Even though I don't look the part very much, I've been listening to heavy metal ever since high school; and I was this close to starting my own band, but then life happened and I wasn't ever getting anywhere anyway.
Still, I try to grasp every opportunity I can to see my favourite bands from Europe or the States whenever they visit Tokyo. However, I know shockingly little about the local scene - there are many very skilled musicians in this town; but it's difficult to find out who's hot and who's not. Of course I could always check the internet, but it's not the same as the kind of CD trading we did back in school :).
Last weekend I had the chance to get to know one of the most talented and dedicated guitar players from Japan - and combine both passions of old and new in a single day. I've assisted the staff from Kagoshima-based metal magazine "Kagoshima Rock Fest" during interviews with foreign artists a couple of times; and out of the blue I was asked if I had time to assist their staff for a quick interview with Kelly Simonz's Blind Faith before their "Sign Of The Times" concert at Tokyo Kinema Club. The name might suggest otherwise, but he's actually a Japanese solo guitarist, and the stuff he pulls off has to be seen to be believed. (Seriously. Check out his YouTube channel).
To cut a long story short, I was allowed access to the photo pit for the whole 3 hours set; and had a hell of a time both shooting as well as just listening to the music. This was my first time shooting a show from up close, and while I was afraid of making a million mistakes everything went much better than expected. (There's some excellent hints at ishootshows.com - such as don't forget to shoot the drummer :-)
Watching the moves of the official photographer on stage helped in figuring out angles and not getting in the way of the video crew. Also, as they say, here's where the "knowing your equipment" part comes into play.
I shot the concert with my Fuji X series gear, using the X-T1 with the XF 56mm/F1.2 and the X-E1 with the XF 14mm/2.8. I was curious if the Fujis would hold up to a real world stress test like this, and it's almost anticlimactic how little trouble I had. The older X-E1 has some autofocus issues in the dark, so I stuck the wide angle on it to reduce the amount of focus hunting; and the X-T1 nailed most of the shots without any problems. As usual, quick access to ISO / shutter speed / aperture dials was a lifesaver.
The biggest worry for me was battery life - I made sure to switch off both cameras religiously when not in use; but even so I had to switch batteries for the X-T1 grip in the middle of the concert. Not a big deal, but I think I'll have to get a couple of extra batteries in case I get the chance to shoot some longer events.
On the plus side; the image quality (I shot between ISO 800-3200) I got was excellent; and the lightness of the system really made all the difference for me. I was able to stay around 2 kg with all my gear, while the other photographer on stage was juggling three full frame DSLR bodies.
All in all, it was a very relaxed way to explore concert photography, the photo pit was very roomy and it wasn't the usual "first three songs" rule, so I had all the time to explore different angles and shoot under different lightings; but I can't wait for the next chance to do something like this.
Oh, and one more thing. Next time, I'll bring some ear plugs. If you can feel the bass speaker literally punching through your legs and chest, you're probably a few steps too close :)
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!