Sit Down and Shut the Fuck Up! is Revolver’s monthly acoustic night, with this particular evening being the third iteration. Because of my prior (poor) experiences with open mic nights in Taiwan, I was reluctant to hit any more up, hence my skipping the first two nights. A unusual series of events pretty much made it so that Sit Down and Shut the Fuck Up! was the only event I’d be able to shoot for a week, so I decided to give it a go. Boy, was I glad I did. Unlike other open mic nights, Revolver’s line up is pretty much all talent. That’s right, no terrible “I wrote this song to experiment with the concepts of blah blah blah” — yes, I have heard someone go on about like that and it was terrible — going on for ten minutes before every song. This was all straight up singing and acoustic guitar enjoyment, three songs at a time.
For this particular event, Revolver’s second floor was transformed from its usual dark music cave into a pretty moody, decently lit stage. Low tables with candles on them and stools were spread out around the room, and even the little faux chandeliers on the roof were lit up. I arrived before the show started and things were pretty empty, but by the time the singing started it was filling up. By about the third act, that room was pretty difficult to navigate. For the entire time I was there, I essentially sat or crouched on the floor directly in front of the stage.
I managed to catch six sets before I had to leave, a couple of which I’d seen/heard before and the rest essentially new to me. The night got kicked off by Revolver co-owner Jez, who crooned out three great songs and then spent the rest of the night playing MC. It was nice to see Jez come out from behind the bar or off the couch and take the stage, and he actually sings pretty well too.
Following Jez on the stage was none other than Mike Mudd. I’d seen Mike perform before at Revolver with Chen Mo, and his dynamic personality always brings a certain spark and life to the audience. For this gig, he had his setup of guitar, harmonica, a foot tamburine, his voice, of course, and something I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately: a mic in-shoe (I’m assuming, I normally just see a cable running into a pant leg). The latter works as a nice bass kick for the beat as the performer taps a foot while playing. Mike was literally hauling more gear on-stage than I was with my camera gear.
Next up was Early, who Jez described as having “a voice like an angel.” She stumbled a bit at the start, definitely the nerves, but afterwards proceeded to pretty much meet the expectations set by Jez’s comment. Her velvety voice was a pretty good match for her choice of songs, which to me felt like a seven on the Adele-scale of sad. Regardless, she sang beautifully and accompanied it well with some decent guitar-work, so I’d be happy to see her play again.
Nathan Javens was up next in the line up, changing the mood and pace of the evening a bit. There was a much more grungy feeling to his performance, both visually and in the music. In general, it wasn’t a huge deviation, but there was enough of a change to be noticeable. Of course, all that feeling he packed into the singing pretty much equaled zero photos with his eyes open.
The last solo act that I caught that night was Brodie; not sure on his last name, so if you know it drop a comment. Out of all the performers, he was probably the most chatty. However, I will say that it thankfully wasn’t excuses and such, but rather humorous idle banter. Particularly, a whole mix-up with the name of a girl in a song and using his students to practice. In general, his singing was a bit more American than the rest of the folks that evening, which was fine by me and pretty much just added more variety to the night.
The final act I saw take the stage was The Red Cliff. This duo rounded up the evening for me with a little more energy coming out of the performance. Maybe it was that there were two of them, but there was definitely more pizazz in their playing; particularly the guitar-work.
Overall, Sit Down and Shut the Fuck Up! was a fantastic show for a Thursday night. All the performers were solid, and that just serves to make me regret having to leave early all the more. I know for sure I missed Scott Cook, but I would have loved to have seen everyone else take to the stage. If you need a definite change of pace from all the screaming or body-grinding music you’ll find elsewhere in Taipei, you gotta check out this monthly event. And if you want to perform, just keep an eye on Revolver’s Facebook page and sign up when it comes along.
Lighting conditions at Revolver were pretty much as good as anyone shooting a gig at night in a bar can hope for. Since it was an all acoustic night, it was mostly single performers sitting or standing in the center of the stage, lit up on both sides by stage lights. The only major drawback with this setup is that the lights were different colors, throwing a pretty big range of colors on each side. Regardless, the amount of light meant that I never had to shoot over ISO1600. As the night progressed, I dropped ISO down step-by-step to ISO400.
As there was very little action, I risked it a bit and dropped shutter speeds to around ~1/125 to catch as much light as possible. While jacking up ISO ratings to really peek into shadows is easy enough, there’s really no replacement for just properly exposing. Because of the high angles the lights were at, there were hard, deep shadows on some of the performers’ faces. I basically metered for those areas and found the middle ground expose-wise to not blow out the brighter spots. Worked out pretty well if you ask me.
Low ISO ratings also meant that boosting the darker areas in post-production generated little noise, if any at all. In fact, everything was so clean that I barely tapped the noise reduction slider in half the cases. The biggest issues in post was finding the right white balance and desaturating certain colors to avoid some terrible color casts.
Due to the nature of acoustic gigs, there isn’t a whole lot of volume being cranked out. As such, I was trying to avoid being too noisy and shot with the drive mode on Q — for quiet — during any sets where the performer was playing with the mic to the guitar. Plugged-in electro-acoustics generally put out more volume so I wasn’t too worried then. Overall, shooting in quiet mode does cut the noise down significantly, but it’s somewhat unnatural and requires some adjustment. Essentially, in quiet mode the mirror locks up on shutter press, but doesn’t go back down until you let go of the shutter. Mirror actuation is slower than normal, so it’s important to stay on target and be even more disciplined when shooting; otherwise you can get some unwanted motion blur.
Nikon D7000 (Amazon)
Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D (Amazon)
Nikon AF 50mm f/1.4D (Amazon)
Nikon AF 80-200mm f/2.8D (Amazon)
Nikon SB-700 (Amazon)
Nikon SC-29 (Amazon)
The great light meant that I didn’t need a flash the entire evening (other than a shot of the crowd), but I did use it in conjunction with the SC-29 for focus assist on a few of the darker shots wide open at f/1.4. I was worried that the red light would be annoying, but in all honesty it was barely visible. The camera, on the other hand, saw it perfectly and focused ridiculously fast. As long as there’s some lighting, the assist light is nearly invisible. Of course, the biggest drawback is that it’s only useable in AF-S mode, meaning the SC-29 is completely useless in tracking motion.