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.
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.
Let’s be honest, I haven’t really known of Chelsea Cutler’s music besides her features with Quinn XCII, and Jeremy Zucker. But after tonight’s show, I can definitely say that I am a bigger fan than when I walked into Terminal 5. The whole point of a tour for a performer is to put on a good show, and for the fans, it is to enjoy it. Knowing all the lyrics and songs is up to the audience. Regardless of my lack of prior knowledge in Cutler’s music, I genuinely enjoyed the music and from the looks of it, so did everyone else.
There were already high expectations as it was her second sold-out show in New York City at Terminal 5. Along with her phenomenal openers, X Lovers, and Alexander 23, Cutler definitely did not disappoint. Visually, her use of lights, colors, and visual pieces made it all the better. The backgrounds painted a beautiful picture for her to be captured in and really kept the audience honed in on her performance, whether it be a ballad or dance anthem. Sonically, her vocals were so perfect live that it didn’t even feel real. Her tone and texture in her voice remained the same all throughout the show. No cracks, no weak points, it was just spot-on which is incredibly impressive for a vocalist to have that strength and control.
From the beginning of her performance to the end, we’d moved several locations to get a decent spot as the place was packed. And each time, fans everywhere were singing and dancing, lyric by lyric, note by note. It was inspiring to be surrounded by people so in awe from the performance that Cutler exhibited, and we couldn’t get enough. Overall, this performance was raw, fun, engaging, and nothing short of magic. Until the next show!
This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, and the perfect time for an acoustic show by three top country artists: Ryan Hurd, Walker Hayes, and Rodney Atkins. I had the pleasure of spending the pre-show with Walker, taking some portraits and goofing off backstage.
The sold-out event was held at Viejas Casino in San Diego. Check out the gallery below for my favorite shots from the show.