One Camera, One Lens, Many Punks

It was another Punk Night at Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. Of course I’m gonna be there with camera in hand. Those nasty boys in Worm Suicide were the feature act, with several new-to-me bands sharing the bill. There was oddly a bit of acoustic stuff that was really great. I had a blast enjoying the music and snapping a few photos, even while getting knocked around a bit in a mosh pit.

I’ve been photographing at the Sparrow for quite a while now. I even published a magazine of my work there - hopefully the first of many. This time I decided to do something a little different photographically. I was recently talking with my friend Andy about concert photography since he was making a trip to the Sparrow to photograph some friends in a band. He asked about focal length and after thinking about it, I reckoned I mostly use a 50mm equivalent lens along with a bit of 28mm equivalent. Keep in mind that my camera is a Fujifilm X100F with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens. I’m getting the other focal lengths with adapter lenses screwed onto the filter threads.

It seems odd, even to me, that I rarely use the native focal length of my fixed lens camera for live music. I explained to Andy that a 35mm focal length isn’t tight enough to get close, intimate shots and not really wide enough to grab much of the environment or add interesting distortion. That said, it is kind of a Goldilox focal length - that’s why Fujifilm went with it. With a little work compositionally, it is very versatile. If I could have only one lens for the rest of my life that might well be what I’d choose. Yet, here I am using adapters to get other focal lengths. While 35mm may be “just right”, it often seems so boring.

So, this time out at the Sparrow I challenged myself. There would be no adapting. One camera, one lens - the native non-removable lens on my X100F. I had to see if I could capture some magic with only that. Did it work? Hell yeah it did. I had to change the way I composed shots and where I put myself. My feet were the zoom function. By adjusting my position and distance, I could make that highly versatile focal length look wide or tight. I found a sense of freedom from fretting over whether I should have had the 50mm or 28mm equivalent mounted for that last shot. With gear choices removed, there was only my creativity to guide my compositions. Liberating. Absolutely liberating. The X100F is also so small without the adapter lenses that it practically disappears. Bonus - there is really no need for a camera bag.

I’ve already downsized to my diminutive X100F and conversion lenses from the embarrassing amount of gear I used to own. Will I take it down even further and ditch the conversion lenses? I don’t know - maybe. I know that while choices encourage creativity in some people, it can have the opposite effect on me. Less is more. For now, I think I’ll leave the conversion lenses at home and see how things go. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of being a one camera, one lens kind of guy. The question is whether the X100F really sports the Goldilox lens for me for the long haul.

Some favorites from the night are below. Click ‘em for large views (why wouldn’t you?). Want to see more? Go to my gallery site here.

Punk Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX had a punk night and I got to stop by for a while and check out a couple of the bands. I got to see a scaled down version of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead with the band’s singer and guitarist. They were a great duo with an Irish infused punk sound. Then there was Worm Suicide - some good old fashioned rebellious American punk - loud and nasty as it should be.

Of course, I’m down front snapping a few photos with the trusty ol’ Fujifilm X100F. I had a blast as usual. We’re so lucky to have a great venue like the Sparrow outside of the congested mayhem that Austin has become.

Worm Suicide

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Nokken + The Grim at Black Sparrow

I was so happy that Nokken and The Grim returned to the Black Sparrow in Taylor. Virtuoso musicians with a unique and moody sound, combined with a bit of mythology and theatrics - what’s not to like? The band blends electronica with the classic sound of strings in a mesmerizing wave of positive energy. Black Sparrow, known for its hosting of eclectic genres of music, is a perfect venue to enjoy this amazing Austin-based act.

As always, more photos from the show are available on my gallery site. Some are even in color. All photos taken with a Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses.

Dust on the Needle

A few of my musician friends were sitting in with a group called Dust on the Needle at a Beatles tribute night hosted by the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor. This was a really cool show. I got to see my friends doing something they love and it really shows in the photos. Honestly, there are a couple of photos that I would rank among my top live music images.

I got a lot of compliments on some of the images that night but if there is something I’ve learned in photographing musicians it’s that the quality of the image really falls on the performer. I can be in the best possible spot with the best light you can hope for at a live show and if the performer doesn’t have passion it shows. I can’t create special moments; I can only be there and hope they happen.

As usual I was doing the photo snapping with my minimalist photo rig of the Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses. I’m still loving that setup. It’s nice to be unburdened by a bunch of gear so I can hang out and enjoy myself with friends after grabbing a few shots.

You can find more images from the show on my gallery site.

Eric Hisaw

My buddy Ron, bassist for The Mooks, has been playing with Eric Hisaw and I got to see his band for the first time last weekend at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor. These guys are a tight rock-n-roll trio and I really enjoyed their sound. The Black Sparrow is such a cool little venue and I’m always thankful that I can catch great music like this so close to home and away from the big city.

A recent change in lighting at the Black Sparrow has encouraged me to do more color work in my photography there. The new LED lights are a bit brighter and more of the stage is lit, albeit still with a strong central bias. Being color blind, I’m always second guessing whether my color shots of live music are “correct” in color. The more I experiment, the more I think it probably doesn’t matter. Did I catch a good moment or not? That’s the more important question.

I’ve been snapping the shutter less at concerts and keeping ever fewer of the frames I grab through ruthless culling. Quality over quantity - that’s been the goal lately. It helps me to think in terms of shooting about a roll of film even though this is all digital. At first, it was a 36 frame roll. Lately I’ve been thinking more in terms of a 24 frame roll. Actually, 12 is starting to sound good. After all, this is just for fun and I’m not looking to hoard my own photography. Just a few good shots is all I’m after. Catch and preserve a little of the passion and emotion of the performance.

Here are a few that I liked. You can find a few more over on my gallery page. These were all taken with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.

Rhythm Congress

You just don’t see many bands these days with horn sections and that’s a shame. They add a such a huge dynamic to the sound, particularly with a rhythm and blues band. We’re lucky to have a really good group in these parts. Rhythm Congress brings a healthy dose of horns to their shows and they always manage to get the crowd on their feet.

I got to catch their recent show at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX - a wonderfully intimate little music venue well away from the Austin metro. Live music is a passion of mine and I love that the Black Sparrow brings in an eclectic mix to small town Taylor. You can hear everything from Big Band to Death Metal at this place.

My lovely and talented friend Samantha sings lead for Rhythm Congress and I always enjoy her energetic performances. I met Samantha back in my days of photographing the Texas Stars, where she frequently kicks off the games by singing the national anthem. Her band is is rock solid and a joy to see and hear.

Spooky Music

I caught a really interesting pair of bands at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX recently. It was a spooky themed showcase night on the heels of Halloween. The Black Sparrow has been carving out a niche of eclectic music in this small town and this night brought out some amazing and unusual acts. I had the privilege of seeing sets by Eerie Family and Nøkken + The Grim.

Nøkken + The Grim was quite impressive. The masked trio was a complementary blend of strings and electronic keyboard. The characters are portrayals of mythical figures of Magyar and Norse folklore. Musically, they seem to embody a harmonization of the spirit of nature with modern technology. Their lead violinist is an absolute virtuoso and the fact that he pulls it all off while wearing a large horse mask is remarkable. I loved this band this is one of the few times in recent history that I felt compelled to buy a new band’s CD.

Eerie Family is drum/electronic keyboard duo with an almost hypnotic sound. Great vocal work with simple rhythms. They were very creative in producing a wide range of sonic textures with minimal instrumentation. It’s kind of refreshing to see groups like this - something different from the typical guitar/bass/drums band.

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X100F and processed in Lightroom CC.

Rockabilly Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX hosted a Rockabilly night. It was an awesome evening with several bands performing. While I couldn't stay for the entire event, I got to catch one of my local favorites, The Phantom Shakers, and a new group to me, Drew and the Internationals. Both female fronted bands put on scorching Rockabilly sets.

A rare thing for me these days, I carried a couple of cameras to the show. I had my trusty Fujifilm X100F as always, along with my Fujifilm X-T2 sporting the 35mm f/1.4 lens. My work with the two cameras led me to an epiphany of sorts. That's a story for another day though. Suffice to say for now that I got some nice shots with both cameras and the X100F saw more use. I processed a good number of images in color - something I used to shy away from with images taken at Black Sparrow. The lighting is pretty bad but I've found I can make it work.

The Phantom Shakers

More photos of The Phantom Shakers can be viewed on my gallery site here.

Drew and the Internationals

More photos of Drew and the Internationals can be viewed on my gallery site here.

All images were converted from raw files in Lightroom CC. 

A Couple of Punks at Black Sparrow

A couple of my buddies form the duo that is Americunts, a punk band out of Taylor, TX. These two guys make some noise together and belt out an in-your-face set of old school punk. They put on a short set at at Black Sparrow's recent Rock Fest and I had some fun enjoying the music and grabbing a few shots of the guys. Reminder to self - bring ear plugs when working around a stage with large floor speakers. 

With a name like Americunts, the band is as irreverent as you'd expect from a proper punk band. Sorry kids, this ain't a family show. Still, the guys showed that they have a soft side and had a guest pianist come up for a ballad. As you can tell from my photos, no shirt is the way to go on stage with the Americunts. This is punk after all. 

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses. Processing in Lightroom CC iPad app. If you like these, check out more shots from the show on my gallery site.

Punk Rock Night at Black Sparrow

Last weekend the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX featured an evening of punk rock bands. Several bands performed that night, although I was only able to stick around for a couple of acts. There seems to be a punk scene evolving in the area, which I think it is pretty cool. It's a nostalgic experience for me to hear some of these bands playing punk classics and creating new sounds that pay homage to old school punk.

One of the bands, Brontosaurus, was more of a metal band. They were loud and fast, but very tight. With dual guitars and no bass player, it was a sonic assault. The other band I caught was The Awful Lot and those guys were definitely punk. I really enjoyed their set. Here are a few snaps I took at the show with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.


The Awful Lot

UK76 Farewell Show

The Texas punk scene is losing an amazing talent as frontman Pete of UK76 is moving back across the pond. The band performed at a farewell bash at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor a couple of weeks ago. It was a night of celebration and sadness. Pete made an impact on the music scene in these parts and I hope his passion has sowed a seed for others to carry the torch for British punk. 

I don't do a lot of color photography for live music, particularly at places like Black Sparrow where the stage lighting is pretty bad. However, the harsh wash of red and green lights seemed to work that night and I did want to let the color of the Union Jack flags show in the spirit of things. UK76 and friends put on a high energy performance as you'd expect from a proper punk band. I had a great time and hope that Pete and his wife will be able to return some day. 

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F and the wide/tele conversion lenses. Raw conversion in Lightroom CC. More photos from the night can be seen on my gallery site.

Kathy and the Kilowatts at Black Sparrow

Last night Kathy and the Kilowatts put on a fantastic show at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. I love that we have some great venues like this not far from where I live. Austin may be the Live Music Capitol of the World but Taylor is offering up some top notch shows these days. The parlor-like setting of the Black Sparrow brings an intimacy to the band performances that I find very inviting and refreshing.

I've seen my friend Dylan play stand-up bass with a lot of bands around Austin and this was my first time catching him with Kathy's band. Their fusion of Rockabilly and Blues was a crowd pleaser. I had a great time snapping a few photos like enjoying the two sets they played. The parlor has some old fashioned soft chairs and sofas near the stage and I was lucky enough to be able to grab a chair right up front, from which I was able to snap a number of my photos. A great band, a comfy chair, and a cold beer. My kind of Saturday night.

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100F and conversion lenses using the Acros film simulation. Camera JPEGs were adjusted for contrast in Lightroom. Check out more photos from the show on my gallery site.

Benefit Show at Black Sparrow Music Parlor

The Black Sparrow Music Parlor was the place to be in Taylor, TX last Friday as several bands took the stage to raise some money for a very worthy cause. In mid October, 5 children lost their parents when their motorcycle was hit by a car running a red light. It is so horrific to even think about. Area musicians decided to do what they could and got together to play a free event and collect donations to go towards the care of the children.

I got to see 3 of the bands that played that night. There was some great punk and rockabilly style music going on and it was touching to see these guys playing their hearts out to help some kids whose lives will never be the same. Pete from UK76 pulled triple duty by playing in each of these bands and he was energetic and passionate for the cause the whole time. Well done, guys.


Check out more photos of UK76 here.

Rian C

Check out more photos of Rian C here.


Check out more photos of the Americunts here.

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X100F and TCL-X100 II conversion lens using Acros film simulation.

Rhythm Congress at Black Sparrow

It's not often around here that I get to see a large band with a horn section. When I heard that Rhythm Congress was performing at the nearby Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor last Friday night, I was thrilled that I would be able to attend. My friend Samantha, who I know from her fantastic renditions of our national anthem at Texas Stars games, sings for the band. It was a real treat to see her and the guys in Rhythm Congress perform some great R&B tunes with a full bodied sound that can only come from a band with horns.

As is usually the case, I opted to take some photos in black and white with my Fujifilm X100F's wonderful Acros film simulation. I love what that simulation gives me in low light performances like this. I can crank the ISO up and get a pleasing grain while maintaining a refined look. I just love the tonality that I get, as it helps contribute a sense of intimacy to stage lit performers. Using the in-camera highlight and shadow controls I am able to emphasize what is important and let the rest fall to shadow.

One of the things I love about photographing bands in small venues off the beaten path like this is the access I can get around the stage. Folks were able to find comfortable seating in the parlor-like room and I had plenty of space to wander around the stage for a few songs and get close up shots with my TCL converter on my X100F. It was tricky to isolate band members and I had to really push my exposures in some areas of the unevenly lit stage. Still, I came away with some shots that I think capture some of the energy of the performance.

More photos from the show are on my gallery site.