On Friday, September 1, 2017, Patty and I got a text from a childhood friend of our son, Ian, who plays lead guitar for the Virginia Reggae Award-winning band ‘Adwela and THE UPRISING‘. The band was playing that night at Blu1681, on the Occoquan waterfront in Woodbridge, Virginia, and we were being invited to come hear the band, taste the food, … and take some photos. We were going to be out for the evening, attending the Annandale High School varsity football game against cross-town rival W.T. Woodson High School, so we decided to fill in the late night gap in our social calendar with some live music (Although we left the football game in the third quarter, friends delivered the remaining play-by-play by text, with Annandale recovering from a 13-point deficit to win 14 – 13. Go Atoms!).
Patty and I had never been to that part of Woodbridge, being more familiar with the waterfront just upstream in the town of Occoquan. The area appears to be very up-and-coming, with a substantial marina, and a large condominium opening up just up the hill, which I’m sure will bring in lots of clientele.
Before the band started playing, Patty and I enjoyed a late dinner on Blu1681’s open patio overlooking the prime slips in the marina (where the expensive boats live). Patty had the Twice Baked Potato with Cheddar off their Gluten-Free menu, a BLU House Salad, and a couple of margaritas, and I had the Tabouleh-laced Agean Lamb Burger and BLU House Salad, along with a couple Maple Bourbon Manhattans made with my favorite Kentucky Bourbon whiskey and that sweet taste of maple. The dinner was great, but we’ll have to come back to try the desserts.
Adwela’s eight-piece band played a lot of original music, with Adwela and Rockei belting out soulful vocals, backed up by thick and heavy bass, pounding drums, electric guitar driving the offbeat rhythm, and horn riffs that got the crowd’s blood flowing. Adwela and THE UPRISING delivered on their smooth brand of classic roots reggae.
The band’s next gig is a return to Colonial Tavern in Fredericksburg on Saturday, September 9th, before they head north to The Root Cellar in Greenfield, MA on Friday, the 15th. Their full schedule can be found at the link shown on the posters below.
1. Just Do It
The opportunity to shoot this band came up suddenly, but that’s no excuse. Although I didn’t know what the lighting would be at the restaurant, and it ended up being better than I expected, my photos would have been much more interesting, and in better focus, if I had added some of my own lighting.
Since the area where the band was set up had a low ceiling, and there was no stage lighting, the simplest thing would have been to just put a speedlight on my camera and shoot up at the ceiling to light the band from above. The additional light would have allowed me to close down the aperture on my lens to get more depth of field, and with the same, or better, exposure. Then I could have used my second speedlight as an accent light behind the band, possibly even with a blue gel to match the theme of the restaurant (although this effect would be limited to a small area).
As a bit more involved alternative, I could have set up one speedlight with a tight grid to provide key lighting on the lead singers from rear stage right, and another speedlight with a bezel to provide fill lighting on them from front stage left. These would be fixed, so I couldn’t get the same effect on all eight members of the band, but at least the fill light would have helped.
I brought the equipment necessary to do these things with me, but I didn’t pull it out because I didn’t want to interfere with the band, either by adding more equipment to their crowded stage area, or by distracting them with flashes. But at some point you just have to do it. I’m sure that musicians deal with this sort of thing all the time, and I’ll bet they would rather have sharp, dramatic photos, and they can deal with the distractions.
2. A Couple of Equipment Additions would Help Me Do It Better
Although I brought my one small speedlight stand and a 9.8′ C-stand with me. I left the C-stand in the car, because I thought it would just be too much for the stage area. I might have been able to rig up either the key or fill light by clamping it to a high fixture somewhere, but unfortunately I didn’t look for such. What I need is a second portable speedlight stand that I could use in situations like this. And I also need a small durable duffel bag to carry my lights and stands in, so I can get in and out with minimal fuss.