Alt-rockers Bush played a sold out show at The Paramount in Huntington, NY this past Sunday. The tour, which is in support of the band’s latest album, “The Art of Survival”, featured an opening set from Devora, the proclaimed “Goth Dolly Parton”.
This was my first time seeing Bush live but it was decades away from the first time I’d listened to them. When I started making the transition from cassettes to CDs (aging myself here), there was a period of time where I had only two albums on CD: Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and Bush’s “Sixteen Stone.” Thankfully, it wasn’t just the lack of selection that caused me to play these albums on repeat; I loved them both and still do. I also love Bush’s follow-up to “Sixteen Stone”, “Razorblade Suitcase”, and thanks to “An American Werewolf in Paris”, I listened to the Stingray remix of “Mouth” and the rest of the “Deconstructed” album on repeat for quite some time.
The fanship story continues, but suffice it to say that it’s been a long road from becoming a fan to finally seeing them live; a road that was almost impassible in the final miles due to flooding from three days of torrential downpours. But more on that later. Let’s talk about the show!
Going into Devora’s set, I knew only of her “Gothic Dolly Parton” title and not much else. Yet, that was really all I needed to know to be very intrigued. Devora took the stage after an intro from her two-piece backing band and a Wild West narration that further added to her sinister mystique. The trio then opened with “Not Dead Yet”, the breakout single from her 2020 debut album of the same name.
Devora draws an interesting contrast with the darkness of her lyrical themes that flow through the band’s catchy, upbeat melodies. Like whiskey-flavored bubblegum, Devora is not the kind of sweetness you’d expect, but her voice is intoxicating all the same.
As the crew sound checked for Bush’s set, I stared at the band’s logo on Nik Hughes’ kick drum head, letting it sink in that I’d finally be seeing them live. Given my immense love of 90s rock, it is surprising how many pivotal acts from that era are still sitting on my bucket list waiting to be checked off. Better late than never, and for Bush it’s far from too late.
While I amicably refer to Bush as 90s rock, they are so much more. Since the band’s reformation in 2010 the band has released five albums, the latest of which being “The Art of Survival” released last year.
Bush opened their set with the crunchingly distorted “Identity”, frontman Gavin Rossdale dancing as he criss-crossed the stage and delivered his signature vocals. As if the power of “Identity” didn’t amp up the crowd enough, when Rossdale grabbed his guitar and the band launched into “Machinehead”, the crowd went hysterical. I did too in my own subdued way, singing along to every word while hidden behind my camera.
Admittedly, I was not overly familiar with Bush’s two most recent albums going into the set, but their performance made it abundantly clear that I have been missing out. Songs like “Heavy Are The Ocean” are exactly that: heavy and crashing yet still at all the right moments. Fans experienced “Flowers on a Grave” in a very personal way as Gavin Rossdale sang the song in its entirety while making his way from the last row of the room all the way back to the stage, taking moments to interact, belt out some notes, and keep moving.
Though full of new material, Bush’s set revisited their classic debut album a few times throughout the night, including a starlight rendition of “Glycerine”, which I’m quite certain was recorded by the phones of every single person in the crowd. Still clearly creative and inspired, Bush shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The story of this gig starts not from the photo pit, but from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Sunday was day three of nonstop rain in the city. And while I had added in some extra time to drive out to Huntington, I had a bad feeling when my expected drive time on Google Maps increased slowly before turning yellow, and then red. Must be a wreck, I thought. Rain and NYC traffic don’t mix well so it wouldn’t be a surprise.
It was then that a blinking traffic sign noted that the road ahead was impassible due to flash flooding, and a detour was required. Mind you, water was still pouring from the sky at this point, and for whatever reason everyone in New York had decided this to be the most opportune time to go out for a drive. In other words, it was chaos. So I detoured. Sat in traffic. Detoured some more. More traffic, until eventually the sea of cars parted and I was left with rain as the only obstacle.
Somehow, some way, my one hour-turned two hour drive brought me to The Paramount with just enough time to get up the stairs and to the pit before the show started. The stage design for the evening limited the space in the pit, so we were advised to shoot from “anywhere else”. Challenge accepted.
I started Devora’s set from the crowd, making my way from one side of the stage to the other and back again, before making my way upstairs to try shooting from the side balconies. This area proved to be perfect, as I could shoot comfortably and unobstructed without being an obstruction myself.
I decided that I would use back button focusing for the entire evening and was surprised at how quickly I adapted once I committed to it. I want to give it a few more goes before I can provide an educated comparison of the experience, but I can definitely see this becoming my primary approach.
Bush started their set with an epic drum intro from Nik Hughes that was accompanied by sudden and intense light transitions. Thanks to back button focusing, these transitions had no effect on my shooting – I locked in the focus once and that was that.
I had managed to move my way to within a few feet of the barrier on the stage right and it served as a perfect spot to get my shots, including this one:
I don’t know what it is about this photo, or whether it speaks to you or not, but I love it. I might go as far as to say that it’s one of my favorite concert photos that I’ve taken. I’m sure that’s at least in part due to the photo being of an artist that I’ve been listening to for a very long time. Either way, it’s a keeper.
I made my way to the spot in the balcony that I liked and shot there for a few songs, then went to the back of the room to watch and enjoy the show. The intention was short lived, however, as I had my camera back out before I knew it and it stayed out until the end of the show. Sometimes I forget how to enjoy a concert without also trying to capture it with my camera. I’m always looking for the next shot. I wouldn’t have it any other way.