Show Me Burlesque Festival 2013

Friday, May 17th, was the second night of a three day event that is The Show Me Burlesque Festival.  The festival is the brain child of St. Louis burlesque entertainer Lola Van Ella. I started shooting Lola’s burlesque events about three years ago.  For me, it is Lola’s passion for her craft that has me hooked.  It seems like there is no limit to her imagination and ingenuity.  Her shows include singing, dancing, fire, ornate costumes, circus stunts, and of course burlesque.  This year’s festival brought together nearly one hundred performers from across the country for four shows in three nights.

In addition to the festival, Lola also produces many shows through out the year in St. Louis and on the road.  Backed by a talented crew of St. Louis based performers, the shows are always entertaining and are a great idea for a unique night out.

You can find out more about St. Louis burlesque at www.ShowMeBurlesque.com or at www.vanellastudios.com.  You can see more of my photos from her shows at MotivePics Burlesque.

Hair Whipping With 10 Years

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Next to a close up shot of a frontman/woman mugging for the camera, a concert photographer prays for long locks.  Photos are static by nature, and a concert stage doesn’t generally lend itself to depicting motion in a picture very … Continue reading

Hanging With CAVO

CAVO Sound Check

Chris, taking a break from stage setup.

There are friends and then there are friends that have been through thick and thin with you, people you have shared life’s moments with.  Intoday’s social climate I think the term “friend” gets thrown around kind of loosely.  I am the type of person that likes to keep my personal life, personal.  There are just a handful of people out there that I would speculate truly know me.  One of these people is Chris, from the band CAVO.  Chris is a guy I’ve known since I was seven years old.  When I say I’ve known him, I don’t mean we went to the same grade school and we are now friends on Facebook.  We spent our adolescent lives together.  There were always four of us together, Chris, Chris’ brother Mike, my brother Brad, and of course me.  We are all roughly the same age, and we’ve been through many birthdays, weddings, and babies together.  In fact, out of the group, I am the sole hold out, never being married and without my own little prodigies.  As the years have gone by and we all graduated high school and took separate paths in this life, we have remained in touch, getting together for special occasions.  Growing up we all tried our hands at musical pursuits, I on drums, Brad and Chris with guitar, and Mike, well Mike was always more of the promoter of our little group.  I moved away, and while I was gone, Chris was busy transforming his talent into a musical career.  I can still remember sitting at my computer, in my little apartment, listening to what would become a bonafide hit for CAVO, Champagne.  I stumbled across the song a through a conversation with my brother, and I was amazed to see the kid I can still picture with a Kool-Aid mustache, transformed into a rock star.  It was an amazing feeling, seeing someone you know succeed at that level.

Fast forward a couple years, and I am back in St. Louis now, pursuing aspirations in photography.  I have had the opportunity to shoot CAVO several times at festivals and their own shows, but I never spent the day with the band and watched them setup and prepare for a show, that is until last weekend.  Chris and his band mates were gracious enough to allow me to step on stage with them, pre-show, and see how it all comes together.

CAVO

Guitars lined up off stage.

The venue they played is The Pageant, in St. Louis, and in my opinion, the best place in St. Louis to see a show.  The Pageant has a huge stage and the audience is up close and personal with the performers.  It is a very intimate, but spacious setting.  The audience can hang out at the back, by the bar or move down to the front of the stage.  There is no reserved seating on the first level.  Every ticket holder is equal and can enjoy the show from whatever vantage point they like.

I showed up to the venue at 3:00PM for a show that was slated to start at 7:00.  Chris and Andy had already been there for several hours with the crew, unloading the trailer, setting up lights and building risers.  Chris met me at the back door of the club, where he led me down a hallway and straight onto the stage.  The first thing that caught my attention was the giant CAVO backdrop at the back of the stage.  The backdrop is basically a fifty foot version of their latest CD cover, which is a collage of band/fan photos through the years with the CAVO logo in the center.  It is an impressive sight.  The stage lighting was equally impressive.

CAVO Sound Check.

The stage from the balcony.

Sitting atop two risers, that flanked a center stage drum kit, were eight enormous remote mirror lights.  The lighting engineer was running through his program so the lights were dancing across the stage and into the house in a synchronized ballet.  On the floor lining the perimeter of the stage were six massive strobes supported by four flood boxes that contained eight flood lights per box.  As if that wasn’t enough sixteen can lights ran across the back of the stage to offer back/theme lighting for the band.  Keep in mind this was just the stage floor lighting.  Hanging from the rafters were numerous effects/spot lights.  It was at this point that it hit me how much of an undertaking this entire production was.  I have seen many shows and many lighting setups, but this was really my first time taking notice from a setup point of view.  I quickly ran through, in my mind, all the wires that were ran and connected to the control board, as well as writing the control program and soon felt a sympathetic exhaustion set in.  Covering the lighting risers was a white canvas mesh, that reminded me of the type of material that the military might use to hide fire power on a snowy battle field.  As it turns out this analogy isn’t far off, because tucked under those risers, hidden by the camouflage, was a collection of amps, speakers, and subs that were going to fill The Pageant with some serious rock.

I had been there for twenty minutes at this point and had to tell myself to stop gawking and start shooting.  I dug my primary camera, a Nikon D700, out of my camera bag and went to work.  On this day I stuck with my work horse lenses, a 24-70mm F2.8 and a 70-200mm F2.8.  If I am shooting a show with an expansive stage setup, like a KISS or Crue show, I will throw my wide angle 10-24mm in my bag so I can get a couple full stage shots.  I started with the 24-70mm getting some close ups of the crew, stage shots, equipment.

CAVO Sound Check

Casey on stage during sound check.

After forty or so pictures, I switched over to my long lens and faded into the corners of the stage so I could work from a position where I wasn’t affecting my surroundings and could catch the crew and band in some unguarded moments.  Watching my friend work was an awesome sight.  Gone was the somewhat awkward teenager that I had know and in his place was a professional, on a mission and getting the  job done.  I watched the guys as they tuned their instruments, adjusted amp settings, programmed pedals and tested mics all in preparation to give the fans the best performance possible.  As they rolled into sound check and debuted a new stage intro, I literally got chills.  I’m a sucker for a good stage intro to set the tone of a show, and theirs was as good as any I have witnessed.  I only watched the first couple songs of the sound check, before heading in back to talk to some of the opening bands who were setting up their equipment off stage.  I really wanted to see their stage performance in context of a crowd reacting to what CAVO was giving them.

To say the least, shooting from 3pm – 12am, makes for a long day.  I was able to experience parts of rock show most don’t and I saw some great bands.  In addition to CAVO, I also shot Shaman’s Harvest, Rains, and Addictive Behavior.  You can view full galleries of the shots on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MotivePics, or on my photo site, www.MotivePics.com.  I can’t thank Chris, Brian, Andy, and Casey enough for allowing me to come out and creep all over their gig with my camera.  If you missed the show, you missed a great performance.

-Sam