SXSW 2014 - Up Next featuring Fred Armisen at Esther's Follies

March 20, 2014

Rest assured, if someone with their own TV show is performing at SXSW, people will come in their droves to see them. Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia fame) was no exception. This event at Esther's Follies, headlined by Armisen, featured a bevy of comedy talent, many of whom also had connections to SNL. A huge line had formed outside hours before the show was even due to start, and I suspect there were a lot of disappointed people who got turned away.

I love, love, love going to comedy shows, especially at the more intimate venues like Esther's Follies. This was my first time shooting one, however. The challenges are pretty much the same as a lot of music photography (dim lighting, no flash allowed, microphones obscuring the performers' faces, etc.), but being able to walk around a venue where everyone remains seated made for a much more relaxing time. Esther's Follies is a particularly nice venue for photography because the room slopes downwards towards the stage. Standing at the back, you can get a pretty clear shot over everybody's heads.

I enjoyed the whole show immensely. Every act was outstanding, but the highlight of the night (and indeed the entire festival) for me, was BriTANick. BriTANick (rhymes with Titanic) are a duo comprised of Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney, and they might just be my new favorite thing ever. There's no way I can even come close to conveying just how funny their act was with my horrible, useless words, but to summarize, Kocher and McElhaney play multiple roles in a skit set in an old-timey western saloon, frantically switching back and forth between characters. Things start out simply enough, but the skit gets continuously derailed as Kocher sabotages and manipulates proceedings in order to try and kiss McElhany. As I said, I can't do it justice, but what I found so impressive was just how tight their performances were. It was a complicated, fast-paced sketch, and they never once missed a beat. It was incredible to watch. I've looked everywhere online for a recording but to no avail. They do have a bunch of videos on YouTube, however, so I implore you to check them out. Here's one of my favorites (there is a bit of bad language, just in case you don't like that kind of thing)...

And here are some photos from the evening.

SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenSasheer Zamata SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenTim Robinson SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenSasheer Zamata SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenTim Robinson SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenJoe Wengert SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenSteve Gethard SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenSteve Gethard SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenBriTANick (Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher) SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenBriTANick (Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher) SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenBriTANick (Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher) SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenNick Rutherford of Good Neighbor


SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenNick Rutherford and Beck Bennett of Good Neighbor SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenKyle Mooney of Good Neighbor SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenTim Meadows SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenFred Armisen SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenFred Armisen SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenFred Armisen SXSW 2014: Up Next featuring Fred ArmisenFred Armisen


SXSW 2014 - Panels

March 19, 2014

You may already have seen some of the images from the Kevin Bacon and Mindy Kaling SXSW panels I covered, but I acknowledge that pictures of people talking in convention centers can get a bit samey after a while, so I've decided to condense the rest of my panel shots into one easily-digestible post. If you have a gander at the photos below you will see, in no particular order...

  • Andy Cohen (Bravo's Executive Vice President of Development and Talent)
  • Grace Helbig (internet personality and comedian)
  • Tyler Oakley (YouTube Star)
  • Ze Frank (Executive Vice President of Video at Buzzfeed)
  • George Clinton (funk legend)
  • Laura Jane Grace (lead singer / guitarist of Against Me!)
  • Big Freedia (musician / reality TV star)
  • Sharon Needles (musician / drag artist)
  • John Norris (former MTV News anchor)
  • Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter, co-founder and CEO of Jelly)
  • Steven Johnson (author)
  • Mark Cuban (entrepreneur / manager of the Dallas Mavericks)
  • Aaron Levie (co-founder and CEO of Box)
  • Ben Wizner (director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project / Edward Snowden’s legal adviser)
  • Christopher Soghoian (principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union)
  • Pete Cashmore (founder and CEO of Mashable)
  • Joanna Coles (Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan)
  • Oliver Fleurot (CEO of MSLGROUP / former CEO of The Financial Times)

SXSW 2014: Super Fandom in the Digital AgeL-R: Tyler Oakley, Ze Frank, Andy Cohen, Grace Helbig SXSW 2014: Generation Mash-Up: Y Bother?Pete Cashmore SXSW 2014: The NonconformistsSharon Needles SXSW 2014: A Virtual Conversation with Edward SnowdenBen Wizner and Christopher Soghoian SXSW 2014: Biz Stone in Conversation with Steven JohnsonBiz Stone SXSW 2014: Biz Stone in Conversation with Steven JohnsonSteven Johnson SXSW 2014: Generation Mash-Up: Y Bother?Oliver Fleurot SXSW 2014: Copyright Termination Rules Have to ChangeGeorge Clinton Box's Aaron Levie Talks w/FORTUNE's Jessi HempelAaron Levie SXSW 2014: Biz Stone in Conversation with Steven JohnsonSteven Johnson and Biz Stone SXSW 2014: The NonconformistsBig Freedia SXSW 2014: Generation Mash-Up: Y Bother?L-R: Oliver Fleurot, Joanna Coles, Pete Cashmore SXSW 2014: Biz Stone in Conversation with Steven Johnson SXSW 2014: The NonconformistsLaura Jane Grace of Against Me! SXSW 2014: One on One with Mark CubanMark Cuban SXSW 2014: The NonconformistsL-R: Laura Jane Grace, Sharon Needles, Big Freedia, John Norris


SXSW 2014 - Running The Show: TV's New Queen of Comedy

March 10, 2014

As a big fan of The Office, it was exciting for me to shoot Mindy Kaling as she talked about her latest show, The Mindy Project. Mindy was interviewed by Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Anne Fulenwider, and was joined on stage by her co-stars Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally. All three actors clearly have a great chemistry together, and it was fun to listen to them talk about their experiences and trade lighthearted jibes about having Mindy as a boss.


SXSW 2014 - Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A Social Phenomenon Turns 20

March 09, 2014

I've shot SXSW quite a bit these last few years. Traditionally I've mainly covered the music aspect of the festival, but this year I branched out more into the interactive and film side of things.

One of my first tasks this year was to cover a panel discussing the lasting appeal of the 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' game, featuring the man himself, with guest appearances from Felicia Day (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Guild) and Maisie Williams (Game Of Thrones), amongst others. If you don't know the premise of the Six Degrees game (where on earth have you been these past two decades?!), it basically revolves around the notion that Kevin Bacon, being the prolific actor that he is, can be linked to any other actor, living or dead, through their film or TV roles in six steps or less. In simpler times, before we depended on the internet for absolutely everything, this game was a great way for movie buffs to show off their encyclopedic film knowledge. Nowadays, of course, you can cheat - check out The Oracle of Bacon website and marvel at how surprisingly difficult it is to find someone that can't be connected to Kevin Bacon in just two steps or less.

Going into this panel, I was a little skeptical of how much mileage they could get from such a topic, but the whole event was surprisingly entertaining and informative. For instance, did you know that Bacon originally hated the game when he first heard about it because he thought it was making a mockery of him? Or that the game led to him starting his own charitable organization, SixDegrees.org? Apparently the website has already raised over five million dollars for various charities. Not too shabby, Kevin.


Lauren & Tanner's Wedding

February 09, 2014

Lauren and Tanner's wedding was a treat for me for so many reasons. For starters, their reception was way out in far West Texas, in a little town called Alpine. Even just driving through the desert to get there felt like something out of a movie for me. It's a part of the country I rarely get to experience. And when the journey includes old-timey diners, ghost towns and questionable gas stations where people give you that "you ain't from around these parts" look, you can't even begin to imagine my delight.

And then of course there was the wedding itself. Lauren and Tanner opted to eschew pretty much every normal wedding tradition in favor of a weekend long party. Everyone had such a great time. For me, even shooting the bride and groom was a different experience. Normally, I just have a small window of time to grab the formal shots right after the ceremony, but with Lauren and Tanner I was able to spend several hours with them before their ceremony, traveling around Alpine and the surrounding desert to get shots in all kinds of different locations - a baseball field, a train station, the middle of a deserted highway, even the tour bus of cult country music star Dale Watson (who not only performed at their reception, but officiated their actual wedding ceremony, too). I got so many great shots I couldn't possibly include them all here, but below are some of my favorites.