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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Strength Within - Live & Raw

A lot of people think that hardcore is dead sadly the ones who started the scene thought so (You know who you are) but they're all wrong. Sprouting from Belgium the northernmost part of Gaul (somewhere in Europe) a band named "A Strength Within" possesses raw hardcore sound the same sound of the hardcore bands we've love from Agnostic Front, Strife, Madball, Earth Crisis, Ratos de Parao, Cro-Mags and more (a lot to mention). A lot of bands now a days change their sound to get into the band wagon. From Hardcore to Post-hardcore to even Metalcore. Why the sudden change of musical style? It's all about demographics baby! It's where the money's at. There is nothing wrong with that (there's always room for progress) it's just a brave move to all aspiring hardcore bands out there to join the hardcore movement were money is out of the question 'coz their ain't no money in hardcore.

"A Strength Within"
Mike Nijs - Vocals
Kevin Nijs - Guitar
Yves Wils -Bass
Tom Overloop - Drums

This is pure D-I-Y no bull brotherhood. You wanna make it to the top you have to work from scratch no major label backing you up. You'll be your own manager, you'll do the merch, the sound checks, the bookings and you have to do your own advertising. It does'nt matter how many kids come to the show as long as they give their ALL - that's the true essence of hardcore. Hardcore is all about brotherhood (I have your back you got mine attitude), meeting new friends, solidifying the bonds of people with common views and perspective in life. Enough about the preaching "A Strength Within" is pure hardcore energy. Joining them are local acts like Obscure, Straight Forward, Out for Blood, Realize and Mouthful of Air. All are equally brutal in their own respective ways. Props goes to Reconstrux Bookings for making this brutality possible and for giving me the honor to cover the gig. Shout out to Ian Soliva, Rico Desengano and few other Pinoys in the crowd.

Q & A with Mike Nijs

Before the show I had the chance to talk to ASW frontman  Mike Nijs.

Kris: How do think of the weather in Singapore?
Mike: It's fine but we are not use to this kind of weather although we've been to Bangkok before we're still not use to it. We reach the air port with thick coats so we have to remove it mediately or else will melt. (laugh).

Kris: How's the HxC scene in Bangkok?
Mike: It's crazy! (laugh)

Kris: What are your expectations in the Singapore hardcore scene?
Mike: No expectations at all. We rather play for 5 people  who's into hardcore than 200 people doing nothing just standing and drinking beer.

Kris: How's the HxC scene in Belgium?
Mike: Now kids in Belgium are more into the mainstream hardcore the ones with big production and big names like Madball and Agnostic Front. People are getting less interested. Which is very sad.

Kris: Bands now a days tend to change their music style for marketing purposes. Did you ever play any kind of music aside from hardcore?
Mike: No we didn't play any kind of music aside from hardcore and we are not planning to change it.

Kris: When your next destination after this?
Mike: We'll be playing 3 shows in Malaysia and another 3 at Indonesia.

Kris: Are you planning to drop by in Philippines? The hardcore scene there is pretty much as big and crazy as Thailand.
Mike: We love to go there but not on this tour. Hopefully next year. On this tour we are loosing money but we don't care. It's all about the HxC scene.

Kris: What band(s) are your major influences?
Mike:  Cruel Hand, No Turning Back, 50 Lions, No Warning

Kris: What do you think of the Singapore HxC scene?
Mike: When I think about lion city, I think of a very small but dedicated HxC scene. I spoke with a lot of people who share the same ideals like we have. Unity, respect and dedication. So they are all in for the right reason. We as a band we're 10,000kms from home but still felt so welcome. So we will definitely come back in the near future to support lion city HxC.

Kris: Any massage you what to give for aspiring hardcore bands.
Mike: HxC is more than music. It's a way of life, a mindset. Decisions you have to make in daily live are sometimes hard. But if you follow your own ideals and let nobody ever hold you down, you can overcome and achieve anything. Do your own thing.

Live & Raw

Here are few photos from the live performance of "A Strength Within". The stage lighting at Home Club is not good but also not that bad (stop complaining just shoot). From ISO 2600 - 3500 I've manage to have tolerable noise. Some how the photos are a bit warm but need not to worry a simple tweaks from Lightroom did the trick. Basically all in manual setting except for the focus of course. My aperture runs between F2.8-4 depending on the lens I use but I always tend to go for the widest aperture possible.

It's always good to start on some inanimate objects specially any indication of the bands identity which is a sticker on this scene. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 16mm F4. You must think I'm crazy using this lens on the field... well that's what I've though of Nikon when they said the Nikon D700 can handle noise perfectly up to ISO 6400. Maybe all Nikon users are crazy. (evil laugh) It just happen that I'm using Nikon gears but any brand will do for me (seriously). 

Action starts with Mike Nijs roaring his words out. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 35mm F4.

A good transition from regular straight forward shots to a much wider and closer approach. Seems like the viewer will feel the same action I felt. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 16mm F4.

Worm's eye view - never get tired of it. Always works on this kind of photography. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 16mm F4.

Another gear shot. Never fails. Ooooh love that "boke-licious". Lens used Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR II @ 200mm F2.8.

Tom Overloop the beat maker. Make sure you don't forget to shoot the drummer. He's the heart of the band, he put the beat into the music. Lens used Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR II @ 70mm F2.8. 

Crowd shots with frontman always works. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 16mm F4.

Groove maker Yves Wils doing his thing. Making sure everything is in tune. Lens used Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR II @ 70mm F2.8.

Kevin Nijs on the foreground doing his brutal riffs. Wide over-head shots a good way to show the whole band in action. Lens used Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II @ 16mm F4.

Final Notes

Generally speaking - A lot people may mixed up heavy metal and hardcore but discipline, way of life and views are very different but I can't blame them, the media put a lot of BS on magazines, TV shows and internet on how music is labeled. Last time music is the way we express our feelings and emotions now it's all about branding and corporate image. They took away the fun on almost everything resulting a high price on merchs, concert tickets and albums. Thank God for "open source" we can still have access on almost everything.

You can view the complete set on my flickr photostream. All photos taken with Nikon D700, Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR II and Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II. I use my Think Tank Retrospective 30 for easy access on my gears. So far the best bag I've used on concert photography. Happy viewing. Cheers!
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Concert Photography - Switchfoot Live in Singapore 2011


I've been waiting for them to perform here in SG and I wouldn't miss to cover their live performance. I was blessed to take part on this wondrous event and I still feel the Switcfoot fever until now. Switchfoot has always been an inspiration for me, their music uplifting my morale in times that I'm very down. I've always been a fan of X-tian rock/metal music namely Relient K, Pax 217, Pillar, POD, Thousand Foot Krutch, Superchic[K], Sanctus Real and many more. It's always good take a break from my usual genre of music which is hardcore-punk and metalcore but it's all good, music is music and it's for everyone to share regardless of religion and genre. Although Switchfoot doesn't claim that they're a X-tian rock band, their music is somewhat related to it - lyrics of up-lifting ones morale, giving hope or just plain chillin' on a California breeze are the messages they bring to all the listeners. X-tian rock or not they are still one of the best acts in town and it's a bummer to missed them perform.

Jon Foreman - Vocals, Guitar
Jerome Fontamillas - Keayboard, Guitar,
Tim Foreman - Bass
Drew Shirley - Guitar
Chad Butler - Drums

The Venue

One major preparation I did is knowing the venue. Like in all mission it's better to know the vantage point of the terrain were I can pin point the the spots where I can move around and do my thing. The venue is an auditorium (with seats) that can cater 1400 people not including the crew and artists. Lighting is okay I've experience worst but it's not about  that it's always anticipation of events and things to come (like Todd and Jared always say- love these guys). Must keep up with the artists jumping and running around. Don't forget the jump shot - it's the winning shot.

"Suntec City Rock Auditorioum"

What to Expect

Most of the times photographers are treated as opportunist which is basically true (hehe) we tend to grab opportunities and sometime push ourselves to get even more - What I'm trying to say is sometimes we're are not treated well on events specially the security but on this case the security is my friend and it's just one guy that thinks photographers are sharks that waits and go for the kill - the band manager. He is such a hardball he send us out during rehearsals but that's expected because it's part of their job nothing personal. I'm also doing what I'm instructed to do by the production manager. So as an advice for aspiring concert photographers out there be more enthusiastic and smiling doesn't hurt right so give smiles to everyone specially the security and crew that's one ticket for acquiring allies on the event an advantage you will definitely need. To summarize things be more friendly.

The Calling of Levi and The Great Spy Experiment

There are two front acts before Switchfoot's main show and all of them are very good. The calling of Levi and The Great Spy Experiment both are great on what they do. The Calling of Levi gave a very energetic performance with their uplifting upbeat tunes combined with hard guitar riffs that's soothing to my eardrums. These guys from Australia is must hear and must see on their live shows. The Great Spy Experiment also known as TGSE for fans are equally energetic with more atmospheric sounds and new-wave(ish) feel which is a plus points for me. These Singapore local band is one of the best acts I've seen aside from Stomping Ground (which is totally a different genre of music).

" The Calling of Levi"

Kieran Burne: "Sick Air"

"The Great Spy Experiment"

Lights, Camera... Switchfoot!

I was totally awed when Switchfoot hit their first note on stage. Hands trembling with excitement. One told me that being nervous will make the photos even more outstanding. The fear of having blurred, over or under exposed photos makes us more cautious but on the actual job it's more on instinct. Instinct to change lens, instinct to change angle and position and instinct on when to press the shutter button. The most important thing is timing - like the saying "Timing is everything." and yes I agree it's very true. Shooting photos like a trigger-happy maniac will not give you awesome photos it will just give you a lot of photos with same composition with different exposures and more wasted data on your CF card. Better to be compose wait for the right pose, the right jump-shot and the right moment. Also don't forget to take photos of the crowd, they love it! they're the proof of how successful the concert is, also gives them a sense of connection with the band. After all the craziness going on there's this feeling of self-fulfillment. Even though it's physically tiring still its worth it. Big time!

"Jon Foreman"

"Drew Shirley"

"Shredding Machine"

"Tim Foreman"

"Jerome Fontamillas"

"Chad Butler"

"Switchfoot in Action"

"Reaching Out"

Gears Used

All the photos you see here were taken with my trusted Nikon D700, Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR II, and Nikon 16-35mm F4G VR II. I brought along my Think Thank Retrospective 30 for easy access on my gears. One of the best concert bag I've ever used, better than my old Crumpler 8 Million Dollar Home and Nat Geo W5070. I've also used my Nikon 50mm F1.4G on band portraits which you can view on My Flickr Photostream.
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