hopeless thunder
Photo Pit Etiquette: YouTuber Ben Brown Edition
By Nancy Hoang | July 22, 2014 | Posted Under: Concert Photography, Opinion  

It’s much more helpful when the only credentialed photographers in the pit are those taking the ten minutes seriously. I was watching a vlog (as you do) from UK YouTuber Ben Brown when I noticed some behavior that deeply annoyed me as a concert photographer. In exactly what is 54 seconds in a nearly 12-minute video, I first noticed that Ben Brown and Co. are at an outdoor music festival, undoubtedly meaning that the photo pit will be packed to the brim with photographers. In any concert setting, there are two types of photographers: the proper well-seasoned concert photogs and people like Ben Brown. In festival situations like these where the spot you’re standing in the photo pit will most likely be where you’ll remain for the allotted ten minutes of shooting time, it’s much more helpful when the only credentialed photographers in the pit are those taking the ten minutes seriously.

It’s no surprise that what I deem as inappropriate behavior in a photo pit came from people who are not well-versed in proper photo pit etiquette. This group of five very influential content creators and social media pros are all well respected in their own fields. Ben Brown, the vlogger of this video, is an accomplished kayaker and YouTuber. His mate Steve Booker is a London fashion blogger. Rounding out the group are notable Instagrammers Tyson Wheatley, Timothy McGurr, and Rishad Daroo. While I’m not questioning their abilities to capture beautiful photographs in a concert setting, I do question some of their ability to assess a situation and behave appropriately.

I just wish they realized that because no other photographers in the pit seem to be dancing to Big Boi and André 3000, perhaps they shouldn’t either.

At 8:35 in the video, the set hasn’t even started and yet the photo pit is packed, albeit less packed than the actual fans behind the barricade. I don’t mind Mr. Brown vlogging at this moment. Nothing has started yet, no harm done. It’s at 9:17 that my issue comes into play. Tyson (left) and Steve (right) are seen dancing merrily to OutKast (and why wouldn’t they? It’s freaking OutKast!) but behind them, are a plethora of photographers not daring to look away from the stage because a concert photographer is only allowed so many songs to shoot — three to be exact. I’m then further annoyed when Mr. Brown turns the camera on himself and is also dancing merrily along.

We only see less than a minute of their experience in the pit so I don’t know how they acted for the remaining time. I get it. Trust me I do. Vlogging is Ben Brown’s job and he needs to record these moments as well as record himself in these moments. And with this being a sponsored trip from Canadian Tourism Commission, these guys need to look like they’re having a bloody awesome time and they need to get content to share through their own social media feeds. I just wish they realized that because no other photographers in the pit seem to be dancing to Big Boi and André 3000, perhaps they shouldn’t either. And you know what? Maybe I’m completely wrong! We only see less than a minute of their experience in the pit so I don’t know how they acted for the remaining time. I’ll never know if they focused on getting their shots and stayed out of other photographer’s ways. Perhaps I’m a little insane and too hyperaware of minute distractions that probably don’t bother other people as much?

What I do know however is that this behavior is not what I like to see in a photo pit as a photographer myself. And if I were a fan who had queued up for hours to get a front row spot? I would be pissed! And I know that because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been surrounded by unprofessional photographers and I’ve had my view blocked by far reaching cameras on either side of the barricade.

So maybe next time any of you find yourselves lucky enough to be credentialed and given access to a festival photo pit, take into consideration those around you.

Blog: Ed Sheeran Surprise Show @ The Paramount (7/5)
By Nancy Hoang | July 8, 2014 | Posted Under: Blog, Concert Reviews, Photos  


I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen Porto Fino get so much business in just roughly two hours. For anyone not familiar with the layout of Long Island’s Huntington Village, Porto Fino is an Italian restaurant just across from the town’s concert venue, The Paramount. And on this past Saturday evening in Huntington, it was like witnessing a much smaller scaled millennial-filled Beatlemania and I was just too old for their enthusiasm.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Netherlands and Costa Rica had just went into extra time when I received a screenshot of Ed Sheeran’s tweet that he was in my town from my friend (who actually is an Ed Sheeran fan) in New Jersey. It was in that moment that I had to make a decision that would catastrophically determine the rest of my Saturday night. It was a real “To be or not to be…” moment, I’ll tell you that. Alas, I ended up missing penalties and opted for eating garlic knots while in the queue for spontaneous Ed Sheeran tickets. I ended up befriending some hardcore Ed fans who turned out to be 11 years old and already much taller than I am—this ended up in her favor as her tall stature completely blocked my view for most of the show. Thank god for projection screens, right?

“But even more impressed—and appreciative—was Ed Sheeran himself who made it a point to thank The Paramount for putting the show together” Swarms of teenage fans were running from all directions to get in line for Ed’s spontaneous show and it was no surprise that he filled up the entire venue. And the security, by golly, they were just amazing at making sure this last minute queue was efficiently running. The amount of people wrapped around the block was insane and yet these security guards had that shit controlled. Even the exasperated parents who had rushed to get their kids to the venue were impressed with the way The Paramount staff were running this show. But even more impressed—and appreciative—was Ed Sheeran himself who made it a point to thank The Paramount for putting the show together, but more so he thanked the staff. He stated that they decided to put on this show at 6:22pm and it ended up running so smoothly (even if Ed started the show at 9:40). And in proper well-mannered English fashion, Ed Sheeran gave a round of applause for all of the venue staff and security who came from their homes and barbecues on such short notice. Ugh, what a cheeky gem.

Ed performed solo onstage and whether or not that’s how he usually performs, I wouldn’t know. What I do know however is that a one man show starring Ed Sheeran will surely be spectacular—and in a smaller venue like The Paramount? Well it’s just even better. It was stunning to see Ed Sheeran performing live and the lack of extra frills and distracting effects made it greater. And if he wanted the crowd to go quiet, it would go quiet without question. During “I See Fire,” it was eerily silent despite a few angry shhs from serious fans. But during his more popular songs like “Give Me Love” and “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” it was like a freaking sing-a-long in the venue.

As someone who has only ever heard snippets of Ed Sheeran’s songs from TV shows like The Vampire Diaries (that ball scene with Damon and Elena? You know what I mean), seeing him perform in this way became a serious perspective change. I had always known him as that funny ginger on Twitter that was also friends with One Direction and T. Swift but I never really knew him as anything more than that. (And purely because I never put in the effort to research him.) But after seeing Ed Sheeran perform live, it’s no doubt that the immense amount of talent this man has is just amazing. Between his captivating looped vocals and his adorable British charm, his performance at The Paramount just won me over.

At one point during the show, Ed said that he hopes to come back to the Paramount for many more shows. I hope he does too.

Glasslands: NYC Venues Broken Down
By Emily Korn | July 5, 2014 | Posted Under: Concert Photography  

 Photography by Emily Korn

As a part of our Concert Photography series, we’ve previously listed all the New York City concert venues categorizing them based on whether or not those venues had photo pits. Now for this next installment, we’ll be breaking down specific venues and including our personal experiences.

Glasslands is a hipster mecca and a music lover’s delight. For years it has featured some of the hottest and most buzzed about artists (moreover, it has proven it’s cool quota through pop culture cameos in shows like Girls). It has also morphed its spaces to accommodate larger crowds and kept current with new light installations and sound systems.

What this means, from a photographer’s perspective is a few things. First, and foremost, be prepared for a low level of light. The establishment used to house a cloud of orange and yellow tones, which (serving as a backlight) made an act seem like they were surrounded by an aura of fire. As seasons changed, these lights were replaced by a cooler shade of blue, housed in tubes and positioned above the stage. While, I’ve never been an advocate of flash photography when dealing with live performance, I rarely cover shows here without coming equipped for the possibility of using one.

The space used to be fairly confined, but has opened up a bit (there is a small balcony, and if you’re lucky enough to nab a spot later in the night, you’re guaranteed great shots, especially as/if the crow gets rowdy).

Overall, this is one of my top recommendations for any photographer looking to start photographing shows in New York City. Here you’ll usually have the leeway to move around freely, use a DSLR, and fire a flash (everything in moderation). If you’re lucky enough, you may also catch the band members loitering near the stage after the show—which could make for some unique portrait opportunities (just remember to be gracious and respectful of the artist if you’re looking to approach them).

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July Playlist
By Nancy Hoang | July 4, 2014 | Posted Under: Blog, Playlist  

july 2014

Track List:
1. Love Someone – Jason Mraz
2. Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
3. Berlin – New Politics
4. Thnks fr th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy
5. Ain’t It Fun – Paramore
6. Coming of Age – Foster The People
7. River (Acoustic) – LIGHTS
8. Paradise – City and Colour
9. 1957 – Milo Greene
10. Everybody Knows – Vacationer
11. Cherry Licorice – The Felice Brothers
12. Riff Jam – Sea Monsters
13. Melody Calling – The Vaccines
14. Never Gonna Change – Broods
15. Hurricane – MS MR

Happy Fourth of July everyone! May your independence day be fun filled with fireworks (if it’s legal in your state), barbecue, and Firecracker popsicles. My childhood Fourth of July’s were always spent on the rooftop of the local Macy’s with my family watching the fireworks displays and they’ll always be fond memories of mine. And now that I’m older, the joy I get out of the Fourth of July comes from being able to see the excitement and awe in other people’s faces watching fireworks and especially in the younger members of my family.

Growing up, especially with my sense of cynicism and instinct to question everything, I’ve developed a way of seeing the world in a very critical light. With the news always sensationalizing the bad in the world, it becomes so easy to forget all of the wonderful things that exist out there and it’s even easy to forget to appreciate the wonderful things in my own life. I’m constantly looking to the future and planning ahead, and that’s good because I don’t think it’s healthy to live in the past but as cliché as it is to say and even worse to acknowledge, I often forget to step back and appreciate where I am in the present and how great the world around me is. And so that’s why holidays like the Fourth of July are so near and dear to me. Spending time with my loved ones and being able to watch them experience the same amazements I did as a child brings me back down to Earth. And I think that everyone needs that reminder from time to time: what’s ahead for you in the future can wait — at least until the fireworks are over.

Blog: Fall Out Boy @ PNC Bank Arts Center (7/28)
By Nancy Hoang | July 2, 2014 | Posted Under: Blog, Concert Reviews, Videos  

This past weekend I was in New Jersey visiting my friends Aline and Kayla whom I haven’t seen in almost two months! Since the three of us are all attending different universities now, the few times that we do get to catch up and reunion are that much sweeter. We actually bought these tickets months in advance and I almost ended up missing the concert altogether because my brother’s graduation was earlier that day. Luckily, I made it over to New Jersey in time for lunch with my best friends and we made it to the venue in a timely fashion.

I’m glad we got to the venue at the time that we did because the queue was already so long but worst of all, the parking lot was in the middle of nowhere! I don’t know what the hell is up with the PNC Bank Arts Center’s parking system but first of all, I don’t think teenagers should be in charge of whatever parking system this venue has in place. If you look like you can’t drive, I am not going to take directions from you. Secondly, I haven’t the faintest idea where we parked but it was not on pavement and we had to walk along the highway just to get to the venue. On the way home after the show, the amount of people walking to the disjointed parking lot area was like the Great Migration! At that time of night and in the middle of traffic, I will never understand how the person in charge of this set up can think that is safe.

“If you look like you can’t drive, I am not going to take directions from you.”

Safety concerns aside, the concert was amazing. It was a beautiful day and we had lawn seats so we plopped down on a spacious sheet on the grass. It was a pretty spectacular setting for some prime people watching. (I think we spotted 13 flower crowns!) New Politics opened the show and they were great as always. I think Saturday was my fourth time seeing them live so it was really great to be able relax to some familiar tunes.

Paramore were whatever. I don’t really know what my feelings are in regards to this band anymore. I enjoyed them back in middle school (especially when MTV was still playing music videos!). But now, I just kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear or read something about them. They kickstarted off their set with a lot of throwbacks which was really nice. I think they closed their set with “Ain’t It Fun” and it was actually really catchy and pleasant to sing along to. Sitting where we did on the lawn, by the time everyone decided to stand up, the only way we could see was from watching the projector screens on both sides of the stage. Maybe halfway through Paramore’s set, I was done with looking at Haley Williams’ face. While everyone else in the venue enjoyed Paramore, they’re just not my cup of tea anymore.

“I don’t think I will ever turn down a Fall Out Boy performance or ever not enjoy one either.” Fall Out Boy closed out the show and I’m really glad they did because their lighting set up could only be fully experienced in the dark. They had maybe six smaller screens set up behind them onstage which would all play different videos simultaneously. I appreciated the fact that the camera for the bigger projection screens wasn’t focused on just Patrick Stump the whole time. I enjoyed being able to watch all four members of the band perform. I don’t think I will ever turn down a Fall Out Boy performance or ever not enjoy one either. They’re amazing performers and their songs hit so close to home for me. I didn’t take too many photos or videos since the day was really about having a fun time with my friends but I managed to pull together some clips I took throughout the show in the video above.

Shed Sessions: Shannon Saunders: “Creatures”
By Nancy Hoang | June 23, 2014 | Posted Under: New Tracks, Track Reviews, Videos  

As a part of what JacksGap call a “new strand of content,” the Harries twins have released this acoustic performance video of “Creatures” by Shannon Saunders. For their Shed Sessions series, the filmmaking duo are exploring one of their greatest passions: music. Notably different from their usual type of YouTube content, “Creatures” sees Jack and Finn Harries delving into a more artistic approach with their videos rather than the “vlogger norm” of sitting in front of a camera. It’s a nice change and showcases the variety and skill that these brothers have for artistic endeavors.

Not only does this Shed Session show off the creative aspirations of Jack & Finn but most importantly of the performer herself, Shannon Saunders. The English musician has in the past produced more polished pop songs (as heard on her iTunes page) but in today’s post, we hear her stripped down to nothing but her crystalline voice and a guitar. As the title of the series suggest, Saunders performs acoustically while sitting in a London shed and manages to perform beautifully in a setting that would make myself claustrophobic. Her light, singsong voice is breathtaking and easily enraptures listeners into a world of vivid imagery created with Saunders’ own lyricism. The airiness in her voice is reminiscent of Daughter’s Elena Tonra while also have the same foreboding quality in her singing voice. “Creatures” is simply beautiful and if the mp3 is not enough for you, watch Shannon Saunders perform the song in the video below.


Actually, the Seaport Music Festival Requires Photo Passes
By Nancy Hoang | June 20, 2014 | Posted Under: Concert Photography, Opinion  

I want to make it very clear to any aspiring/established photographers that in order to photograph a show during one the Seaport Music Festival, one must be credentialed with a photo pass. Now it may sound as if I’m responding to something, and I am. I received an email today insinuating that photo passes are not necessary for these Seaport shows and that photo passes are “stupid.” No, no. That is not the case. How wrong you are dear sir.

Photo by Cory Smith
Photo by Cory Smith
I think my biggest gripe with this comment is that I know how important being given a photo pass is for concert photographers. First, it gives you the ability to go into a venue that most likely has a ban on DSLR cameras. Secondly, having access to the photo pit is probably the best thing for a concert photographer behind ideal lighting. The photo pit has no fans in it. It’s empty and most times large enough to allow a plethora of photographers to walk around enabling them the chance to experiment with angles and perspectives that you wouldn’t be able to get from anywhere else in the venue. And my own personal reason for understanding the importance of a photo pass is that it proves that whoever granted you that sticky little piece of fabric trusts you and your ability to create compelling images in a timespan of about nine minutes, and under unpredictable circumstances.

So no, I don’t think photo passes are stupid. They allow us concert photographers the chance to record a moment in time, maximizing our own creative perspectives, for a discipline in photography that I think is very undervalued. Moreover any outlet that wants the best coverage of a show should put in the effort of writing up an email to get their reviewer a photo pass should they desire it and/or have the equipment to do so.

“They allow us concert photographers the chance to record a moment in time, maximizing our own creative perspectives, for a discipline in photography that I think is very undervalued.”

It’s also worth noting that the space between the stage and the audience in this photo is pretty freaking big. Security guards exist for a reason. Not any Tom, Dick and Harry can waltz on in there, otherwise the barricade wouldn’t be there in the first place. (Go attend a show at Bowery Ballroom if that’s the case.) So unless your reviewer/photographer (who has no photo credentials) brought a zoom lens with them, good luck getting decent photos from that far back. Also I hope that person is either front row or tall enough to not be blocked by other concert-goers. But then again, who can debate the power in an iPhone’s zoom capability.

Just because a show is free, it does not mean that photo passes are any less important or not worth the effort of obtaining.

Music Video: Handsome Ghost: “Blood Stutter”
By Nancy Hoang | June 19, 2014 | Posted Under: New Tracks, Track Reviews, Videos  

It’s been a while since I’ve heard any news from my beloved Aunt Martha and now I understand why: Tim Noyes has gone off and started making electro-pop under the guise Handsome Ghost! Well butter my butt and call me Biscuit, what?! Apparently I’m late to the party because Handsome Ghost has been a long time coming but even with the moniker change, listening to “Blood Stutter” will reassure old fans that this is the lyrical work of Tim Noyes. His first single as Handsome Ghost has already amassed over a million plays on Spotify and it’s only growing. He’s also already released a four track EP if you can believe that. And the music video to “Blood Stutter”? It’s part of a trilogy, nbd.

Tim Noyes has been busy for the past year to say the least. Months were spent writing and recording at the Color Study studio in Vermont and I’m so happy to hear that all that effort has paid off. “Blood Stutter” is gorgeously ethereal—but not in the chemistry sense of the word! We’re not talking Grignard reagents here; we’re talking beautifully textured electronic music that almost makes us forgive the usage of auto-tune. Mix that with a music video (not starring Jake McDorman from Shameless) that makes almost no sense, and you’ve got a hit. (We’re waiting for the entire trilogy to be released before we retract that statement.)


Live Video: Drowners at KEXP Studios
By Nancy Hoang | June 18, 2014 | Posted Under: Videos  

“That was fun!” exclaims Seattle KEXP host Cheryl Waters at the end of Drowners’ live performance. Great commentary Cheryl. It was great, really. But if you’re like me and want to ignore her voice, feel free to skip from 3:48-6:23.

The New York band stopped by the Seattle radio station to play some tracks (which also happen to be my favorite) from their self-titled debut album. Great things are on the way for Drowners, with having played this past Governor’s Ball, their UK tour is already under way, and they’ve just announced that they’ll be playing at Reading and Leeds. Their takeover is really just beginning and I see a bright future for the band. And there’s no better proof than the lovely performance recorded above at KEXP. Maybe the reason why I disliked listening to Cheryl Waters speak so much is because I just really wanted to hear Drowners play? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Also! Drowners will be playing a free show in Montauk at Surf Lodge on July 19th!

Drowners is Matt Hitt, Jack Ridley, Erik Snyder, Joe Brodie.


Mercury Lounge: NYC Venues Broken Down
By Emily Korn | June 13, 2014 | Posted Under: Concert Photography  

As a part of our Concert Photography series, we’ve previously listed all the New York City concert venues categorizing them based on whether or not those venues had photo pits. Now for this next installment, we’ll be breaking down specific venues and including our personal experiences.

 Photography by Emily Korn

I was recently asked by a publicist to name my favorite, and least favorite, venues to shoot in New York City. Candidly, I answered that my least favorite was probably Mercury Lounge (I say candid because the show I was shooting through her agency was being held at that venue later in the evening).

I’d been going to Mercury Lounge for a year or two before I actually began photographing shows. As a patron, the venue always seems a little claustrophobic (the walls constantly feel like they’re closing in as the ceiling hovers closer to the floor with every passing moment). Shows never seemed to be well lit and the sound was always off. Granted things have changed over the years as different lighting and sound technicians have come and gone, the overall atmosphere hasn’t.

“Photographing at Mercury Lounge is, and probably always will be, a challenge.”

“If a show is sold out, expect to be flush against the stage taking shots of musicians in what often seem to be unflattering angles.” Photographing at Mercury Lounge is, and probably always will be, a challenge. For starters, the venue is 21 and up (don’t look to gain access to any event if you’re under that age, unless you’re just visiting the Bowery Presents Box Office, located inside the Lounge). At shows that aren’t sold out, you can expect a 5 foot gap between the stage and the audience (that’s how intimidating the intimacy of this venue is). It’s nice for a photographer, in this instance, to have free reign to capture different vantage points (though if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to squat down to avoid feeling like the center of everyone’s attention–you’re probably the only moving object in front of them with any consistency). If a show is sold out, expect to be flush against the stage taking shots of musicians in what often seems to be unflattering angles (again, plan to arrive at doors if you want one of these coveted spots). Your ISO will stay high and your aperture low as you struggle to find your footing at Mercury Lounge.

My scathing review may not hold true for all photographers, but I’ve gotten the impression that many of us try to avoid the venue unless we’re there to do pre-show portraits (especially with the rising competition in Williamsburg for better venues—Baby’s Alright and Glasslands). Every once in a while the venue will play host to artists that are not to be missed (Katy Perry, The Strokes, The National, etc.), and in these instances there may be the venue’s only redeeming quality.

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