Well SXSW is over. It's been an incredible ride. I'm now backing up all of my images on my servers and I've also gotta start the process of editing. The final edited images are due to be turned in to SXSW by April 1st. This is the part that I'm actually looking forward to, the relaxing part where I sit and look though roughly 3.5k images that I've shot over the past 5 days. I must say that shooting SXSW overall was a great experience. I met and worked with some other great photogs. One of the cool things that the team did was create a private Facebook group where we all could post some of the images we were shooting and talk amongst ourselves about the experience. Almost half of the 170 photographers covering SXSW joined the group. I posted an image every day from one of the showcase bands that I was shooting. One of my favorite things besides shooting the showcases was enjoying the music and learning about new and upcoming talent. I've been going to SXSW for years as an attendee taking in the free shows and one year I also purchased a music wristband. By volunteering to shoot 5 shifts I was awarded with a music badge. This would allow me access into any of the venues. 4 out of 5 nights I was covering complete showcases so the opportunity to go see other bands outside my assignment was tough. The first night, Tuesday the 13th I was assigned to cover Joe King Carrasco & the Crowns at Skinny's Ballroom. I hadn't heard of them. They sort of sounded a little like the B-52's mixed up with a Tex-Mex flare, it was cool actually the guy had an amazing amount of energy. At one point he even jumped up on the bar and sang from there! As far as photographing them it was very difficult. I got to the venue a little early and started shooting the band that came on prior to Joe King. I was trying to nail a good exposure and it was nearly impossible, the stage was dark and above they had cheap looking chandeliers which didn't provide any good light. Another photog and I talked about the bad lighting and decided that we needed to do something about it badly. We talked to the stage manager and they tried to fix the lighting problem but it didn't help. So I was thinking well there isn't much that can be done to overcome bad light except use flash to equalize the red light. I hate using flash because it sucks for the performers and it can make the images look flat but In this case though I didn't have a choice. What was worse is that there was another SXSW assigned photog covering also using a flash so we were both firing flash their way. I was using a bounce card Velcro attached to my Speedlight in manual mode. I kept trying throughout the show to adjust the power of flash to negate the bad light but it was to no avail. They wrap up their set at 2am and I head home. The next day I get my day 2 assignment, for this one I'm shooting what's called the "Life or Death" showcase at Lustre Pearl.
This showcase consisted of 8 rap acts, a DJ, a punk act and a hard rock act. I arrive at about 7ish, the place is already packed and I'm trying to spot a good place to shoot from. As I look at my surroundings I'm in a large white tent and the stage is high, at least 6-7 feet. I notice that the SXSW banner is low and hard to see so I try to get it adjusted with the stage manager but they couldn't do it. I snapped a few shots and realized again that I would have to be using flash at this venue also. After the showcase started there were at least 20 other photogs with media passes and another SXSW photog all shooting flash. The other SXSW shooter was one of the worst photogs I've ever seen. He was on stage getting in the performers faces to take pictures and also standing on stage checking his phone during performances. I was like really? I did speak to the stage manager prior to the shoot and he didn't have any restrictions on where we could shoot from but it didn't make sense to be on stage shooting the way he did. Anyhow, as the rap groups performed I would primarily shoot from the side of the stage and then get out front to get the whole group. I shot 8 rap acts & a DJ the same way then a hard rock band called Wavves took to the stage. They sounded cool though my earplugs which remained in for the entire time I shot that night. I noticed that soon after they started playing that a mosh pit started and kept going throughout the whole performance. I was basically stuck on the side of the stage shooting. The lead singer which is also the lead guitarist had his back turned to me so I couldn't nail any good shots of him or the band for that matter. I tried to get to the other side and shoot but that wasn't working either. Next up was Trash Talk a hardcore thrash punk band. These guys were crazy. The pit got really crazy with stage diving and all. I tried to get some shots here but I wasn't about to get in the pit, I stood outside the pit and held my camera up and just shot. I'm still unsure if I got anything good. After this I shot more rap groups. When the showcase ended, I was glad it was over. I was exhausted from running all over the place all night trying to get good shots! There was an amazing amount of talent though, the performances were great. So with my first showcase down I headed home. The next day I got my 2nd showcase assignment. I would be shooting the Africa World Showcase over at The Copa which is known locally as a great place in town to salsa dance.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this showcase. One thing that bothered me right away is that I was standing waiting for about 2 hours for the first act to get onstage. I was working this evening with another great SXSW photog Kristen Lefebvre. Chief Boima didn't make it, so the first band that took to the stage was Sauti Sol they ended up starting at about 9, then Just a Band went on followed by Spoek Mathambo, Baloji & finally Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. I was right in front and couldn't move as there were tons of people behind me so I was shooting from right in front. Unfortunately again I had to use flash. I dialed it down in manual mode and just used enough flash to kill the red light and fill in the faces some. I used the same strategy for shooting the remainder of this showcase. I walked away from this one with a new found respect for the African bands; they were talented and very exuberant. I was totally blown away. Poor Kristen had to deal with a drunk bitch. But other than that it was a fantastic showcase for shooting! It was again time to go home. The next day I got my 3rd showcase assignment, The Girls Rock Showcase, which was at the Easy Tiger Bar and Bakery on 6th Street. This place is cool. They really have baked goods and brew!
One of the cool things about this particular showcase is that all of the bands have gals as lead singers. All of the proceeds from the event also went to charity. So shooting this event was somewhat similar to shooting the rap showcase with one exception, this tent was much smaller. As I was waiting for the set to start I met some other volunteers from SXSW and also talked to one of the members of Leftover Cuties. I also tried to set a good exposure with terrible the red/blue LED stage lights. I asked the sound guy about the light, he grunted and said that's what you got. So it didn't look like my red/blue LED situation was going to change so again I had to shoot flash. I did bounce some light from the top of the tent which was white so it worked ok but not ideal. Leftover Cuties was great! The lead singer was real sexy and kept her eyes closed for almost all of the songs which made it challenging to get the shot I wanted. Next up was, Sydney Wayser they were ok. The last 2 bands I shot really impressed me. Alabama Shakes and Girl in a Coma. Both great bands! Well another showcase shot, and it was time to go home. The next day I got my assignment which turned out to be the most awesome showcase I've ever shot and a freaking awesome way to close out my SXSW experience, an Indie/Pop showcase!
My assignment sheet said that I needed to show up to shoot the showcase at 9pm. Well I got there at 7ishpm and it's a good thing that I did. This venue and showcase was awesome. Finally I got to shoot a whole showcase without flash simply because the lighting was awesome! I was stationed on the left corner of the stage and stayed there the entire evening. The Jameses was great. I caught a few tunes and they rocked. Next up was DIVE this is absolutely one of my favorite bands. They reminded me of a band that I really liked in the 90's called Slowdive. Next up was Blouse a real dreamy sound as well. Soft Metals was great also. I dug Widowspeak and Craft Spells was cool also. The final band that took to the stage was Beach Fossils. The lead singer, Cole Smith of DIVE is also the guitarist for Beach Fossils. They put on an incredible performance and I'm now a fan. After researching I discovered that I was shooting a shoegaze showcase! Unreal. I simply couldn't have asked for a better SXSW! I thanked the SXSW gods for my assignments. I look forward to sharing the images later in the year with you all when I'm allowed to publish them!
Update: March 30, 2012
I turned in 306 images at the SXSW headquarters in downtown Austin! I shot a total of 29 acts! There is a well deserved appreciation party tonight for the crew!