VHS or Beta brought their blend of French house-infused dance-punk to the Blender Theatre in NYC in a performance that had hands waving in the air and feet bouncing off the floors in the old movie house.
Co-headlining with LA's Moving Units with support from Soft, Louisville's most danceable sons threw down an energetic set that drew most notably from 2004's Night On Fire and this year's Bring On The Comets.
The night opened with “Euglama” being pumped through the venue soundsystem as the band took the stage, eliciting excited squeals from the audience in anticipation of the party to come.
The instrumental lead track from the 2007 release served as the perfect entrance music and the natural setup into the new album's second track, “Love In My Pocket,” which brought the four to the floor goodness that gets bodies moving. Other highlights from the main set included “Alive,” “Night on Fire,” and “Bring On The Comets.”
For the encore, the five-piece performed a tight set that included “Can't Believe A Single Word,” “No Caberet,” and finally “Burn It All Down,” which closed the performance in a hail of colored lights and cathartic chorus sing-alongs.
Aside from a night of danced-up rock VHS or Beta promised to deliver, I was excited to photograph this show with my brother and fellow concert photographer, Chris (OneLouderPhoto.com). Living in different cities, this show was a rare opportunity to shoot together, quite literally shoulder-to-shoulder, and it was a blast.
After setting up last minute credentials for this show, thanks to Katie at Astralwerks, we were also looking forward to the opportunity to work in the Blender Theatre, which is quickly becoming known for its lovely lighting in a city of dim red cans.
Arriving at the venue, Chris and I picked up our passes at the box office without issue. Rolling into the converted theatre about half an hour before the show began, we found the floor relatively empty, with a line of bodies hugging the stage. There is no pit at Blender, so we packed into the crowd just house-right from the lead and center mic.
Arriving a little earlier would have made for an easier time, but we sidled up into a spot that ended up being perfectly workable as a static position. And, with no pit, the three-song rule was also out, so my brother and I shot throughout the entire show.
Strobes greeted the band on their entrance and foreshadowed what would be a dynamic and challenging set. Lighting for VHS or Beta came predominately from the back of the stage, with the Blender Theatre's glorious ceiling-mounted lights coming into full play to beautiful effect.
While the backlighting of the Blender Theatre was spectacular, this dramatic abundance raining down on the stage contrasted starkly with the relatively subdued frontlighting during the performance. A warm array of lights lit up the front of the stage, but the visual emphasis for the show was entirely on the backlighting, both in the form of the ceiling/rear-mounted lights and occasional strobelighting at the back of the stage.
White light was scarce and came primarily from roving spots positioned above and behind the band. During the dimmest portions of the set, and while these lights were still active, I slowed my shooting and favored using these lights to illuminate the band members. Waiting for the lights to hit the performers required a bit of patience, but the planned serendipity paid off on several occasions.
Aside from that precious quantity of white light, the ceiling-mounted lights also shown down in a myriad of other pale hues, with a strong preference toward blues alternating with hotter yellows and reds. Strong showings of green light also made appearances throughout the set.
The dynamic lighting, while explosively bright at its peak, was largely atmospheric and did little to light the band in a photographic sense. Topping out at ISO 1600, my preferred limit for the Nikon D2x, I shot primarily with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 for its excellent range, though the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 had some time on the camera when the light dipped to its lowest point during the middle of the set. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/60 to 1/160 with the f/2.8 zooms and primes alike.
For the majority of this performance, I used the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, due to the excellent range for the stage-front position I took. In general, the f/2.8 aperture was struggling with the modest sensitivity of ISO 1600, but the sheer utility of the lens won out in the end for photographing VHS or Beta's set.
In addition to the zoom, I used two primes for this performance: the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4. The 50mm made itself useful for chest-and-up shots of frontman Pfunder, while the 85mm lens was essential for tighter crops of the singer, as well as for picking up keyboardist Chea Beckley and drummer Mark Guidry, who were both positioned at the back of the stage.
For another perspective on this show, and for a great set of images, definitely check out my brother's write-up at OneLouderPhoto.com. Aside from rock-solid images, Chris shoots Canon and provides great coverage from the other side.