A few photos of The New Deal concert, taken September 23rd at Northern Lights, Clifton Park, NY. I’m a fan of this Canadian electronic band. Formed in 1998, they have visited the Capital District regularly for years, most often at the (now defunct) Revolution Hall in Troy. It is a tad tricky to pinpoint this music genre. Some say electronica, others live progressive breakbeat house, and Wikipedia files them under livetronica, a “jam band movement that blends such musical styles as rock, jazz, funk, and electronica“. Forget about the definitions, The New Deal is no less than a very energetic three-piece bundle of electronic fun. Check them out if you get the chance.
More photos below, and a music video at the end. Click on a thumbnail to open a larger view, or check the whole series as a full-screen Flickr slideshow.
Opening for TND that night, another electrifying band, Future Rock (see some photos I shot at Red Square in 2009), and Orchard Lounge. The venue was packed wall to wall. Northern Lights is not the easiest place to take concert photos. It’s dark, warm like a swamp, and the layout makes it difficult to move around once the show gets started. There is no photo-pit to shoot from at Northern Lights, only the usual space on the far right side of the stage.
A dense crowd was glued in front of the band, hypnotized by the lights. I joined them a couple of times, trying not to look 20 years older. I always feel a bit guilty when I forcefully insert my 6’3″ and a giant camera in front of everybody. Apparently this bothers some people a lot :) Granted, you don’t want to be that close to my armpit when I start taking pictures.
The kids had a blast that night. The New Deal is a great band to shake your head to and they regularly deliver 2 solid hours of music. Add 2 openers and you are unlikely to be done before 1AM. Pictured above, this young lad was wearing a pair of glasses that amplified light motions (if I recall). In front of him stood another guy, swirling small LEDs like a maniac; that’s the trail you can see in this 1/4th s. long exposure. There’s probably something else involved to help the trippin’.
Fortunately the sound guy offered fellow photographer Jordan Kline and myself to take photos from the stage itself, behind the band. This opportunity doesn’t manifest itself too often so I tried to take a few photos of the band with the crowd in the background (more in the slideshow). I liked this angle, but this can be a nerve racking location; so many cables to avoid, so many switches to dodge.
I had not realized how popular drummer Darren Shearer and bass guitarist Dan Kurtz were with the ladies. Is TND an actual electronic boys band? Pictured above, this guy is about to reclaim a bit of attention by showing some smooth karate-chop skills. Ayaaaaaaaaa!
Above, keyboard player Jamie Shields. According to the myth, Shields never loops a keyboard track and always plays everything live, even if a pattern is to be repeated. And repeat it does. Below, the crowd, as seen from the stage. Note the name of the town stuck on a piece of tape in the lower right corner: “Hello, Clifton Park!“.
Disclaimer: The New Deal provided me a photo pass. Thanks to band manager Phil for helping me around the stage.
My photo tips. I’m not that happy with the results. It was good to see TND again, but I didn’t bring anything that stands out. It is unfortunate that there are no concerts at Revolution Hall anymore. Unsurprisingly Northern Lights was so dark I spent most of the time with my fastest lens, a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime. I brought my favorite zoom too for testing, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, but that puppy couldn’t get enough light to work with. This ended up being especially true when I tried to capture Darren Shearer on the drums; the guy is absurdly fast, making it very difficult to freeze him in motion. To add insult to injury, his face was in the shadows most of the time. The keyboard player was sitting on the far left side of the stage, out of reach without a zoom. The bass player was obstructed by the drummer from the right side, though I got him a few times by making my way through the crowd. I was not expecting I would be able to shoot from behind the band, this was a nice surprise. Had I known that, I would have schlepped a fast Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle to get the whole group in the frame; this lens worked fine on Phantogram at the same venue earlier this year. Lesson learned.
The auto-focus system in the Canon EOS 5D Mark II uses 9 AF points including a cross type point (sensitive to both horizontal and vertical lines) in the center (only) that is about twice as emo sensitive as the other focus points. I’ve done a fair amount of concert photography in the past couple of years and I highly recommend to switch the AF system to center-point only. This forces the camera to focus at the specific location I’m pointing at. By leaving the other focus points active, I run the risk of letting the camera pick an object closer or further away, like a microphone stand or a drum pad. Even if the object is only a foot away from a performer’s face for example, this will ruin the shot because the depth of field is so narrow at this aperture. You can only take so many photos of microphones, you know.
Needless to say, these photos would not have been possible without a press/photo pass. I always try to get one by contacting the band manager way in advance. I send him/her a few of my concert photos and if we agree on something I close the loop a few days before the show to check that I am on the list. That didn’t work for CAKE a few weeks ago but The New Deal was more photographer- friendly. It is important (to me) to be polite, respectful of the venue and not get in the way of its personnel. I try to send my photos within 4 or 5 days, that’s just good karma.
There is more
A few more photos from the Phantogram + TND concert in February 2009 at the Revolution Hall (Troy, NY). The whole set is on Flickr.
A video of “Technobeam” at The New Deal Langerado in 2008, by YouTube user ZoniBoyProductions.
Northern Lights is located in beautiful Clifton Park, NY (sarcasm?), 1208 Rte 146.