I had never been to a concert in a Chinese restaurant before. I had also never been to a concert before where the only light source was literally a heating lamp that you use for chickens and reptiles. The HalfNoise The Velvet Face EP Release Party was certainly a mix of firsts.
I had first been introduced to HalfNoise through the Paper Route show that I shot back in November, and since then he has become one of my favorite artists. I jumped on the chance to see him again when I heard about the EP release party. Having never been to a release party nor a concert in a restaurant, I wasn't sure what to expect. I brought my camera along for the ride and was eager to see what was in store.
A mix of well-dressed twenty-somethings and a few less than twenty-somethings crowded into the lovely little Lucky Bamboo restaurant in West Nashville. Everyone was excited and happy to be there, the room just emanated with excitement and bliss. I was quite thrilled myself, except for one little issue: the lighting situation. I've shot in pretty bad light before, but this was an entirely different animal. Between one and two heating lamps with an orange glow lit the entire stage, and later a projector helped with the lighting some, but that was it. I have a personal vendetta against flash, especially in the concert setting. I'm not trying to blind the poor people on stage and plus it's usually not allowed, although I will admit that many people have great luck with flash photography even in the concert setting (My friend Marcus, who was the official photographer, uses flash and his shots turned out INCREDIBLY, they literally look like he took them in the 60s and it's fantastic: http://www.marcusmaddox.co/music). For me, though, I just don't use it, so instead I had to get creative and use my beloved prism to bend the light that was next to me in my direction (actually, some of the shots look like I flashed them, but I promise you that is just because I was next to the light, so I had the advantage of a little direct but alas weak lighting).
The first band was Skyway Man, the eclectic musical outfit of James Wallace, and the set really fit the retro vibe. He put on a fun, groovy set that had everyone dancing and smiling (especially the live band members!). Complete with a telephone for a mic and groovy backgrounds, Skyway Man put everyone in an even better mood and quite frankly gave me some of my favorite shots I've ever taken.
After Skyway Man's super-fun set, it was time for the long-awaited HalfNoise set, and my gosh, he did not disappoint. What I noticed the first time I saw him during the Paper Route show is that he has so much ENERGY and so much FUN on stage. If his audience isn't having enough fun, he'll make sure that they are, and it makes for an incredible show. The energy and excitement in the room this time shot through the roof the second he came out. Zac was all smiles (and so was everyone else) during the entire course of the show, and I don't think I've ever seen someone that happy to put on a show. He played a mix of songs from his Sudden Feeling album (my favorite), and then he played the entire new The Velvet Face EP with a little help from everyone who contributed to the collection (yes, everyone!). I've never seen that many people on one stage, let alone on such a small one, but seeing that many people who worked together on something special sharing in that moment and having the time of their lives was more than fulfilling for me as an audience member. The whole room was bathed in elated retro exhilaration for what felt like a period of timelessness. There was something so special about this show, something you can't possibly put into words or even feel secondhand from video footage or seeing photos, you simply had to be there. For a few hours, it was like those of us in the very Lucky Bamboo were the only ones in existence, reveling in a 1960s/70s vibe that made everyone feel a little bit lighter. Zac was simply overjoyed the whole show, and his joy was infectious and transparent.
Absolutely no one wanted the show to end. As everyone left the stage and the restaurant began to settle down, the mood never left but hung warmly in the air, so much so that you could probably touch it. I don't think anyone could have left that show without feeling something. Zac and crew stuck around after the show to greet fans, with Zac eventually leading everyone outside as the restaurant was closing down. Personable and kind, he chatted with fans under the artificial parking lot lights in the thin night air. Sadly I wasn't able to stick around long enough to snag a photo with him (next time!), but I left in very high spirits. This was a dang good show. It was too good. I don't think I'll ever attend another one like it. Congrats to Zac and crew, you were spectacular. Here's to next time!
Also, if you want to pretend that I took these photos in 1968, I'm cool with it.