While idlely browsing concert listings one afternoon last fall, I noticed that Final Fantasy was playing the Creepy Crawl. Not one of the myriad console games or movie spinoffs, but Toronto-based violinist Owen Pallett, best known for his string arrangements for the Arcade Fire.
The show opened with locals Bird Baker, followed by Bob Wiseman, who, though perhaps a stranger before his performance, will surely live on in the hearts of that night's several audience members as a master of all things fantastic.
As Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett took the stage, alone, armed with an array of effects pedals, a keyboard, and his violin, the thought stirred that it might all be novelty: a one-man act only made possible by the artifice of technology — a four-track bedroom diversion, not a spectacle. But that's exactly what it was.
Pallett began each song as every other, building steam with a grain of salt — laying down a single layer. Perhaps starting with some languid pull of the bow across the strings, committing those notes to the looping pedal. Then adding a plucking of the strings; a line of rhythm on the keyboard, a thumping on the violin's belly. All the while Owen Pallett is tapping pedals and twiddling knobs with his sock-clad toes.
Another push of the pedals and those ghosts sing obediently back — we're all old friends by now, the audience and those looping notes, and it's hard not to smile when they visit. Cue vocals; cue melody — and now the song is well on its way, a slightly imperfect Rube Goldberg device that rolls, tips, and gyres to its end. Spinning plates, etc. And that's the magic, and that's the fun.
Technically, the show was a minor challenge to photograph, with light – or lack thereof – being the primary concern. It's a bad sign when one is shooting at ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/50, and still underexposing by a stop or two. I used the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 for the entire show, with the 17-55mm f/2.8 being far too show for an event like this.