From the Pit to the Crowd: Pop Evil with Badflower and Copper Bones

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Friday the 13th and Pop Evil. Coincidence? Maybe, but I wasn’t feeling unlucky at all. I scheduled to photography and review their show on January 13th down at the House of Blues Orlando. I’ve been here so often over the past few months that I have my checklist before I walk out the door done hours before. The hardest part for me is the drive and the traffic. House of Blues Orlando sits on Disney property, so there is always traffic. Throw in a few accidents on I-4 and my 50 minute drive can easily turn into 90 minutes. That wasn’t the case that evening.

I arrived around 7 PM to pick up my photo credentials. The woman at the box office even recognized me  because I’ve been there so much. As I was finishing signing for my credentials, my friend and fellow photographer, Jennifer also arrived to pick up her credentials. When we were both set it was through security, in the front door, and straight over to the pit stairs to wait about 45 minutes for the first band to hit the stage at 8 PM.

During the wait Jennifer and I usually talk about our next shows scheduled, festival season, and what we might expect from the bands tonight. We also start scoping out spots where we can take more pictures once we’re done in the pit. There’s limited options when the crowd is involved but Jennifer and I usually find our way into good spots. I also check in with the DreadMusicReview owner to let him know there were no issues with my credentials and getting into the show.

That night the bands wasted no time getting ready. Copper Bones hit the stage right on time and we hit the pit. They are a local Orlando rock duo, Ryan Fleming (bass and vocals) and Gregg Blachstein (drums) who play the way music is meant to be, hard and loud. They played “The Vulture” from their Exhibit A album. For a duo with no guitarist they create some amazing sounds. Bass chords that rip through your body each time he strums while Gregg’s drumming added onto the beating. Ryan’s vocals are made for the rock music they produce. They also played one of my favorite songs from the album, “I am the Wolf”.

Their lighting matched their tone with a mix of reds, purples, and whites. I was pleased with the lighting as it was clear enough to get some great pictures of the duo. Also, Gregg’s drumset was turned sideways, which gave us good access to see him. Most drummers are pushed far back on stage and out of view from the pit. After their three songs we left the pit and I went hunting for some new photo spots.

The crowd hadn’t built up so I was able to go to the floor in the back and get some nice shots from the back getting some wider shots of the band. Some of their other songs they played that night included “War is the Answer”, “Bad Love”, and”Heaven’s Gate”. Copper Bones was a great opener. This was starting to pan out to be a good start to the evening.

Jennifer and I chatted about the photos we just took and the band while we waited for the next one to start. Another photographer we know Bryan was also in the put that night and he joined us in our conversation. Normally after we get out of the pits, Jennifer likes to go upstairs to get some above shots of the band. Security told her they weren’t letting photographers upstairs for the openers, but they would let us go upstairs for Pop Evil. It stinks, but they could have said no all together. It wasn’t too long before Badflower came up on stage and we were back down in the pit once more.

The Los Angeles band took the stage with confidence and smiles before the House of Blues Orlando crowd. The crowd immediately cheered once they saw them walk on stage. They opened up with “Drop Dead” from their Temper EP. Immediately you knew what this band was bringing to the crowd from Anthony Sonetti’s quick drum strikes. Josh Katz’s high pitched vocals to screaming truly set the tone for this band: intensity. Joseph Morrow’s guitar playing and Alex Espiritu’s bass added to the electricity the band was bringing to the crowd. You could see in their motions and movement how much they loved music but also how much they loved playing to a live crowd. They followed up with “Soap” the first single they released back in 2015.

The lighting for this show fit the band well starting off with reds and purples with small mixing of white. It then went to yellows and oranges, also mixing in some white. The band moved around on stage a lot, making it challenging sometimes to capture them. At the same time, I truly enjoy when the musicians move on stage as it gives me lots of action captures. I was pleased with what I was getting.

Josh had noticed me getting pictures of him towards the end of “Soap”. When they finished, during the crowd applause he took a moment to look right at me and pointed. I was already snapping pictures before he had pointed so I knew I got the shot I wanted. I gave him a thumbs up and mouthed a “Thank you” towards him. I’m fairly certain any concert photographer will tell you there is nothing greater than getting an artist to interact with you and your camera. After the third song, I went back out to my spots on the floor and took some more pictures of the band on stage for a wide view. Badflower was making an impression on the crowd. Some of the other songs they played included “Let the Band Play” and “Heroin”, also from Temper, and “My Girl”. They closed out with their 2016 single from Temper, “Animal”. When they finished the crowd gave them tremendous applause.

I made my way back to the pit stairs and met up with Jennifer and Bryan. We talked about our pictures as we waited for Pop Evil to take the stage. This assignment was turning out better than I hoped as I was photographing for the first time with two cameras. I was using one for wider shots close to the stage and the other for close ups of the artist’s faces. I wasn’t certain the transition between cameras would be easy to handle, but I found it was much easier than I expected.

We suddenly heard cheers expecting to see Pop Evil take the stage. Instead, we saw WJRR’s radio personality Supa Dave coming out tossing t-shirts to people. He talked to the fans for a quick moment about how lucky he was to not only be seeing one of his favorite bands but then also to be traveling to see them on the Shipwrecked rock cruise in a few days. He then asked the crowd to cheer for Pop Evil would be coming out momentarily. We headed into the pit and waited. It wasn’t took long before the venue went dark and the screaming and cheers started.

On stage a spotlight was on a masked man who began to spray paint a wall. He then grabbed a flag and walked it to the microphone. He removed his mask revealing Leigh Kakaty, lead vocalist for Pop Evil. One by one the rest of the band, Davey Grahs (guitar), Nick Fuelling (guitar), Matt DiRito (bass), and Hayley Cramer (drums) took their spots as they opened with “Trenches” the first single from the Onyx album. The hard hitting song had the crowd bouncing right away and Leigh’s vocals carried across the arena. They followed up with “Goodbye My Friend” also from the Onyx album.

The photos from the pit were a bit more challenging than the prior two bands. The three songs were heavy in red lights either with blue or oranges mixed in. It took some patience, good angles, and the right timing to get some good shots that weren’t being washed out by the red lighting. It wasn’t easy, but I made it work to get some nice images of the band. Hayley was up on a raised platform, but she wasn’t easy to get shots of from the pit.

The performed “Last Man Standing” for the third song from the War of Angels album. After the third song, Jennifer and I made our way out of the pit and straight for the stairs. We all gathered but the stairs was blocked off by a chain. I didn’t want to cross it and risk getting ejected from the venue. Luckily a security guard was walking past and I showed him my photo credentials and asked if we could go upstairs to photograph. He gave us the OK so we made our way to the second level.

We crossed over into the seating area where security was there, but didn’t say anything to us about being up there. We were surprised to find the middle benches that directly faced the stage were empty. Jennifer immediately sat down and started taking photographs. I did the same but standing, as did Bryan. The view was amazing and they had these LED light beams of orange coming out from the stage that were unreal in pictures. They were visually stunning. Jen decided to move elsewhere so I took her spot for a few more pictures. I got a fantastic jump shot of Matt DiRito which I was quite pleased with. A few minutes of me still photographing, I heard someone said they were going to join me and it was Supa Dave from WJRR with two of his friends. I got up and let them have the bench. I had met Supa Dave at the New Year’s Even show with Sevendust so he apparently remembered me.

I went back downstairs to take some pictures from my floor spots I used earlier while listening to the show. Some of the other songs they had played included “Torn to Pieces”, “Lux” from the Up album, and “Monster You Made”. I ended up running into a co-worker who is also a concert photographer. We talked and enjoyed the show together until the encore. They came back to play both “Footsteps” and “Take It All” both from the Up album.

The craziest part was during footsteps, Leigh climbed up on this massive speaker. And then looked at the crowd and jumped off it back to the stage floor. And the whole time my co-worker was saying in my ear “Get that shot, get that shot!” So I did. After they completed they set and encore set they thanked their fans and said good night to the fans.

Before I left, I saw two women during the evening who I thought I recognized and confirmed I did. One is a model and the other a close friend. We had talked online after learning we were both at the same Sevendust show. They were heading to the Badflower table like me as they wanted pictures with the band. When I finally got up to them, I thanked Josh for the pose and gave him my business card. I took the photo for the two women and then said my goodbyes to head home.

It was probably one of my luckiest shoots getting the interaction pose from Badflower and the two jump shots. This was a fun show and if you have the opportunity to catch it during their tour, do it.