Posted by: Necci – May 11, 2012
The shrimp quesadillas were almost ready. Cinco de Mayo celebration was in effect. However, a late breaking text tore me away, and sent me driving excitedly to The National. Papadosio was in town, ending their Awake Inside Tour where their started it, in Virginia. And I had a photo pass. I was not only getting to finally see Papadosio for the first time, but I was doing so through the experience of a photo pit. I quickly gathered my gear, some earplugs (that I didn't use), and some guacamole and pita chips for the road. I arrived early enough to settle in, check out the venue, soak in the setting, and explore the surroundings. Upon entry, you get the sense of The National's history--closing in on a hundred years. A theatrical setting, out of this time, and a worthy venue for the evolving themes and outlets of music (which is right up Papadosio's alley). Great things have occurred here. The walls speak. I felt those years of symbiotic relationships between performer and audience. And like many nights before, this place, it's performers, and consumers all had a special night ahead.
I gracefully accepted my photo pass and headed to the pit for the opener, Biodiesel. Not knowing much about this duo, I was not surprised that this was a duo of... diesel. Diesel is one of my favorite words - not the fuel, but rather the implication of awesomeness. And diesel they were - fueled by each other and the crowd. As soon as the hypnotic drum beat started, the crowd quickly gathered as if they were there all along, just hidden in the recesses of the venue. I found myself thinking, "Wait, are you sure it's only 2 guys?!" This was a complex sound, and they delivered a set of welcomed raging, large in sound yet simple in setup. 45 mins in the pit quickly breezed by. At the set break, I reviewed my work thus far and began to furiously tap out the words that would eventually make up this article. The wave of inspiration that Biodiesel created was salient.
As Papadosio geared up for the stage, the vibe from the crowd was palpable. The full sea of people was now in charge of the venue. They were ready, and I was too. I re-entered the photo pit, my nerves from being there for the first time slowly settlling. And with the first beat (a song from their latest album), the crowd cheered and the hypnotic waves of people movement commenced. I listened, studied, and absorbed the music as my brain assessed the musical timings, the lights, and expressions to capture. There I was, squashed between the stage and the crowd, all alone, yet fully integrated as a piece of the planned musical experience. I excitedly took control of the pit, as I was the only one there. It was like the show was all for me from the best seat in the house (besides being in the band's shoes, of course). I refused to use my earplugs--the sounds were too good to dampen, muffle, or ruin. I didn't even want to imply that it wasn't right through the simple action of putting the earplugs in. And a great decision it was.
The live experience was more than I expected. Part electronica, part jamband, part fusion, and 100% their own. Papadosio are certainly a force to be reckoned with. They have quickly gained pace over the past couple of years in the scene, and I have no doubts as to why. As the songs intertwined and the first set continued, Papadosio delivered a tribute to the Beastie Boys, in light of MCA's passing the day before, with a cover of "Intergalactic." This warranted howling cheers from all of us. By the way, is dancing in the photo pit bad? I meant it out of the utmost respect.
My time in the photo pit - which lasted only through the first few songs - vanished all too quickly. However, since squatting, kneeling, etc. are a must in concert photography, I needed to stretch. I walked the venue and explored the other sights. The balconies were spectacular; various people were scattered through the tiers, all with a bird's-eye view of the sea of people. Eventually, I settled in behind the sound board, where I stumbled upon a live painting in progress. I've seen these activities increase at concerts over the past few years, and I'm always amazed at the level of artistry - another way of feeding off the music. Papadosio is an artist-friendly band. They welcome all artists to participate in their scene - painters, writers, videographers, photographers, dancers, and all creatives. Joined together in creating, based on... each other. As a creative of several types myself, this level of endorsement to share my art is inspiring in itself. And the implications of taking a picture of a live paint is fascinating: layered creation, music to painting to photograph. As their second set started, Papadosio reminded the crowd of the video project that was announced for the last three nights of this tour, Richmond being the last stop. Encouraging all in attendance to video their concert experiences, they explained that a post-tour video collage will be compiled. I do look forward to seeing the result.
Papadosio, to put it simply, executed a fantastic show to close an incredible tour. Throughout the night, my photography was fueled by the music. It didn't always result in portraits of the band, but rather musical portraits of the setting, sights, and surroundings coinciding with the live show. Missing the Cinco de Mayo shrimp quesadillas was tragic, but the trip was epic. I felt as if I had a designated role in this night - as if Papadosio and the National came together and said, "This place is for you."
By Owen Seely