Angela Laino

A Look Back on 2016: February

February is the shortest month of the year but it was also one of the busiest for me. The month itself was very rewarding because I had photographed numerous artists and musicians for the first time. I was beyond ecstatic at the good fortune of photographing Palo for the first time at Ball and Chain. In addition to that, photographing solo artist Angela Laino and rock group Rock Candy for the first time was equally as memorable. There were also moments when I took images of numerous artists at couple of festivals in Miami Beach and Hollywood, FL. Overall, I was pleased with month of February.

Featured Artists: Angela Laino, Grassroots Preview, Mardi Gras, Palo, Party On The J Festival, Rock Candy

Angela Laino

Laino performed a two-set show in Miami Beach at Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Company and her band for the evening was impressive. Backing her up were a core of musicians within the Miami music scene. Instrumentalists from the Spam All Stars, Electric Kif and Suenalo provided the musical foundation for the Miami-raised singer currently residing in New York City. She has such a superb voice with an abundance of power and control. Absolutely amazing! Laino regularly performs around NYC, do see her in concert, but on February 29, she came back home to Miami and was loved for it.


When I began photographing the Miami and South Florida music circuit in May 2015, it was recommended to me (forgive me I don’t remember who exactly) that I photograph the group Palo. The moment presented itself on February 19 at Ball and Chain. Simply expressing myself to say that I was blown away at the five-member ensemble is an extreme understatement. I was flabbergasted beyond my imagination over the high level of musicianship of Steve Roitstein (producer and pianist), Leslie Cartaya (vocalist and the voice of an angel in my opinion), Dr. Ed Calle (saxophone), Philbert Armenteros (congas) and Raymer Olalde (timbales).

The group began in 2003 and over the years they have performed in front of audiences all over the globe. I’d give anything to follow them on tour in 2017 by the way. The number one thing that resonated with me when their set began was the groove that was established. For some of you who may or may not know, I too am a musician (saxophone specifically) and have been for most of my life. When I heard Dr. Calle improvise on saxophone, I had no words to describe what I was hearing. I STILL don’t have words to describe his saxophone virtuosity. If I may express that he is “The Man” and “The Game” to define Dr. Calle’s saxophone acumen by using a couple of pro wrestling catch phrases.

Following their Ball and Chain show, I introduced myself to Dr. Calle and told him that he is Yoda on saxophone. He laughed, smiled and shook my hand. The Grammy award-winning artist recently performed at Pinecrest Gardens with his own solo project.

Ten days later, Palo performed at the Hialeah Park Racing and Casino for a one-set performance. The open-air show drew a good and receptive audience. What made the presentation extra special was the intimate ambiance the venue had set up. Everyone was at ground-level and was close to the stage. So the fans in attendance could literally reach out and touch the band. I would later photograph them a couple of more times and it has always been a memorable experience.

A Day at the Beach: Grassroots Preview

The North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach held a preview of the Grassroots Arts and Music Festival by showcasing a variety of artists on Valentine’s Day. The preview was an all-day affair but I was able to catch the final three acts before the day was out. I ended up capturing on camera Jean P. Jams, Big Brooklyn Red and Big Mean Sound Machine.

I attended the event with my business partner, Joe F. Cardenas, who was there to capture video of the artists. There were three things that made an impression on me from the event: 1.) I loved how so many people of all ages were dancing and having a great time. 2.) Big Brooklyn Red had the best performance of the night and sang an incredibly soulful cover of the Paul Weller classic, “You Do Something to Me”. 3.) Watching and capturing Big Mean Sound Machine (from New York) had the most entertaining set.

Out of the three artists, I had photographed Red a couple of times before in 2015 and he still blows me away because of his talent. He lets his voice do the work on stage and stays in place without having to work the stage from side to side. His voice commands attention and the crowd gives him that right back plus an extra helping of appreciation. He’s the most soulful singer I’ve ever heard and you can hear his heartfelt passion in his voice throughout the entire set. He is working on an album but there’s no timetable as to when it will be completed and released.

Party On the J Festival

On February 21st in Hollywood, FL, I attended the Party On The J Festival. The street festival featured local vendors, artists and five different musical acts. The bands that performed at the festival were Above The Skyline, Fresh Air, Trip Machine, Ovrhol and Yardij. The only group I was familiar with was Ovrhol, an awesome Miami-based rock band led by Richard Rey (vocalist and guitarist). It was a long and rewarding day for me because I was able to photograph and network with the performing artists themselves.

All five musical groups were incredibly talented and completely respect them for following their passion. But I must say that two of the five acts intrigued me: Trip Machine and Fresh Air. Trip Machine’s story was a heartwarming one for me because the six-member squad are childhood friends from Caracas, Venezuela. The group performs all over Florida and they have such a clean and polished sound to them. I’ll be sure to photograph them again in 2017.

I respect anyone who follows their passion and makes it happen for themselves. Even Steve Jobs said that you’ve got to “do what you love” and Ric Zweig, front man for the South Florida-based rock band Fresh Air, is doing that. He was a very nice and cordial man when I spoke to him after his band’s performance. The most fascinating thing about Zweig was his admission to me that he was a former criminal court judge. Zweig said he got tired of dealing with lawyers and turned to his love of music into a full-time devotion.

Rock Candy

The Rock Candy rock band had started following me on Instagram in earlier in the year. But I was happy to finally photograph one of their shows at the Tilted Kilt in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The five-member, female-fronted rock band, regularly plays around South Florida at various locations. The band itself puts on a quality performance and the crowd beautifully responds to them. They play cover songs of current Rock tunes as well as Classic Rock. There are two things that I believe are cool about the band: 1.) They have the coolest band logo I’ve seen (check it out on their website, and 2.) they’re all working professionals during the day. If you go to the bio page of their website, you’ll see a few of the images I took of them. I’ll be photographing them again for sure in 2017.

Mardi Gras Celebration

A little bit of New Orleans came to Miami’s Wynwood Yard on February 9 when Roosevelt Collier and Bad Apples Brass Band performed to celebrate Mardi Gras. The musicians that performed that night were made the evening extra special. The other thing about that night was just how chilly it got and you had to wear either a sweater, windbreaker or jacket to keep you warm. Imagine that, Miami gets cold! Regardless, the Bad Apples Brass Band is a Dixieland ensemble which opened for Collier. When it was time for Collier to perform, he had an all-star band backing him up and it soon became a jam session. The entire experience was indeed unforgettable and special.

Indeed, February was a busy month as far as photographing content goes but I couldn't be happier with the results. Tomorrow, I'll be featuring my favorite images from the month of March 2016.

Adding a little light here and there

I'm strongly considering the idea of adding my career title to Lighting Consultant to go along with being a Music Photographer. I don't know the budget of a restaurant/bar that offers live entertainment. But having proper or decent lighting is an investment needs to be looked into further for the performing artists that play there at least. I'll give two examples.

Example one: this past Tuesday I photographed the band Chase The Jaguar at Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company in South Beach. The establishment is very cozy, has tremendous ambiance and does have live entertainment. The only issue is that when a musical act performs there, hardly any light is on the talent except for the ambient light. In my camera bag I use three lenses and two of them (50mm & 85mm, both F1.8 by the way) are fast lenses which can be used in low-light situations.

I would only use my flash for extenuating circumstances like Sweet Liberty when the ambient light is VERY low. The band did have a couple of strip lights but those were positioned on either side of the drummer pointing upward. But still there wasn't sufficient light to properly light the entire group. So I had to use my flash. I was at Sweet Liberty a couple of months ago to photograph singer Angela Laino. There was a little more light on her and the band but I did not use flash on that occasion.

Example two: for Cinco de Mayo this year I went to Cafeina Wynwood Lounge in the Wynwood District of Miami to photograph two bands: Uma Galera and Elastic Bond. The open air lounge has a great atmosphere and plenty of room to enjoy and see live in entertainment. My first experience at Cafeina was November 2015 when singer/songwriter Raquel Sofia played there a week before the Latin Grammys (Yes, whenever I mention her name her song "Yo Te Amo Idiota" immediately comes to mind.). Anyway, back to the Cinco de Mayo experience. When I arrived I was expecting there to be stage lights to some degree. Boy was I wrong.

When Uma Galera got on stage there was only one light and that was on the drummer. The rest of the group was in the dark, literally in the dark. I even posted an image of it on Instagram. I asked Cafeina management if anymore light can be used and directed towards the band. He brought out a small round light fixture, plugged it in and directed it towards the microphone from the ground up. That effect causes a horror movie lighting reaction, which is not the best lighting especially when you have to photograph a woman in a band. So in that circumstance I had no choice but to use flash.

From those two examples, I've never forgottenwhat Milton Ponce, percussionist for Uma Galera, told me two weeks after that performance. He said to me that bands (playing in Miami) have the option of bringing in their own sound engineer and/or lighting engineer. The facility will not provide either unless it's locations like Ball & Chain in Little Havana where they provide both. I understand that you want to keep the mood/ambiance of your facility, but it's also nice to see who is performing in front of you.

I repeat, I don't know what a restaurant's budget is for live entertainment much less having the lights for the talent. But it does make for good exposure (pun intended) when decent lighting is placed on the talent. It also makes my job as a photographer, along with other photographers and videographers, better and effective when there's proper lighting on the talent to get the best image of the performing artist. Better lighting = better images/videos = better performances and performance memories.

Each establishment is different and their respective budgets are equally as unique. I'm not saying that those businesses need to shell out thousands of dollars in lighting like a concert hall. But just a little bit of light to showcase the talent so the audience can see them better will go a long way.