Music Matters Live! (First attempt at concert photography)

Music Matters Live with HP, is a three-night music festival featuring over 50 bands from more than 20 countries performing over 160 shows around Clarke Quay over three nights…with no admission cost!

And boy, was it a simply fabulous affair! The event was streamed live on YouTube even though the Social Star Awards was on-going at the same time on 2 of the nights (less than 3km away) and also live on YouTube. While the Social Star Awards was a bigger event with more media coverage than Music Matters Live, it wasn’t a non-ticketed, free affair! The most important thing for me, though, was that Music Matters Live had something the Social Star Awards didn’t have… Japanese rock bands!

Second day, at the Fountain Stage - J-rock segment!

Second day, at the Fountain Stage – J-rock segment!

I’ve heard of flumpool before, since I listen to Japanese radio hits. SID, however, I’m very familiar with, because they sing a few of the theme songs for some of the animes that I watch. I decided to attend this part of the event just to catch them performing live, and hopefully try to take some good shots. I’ve never been fond of low-light photography, and couple that with a lot of movements and crazy lighting that will never stay constant, I immediately had the feeling that concert photography is a seriously fun and challenging genre of photography I wanted to attempt. (And if I ever get frustrated with the camera settings or my unfortunate position in the crowd, just relax and enjoy the performance!)

flumpool was due to come on at 9pm, so I thought arriving at 8+ after having dinner was going to be sufficiently early to get myself a good spot. I was so wrong! Turns out that more than half the concert mob at the Fountain Stage had been there since 6 or 7pm and waaaaiting for the J-rock segment. I wasn’t the least upset, though, ‘cos I quickly found myself a good spot at the stage side and right up against the crowd barrier. Also, if anything, I was so happy that the Japanese music scene in Singapore was getting a very good response, better than past years :)

So here’s my first concert photography shot!

dub fx was onstage when I arrived. You could easily guess his genre of music from his stage name :)  Dude's from Australia and he's really entertaining all by himself!

dub fx was onstage when I arrived. You could easily guess his genre of music from his stage name :) Dude’s from Australia and he’s really entertaining all by himself!

I quickly started trying to ascertain if the settings I’d set on my camera before leaving my house was good enough. Can’t remember how long I took, but eventually I figured it all out. Oh, all my photos this evening were shot with a 50mm lens on autofocus and manual mode. I must say (or brag!) that the Sony NEX has fantastic low-light high-ISO management. Due to my distance from the performers, my limited focal length and props/stage crew blocking my way, I have had to crop some of my shots when I got home to my computer, but the visible noise on the images are still very acceptable. So glad of my decision to get this camera over everything else as my first upgrade from a point-and-shoot compact camera!

The Chairman, from Taiwan. A 4-man band, they upscale traditional Chinese opera music into pop rock that everyone can appreciate (complete with showy costumes and face paint!)

The Chairman, from Taiwan. A 4-man band, they upscale traditional Chinese opera music into pop rock that everyone can appreciate (complete with showy costumes and face paint!)

I started to convince myself that my position was great enough for a casual concert-goer; it was really the next best thing to being able to walk around freely within the barricades as the media/press people did. I didn’t manage to get a spot right in front of the stage, so I could almost never get any shots of the guitarist who’s usually on the other side of the stage from where I stood (not to mention the drummer who sits right at the back of the stage, cluttered by amplifiers and stage crew and stuff) and I figured that most of my shots would need to be cropped during post-processing to take away the clutter. With my trusty new monopod (that I’d bought just an hour before getting there), I stood patiently waiting for the right composition to come into my fixed-position frame, quickly fine-tune the settings, and press the shutter. When flumpool finally come onstage, I was settled enough to also be able to rock it out with the rest of the crowd and enjoy the performance.

flumpool came off, and it was another long wait before SID was due onstage. Their personal stage crew had so much to do before the band could come onstage, so I spent the time cheering and singing along with the rest of the (mostly-female) crowd. When they finally got on, though, we all knew it was a good wait.

Here comes the fun part. I realised that Aki liked to jump that typical rockstar-guitarist/bassist jump (legs apart and bent back while in the air during a critical part of a song, I’m sure you know what I mean) so I hurried to change my shutter to continuous. I decided to give it a go just to see if it was going to work the way it did, even though Aki wasn’t in my frame, and this was what I got:

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I never managed to catch Aki’s jump but getting Mao’s spin-jump was an enjoyable surprise!

When SID was done, the venue emptied really fast. Initially I’d thought it was sad that not many wanted to stay behind to support the rest of the performances at the Fountain Stage for that night, but later it dawned on me that many on them had rushed to get to the Beer Market ‘cos that’s where another J-rock band, Weaver,¬† was due to perform just a while later. And after that, more flumpool and SID! I had to get home so I didn’t stay, but I certainly went home with a lot of good memories of the event. My first time using a monopod, first time renting a lens (the 50mm Olympus OM that I have can’t autofocus on my camera, so I chose to rent a 50mm that was made for the NEX system), first time being at a free performance of J-rock bands that I’m familiar with, first time testing the ISO limits of my NEX, and most importantly, first time attempting concert photography. Or maybe, even more importantly, first time being part of a huge J-rock-loving crowd that knew the lyrics to the songs, and singing along with the band! Music Matters Live was an amazing event; I wonder who they’d bring to perform in the Japanese segment next year?

I hope you enjoyed my photographs! I’d love to hear your comments/critiques, so do leave them below or at the respective images’ pages!

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