VHS or Beta @ the Gargoyle — 2007.12.08


Winding down their month-long tour that crisscrossed the union, dance-punk heros VHS or Beta brought the fresh jams to a small but dedicated crowd at Washington University's Gargoyle.

After recently from photographing their epic set at the Blender Theatre in NYC last month, I was eager to see how the band performed in the much more modest Gargoyle venue, especially after being spoiled by the fantastic house lighting at the converted movie house.

Much like their set in New York, VHS or Beta's set drew heavily from their last two albums, 2004's Night on Fire and 2007's Bring On The Comets, beginning with the instrumental “Euglama” piped through the Marshal stacks as the band took the stage. From there, Craig Pfunder and crew launched into “Burn It All Down,” bringing an early highlight to the set.

Other notable crowd-pleasers included the single “Can't Believe A Single Word,” “Bring On The Comets,” “She Says,” and the ever-epic “Alive.” The latter, one of the standout tracks from Night on Fire, was the Easter story of the night, as the lengthy instrumental intro nearly seemed to kill the energy of the performance, only to have Pfunder and band build up the party back to a cathartic frenzy by the song's end.

For me, the performance of that song encapsulated the feel of the night; any missteps were easily forgiven after having been given the gift of basement anthems as the room sung back the track's verses, wanting to believe them as much as we needed to dance.

And we shout shout shout shout shout
To cure the silence oh
And our loud loud loud loud times
Will carry on, and on and on







Shooting Notes:

As with all shows at the Gargoyle, there was no pit for this show, which meant two things: no song limit and arriving early to secure a spot at the front of the stage. The latter, I found, wasn't entirely necessary; perhaps it was the cold and rainy night, the onset of finals, or the threat of another “Don't tase me bro” moment, but only the most dedicated of Washington University's hipster-proletariat braved the basement venue for dance party. This was fine by me, and to quote the great Chazz Reinhold, “More for you and me!”

Aside from the opportunity to hear VHS or Beta's fresh tunes, this gig marked the first time I would use the new piece of gear that has found its way into my kit: the Nikon D3 DSLR.

Nikon's new flagship camera is many things, but it has especially been hyped as what may be the finest low-light camera available at this time. If there's any venue that could test the camera's high ISO performance, the Gargoyle is it.

Aside from the D3, other new additions to the bag included the new Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lenses.


As expected, lighting for the venue was dim throughout much of the set, with red and blue washes dominating the performance. Short bursts of strong white light from the front provided a little relief, but mostly this show was all feast or famine. Strobe lighting made frequent appearances during the set, in seemly greater quantity than at the Blender show.

The lighting setup at the Gargoyle is comprised of 16 lights: eight at the back of the stage and four on either side of the stage at the front. Normally, these cans use a mix of red, blue, and green gels, but for tonight's show, the green gels were removed, leaving only red, white, and blue light for the event.


I used the new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for the majority of the set, only switching to the 14-24mm f/2.8 for a few more extreme perspectives. For the small, low of the Gargoyle, I tended to go with wider focal lengths for much of the set.

Both lenses handled fantastically, and I'll be posting a write-up on the new additions in a bit.


For VHS or Beta's set, I shot almost exclusively at Hi-1 on the D3, or ISO 12800. For a light-starved venue like the Gargoyle, the extensive range of sensitivities available with the Nikon D3 were like manna from heaven, even allowing the use of f/2.8 zooms in the dim lighting.

Shutter speeds were kept between a comfortable 1/160 and 1/200 throughout the night, while I shot wide open at f/2.8 with both of the new zooms.

End Notes:Though the lighting couldn't compete with that of the Blender Theatre, this set was a great opportunity to use the Nikon D3 in an environment that would test the camera's much-hyped low-light performance.

For an interesting contrast, if not as a point of pride, I would urge you to definitely check out the images from the NYC performance along with the shooting notes:
VHS or Beta @ the Blender Theatre — 2007.11.16

And as always, you can peep the full set from this set on Flickr:
VHS or Beta @ the Gargoyle — 2007.12.08