Facts: Semi Precious Weapons will melt your face, steal your girlfriend, and have you contemplating knee-high stilettos for the first time. And that's just by the end of the first song.
Newly signed to NYC's Razor & Tie, the Brooklyn four-piece returned to St. Louis after four long months, ready to pick up where the left off: winning hearts and minds with the kind of rock that doesn't wash out.
Justin “Precious” Tranter, dressed in candy-apple knee-high stiletto boots, black tights, and a ruffled red top, lorded over the crowd with equal amounts of indignation and adoration for the crowd.
“This is rock ‘n roll, people. There are rules!” chided the frontman in a pause between songs. Addressing the uninitiated, and reminding the faithful, Tranter spelled out the evening's agenda:
“One: There is no sitting in rock ‘n roll. Two: Someone has to have intercourse while we play. Three: You have to bleed. So stand up, get fucking, and start bleeding!”
Satisfied that his subjects has been properly educated, Tranter turned his attention back to his his team of garage-glam superstars.
On the frontman's right, axeman Aaron Lee Tasjan brought waves of white-hot guitarlove. Tasjan took obvous relish in making the girls scream in his frequent trips to the front of the stage, shredding and showing off his guitar-face in equal measure.
On the other side of the stage, Cole Whittle didn't seem to play his bass so much as he performed an exorcism on the instrument. Pummeling the low register, the boy raised by wolves stomped over the stage in spasms, all the while performing spin-kicks that would have made Chun-Li proud.
Meanwhile, at the back of the stage, Dan Crean held the frayed leash to the whirling chaos in front of him as he laid a searing beat, simultaneously foil and accomplice to the antics of his bandmates.
By the end of the night, Semi Precious Weapons had once again proved that rock ‘n roll isn't dead; it just was a little late making itself fabulous for the party. Ladies and gentleman, your new glam rock saviors have arrived.
And for old-time's sake, here's a shot from the last show at Cicero's:
View the full set of images at the end of this post.
Having photographed Semi Precious Weapons before, I knew that this would be a challenging show, but I'd forgotten just how explosive the four-piece was on stage.
When I photographed SPW four months ago, they played in a small basement with a low stage and fairly static lighting. Graduating to the Pageant put the band on a much larger stage two-meters above the venue floor. Needless to say, this changed the shooting dynamics considerably, though the basics remained: watch for the changes, and try to keep up.
I shot from the front of the stage, packed in with the rest of the crowd. I had an all-access pass for this show and did make a short trip onstage to photograph Dan Crean up close and personal, but mainly stayed on the floor.
The stage lighting for this show certainly had its moments of sparkle and I was happy that the Pageant gave Semi Precious Weapons a little love.
High-contrast white light lit the band from above in the front, while the treatment from the back was largely atmospheric with reds, blues, and magentas dominating. Overall, effects from behind were thin, though there was some very nice searing white explosions at the back during the end of the set.
While the Pageant introduced the opportunity for much more dynamic lighting than was possible with their last performance, I still utilized an off-camera flash for a large portion of the set.
Flash is an asset I almost never use, but I knew the constant motion of the band would require stopping power that even ISO 25,600 alone would afford. While I often prefer to use just the venue lighting, flash is simply another tool at one's disposal for bringing home the images.
I used the Nikon SB-800 with the Gary Fong Lightsphere attached, which helped diffuse the flash to a minor degree. This setup was used off-camera with the Nikon SC-28 sync cord, the coiled cable with a reach of nearly three meters at full extension.
The approach was simply to get the speedlight as far away from the lens as possible. The goal? To gain independence from the venue lighting while still including it as much as possible in the images.
Exposure & Metering:
I shot around 1/200 and f/2.8 at ISO 1600, pushing up to ISO 3200 or so around the end of the night
Lenses & Equipment:
I shot with Nikon D3 and used two lenses for the majority of the show: the Nikon 24-70mm and the Nikon 14-24mm. Between these two, the wider focal lengths saw the most action. Even with the nearly two-meter high stage, I was constantly racking out as these guys came to the edge.
I also used the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 for just a few shots of Dan on drums.
Do you like music? Do you like rock music? If the answers are yes, then you must see this band. It's as simple as that.
For the photographers out there, it bears repeating: this band is pure candy, like a Babyruth covered in frosting and sprinkles. Or, to put it another way: photographing this band is like fishing with dynamite.
You're not going to get a better shot at getting up close and personal with better looking people go who up to eleven from the opening bars until the last. Check out the band's YouTube channel for the real deal.
Mothers: lock up your daughters, your sons, and yourselves. Rock ‘n Roll never looked so beautiful.