Myspace Music favorites Metro Station sailed through a quick 25-minute performance at the Pageant, the first of three bands opening in support of Motion City Soundtrack. The young four-piece from Hollywood, California wasted no time laying into a driving set of electro-pop, warming up before the still-growing crowd did.
A song into the performance, seemingly annoyed the audience wasn't keeping up, guitarist Trace Cyrus to exclaimed, “C'mon, you guys are dead!” as he tried to coax a little more life from the crowd.
Undeterred, Mason Musso led his crew through a quick hit of their debut, self titled album, filled with bright, bouncy tracks that had the pit dancing by the end of the set.
Counting this as the first proper gig with the new Nikon D3, I was excited to get into the photo pit and see how the camera handled the traditionally dim opening sets before the bright lights that were in store for later.
Singer Mason Musso was relatively still on the mic, while Trace Cyprus was much more manic on stage, wheeling around and taking short jumps off the drum stand during the performance.
Blake Healy and Anthony Improgo, on synth and drums, respectively, were necessarily parked with their duties. Aside from Cyprus wheeling around in his corner of the stage, the band was pretty stationary for most of the first three songs.
Beyond dim lighting, the only real obstacle was a pair of fat speaker monitors positioned right in front of Musso. As per usual at the venue, the rules were first three, no flash.
For the first three songs, the lighting scheme for Metro Station alternated between three primary mixes of backlighting: turquoise-blue, blue-magenta, and finally orange-white with faint turquoise accents. These three schemes were roughly in order of intensity, with the cool turquoise mix being the weakest and building in brightness until the welcome white light of the third song.
The front lighting consisted of a dull magenta wash for the first two songs and a neutral-warm mix for the third.
I used new Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 for this quick set. The midrange zoom was naturally very well suited for the general shooting from the pit, while the range of the short tele was useful for picking up drummer Improgo as well tighter shots of Musso.
Right out of the gate I cranked the D3 up to the camera's Hi-1 setting, or ISO 12800, where I stayed for most of the first song. As the lighting improved, I eventually lowered the sensitivity to ISO 6400 by the third song.
Thanks to the great ISO range and performance of the D3, I felt free to stay at these high ISOs – not that there was really a choice – without the huge penalty to image quality pushing the D2x's files to these extremes would have incurred.
The high sensitivities also meant I was able to shoot quite comfortably even in the poor lighting, averaging out at f/2.8 at 1/200 for the majority of the shots.
Flipping through the images on the D3's 3″ LCD screen after the first three songs and considering the lighting under which I'd just shot, I had to question the new freedom. With the D2x, f/1.4 primes would have been an absolute necessity to tame the dim, largely atmospheric backlighting.
Now, in all but the darkest venues, the quantity of light no longer seems be an issue; however the matter of quality remains. I had to wonder: Just because I can shoot in this nasty lighting, should I?
I didn't have long to think, because soon it was time for Anberlin, whose set would prove even dimmer and more challenging than Metro Station's. Stay tuned for that coverage next.