crop-sensor camera in dark venues.

Remember Sports
Mannequin Pussy
Charly Bliss
One more Charly Bliss with the Zeiss

I go back and forth between peferring primes and zooms. Even though I take so many pictures, I really go to shows to enjoy the shows; so, sometimes, lugging the bag and the big lenses can be a drag. I had better experiences at both of these shows than I've had in a while because I took the small rig.

There are definitely limitations to what I can do in the dark with a small, mirrorless, crop-sensor camera, and I still have a lot to learn. Like I said (repeatedly), photos are noisier than I'd like. I'm shooting wide-open all the time, so I miss focus often with the manual lens, even at 12mm. But I just can't see myself dragging around a big DSLR. Maybe if someone ever starts paying me for this, I'll think differently; but, for now, I'll just stick with doing whatever allows me to better enjoy the music.

Note: You're probably saying, "Hey. Just don't bring a camera and watch the show." And, yeah. I say that a lot, too. But I really do have fun taking pictures. I like producing content for the site. And, for better or for worse, shooting has kind of become a big part of the way I experience music now.

Sorry for all the jargon about "mirrorless" and "crop-sensor" and "f1.8" and "wide-open" and whatever. You can Google that stuff if you care.


You can see the pictures from the last couple of shows in the Flickr galleries or on the Facebook page.

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