Interview Music

Behind the Lens: Photographers and Live Music

A glimpse into two university students and photographers’ experience shooting live performances and participating in music culture.

To delve deeper into the relationship between photography and live music events, Concordia alum Sydney Gastaldo and third-year student in professional music at Toronto Metropolitan University, alongside third-year photography student Jordan Markle at Dawson College, proudly share their respective journey taking professional photos of live concerts. 

Being in charge of capturing a moment in time, especially in an atmosphere as lively and busy as a live music event—both visually and sonically—is no easy task. When asked about photographers’ aim in capturing the energy and emotion of a performance in any venue, Markle said that he really tries to focus on capturing the emotion and energy of live music in Montreal, no matter its scale: “Each picture is carefully constructed in a way that channels the energy and atmosphere of the event, giving viewers a sneak peek into what it was like to actually be there.” 

As for Sydney Gastaldo, she personally always tends to come back to the concept of movement and DIY approach in photography since she doesn’t like photos that look staged. “Some of this happens in post/editing but some of this experiment can happen in the moment through experimenting with aperture, angles, exposure etc,” Gastaldo shared. She also noted how some of the best photos she’s taken have come from in-between moments like while the show is being set up, the singer is talking to the crowd between songs, or when the stage is being set up for the next track or right at the end of the act. “It can be a great way to capture authenticity from an artist as they tend to be less “on” during those moments,” she said. 

There can also be a process of preparation that happens before the action of a show which can impact how the approach of photographing will unpack. “I start preparing by taking a deep dive into the artist’s discography meaning I’m listening to them all day before the show,” Jordan Markle stated. By doing this, he can understand the emotion and feeling of what the artist is trying to portray to their audience on a deeper level and then capture that energy authentically. 

Logistic preparation is also crucial. In regards to this, Gastaldo always ensures she has enough storage on her camera or enough film, as well as charged batteries and a prepared kit. Moreover, she makes sure to back up anything from past shoots and to develop all her older films beforehand. Checking out the weather if it’s an outdoor show is also part of her routine. 

Challenges can be encountered when documenting the ephemeral nature of live performances. Markle shared how a venue might only allow photographers access to the photo pit for the first three songs. If this is the case, Markle avoids taking the same type of photos for all three songs to offer more variety in the shorter amount of time that is offered to him. To essentially counter this problem, he experiments with different techniques and employs varied shooting methods, sometimes using long exposures or action freeze frames. 

As for Concordia Alum Sydney Gastaldo’s biggest challenge, the lighting for underground or DIY/indie shows can be quite unpredictable. “It can be really hard to capture the in-person feel of a show when it’s happening in low lighting or with flashing light / over-saturated set design,” she said. Matching the pace of any movements on stage is also something to navigate, but these challenges, Gastado said, are just “trial and error.”

A visual artist, in this case, a photographer, retains a certain role in preserving and celebrating music culture since it acts as the bridge between the performing artist and fans, the internet, tabloids, etc. When asking Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle how they see their work contributing to this broader cultural narrative, they provided similar opinions. 

Markle seeks that his work tell someone’s story and preserve memorable moments for years to come. “I see it as a means of capturing the intersection of music, art, and human experience […] whether it’s through documenting live performances, capturing intimate moments backstage, I want my photos to tell stories,” he said.

Gastaldo shared how for her, photography in the realm of live music cements these seemingly small moments that can often feel big for those attending. Moreover, her work focuses on underground and more obscure kinds of music or smaller bands/artists existing in the local scene. “A lot of them split apart and/or don’t end up making a living out of their craft and all that is left of their work is people’s memories and photographs/videos. But regardless of how successful they may be in a broader sense, the impact that their music had on their fans and the community and the beauty of their live performances still means something and I think capturing that and cementing it in history can be beautiful,“ Gastaldo proudly answered. 

From utilizing a small-budget camera or owning professional high-grade equipment, from capturing a small local stage to a large national music festival, live music photographers, like Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle, make sure to remain intentional with their craft. They deliver the most authentic representation of the evening through passionate intentions for the art and story behind each frame. 


Montreal’s music venues and its people

Check out Concordia students’ favourite music venues and their backstory!

From arenas to theatres, all the way to bar settings, Montreal is abundant in locations for artists to perform their latest projects. Montreal fans are one solid pack of passionate beings and always wish for their favourite artists to pass by when on tour. 

Compared to our neighbours in the States, Canada doesn’t see as many visits from artists. Nonetheless, Montreal has been a hub for music lovers and everyone can find their ideal cocoon to experience live music and its communities. Some locals—and in our case, Concordia students—shared with us their favourite and not-so-favourite venues when it comes to experiencing live shows.

Whether speaking to local Concordia students or international students, it was no surprise to hear how much people love attending concerts right here in Montreal. The biggest takeaway from these conversations was that the majority of folks prefer a smaller venue. 

Le Petit Campus is one of the city’s underrated locations—as many people I talked to expressed—despite its intimacy and great sound quality. This space is part of the larger Le Café Campus, which can turn into a bar,  nightclub, live show theatre, or even a workspace. 

Le Petit Campus is widely loved because it brings out a special and closer bond between the artist on stage and the crowd versus a huge arena like the Bell Centre. As Tourisme Montréal states, the multi-purpose arena “is a prime venue for entertainment and sports events” and can host over 21,000 fans. 

Place Bell, a venue open since 2017, also turns out to be a people’s favourite due to its ambiance giving the perfect blend of a large arena and theatre experience. People from outside Montreal—notably Laval—genuinely appreciate having a venue hosting bigger artists closer to them. Folks enjoy the larger community aspect of meeting others and hanging out after the show. 

A venue that is well-loved by most is the Corona Theatre, now called the Beanfield Theatre. Named after the Beanfield Metroconnect telecommunications company in Toronto, it recently became a partner of this performance hall this summer. Almost unchanged since 1912, the theatre’s excellent architecture has helped it gather a lot of popularity such as with its painting ceiling and red brocade curtains. This change and new partnership, according to Le Devoir, “demonstrates Beanfield’s commitment to the community and cultural landscape of Montreal.” The Corona Theatre neon sign will however stay in place and even be illuminated again! 

Visit The Concordian’s podcast to hear more of our interviews with students and to know more about their picks!


Concert review: Tame Impala at Place Bell, Laval

Photo by Faustine Chonavel-Weakley

The Australian band’s divine performance even made some people faint

The cold Laval air was filled with the sounds of police sirens and fans chattering about the upcoming Tame Impala show. Standing in line, it was evident that an infectious energy was spreading. 

The opening act went by the name of Junglepussy. She was an oddball choice as an opener by Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, since she is a hip/hop artist and Tame Impala is a psychedelic alternative band. Her performance was a bit underwhelming on account of her half-hearted dance moves, but the highlight of her show were the visuals, which elevated the senses for each one of the songs. Her most memorable songs were “Trader Joe” for the hilarious pop culture quips which left the crowd reeling with laughter, and “Nah,” which sounded like a Nas-influenced beat.  

After a 15-minute intermission, Tame Impala started off with a luscious intro involving lunar visuals moving around (among other spherical objects). The setlist was comprised of the band’s greatest hits like “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” and “Borderline.” The third song, “Nangs,’” had the Currents album artwork as visuals, which seemed to almost breathe, contracting and expanding and flowing in a “current.” They then dedicated “Breathe Deeper” to Junglepussy, thanking her for opening for the band, which was kind on Parker’s part. 

After bantering with the crowd, Tame Impala played their song “On Track.” Before playing, Parker said that it was the first time the band had performed it live in front of an audience. I really appreciated that the group took the time to mention this little tidbit, because normally bands will say things like “You guys are the loudest city we’ve been to!” just for the sake of riling up the energy of their fans. However, here Parker showed a genuine excitement towards sharing this previously-unperformed song with the audience, creating a memorable experience.

At one point in between songs, Parker said “That stuff smells nice, Montreal weed is good!” The conversations that he had with the crowd were lively and personal too, especially after a member of the crowd gave him a bouquet of flowers.    

The seizure-inducing light show seemed divine, and for each song the visuals were stunning, putting on a psychedelic show which felt like an LSD trip, at least to those who indulged in said practices. During “Breathe Deeper,” two fans fainted. Clearly, they did not pay attention to the song’s title. Understandably, the light show was so overwhelming with the face-melting visuals that surely a lot of other fans felt like they were going to faint as well.

One of the most memorable songs was of course “Elephant.” The sheer monolithic sound of the guitar and bass overpowered most people’s ears but thankfully it was not too overwhelming! Another song that shared this frequency was “Let It Happen.” In my opinion, “Eventually” happened to be my favourite song from the setlist.  

During “Runway Houses City Clouds,” a fan was injured just as the band started to play. Parker stopped playing the song to make sure they were okay. Once everything was cleared up, they restarted the song and all was well. The real-time generated visuals induced a psychedelic fever dream that gave off Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas vibes. Their encores were “The Less I Know The Better” and “One More Hour,” which was the perfect send-off for the band.

Memorable songs: “Elephant,” “Breathe Deeper,” “On Track,” “Eventually,” “Runway Houses City Clouds”

Total times confetti thrown:

Word of the concert: Divine

Photo by Faustine Chonavel-Weakley


The show must go on? I don’t think so!

Continuing to put on concerts should not be the only way to support musicians and preserve independent venues.

Back in July, when the Quebec government passed a law to allow indoor gatherings of up to 250 people, a handful of event organizers got the greenlight to have a few socially distanced shows. This inspired the PHI Centre to host a handful of small, seated performances on their new rooftop terrace, and both MUTEK and Festival De Music Émergente festivals to proceed while adhering to public health directives. Shortly after, small live performances became the norm.

Given that Montreal is one of the Canadian cities hit hardest with a high number of COVID cases and deaths, most people would find it completely illogical to have concerts again. Although the number of cases gradually decreased over the summer, putting on concerts did not seem right. Most venues/promoters explained that their events would be seated to limit motion, require the wearing of masks  at all times and have an extremely limited capacity of 20-50 people. Since then, Montreal entered their second wave with the virus, banning all gatherings until the curve flattens.

As most music fans are aware, attending live shows is the most effective way of supporting musicians. Streaming services becoming the most common way to consume music has drastically affected album sales. In fact, many artists have come to the consensus that their music streams are quite useless. Earlier this year, it came to light that Spotify pays its artists $0.003 USD per stream, which only becomes a liveable wage if artists can generate millions of streams in a consistent manner. That leaves the majority of artists to make most of their income from concert ticket and merchandise sales.

The Canadian government does support musicians through their granting system. This fund exists to help artists create and promote their music with the goal of expanding their audience. However, this effort does not replace touring, which helps artists generate the majority of their income. With the possibility of touring becoming less and less likely for the foreseeable future, it is evident that many musicians and touring staff have been placed in compromising financial positions.

During the summer, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced that the city will dedicate $800,000 to “animate” Montreal, and $500,000 of this will go to support artistic performances, focusing on the Quartier des Spectacles area downtown. She also focused heavily on the aspect of creating new spaces. Although the full details of this project have yet to be fully unravelled, the mayor has yet to mention a plan for small, independent venues.

For the greater part of this year, the majority of music venues will remain empty. Many of the small venues all over the world including Montreal’s beloved La Vitrola have permanently closed their doors. Although there have been relief funds and loans available to help, those donations will not provide venue owners stability as the situation with the pandemic continues to worsen. Those spaces also hold such importance, as they are essential when it comes to launching a career in music.

After putting off these socially distanced shows for a while, I caved and decided to catch a few sets at POP Montreal earlier this fall The festival is known for hosting international artists each year but focused on promoting local artists this time around. The events were mainly held at the Rialto Theatre rooftop to avoid traffic at indoor venues. With Montreal entering code red days before the event, ticket sales were immediately halted. This forced organizers to further reduce their capacity again and only use 25 per cent of their initial capacity, to avoid overcrowding. They also livestreamed the majority of their sets for free.

My experience at the POP Montreal made me realize that there has to be a safe and reliable way to continue supporting local artists and venues. On top of having an elaborate plan to ensure safety and having more security guards to help guide attendees, significantly downsizing the festival definitely impeded the execution of certain events. For instance, the art installations were only available for view from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. instead of having it available until the final shows at the Rialto ended, according to their Instagram stories. As well, both of the performances I caught (Jonathan Personne and Thanya Iyer) lasted roughly 30-40 minutes without any encores, despite having an hour-long slot without openers.

Despite attending multiple seated shows over the years, those ones seemed particularly odd. Whether it was the seats being placed 10 feet from the stage or the lack of artist-to-audience connection with these half-empty rooms that do not radiate a sense of togetherness, attending these makeshift shows was not satisfying at all.

Another important element to consider is that a lot of these spaces used to hold a capacity of over 1,000 people. Proceeding with socially-distanced shows when cases begin to decrease will create inequalities among both artists and promoters. Renting larger venues just to use 25 per cent of their capacity is both costly and will make all venues who have a capacity of under 100 useless, since playing to a crowd of 10-20 in a small venue or bar is both risky and not as profitable. There has to be a proper agenda put in place to help artists maintain their careers and prevent further venue closures to avoid rushing to plan shows without a COVID vaccine.

Even though the prospect of returning to a state where people can genuinely go out and enjoy dancing and moshing at gigs is extremely slim, being patient and looking into ways for effective ways to help rebuild our music scene through supporting local venues is what will save live music, even if the experience is not as pleasant. 

Feature photo by Sun Noor


Metallica fans flocked to the drive-in concert like a “Moth Into Flame”

Metallica and Three Days Grace try their best to adapt a live performance during a pandemic

There are only so many days in a year that have the anticipation of last Saturday. One of your favorite bands is performing in your city. Your excitement is palpable. As the night approaches, you only continue to get giddier. It’s time to leave the house. You grab the keys. The only worry in the world is finding a parking space.

Only one catch: it’s 2020. Due to the raging global COVID-19 pandemic, concerts as we knew them are no more.

That’s where nostalgia steps in with a solution. Metallica and Three Days Grace put on a drive-in concert from coast to coast. And like a moth into flame, metalheads came for a uniquely 2020 concert. The only catch is that there’s no in-house sound system since the venues are mostly pop-up locations. The venue suggested using an alternate sound system than your car stereo—two hours on the car battery is not a great idea if you plan on leaving the parking lot.

For my experience, I used an iPod Nano and a Beats Pill to connect to the show’s FM broadcast. The company running the show was beta testing their app which I could not connect to from my parking spot, with no explanation as to why. Some brought boomboxes to layout in truck beds, others took whatever they had to get the closest approximation of live music possible. As such, I will not be commenting on the audio quality beyond the limits of FM radio.

First up was Three Days Grace, playing an opening set of all their hits, recorded live from an unknown studio. From the get-go, the oddity of playing a live show in 2020 was apparent, as they made their best effort to rile up the crowd as an opening act should, despite playing behind a screen. Despite the awkwardness of the scenario, Three Days Grace played like they were in their element, and their set was filmed just like a normal concert movie.

Metallica started their set after a one-minute countdown between the shows. The band began with their trademark curtain-raising instrumental song “The Ecstasy of Gold” (originally composed by Ennio Morricone) and opening on a sunset stage in a secret Northern California location. No stranger to filming their concerts, they made an excellent showing with all the lights and theatrics that one should expect. Metallica even made the effort of playing clips of their crew changing out guitars, banter amongst the band and with the audience between songs. Their crowd work was more natural than that of Three Days Grace, mostly just joking between themselves, including a shout out, with lead singer / guitarist James Hetfield even saying, “Quebec, they’re going nuts right now, if I know Quebec.”

At the end of the night, when all the riffs were done cutting through the FM radio static, concert-goers left their drive-ins as satisfied as possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the drive-in experience was clunky at best, and a meager substitute for a real live show. That being said, given the circumstances, I wouldn’t trade it away. It was refreshing to have somewhere to go, to be outside of the house. Even with the subpar sound compared to what I could have had back home, the togetherness and excitement of a live show still beat a typical web concert any day.

This show is a look into the future of concerts and live events going forward in 2020. As we step into Zoom classes, we’re all painfully aware of the problems and awkwardness of trying to have an event worth going to digitally. The drive-in format provides a middle ground between a computer monitor and concert hall that was a welcome change of pace from my normal day behind countless screens. Judging by how full the show I attended was, I’m not alone in wanting to go to a performance, not just log into one.

The Metallica / Three Days Grace show offered a moment’s reprieve; the only major concert to grace the summer of 2020, a reminder of a world so cold.


Photo by Grayson Acri


Are we addicted to Bon Jovi?

So Montreal, you’ve got a thing for Bon Jovi, don’t you? Well, apparently Bon Jovi has a thing for Montreal since they’ve performed numerous sold-out shows here, and the world over, countless times.

Photo by Mark Kent

The New Jersey rockers have been around since 1983, and hold the record for most sold-out shows for every single one of their tours. Their Because We Can tour marked a celebration for them—30 years of great rock n’ roll music and success. In fact, they continue to tour around the world for the simple reason, “because they can.”

No matter where Bon Jovi goes, no matter which country, which state or province, no matter which venue, inside or outside, center or stadium, they sell every single ticket. Now why is this? Is it because people have always been so in love with the band’s great looks and powerful anthems and ballads, or is it simply because they have stayed true and relevant to who they are, and who they have been from the start? The answer to that is both and so much more.

Since 1983, the band’s songs became about the people that listened to them, and as Bon Jovi grew, their fans grew with them.

The fans trust that at every single concert the band will give it their all, and they do. They’ve evolved, but still remain true to who they were and what they are and that is why until this very day they are still able to be at the top of the top.

As fans, we know that we can trust them and their music, through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs.

Bon Jovi hones and perfects the ideal arena rock experience each and every time. Enter a Bon Jovi concert and you get extreme passion, high energy, positivity, freshness, stage spectacle, and audience engagement.

Combine all of this together, and you leave the show speechless after three hours of nothing but pure rock n’ roll music coming from the heart and soul.

They assure you that you will come back and see them again because just once is not enough. There is an infectious enthusiasm in every single aspect of the show that takes you back to the ‘80s, puts a coin in the jukebox, and then comes back to the present—always leaving you wanting more.

On stage, they seem ageless, as if time never changed them; whether it be Jon Bon Jovi perfecting each and every high note while dancing with emotion, Richie Sambora hitting every guitar solo with his funky ‘80s outfits and priceless facial expressions, Tico Torres banging on the drums like there is no tomorrow or David Bryan playing on the keyboards—they have it all.

They infuse each show with plenty of life, and if you ask any Bon Jovi concert attendee, there will be no flaws noticed, as they make sure to make the crowd go wild with power anthems “Livin’ On A Prayer,” “You Give Love A Bad Name,” or “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Their songs have always been about the real world, with words people can relate to. This is why they sell out every single concert everywhere they go. They give consistent entertainment and will make sure they beat the standard of their last show each time.

If you want to see a band that has consistently done their thing, and been consistent to their music style, Bon Jovi is the band to see, and that is why they’re still here.



Watching it happen through a lens

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

Concerts. If you’re like me, you know the feeling of sheer excitement and euphoria felt at a really good show.

The unbearable heat, the screams that break sound barriers, the vibrating wood floors, and…the constant glow of smartphone screens.

I’ve been going to concerts since I was six. In fact, my first concert as a six -year-old was at the Metropolis.

I can still remember my sister sneaking in our camera in my Lion King purse. She wanted to take a few pictures, and she chose her shots wisely because we were using a Flintstone disposable camera.

With smartphones like the iPhone, HTC, and Samsung Galaxy sporting eight megapixel cameras and full HD video, the possibilities are endless. It also means everyone feels the need to act as paparazzi at concerts. It’s a given. Every concert I have been to in the past two years, be it a small or large venue, smartphones and other popular ‘intelligent devices’ with not so intelligent users are part of the lighting display.

There are people who hold them way up in the air, and if you are plagued with the issue of being a four-foot-tall 19-year-old like myself, then you’re the one watching the concert through 50 different little LCD screens. Charming.

I totally understand the desire to grab a few shots, maybe even a few minutes of video of your favourite song. However, holding up your device throughout the whole show is excessive. Essentially, you are paying for a ticket to watch your favourite artist through a screen when they are literally three feet away from you.

“It can be a little annoying if it is a visual spectacle,” said Hare Patel, a Concordia English & history student. However, he said he believes that if someone bought their ticket, they have the right to do what they please.

What I don’t understand is that most of the time you aren’t even getting a good shot. Face it; your videos are a hot mess on playback because you were flailing all over the place when filming, and you surely caught the soprano singer in the background screeching all the wrong lyrics.

“The picture quality is awful,” said Sandrine Fafard, a communications student at Concordia. “But at the same time I want to share it!”

In addition to the need to be the modern day Warhol, instagramming their hearts away, people feel the need to live tweet their experience.

You need to be there to understand the excitement. Your twitter followers aren’t, and if you are focussed on tweeting, you actually aren’t either.

People constantly feel the need to capture the moment, trap the memory inside their tiny microchip, and keep it forever. We don’t want to let go of anything for fear of never being able to feel it again. What we don’t realize is that in doing so, we are actually missing out on the moment. Believe me, put that camera or phone down and let the music engulf you, laugh and sing along with hundreds of strangers. That feeling is more powerful than any flash or recording device on the planet.

Interestingly, Fafard is more annoyed with the use of phone screens instead of lighters.
“If you want to rock it, rock it for real,” she said.

On the one hand, part of me is glad phone screens have replaced lighters at concerts as I don’t really trust the human population with that much fire in a closed venue. But on the other, if it means getting rid of endless picture and video-taking at concerts, I’ll take the lighters any day.

Exit mobile version