concert/rockstar portrait · Willa Rah Rouge · Victoria BC

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“Who’s Willa Rah Rouge,” you may ask? Oh, they’re great! Only, they’re three separate bands: Willa, Rah Rah, and Dear Rouge, who played a fantastic triple bill this past Saturday night at Distrikt.

Willa’s festival debut was earlier this year at Rock the Shores and, having connected over her photos in the days following, she was kind enough to say yes when I asked her for a rockstar portrait before the show.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0001Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 35 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 100
Strobist: Canon 430EX II, 1/16 power, softbox diffused, remote triggered

Tyson Elder (the OG Rocktographer) was kind enough to join me on another rockstar portrait shoot, and helped me figure out some spots for great light.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0001-backstageFuji X100S · 23 mm · 1/500 s · f/4 · ISO 1600 · Photographer: Tyson Elder

Despite her slight fear of heights, I managed to coax Willa two and five storeys above ground. She was a champ.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0002Canon EOS 70D · Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM · 160 mm · 1/250 s · f/2.8 · ISO 320

The set times at Distrikt were already early, but then moved up half an hour the week of the show, meaning that Willa opened the stage at 6:30 pm. Oddly early, but it was a strong performance from Willa nonetheless, with some amusing banter between her and the sparse crowd.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0003Canon EOS 70D · Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM · 108 mm · 1/250 s · f/2.8 · ISO 1600

Willa’s band — Mike (on bass, w/ a guest spot as drum trigger pad tapper, hence the stick), Chersea (on keys and alien light beams), and Johnny (on drums, but drums are always super-horribly lit; sorry Johnny!) — helped her to pound out a tight performance, including her cover of The Cardigan’s Lovefool and her single Stay the Night which, awesomely, she opened with. I love that.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0004L: Canon EOS 70D · Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM · 70 mm · 1/180 s · f/2.8 · ISO 1600
R: Canon EOS 70D · Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM · 200 mm · 1/250 s · f/2.8 · ISO 1600

Up next were Rah Rah from Regina, Saskatchewan. A five-piece I’d not seen or heard before, I would’ve initially described their music as happy/indie/party and, for the most part, it was. Songs of love and loss with many vocalists, great harmonies and upbeat (see happy/party above) melodies.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0005Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 19 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

There was also this animatronic cat.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0006Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 23 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

However, when Erin Passmore (keys, keytar, guitar, and special guest drummer, seen above with the cat) took up vocals for their song Surgery, I was hooked, and I went straight to the merch table after their set to buy their new album, Vessels.

I’m fine ‘n dandy with the happy music, but my heart is always drawn by the serious intensity of songs like Surgery, and it’s the song I replay most from their album, closely followed by the album’s final track, Space.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0007Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

Now back to Willa! =)

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0008Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 · 165 mm · 1/250 s · f/2.8 · ISO 200

And whatta light that sun is, eh? Especially combined with red hair.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0009Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 35 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 320

When Dear Rouge toured through Victoria with Phantogram in 2014, I had some good hangs with Danielle and Drew McTaggart, and they told me that one of the most mind-blowing parts of watching Phantogram’s show was the next-level lighting.

I’ll have to admit, I was not prepared for what I saw (or felt; those were WARM light beams; something I’ve only ever felt during arena-level light shows) that night: some of the most highly-focused light beams, bounced off of mirrors situated around the stage and, at one point, Sarah Barthel’s mirror cloak. Check out photos from that amazing show here.

So, how did the Phantogram experience rub off on Dear Rouge? Pretty dang well . . .

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0010Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 35 mm · 1/750 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

One of the main challenges of being a concert photographer is light, or lack thereof.

Dear Rouge solved that problem handily by bringing their own lighting rig, including four colourful light cannons which shot powerful beams to the back walls, four panels of light bars for crazy silhouettes (seen below) and even backlighting, and a large box stage left with a single sealed beam inside, pointing straight up . . . its purpose unknown before the show started.

As you can see, Dear Rouge was a gift to shoot. This level of light makes my job that much better.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0011Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 · 70 mm · 1/750 s · f/2.8 · ISO 3200

And that lightbox? T’was a platform for Danielle to glow upon.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0013Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/350 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

❤️‍❤️‍❤️‍

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0012Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/350 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

Inexplicably, Danielle seems to be putting more into her performance as time goes on. Her direct eye (and sometimes, hand) contact with audience members, her crazy passionate facial expressions, and her full-body energy is a joy to watch.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0014Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/350 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

Lookit every face in this photo. SUCH love and passion for the music and the people, it hurts.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0015Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/250 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

On behalf of all music fans and concert photographers: thank you, Dear Rouge, for upping your light game x100. Your final show on this tour was spec-freakin’-tacular.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0016Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 20 mm · 1/350 s · f/1.8 · ISO 3200

Two last moments with Willa before we go.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0017Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18 mm · 1/180 s · f/2 · ISO 320
Strobist: Canon 430EX II, 1/16 power, softbox diffused, remote triggered

The Sussex and parkade rooftop we visited were perfect as the sun set (at —he says, looking at his watch, shocked— 4:00 pm), and I’m grateful for Willa’s time.

20151125 - Willa Rah Rouge-0018Canon EOS 70D · Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM · 18mm · 1/250 s · f/2.8 · ISO 100
Strobist: Canon 430EX II, 1/16 power, softbox diffused, remote triggered

=)

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