Assignment: Philadelphia Funk Authority

The Gig

Earlier this Summer I received an email from Gary at Authority Entertainment which handles Philadelphia Funk Authority (phillyfunk.com) asking if I would be interested in shooting group shots and concert stills of the band at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. (Is it inappropriate to respond “duh” to a potential client?) PFA is a super fun party/event/concert band and a great bunch of musicians. Of course I’m jumping at the chance to work with them.

I have had a relationship with PFA through my friend George Hrab, the band’s drummer,
for quite a few years. Over those years I’ve photographed the band at Musikfest,

had the privilege to hang out with members of the band (we even watched humans put a lander on Mars together)

and hired them to play my 50th birthday party. You can see the results

People danced!

Scheduling

The band has gone through some changes in the last year necessitating the new pictures. Not the least of which is the loss of singer Alisa B Anderson to cancer. The new line up should be featured in their promotional materials and website. The job called for a new group shot of the whole band as well as images of them in action. I had originally planned to shoot all this on the first Sunday of Musikfest, when the band plays in the big Festplatz Tent to more than a thousand people. This worked well for me, since I planned on being there anyway and I had a wedding to attend on Saturday in Maryland. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best option for the band, so we negotiated to shoot at the Musikfest Cafe Friday night for their 10pm concert.

So, the weekend would be:

  • Drive up to Bethlehem on Friday
  • Drive back to Maryland sometime on Saturday morning (1am or after a nap)
  • Drive up to the wedding about an hour from home on Saturday
  • Drive back to Bethlehem on Sunday as planned
  • Drive home again on Monday

The Weekend

Friday arrived and I arrived up in Bethlehem around 4:30 in the afternoon. I caught up with George at his place to discuss the plan. While Gary is technically the “owner” of the band and handles the bookings, George handles much of the day-to-day leadership activities. The plan is to shoot a group photo in the “green room” and then out on the floor at their show Friday night I would grab some shots of the band in front of an audience.

I leave George to his pre-show ritual (whatever that is) and head out into Musikfest to grab some food and meet up with my friend Todd. A gyro, roasted corn and baked beans later, I’m heading off to meet George and over to the venue.

Group Shots

The green room at the venue was broken up into a couple of rooms. Two of them were bathrooms. No good. One has a TV, fridge, tables, doors and one wall. No good. Another is a tiny dressing room. No good. So, we were left with a lounge that’s pretty small. Just enough room for me to get the group shot with a 24-70 on a tripod jammed into the corner.

I’m not done with the group shots at this time, but I’ll share a setup shot with George and an Easter egg or two

I was pretty happy with the lighting on this test. Good fill and pretty soft using the Godox AD360IIN and Phottix Mitros bounced high off the wall to camera left to counter the recessed cans in the ceiling. You’ll just have to wait to see what image we choose and how it gets processed.

Concert Photography

I was pretty daunted by the lighting in the concert hall. To say it was a little backlit is something of an understatement.

Definitely cool for the audience, but a bit challenging for the photographer in the crowd. My goal was to get a few decent shots of the new(er) members of the band and get more shots at the well-lit stage at their show on Sunday.

Here’s the wonderful Raysa Michelle who worked really well with the veteran Jillian Rhys

, Matt Asti who has a deceptively chill demeanor onstage, but he’s a monster on the keyboard

and Neil Wetzel who holds up the sax end of the Authority Horns with… um… authority.

I’m still editing shots, so that’s it for now. It was a great weekend and beyond fulfilling my contractual obligations I really enjoyed spending time with the band and making some new friends.

Thanks, again, to PFA for the opportunity to work with them. Like the rest of their fans I can’t wait until the next time.

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Jonathon Coulton: or Dragon-Con Consolation Concert

Friday evening my wife and I took the kids down to the Jonathan Coulton concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.
As contributing troubadour to Popular Science magazine, you might expect Coulton to have a somewhat geeky audience. Yeah, you’re right. If you weren’t going to be at Dragon Con, this is really where you should have spent your Friday night.
Opening for Jonathan Coulton was Paul and Storm, a more local act which, to my shame, I had never really heard of before. These guys were a heck of a lot of fun and a great complement to Coulton. In fact they both took part in each other’s sets, which worked out really well. Their repertoire is very humorous and they have a ton of talent to carry it off. I think the thing I found most amusing was Paul’s insistence on holding a guitar when he wasn’t at the keyboards. He took it very seriously, even adjusting the capo between songs, yet he NEVER PLAYED A NOTE. Crazy. 🙂

Jonathan Coulton was marvelous. His song writing is so good he really needs nothing but his guitar and his engaging voice, yet the addition of Paul & Storm for about half the set added depth and a little extra “fun”. The audience was primed for this unassuming troubadour and treated him like a beloved rock star, in return Coulton appeared to be genuinely flattered by the attention. The thrown stuffed animals and gummi brains seemed to amuse him as much as the audience.

There is just something great about live music in a venue as intimate as the Birchmere, an opportunity to “connect” that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The spontaneous audience-driven rendition of “Sweet Caroline” rarely occurs in a larger house.

While some of the music played had rather grown up themes, I can’t feel anything but pleased about bringing my kids along. Beyond having the opportunity to see such talented and genuine performers live, the kind of audience these people draw is a treat to be around. Our table had a couple celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary and, at the other end of the spectrum, a young couple getting married in a few weeks. All of them were engaging, interesting and treated my teens as people.

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