I love seeing live music in out-of-the-way places… holes in the wall, warehouses, bars without stages. Of course, as someone who takes concert pictures, I find it frustrating to attempt photography in the dim lighting at some of these places, but I’m always up for a good challenge.
The place to be on Wednesday night was the Burlington, a little bar on Fullerton in the Logan Square neighborhood. I’ve seen it mentioned lately, but this was my first visit. Several of the artists on the Chicago record label Cardboard Sangria were having a free showcase — five artists, each playing about half an hour. A performance by the excellent psychedelic folk-rocker the Singleman Affair was enough reason to draw me in.
Here’s the kind of concert venue this is. You walk from the sidewalk in through the front door and the first thing you notice is that the band is right there, playing next to you. No stage. Virtually no lights, alas. A dark bar in a narrow room, with antlers on the wall at various points, serving its own brew of beer with antlers on the tap.
I came in as the first band, Mean Sea Level, was playing, and enjoyed what I heard. Next came Rock Falls, a.k.a. Annie Reese, who managed to hush the crowd with her quiet songs, including a few played on ukulele. Her voice sounded lovely as she sang plaintive melodies over simple but sometimes quirky strumming.
The third band of the night was Darling, who played scrappy rock songs with some real 1960s “la la” kind of harmonies. The Singleman Affair (which, for this show, was Daniel Schneider on acoustic guitar and vocals plus Toby Summerfield on stand up bass) then played a few old and a few new songs, giving a tantalizing preview of the forthcoming album, the Silhouettes at Dawn. Schneider threw himself into the performance, shaking his hair wildly as he played finger-picked patterns on the guitar with the kind of intensity you’d expect in an electric-guitar solo. The last act of the evening, Poor Lister, was a solo project by Singleman Affair guitarist Gary Pyskacek.
And, yes, it did turn out to be a challenging evening for photography. You can see a lot of grain, blur and shallow focus in my photos. Most of the night, I was shooting at ISO 3200, f stop 1.4 and shutter speed 1/30th or 1/25th of a second. Those of you who know what that means will realize just how dark the Burlington was. But it also seemed like a hip and friendly place.