Friday, May 21, 2004

3 Brix Shy

Two years ago this week, a local cover band took the stage for the very first time. They called themselves 3 Brix Shy, a name that was arrived at after a lengthy and exhaustive nomination process. Their bassist was a friend of mine from work, and their drummer had graduated from the same Physics program as me two years before me, and had gone on to become head of the Physics department at a smaller local college. The lead singer was a professional firefighter who played bagpipes on the side, and their lead guitarist looked and played like like he had come from one of the better 80's hair bands.

Their fifth member was a woman, a Junior in college, who was also an extremely talented guitarist and singer and who frequently (and excellently) took the lead in both areas. From the night that a drunken toothless hick (well, he might have had some teeth) declared "The Chick is GOOD!" at their second show, it was increasingly clear that she would be a major draw for turning casual male observers into fans. (Ladies take note: A woman who can sing and play guitar in a rock band is damn near the most irresistibly hot thing on Earth. And let me take this opportunity to declare that Liz Phair is one fine-lookin' woman.)

I liked their music and their style of playing and I became their first groupie, making a point of trying to go to every show I could. But after a while my poor social skills began to shine through, and I frequently found myself alone in a crowd, hulking in a corner table watching the band and only conversing with the band members, their spouses, and any other friends from work who had stopped by. I realized I needed something to make me feel more involved, while at the same time relieving me of the pressure of normal social interaction. And so I became the band's unofficial photographer.

The band had had a "fan cam" from their second show onwards, and had a website (now defunct) where they posted the pictures. I took off from this point, and with their blessing began taking photos of venues, fans, friends, and the band itself. I used three cameras, all of them cheap: a 35mm fixed-focus camera I had bought from Woolworth's in 1990 for $5.00, and two Kodak Advantix APS cameras (one expensive one with an impossible-to-use viewfinder, the other a cheaper version with a better viewfinder but which took lower-quality photos.)

After many months of my dancing around the crowds while snapping pictures, their lead guitarist offered to lend me his Canon EOS 35mm SLR camera for a show. I had never handled a "fancy" camera like this before, and it took me some time to figure out the rudimentary settings. I don't know if I got it quite right. I wasn't completely thrilled with the end results, which tended to be sharper and harsher-looking than the photos taken with my cheaper cameras. The flash was very powerful, too, and this tended to make the pictures look like the band had been playing in a room with all the lights turned on. Their spotlights and colored lights were rendered invisible, and the flash punched right through the clouds of smoke that poured out of the on-stage smoke machines as well as the human smoke-generators in the crowd.

But then I made a mistake. Some combination of settings - or maybe I simply tried to take two pictures in succession too quickly - resulted in a picture taken with no flash at all and a shutter that stayed open until it had sucked in its fill of photons.

That was a good picture. The band is blurred, the colors rich, and the effect looks intentional. Later I saw a picture in CMJ magazine that looked very similar to this one, but I realized that that picture was probably taken intentionally by someone who knew what they were doing, while my picture was taken accidentally by someone who didn't.

I dressed up the photo a little by applying an Extensis CameraEdge PhotoFrame using the Adobe PhotoDeluxe software that came bundled with my scanner, but I think that was the only processing I did to this picture.

3 Brix Shy accidental art, February 2003 Posted by Hello

The band broke up last August, and I videotaped the final show and had it transferred to DVD. Maybe someday they'll get back together in some configuration. But for now I have that DVD, a stack of photos, and memories of some good times and great music.

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