Shooting Nationally Touring Bands At An Outdoor Festival

September 20, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Panorama view of Thievery Festival at Half Street in Washington, D.C.

Thievery Corporation @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12 My third assignment for DC Music Download brought me to the Half Street Fairgrounds right next to Nationals Park for a festival with six bands, three of them being big national acts, and two of them are bands I really like and have been listening to for some time. So you can only image my excitement! So how was my experience?
First of all most of the show was during the daylight hours, so with the shade of the staging the lighting was decent, but there wasn't any punch from dramatic lighting until the sun went down. The "press pit" was a narrow strip between the barricade holding back the crowd, and a long row of sub woofers and the stage. As pictured on the right, there were quite a few photographers in this strip. 
Press pit at the Thievery Festival at Half Street Fairgrounds in Washington, D.C. I lost two lens caps and briefly lost my memory card wallet with all the memory cards in it here! I almost had a heart attack!

This was my biggest show that I got to photograph, but I also had to write a show review for DMD.
 
Gogol Bordello @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12

 

Thievery Corporation at The Fairground presented an impeccable reverence and love for D.C. local music, with an added bonus of two very energetic bands Gogol Bordello and Michael Franti & Spearhead. The crowd was 21 and over, but that’s where the commonality ended. The age range spread far and wide-and from all walks of life; some show-goers paraded in their crafty tie-dye attire, some dressed to the nines, and others in more eccentric getups. 

Congo Sanchez @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12 The festival kicked-off with Congo Sanchez’ brazen Afro-Cuban and Haitian rhythms. First taking the lead on vocals, he progressed later to having guest vocalists singing over his beats, helping to switch the tone and mood of the set.  Sanchez’s set transitioned over to The Funk Ark, a band that mixes afrobeat with big band funk. With a horn  section, guitarists, bass, percussion and keyboards, their full sound swept the Fairgrounds.

 

The stage later took a more of a mellow vibe thereafter, with The Archives’ soulful reggae that carried onto the evening. By this point of the day, people had started dancing uninhibitedly 
Crowd @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12 in the open spaces of the fairgrounds, and there was even a small group who danced with hoola hoops. When Michael Franti & Spearhead came onstage, everyone darted back to the front. Their set was all about the fans.
The Funk Ark @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12
Michael Franti & Spearhead @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12 There were several instances where the crowd was brought up onstage, and at one point two lucky fans were given guitars to jam with the band during one of the songs. Afterwards, Franti went out into the crowd and played his guitar and sang amongst his fans. Beach balls began to surface among the crowd, bringing his light-hearted and feel-good music full circle. The crowd finally reached what seemed to be a critical mass,
ushering in what was inevitably going to be two high-energy acts, especially the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. Mixing elements of punk, gypsy music and cabaret, the band put on one of their most bold performances. At one point, lead singer Eugene Hütz tried to stand on one of the bouncer’s shoulders, and none too pleased, the bouncer to tried throw Hütz to the ground. Before anything overtly dramatic happened, Hütz managed to wiggle free, and kept the show going without skipping a beat. Gogol Bordello @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12
Thievery Corporation @ Half St Fairgrounds 9.15.12 Finally, the main attraction was here: Thievery Corporation. The band took up the entire real estate of the stage, with their bass heavy music and the sweet sounds of trip hop, acid jazz, bossa nova and classical Indian.  There were several performers that came on-and-off the stage, keeping everyone on their toes and not knowing what to expect next, yet still smoothly transitioning from song to song. Without a doubt, the festival was possibly the best thing that has hit D.C. all summer. The event was a reflective moment, and proud moment. There will always be the skeptics that will doubt any community’s music scene, with D.C. being no-exception. The festival brought to light just the tip of the iceberg of what has come out of the gate in the District, and the amount of diversity and color that it has. For those that disagree, it seems to be a hard theory to prove with an event like this.

This Saturday (9.22.12) I will be at the Rock & Roll Hotel in DC covering Matthew E. White, GEMS (formerly Birdlips), and Tigertronic for DC Music Download


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