South Florida Music Scene

A Look Back on 2016: January

Over the next 12 days I’ll be showcasing some of my favorite images of 2016. Each day, I’ll be featuring a specific month with a few of my personal favorite photographs. I’m excited about these next series of blogposts as my plan to execute more postings on my website for the coming year. I have a schedule in mind for the blog and what postings will be going on what day. So now, here are some of my personal favorite images from the month of January.

 

Featured Artists: The Baboons, Electric Kif and Suenalo

The Baboons

2016 began for me photographing The Baboons in Hollywood, FL at ArtsPark. The venue was spacious and the stage was equally as vast with top-notch lighting. The Baboons performed there shortly after the New Year and it was nice reuniting with the band since I last saw them in October 2015. I remember the group being excited about the show and even more ecstatic at the fact their third album, Spanglish, was set to be released in April. They had a special concert at the North Beach Bandshell to celebrate the release of the new album.

The Baboons have been around for 23 years and have been a mainstay in the Miami Music Scene for many years. The band nowadays do not perform quite as often but when they do, it is a special event I admit. I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store for The Baboons.

Electric Kif

Later in the month I jumped at the opportunity of photographing Electric Kif at Jada Coles in Coral Gables, FL. The foursome of world class musicians had made a huge impression on me when I last photographed them during Labor Day Weekend in September 2015 as part of the inaugural Ball and Chain Music Festival. This specific performance was extra special because only three of the members did the gig. Jason Matthews, keyboardist, was not in attendance (I believe he was out of town doing another show) but Digo, bassist, Eric Escanes, guitarist, and Armando Lopez, drummer, carried on with the show.

The group got by with a little help from their friends as the show was transformed into a good ol’ jam session. Such notable musicians that jammed with Electric Kif were Alejandro Elizondo (guitars and keyboards), Brian Lange (drums and percussion), Marcel Salas (bassist and guitars), Sonny East (guitars) and Adrian Gonzalez (guitars). It was a great night of music held in a very intimate atmosphere. I have thoroughly enjoyed not only photographing the band but also listening to them. The Miami Music Circuit (and the South Florida Music scene for that matter) has an ungodly number of phenomenal, mind-blowing musicians and the men that comprise Electric Kif are at the top. A NEW album is due out soon and I can’t wait to photograph them again.

Suenalo

The day before I photographed The Baboons in Hollywood, I began 2016 photographing Suenalo, an ensemble I hold dear to my heart. The group played at the world-famous Ball and Chain on January 1st and the show was high energy all the way. Suenalo, in its illustrious career, has been named Miami’s Best Band three times by the Miami New Times and for good reason: It’s all about that “Afro-latin, hip-hop, R&B, baby-making funk” which personifies Miami. 

I’m going off script for a moment, my favorite Suenalo song is “Keep It Groovin’”, the title track of their fourth album. It is such awesome composition and is a certified crowd favorite when they do perform it live. By the way, my second favorite song is “Kuchi”, the seventh song off their third album, “Live at Transit”. However, out of the four albums, Live at Transit, is my personal favorite.

I can proudly say that I’ve been photographing the ensemble for over a year (I’ve been living in Miami for two years btw) and ALL of them are quality people. I did photograph them five more times during 2016. Half way through the year a big change happened to the band when their front man Amin De Jesus moved out west to my home state of California. However, “The Prodigal Son” will be returning to Miami and join his bandmates on December 30th live at The Wynwood Yard. That’s going to be a very special concert and I can’t wait.

So January 2016 started off well thank God. But that would only be the beginning my friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be displaying my favorite images from the month of February. My year in review will culminate on January 1st just as the new year begins.

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.