The Flametrick Subs

Last weekend I finally got to see the Flametrick Subs perform at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, TX. This band has been around quite a while and I somehow have never caught them on stage. It was a great night of music with attitude!

The Black Sparrow has only 3 cans of red gelled lights that unevenly illuminate their small stage. That usually makes a photographer’s job difficult enough but the Flametrick Subs took it up a notch by turning off the house lights and performing with just a few red colored LED panels firing up from the floor. Dim red spooky lighting — oh boy! If that’s the look they wanted…what the hell, I’d give it a go and see what I could do with my trusty Fujifilm X100F.

When I went to post my process my shots, I was at first tempted to go all black and white. The intense red lighting was garrish but I’m sure that is the intent. I didn’t want to take away from the band’s desired stage look so I processed a mixture of color and monochrome images. I took the blacks deep in both versions and ended up with some interesting shots. So it goes with live music photography on the small stage. Take what the club and performers give you and make them look like rock stars.

All images were captured with my Fujifilm X100F and processed from raw files in Lightroom CC. If you want to see more shots from the show, check out my gallery site.

Swamp Bats at Austin Eastciders

I've had the opportunity to see my friends in the Swamp Bats play at Austin Eastciders a couple of times in the last few weeks. It's a nice venue and even though I'm not into cider I was able to get tasty pints of beer at the brewery next door. The Swamp Bats were real crowd pleasers at both shows. It's such a treat to see such a talented bunch of folks having a blast doing what they love.

I kept things simple as usual at both shows by snapping photos with my trusty little Fujifilm X100F rig. Between the camera and the two conversion lenses I find that I have everything I need to shoot a live music performance without weighing myself down with gear. I mixed things up a bit by setting the camera for Classic Chrome at the first show and Acros the next time around. While I'm absolutely a lover of black and white, sometimes I really like what Classic Chrome does. 

All images are JPEGs from the X100F with minor adjustments in Lightroom CC. More shots from the show can be found 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.

UK76

Check out more photos of UK76 here.

Rian C

Check out more photos of Rian C here.

Americunts

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.

Phantom Shakers at Sahara Lounge

The Phantom Shakers had an early show at Sahara Lounge in Austin last night. It was a great opportunity to catch this fun Rockabilly band in an early time slot and I eagerly headed down to the show with my Fujifilm X100F. I've photographed bands at this venue before and I knew it would be a formidable low light test for that small camera. It was a tough environment but the X100F and the band didn't disappoint.

I wasn't sure what kind of crowd to expect on a Sunday night at Sahara Lounge. The last time I was there, the house was packed. This time I felt like I had the club to myself. Having played drums in a number of bands over the years, I know how frustrating it can be to play to a mostly empty hall. It's tough to get that energy level up when you don't have a crowd to cheer you on. The Phantom Shakers rocked the house regardless and I came away with a few decent images.

All images were captured with the Fujifilm X100F, Acros film simulation, f/2, ISO 12800.

Tribute at the Tavern

Tribute bands sure are popular around here these days. There was a triple bill last night at the Round Rock Tavern featuring Blue Collar Tweekers (Primus), Knifeprty (Deftones), and Naked and Fearless (Tool). The house was packed and it was a loud, wild party. As one of the guys in the Tweekers said, "It's Round Rock...what else are you gonna do on a Saturday night?"

The accuracy of the music, vocals, and performance of each tribute band was amazing. These guys are all incredible musicians and they take their representation of their respective bands seriously. The groups are more than just cover bands. These guys strive to give you as close of an experience to seeing the real deal as possible.

Blue Collar Tweekers

KnifePrty

Naked and Fearless

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X100F and Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, Acros film simulation.

Rian C at Texas Beer

The Texas Beer Co. in Taylor, TX has become a favorite watering hole of mine. It's a friendly place in a small Texas town with a nice selection of craft beers including their own brews. Last night Rian C was rocking the house with a hard rocking Honky Tonk kind of sound. The guy is very talented and put on a great show. 

I love photographing at live music shows and I tend to enjoy smaller and less crowded venues. Being mashed up against a stage with hundreds of people packed in shoulder to shoulder around me isn't my idea of a good time. It's nice to be in a place with a more modest crowd and be able to casually step up to the stage for a few photos of the musicians. This time out I was carrying a Fujifilm X100F that I acquired only a few hours before. I was getting acclimated to it while snapping photos of Rian and his band.

Getting good shots of live music is hard enough when you know the camera so it maybe wasn't the best place for a first time out. The X100 series is a quirky camera (I owned the original X100 a few years back) and it takes some time to get accustomed the style of shooting it demands. It's not designed to be optimal in the conditions that live music presents, i.e. dim lighting and lots of movement. However, I enjoy the challenge of working with a few limitations in the gear department. It helps keep my brain focused on the art rather than the tech. If you follow my blog you know that I'm the same guy who ditched all his DSLR gear and shoots pro hockey with the Fujifilm X-T2 - something a lot of people say can't be done. Pressing the Fujifilm camera to their limits has been more liberating than limiting in my experience.

All images taken with Fujifilm X100F, Acros film simulation. Full image set and information available on my gallery site.

Yes Men at Hanovers 2.0

The Yes Men had a weeknight gig at Hanovers 2.0 in Round Rock last Thursday. The club is near my office and it was an early show, which made it really easy for me to stop by and enjoy some good music. It is usually tough to catch bands I want to see during the week because they are typically playing somewhere around downtown Austin at a time that means I won't be getting much sleep before work the next morning if I go. It's nice to see more shows like this happening nearer to home and work at earlier times!

Compared to most other music venues around here, Hanovers 2.0 has a huge stage that is reasonable well lit. There were some motorized spotlights behind the band that moved somewhat randomly. It was a little annoying at first but I managed to get a few interesting backlit shots. I'm glad I'm shooting my Fujifilm X-T2 with the EVF. The LED bulbs in concert lighting is blinding these days when it gets aimed right at you. The EVF helps ease the pain. I wouldn't have been able to get some of the shots I did with a standard DSLR while looking through an optic viewfinder.

I thought maybe I'd get a few color images since the light levels were decent. The predominant blue lighting wasn't to my tastes though so I stayed with my standard black and white capture using the Acros film simulation built into my X-T2. I captured only black and white jpeg files and processed them a bit in Lightroom. I love the look of Acros but sometimes find it to be a little too clean and flat for a rock n roll show. To get a deeper and more contrasty look I used a Lightroom VSCO preset that mimics Fujifilm Neopan 1600 - a film I'd be happy to shoot with today if it were still made. I modified the VSCO preset to remove the sharpening and grain that it adds, as well as lifting the shadows a bit since I already deepened them in camera.

A film simulation on top of a film simulation? Sure, why not? The end result is what matters. Why not shoot in color and then convert in post? Because overall I like the tonality, contrast curve and simulated grain structure that I get with the Acros film simulation in camera. It's a good starting point that gets me most of the way where I want the final images to be, leaving very minimal work in post production. I sacrifice some control in post by not having any color information to work with but keeping things purely in monochrome actually helps me visualize the final result without the distraction of color.

Flying Balalaika Brothers At Sahara Lounge

I've been wanting to catch these guys for quite some time and it finally worked out last night. At the last minute I noticed that the Flying Balalaika Brothers were playing at the Sahara Lounge. I jumped at the chance to enjoy a great band without having to fight traffic and find parking in downtown Austin. The Sahara Lounge is a cool little out of the way dive bar and it was packed on this Sunday night. 

The Flying Balalaika Brothers had the place literally shaking as an enthusiastic crowd danced and bounced around on the wooden dance floor. The Slavic sound of the band's eclectic music defies categorization. It's high energy and they are as fun to watch as listen to. Give these guys a little vodka and they tear up the stage with their frenzied style of music. It's a unique experience and I really enjoyed seeing this band. I'll look forward to catching another show.

All images were taken with the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens with Acros film simulation. Check out more shots from the show on my gallery site here.

Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers at The Driskill

Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers put on a great performance at The Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin last weekend. I jumped at the chance to see them play in the bar at this beautiful historic hotel. Rockabilly seemed maybe an unusual genre for the intimate environment of the swanky Driskill Bar. However, the band put on on a rocking class act that the Saturday night crowd enjoyed and they even played a request or two. 

Lead lady Ruby Dee was stellar in spite of having sustained injuries during a recent overseas tour. Cracked ribs and a tear in her shoulder didn't hold her back from dancing on and off stage. Those Rockabilly gals are tough! This Austin based group performs regularly around town. Check them out, it's a fun show.

All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 in the Acros film simulation. It was a a dimly lit stage and most exposures were in the ISO 8000-10,000 range at f/1.4. I'd say the X-T2 is doing a little better than my X-T1 at the low light autofocus but there were a lot of misses. Tracking energetic musicians in low light isn't an easy task for even the best autofocus systems and having to shoot with the shallow DoF of f/1.4 doesn't help. Check out a few more photos from the show here.

Swamp Bats and the Austin Blues Society Jam

My buddies in The Swamp Bats hosted the Austin Blues Society Jam at The Skylark Lounge in Austin last night. The Swamp Bats opened the night up with a set of their original Blues tunes and some of the guys filled in to back other musicians taking turns at jamming a few songs. It was a fun event and I regretted that I was only able to stay for a short time. I heard some great stuff in the hour or so that I spent at the jam.

I had my new Fujifilm X-T2 with me and was able to put its impressive low light handling to use. It's a dive bar in Austin, so the light is gonna be crappy. Except for a few bright floods haphazardly pointed at the stage, bathing sections in a near neon red, the stage was extremely dark. Autofocus through contrast points on the X-T2 was pretty much hopeless and even the phase detect points really struggled. I resorted to manual mode several times. The camera did well all things considered and the files looked great. The samples below are pretty close to straight out of camera. I did play with the tone curve just a bit. These are Acros film simulation, mostly without filter simulation. I did try the red filter simulation a bit, which can be handy for helping to brighten skin in low light. When the red floods hit a musician's skin though, the red channel tended to easily blow and I abandoned that route. It was an extremely challenging shooting environment and the X-T2 got some memorable shots regardless.

More shots from the Jam can be found on my gallery site here. All images were captured with the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, Acros film simulation.

Bang Bang and The Mooks at the Carousel Lounge

My buddies in The Mooks played a show at The Carousel Lounge last night. This quirky bar has a circus theme and challenging light for live music photography. I'm always up for seeing The Mooks and since I had the night free I headed down with my recently acquired Fujifilm XT-2 camera to put it through the paces in really dim light. As usual, The Mooks had an energetic set in spite of the surprisingly slow Friday night at the club. Bang Bang, led by animated lead singer Chrissy Flatt, opened the show and belted out a fun set. 

Bang Bang

More photos from Bang Bang's set are on my gallery site here.

The Mooks

More photos from The Mooks' set are on my gallery site here.

All images were captured with the Fujifilm X-T2 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens with Acros film simulation. 

The Dirty River Boys and a Packed House

I was at the Saxon Pub in Austin last Saturday night to check out my friends in Horseshoes and Handgrenades. When I arrived, The Dirty River Boys were finishing up their set. The house was packed and there was no way I was going to be able to get up front for some photos. After hearing their last couple of songs I was sorry I missed their full set. Smokin' band and I hope to catch them next time. I managed to get a few shots from way in the back. I like the atmosphere of these. Maybe I'll shoot from the back more often.

Images captured with the Fujifilm X-T2, Acros simulation, XF 34mm f/1.4 lens.

Blaggards at Fado

I got to catch a set by the Blaggards at Fado Irish Pub in Austin recently. This Houston based band plays a high energy style of music that they call "stout Irish rock." I first saw them late last year by chance while wandering around Austin's Warehouse District with some friends. When I saw that they were back in town for a Friday show I was pumped to have a chance to see them again. Stout Irish rock and a Guinness? Uh, yeah!

Of course, I'm going to have a camera with me at a live music show. This time I took my recently acquired Olympus OM-4 Ti and loaded it with a roll of Kodak P3200 black and white film that I'd forgotten about in a drawer. This high speed film (sadly discontinued) is a good choice for low light photography if you aren't afraid of a little (OK, a lot) of film grain. I knew it would work well for the dimly lit outdoor stage at Fado. Here are a few of my favorites from the roll.

A few more photos are on my gallery site. All photos taken with an Olympus OM-4 Ti with OM 50mm f/1.8 lens and Kodak P3200 black and white film rated at 1600 ISO. Film processing and scanning by Austin Camera.

Acoustic Swamp Rock at Fado

My good friends in The Swamp Bats performed an excellent acoustic set at Fado Irish Pub in Austin last Friday. There is just something extra special about a performance with primarily acoustic instruments. The standup bass, cajon drum, acoustic guitar, and mouth harp all combine for a more simple yet deep and sophisticated sound. The intimate atmosphere at Fado contributes to a wonderful experience with the band and their music.

I usually photograph concerts with a 50mm equivalent lens on my Fujifilm camera. This time I decided to try something a little different. I knew I'd be able to move around the band up close and freely so I took my 24mm equivalent lens for a more wide angle view than I typically use. Here are some of my favorite shots of the night.

Swamp Bats at Fado

My good friends in The Swamp Bats played a great acoustic set at Fado Irish Pub in downtown Austin last Friday night. I made the trip into town by way of bus since I'm not crazy about driving into the downtown area on weekend nights. Since I was on the bus schedule, I only got to catch about an hour of the guys' set. It would have been nice to stay all night. A Swamp Bats show is always a fun yet passionate performance by some of the most talented guys I know. In addition to the core band you never know who you'll see come up on stage as band leader Steve Klotz is fond of calling up other musicians he sees in the crowd to join in or lead a number. A love of music and sharing it with friends is how they do it in the swamp.

The Mooks at Hole in the Wall

I got to catch a matinee show by my buddies in The Mooks yesterday afternoon. They played an unusually early time slot starting at 4pm at Hole in the Wall. That's perfect for us old timers, leaving plenty of time to make an early bird dinner before hitting the sack. OK, I'm not quite to that point yet. Still, it was nice to be able to see a great band in a time slot that didn't roll over into the next day. 

The Hole in the Wall is a great dive bar on The Drag (Guadalupe St. along the UT campus for those not familiar with Austin.) It's a friendly place with cheap drinks, low cover, and great local bands. I've played there myself a number of times over the years. This time I was there to enjoy the show and, of course, snap a few shots. The low budget venue means that there are just a few lights thrown up with random color gels. Green, red, and some daylight spilling in through the door to the patio meant for an awful color mix that defies any sort of reasonable white balance. So, it was black and white to the rescue, not that I've ever complain about that. Here are a few shots I liked.

Ryan and the Relics at Shiner's Saloon

I got to see my friends Ryan and the Relics recently at Shiner's Saloon, a little upstairs bar on Congress in downtown Austin. I enjoyed their blues influenced original music and blend of fun cover songs. The guys are all great musicians so it's a treat to see them play. It was my first time at this bar and I found it to be a nice diversion from the usual "dirty 6th" scene in the heart of Austin's live music district. The place wasn't very crowded and it made for a more intimate performance. Band frontman Ryan wandered around a bit during their set, serenading a few ladies and borrowing phones or shot glasses for a guitar slide. Austin has countless stages - some quite large and many smaller spaces like this one at Shiner's Saloon. I think it's great to be able to see bands who are willing to use a small space to their advantage and interact with fans and friends. It makes it more of a party than a performance.

Images captured with a Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. Classic Chrome film simulation.