Haken’s “North American Fauna Expedition” made its stop at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge last week with support from Arch Echo. It was a night where technical music mastery was on full display. These two bands are no stranger to sudden time signature changes or writing individual songs that run as long as other bands’ EPs. You go to enjoy the music, and you stay to admire the proficiency of the artists performing before you. The crowd knew what they were signing up for, and they packed into LPR as soon as doors opened. ready for their minds to be blown.
I love Le Poisson Rouge. The road to Dangit Bee! started at LPR in 2018 when I got my first photo pass to cover YOB, Bell Witch, and Heavy Temple. I remember how overwhelmed and inexperienced I felt, and I also remember how little it mattered to me because of how happy I was. I knew at that moment that concert photography would be something that I would pursue relentlessly if given the opportunity. And that’s exactly what I did.
Shooting bands at LPR is not easy, at least not in the traditional sense. With a bit of strategy, however, you can get you need. I didn’t know that then, but I certainly know it now, and I’m excited to discuss it.
Arch Echo was one of the last bands I shot prior to the pandemic. I covered their show with Periphery for MetalSucks in late February 2020 and was thoroughly impressed by their musicality then. Seeing them 3 years later, I’m amazed by their evolution and continued ability to create catchy, mind-bending melodies.
Arch Echo opened with “Red Letter” and filled the room with an energy as vibrant as the stage lights that illuminated them. The band was relaxed and interconnected, feeding off of each other and the crowd as they delivered an electrifyingly intimate set. It didn’t feel so much like we were at a show as it did that we were sitting in on one of Arch Echo’s jam sessions. Their setlist included songs old and new, including their most recent single, “Aluminosity.”
Anticipation was high when Haken hit the stage and kicked off the set with “Taurus”, the opening track from their new album, “Fauna.” The band, who were all sporting Fauna-themed button down shirts, played their respective parts with impeccable precision. Towards the end of “Taurus”, an effect on drummer Raymond Hearne’s snare was causing a rumble of feedback. The band stopped, fixed it, counted the song in and picked it back up in perfect unison. It was super impressive. These is no denying that these guys are serious pros.
Like many of my more recent artist discoveries, I first heard Haken while listening to Spotify’s “All New Metal” Playlist. “Sempiternal Beings” is the song that got me hooked, and I’ve been enjoying exploring their extensive discography ever since. The band’s setlist included plenty of songs from the new album, of which I was most familiar, but included a number of old tracks as well, including their 17-minute epic, “Celestial Elixr.”
The “North American Fauna Expedition” continues through the top of June, wrapping up at Chicago’s Concord Music Hall on June 3rd.
The intimacy of Le Poisson Rouge is one of the things I like most about the venue, and it is also what makes shooting photos there a bit challenging without utilizing a bit of strategy.
Given the lack of photo pit, you can choose to arrive early and plant yourself in front of the stage to free yourself of any obstruction. You’ll quickly realize that being at the front of the stage almost feels like you’re on the stage in terms of closeness, and it can be a challenge to shoot comfortably without using a wide lens. I rented a 15-35mm lens to have on hand just in case. However, when I came downstairs to the live room, there was already a sizable crowd which prevented any possibility of a front-of-stage vantage point. I’d need a different approach.
In lieu of a pit, LPR allows photographers side stage access, so I decided to start there. These vantage points require some patience, as you’ll primarily be shooting the band members’ profiles. I tried to focus on someone, wait for them to step away from the mic or turn their head or body towards me, and then grab my shots. Given that there was no 3-song limit, I had plenty of time to wait for the right moments. Still, there were certain compositions that I just could not achieve from the side of the stage no matter how long I waited. So into the crowd I went.
In the rear of the stage-right side of the room, there is an elevated seating area. Depending on how full this space is, this area can serve as a valuable vantage point to shoot over the audience without having to hold your camera over your head. Thanks to a few kind folks seated in this area, I was able to borrow some space to get shots using my 70-200mm lens.
Making my way onto the floor, I bounced around and tried to grab as many options as possible. The columns in the room provided a challenge due to their obstruction of the view of the stage, but they also provided an opportunity by giving me a surface on which to position my camera so that I could shoot with one hand and avoid blocking anyone’s view.
I also found the stairs leading up to the sound board to be a helpful vantage point. It required a bit of flexibility to shoot around the sound board and increased in difficulty the higher that I went up the stairs. By finding the right balance (literally), I was actually able to get some solid shots.
The information I’m sharing is niche in its specificity – helpful if you’re covering a show at LPR and seemingly irrelevant if you’re not – so let me try and tie this up in a broader sense: for every venue there is an approach that ensures, or at least increases, the likelihood of success. In some instances, your photos will be served to you on a platter – a big photo pit, access to multiple vantage points, etc. In other instances, you’ll have to work for it. And you may feel overwhelmed, or you may feel inexperienced, but you’ll figure it out with practice. Just have fun and the photos will come.