Propelled by the syncopated, asthmatic breath of an accordion, the song gimbals and gyres, wheeling like the robes of a dervish. Nick Urata takes the mic, crooning with an languorous insistency that seems singular in its melancholy until the strings come in, swirling in ascending pulls throughout the great hall.
This is the sound of Devotchka.
Lead by Urata, the Colorado four-piece played to a rapt audience at the Pageant, weaving an epic blend of Bolero, Romani, and Mariachi in a punk-folk-rock maelstrom.
Bathed in dramatic lighting, the members deftly juggled their own musical contributions throughout the night, with each member playing no less than two instruments during the performance.
Tom Hagerman switched between accordion, violin, and piano, while Jeanie Schroder, affectionately called out as the “Super Human, Super Tuba Girl” by Urata, held down the low frequencies on sousaphone and upright bass.
Percussionist and trumpet player Shawn King provided much of the band's brightness, while singer Nick Urata switched between guitar, bouzouki, and theremin during the course of the performance.
In addition to musical chops on display, Devotchka's performance also featured the aerialist Alexandra, who joined the band on stage during their encore performance of “C'est Ca La.”
Wound in a red band of cloth secured to the rafters, the acrobat build tension during the song's extended intro. As the song built, Alexandra played off the song's spiraling cadence, winding up and unraveling to the eerie tide of the theremin as Nick Urata looked upward.
The evening's set drew heavily from the band's most recent album, A Mad & Faithful Telling, released March 18, 2008. Though fan-favorites “Til The End of Time” and “The Last Beat of My Heart” were conspicuously absent, highlights from the set included “We're Leaving,” “You Love Me,” “Transliterator,” “Along The Way,” and the anthemic “How It Ends.”
Canada's Basia Bulat opened for Devotchka.
Nick Urata throws a flower to the audience following Devotchka's encore and a group bow by the group
Having photographed Devotckha just three days before at New York's Terminal 5, I was keenly interested in what differences there might be at the Pageant as I stepped into the venue.
One of the first things I always do is check in with production at the venue to get a sense of the ground rules for the evening. While I was hoping for a nice, beautiful photo pit, it just wasn't meant to be as I checked in.
The Bad News:
I was informed that the barricade at the front of the stage was just set up as a drink rail, meaning there was no access for this show.
The Good News:
I was not informed of any song limitations (i.e., I was shooting all night).
So, I grabbed some railed and waited it out. All of the the images were shot from a stationary position.
The lighting for this performance started off dark. Really dark. Frankly, I didn't even shoot that much during those first few songs, and I'm doubtful if any of those shots are in the full set.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, that the lighting effects did pick up as the show progressed and came together into quite a nice show, with deep color washes and dramatic lighting, especially for Shawn King and Jeanie Schroder.
Compared to the New York performance at Terminal 5, the use of the dramatic under lighting took on an interesting progression during the course of the set, shifting to an electric blue from the hot magenta that I'd seen before. While this lighting had me spinning dials in NYC, nailing the underlighting for Nick Urata was one thing on my agenda for the evening.
Lenses & Gear:
I used the Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm, and Nikon 70-200mm for this performance. Due to the highly restricted position, I relied on the reach of the Nikon 70-200mm for much of the performance, and the telephoto lens was essential for helping bring the action to me.
Exposure & Metering:
Needless to say, having shot the entire set, exposures for Devotchka's performance were all over the place.
For the majority of the set, I shot at ISO 1600, between 1/60 and 1/160 at f/2.8.
Having just come from photographing Devotchka's performance at Terminal 5 in NYC, their show at the Pageant was a stark contrast.
Overall, the biggest difference was shooting three songs at Terminal 5 versus the entire set at the Pageant, a factor that contributed hugely to the images of the latter show.
While I would consider the lighting for the first three songs at the Pageant inferior to the quality of light at Terminal 5, what Pageant's shoot lacked in sheer impact it made up for in duration.
Still, I considered the stationary position for the Pageant set an interesting trade off for unlimited shooting time. Please be sure to check out the images from Terminal 5 if you haven't already seen them.
If you had to pick, which would you choose: three songs and unlimited movement in the pit, or an entire set with only one shooting position?
Til The End Of Time