Deanna Wheeler had a special birthday yesterday. She kicked off the Hometown Heroes music festival in Austin, Texas, and hosted the show, held at Brushy Creek Amphitheater. This event is the first large scale social distancing live music festival to be held since Covid-19 began closing music festivals in March.
Dressed in all black and showcasing her signature classic country sound, Deanna and her band got the crowd warmed up for the weekend’s festivities in style.
Many industries have been hit hard or wiped out completely during this pandemic, and live music is one of them. Summer in St. Louis usually means hanging out on the lawn of an outdoor venue with friends, drinking a beer, and listening to your favorite songs. Now, that’s been taken away. Or has it?
The first of many drive-in concerts took place on May 21 at the POWERplex. Tickets could be purchased ahead of time or on arrival, and cars were spaced out so that you could have an area next to your vehicle to bring out a lawn chair and sit without compromising social distancing.
The stage was big, giant screens broadcasted the video feed, and you could tune in to a radio station if you didn’t want to get out of your car to hear the music. Staff, all wearing masks, came around as servers to those VIP spots on the turf and served orders of food like hot dogs and popcorn. People were dancing, singing, and honking to show their approval!
With a 450 car limit for this event, 200 tickets were purchased ahead of time. By the time they converted the setup from drive-in concert to drive-in movie, capacity was nearly full! It certainly seems like people are down to come out for this form of entertainment during a time where we’ve been without concerts and movie theaters! And at these events, you get both a movie and music.
The two bands that played are local to Missouri and mostly sang covers, but nonetheless the audience was excited to be there. Could this work for a touring artist? Probably not. But until we can return to shows the way we used to know, we’re glad to see people being safe and enjoying live music at the same time.
Crowdsurfer: Tell us how you got into shooting shows, how long you’ve been doing it and why you started.
Dusty Kessler: I’ve been shooting music since 2010 when my best friend was starting to perform as a local DJ. I would help him book shows by sending emails to promoters then bring my cameras with me to the shows, maybe there would be 25-50 people there. I started venturing out on my own and hitting up local promoters and other friends in the music scene and was just shooting for free for a while. Eventually that developed into some good business relationships that I still have today with some artists. I guess I started just because I loved live action and music. I never knew it could be a potential career path starting out but i’m thankful to still be shooting.
CS: What are some of your favorite shots you’ve taken over the years and why?
DK: One of my first favorite shots in memory was with G-Eazy, who I still collaborate with frequently. We shot it in Kansas City, MO, while I was in college. He was crowd surfing and I had a strobe in the back of the venue for extra light that I popped off while the confetti blast happened. I’ll never forget that one.
Recently I’ve been working with Miguel and a few months ago we shot at a festival in California. The shot of him with pryro going off in the background ended up being used on his tour merch so that was an amazing moment. To know there are people on the other side of the world wearing clothes with my image on it is amazing.
CS: What do you think is the hardest part about live concert and portrait photography?
DK: The hardest part for me is also the most fun part which is conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there in person and show the human aspect of the artist. When I’m working with an artist 1 on 1 it’s always a challenge that I break down the barrier between the camera and the subject.
CS: Your aesthetic includes a lot of film photography. Do you prefer film over digital? How has your style evolved over time to your signature style that you use now?
DK: I love film and digital. Film is the best medium to be creative and challenge yourself to slow down and frame up a shot. Yes I have shot film a few times during live concerts but it’s more often that I’ll shoot digital for the performance and any backstage or BTS stuff I’ll shoot a mix of film and digital. Sometimes with such quick turn around times I have to only shoot digital to deliver fast. I think my style has always been about being honest and not staging my shots.
CS: Who are some of the people you’ve gotten to photograph, and who is your dream artist to get to photograph one day?
DK: It’s a very extensive list. Recently I’ve still been shooting with G-Eazy and Miguel. Others include Jamie XX, Hitboy, Ava Max, 5 Seconds Of Summer, 070 Shake, Dan and Shay, Maroon 5 and many more. I’ve shot a lot of artists but I think a dream artist who I’d really like to be on tour with is someone who’s not even known yet to the public. I really like working with artists who are small and develop their brand image and creative. But a Billie tour would be fire too (shout out Matty Vogel)
CS: What do you love about shooting shows and the whole touring experience?
DK: I just love tour and meeting new people all around the world who care about music and come together for that reason. There’s nothing like a live sold out show or festival or tour.
CS: What would your advice be to young photographers just starting out?
DK: Find new artists and be in A&R. Reach out to people and offer your services for free at first and build with them creatively. The rest will come with time and just keep shooting every day no matter what type of camera you have or subject you shoot.
CS: Love that. What’s next for you, and what are your plans for this year?
DK: Right now is a scary time for those in my industry. With the touring and music industry on hold we have to stay creative and get through this together. Hopefully in the next 6 months things get back to normal.
CS: Definitely. Anything else you want to add?
DK: I love hearing from new people. Send me a message on IG @dkessler.
Alexander 23 opened up for Chelsea Cutler on March 3, 2020. We were all instantly in love with the neon heart sign that he had on stage, and clearly falling in love with him as he played his newest single “I Hate You So Much,” and covering bops such as Miley’s “Party In The U.S.A.” Take a look at all the photos below! And then check out our other coverage from concert if you haven’t already: Chelsea Cutler photos and the X Lovers interview.
Steve Aoki is a DJ, but he’s also so much more than that. He’s one of the most eccentric performers that we’ve ever seen. It’s not just music, it’s jumping, dancing, throwing cake at fans, jumping into ball pits, running around stage, smoke and confetti, and so much more. We were thrilled to catch his latest tour The Color of Noise when it rolled into Avant Gardner in Brooklyn this month.
I have to say, the show really delivered. It started with Australian DJ Godlands, then Global Dan and Riot Ten, and culminated with a lively performance by Timmy Trumpet and finally ended with Steve Aoki. The sold out show was packed with people having the time of their lives. Check out some of our favorite shots from the exciting show below.
Silversun Pickups played two nights in a row at Brooklyn Steel, and we were at the first one on March 5, 2020. They opened with “Neon Wound” and played other crowd favorites such as “Panic Switch” and “Nightlight.” Fans all around could be seen dancing like crazy and, or course, screaming every word. Check out the gallery for photos from the night!
The New Regime played in NYC on March 5, 2020, the first of a two-night run at Brooklyn Steel. The dark, moody lighting set the tone and we were treated to a longer opening set, which I certainly wasn’t opposed to. The New Regime ended on “Heart Mind Body & Soul,” which is a song I strongly suggest you take a listen to if you’ve never heard it before!
Godlands opened for Steve Aoki at Avant Gardner in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend, and we went to check it out. Annabel Hartlett, known by her stage name Godlands, is an Australian musician and DJ. Her new single with Samplegod, Smoke Em Up, is out now. See all the shots from her set right here:
PUBLIC opened up the final show on the Band of Brothers tour and certainly kicked it off with energy! Take a look at the pictures below from the show and if you haven’t already, read our interview with the band here.