In a set that ranged between soulful pop and lilting, vibrato-tinged folk, Ontario's Basia Bulat ripped though a spirited and undeniably charming performance opening for Devotchka at Terminal 5 in NYC.
Lending credence to her Myspace page quote, which promises, “More fun than your very own pony,” the bubbly singer seemed to win over more than a few converts in the New York crowd, which gradually warmed from polite applause to a full out percussion-section hand-claps through the course of the set.
Whether her fingers were flicking across the strings of her effervescent Autoharp or her acoustic guitar, Basia's smokey voice and impassioned delivery carried throughout her set.
Playing from her debut 2007 Oh, My Darling, highlights from Basia's set included “Before I Knew,” “Snakes and Ladders,” and a sailing rendition of “In the Night”
The band was positioned about a meter back from front of the stage, and Basia herself was surrounded by various stands, which made clean shoots an interesting challenge.
Upping the challenge were Basia's movements while rocking the Autoharp (quite literally). While not singing, the musician often clutched her harp to her body and quickly swayed back and forth with the instrument, her fingers flying across the strings all the while.
For her first, short a cappella song on stage, Basia was lit dimly light from the front. For the second song, seated with her Autoharp, the singer was given a very warm treatment from the front, with magenta accent lighting from the back. By contrast, the other musicians in the group were given far dimmer treatments of orange-magenta casts.
For the final song of the shoot, the stage brightened up with stronger, pale backlighting in contrast to the same warm frontlighting of the previous songs.
Lenses & Gear:
I shot primarily with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, the range of which helped make the most of the narrow, clean lines of sight.
The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 made a brief appearance for the obligatory wide stage shot, but was otherwise left unused for this set.
Exposure & Metering:
Since the shifts in lighting were generally small, I shot this set in the narrow range of 1/125 to 1/160 at f/2.8 and ISO 6400.
Bulat's fast strumming of the Autoharp certainly could have benefited from a faster shutter speed of 1/200 or 1/250, but light simply wasn't on our side.
In a rare opportunity, I also photographed Basia for a second time on her tour with Devotchka when she performed at the Pageant three days after this NYC date. Stay tuned for those images, as well as images from Devotchka's Terminal 5 set, coming up soon.
Also, check out Basia Bulat's beaming video for “In the Night,” which shows that an after-hours romp through the woods can be more fun and cheerful than you ever imagined.