From the Pit to the Crowd: September Mourning with Meka Nism

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Monday, September 28th was on my radar for weeks. It was not only another photo opportunity but a chance to see Meka Nism and September Mourning, who is currently on tour. I know multiple people who have seen September Mourning and all of them said the same thing, “You will love them.” Meka Nism I’ve seen before and have always been impressed with their work, so to see them perform again is always a pleasure.

Once again this was being held at the local venue called The Haven. When I arrived the first I noticed for a Monday night, it was busy. Busier than I’ve seen on some weekends. I shouldn’t have been shocked as Meka Nism has a solid fan base. This is the band that in 2015 placed 2nd in the Orlando Weekly as Best Metal Band and in 2016 placed 1st as the Orlando Weekly’s Best Metal Band. Walking inside, I confirmed I was on the guest list for September Mourning as a photographer and saw a number of friends. I went over to say hello and chatted with them for a few before I went over to say hello to Meka Kyoto (lead vocalist) and Bobby “The Ripper” Keller (lead guitarist).

The members of Meka Nism are some of the nicest people I’ve met in the music industry. I always enjoy their conversations and they’re always smiling. Why? Because they get to do what they love; play on stage and entertain people. After a few minutes they head up to set up their gear on stage while I got my camera ready. I made my way to the stage and saw three other photographers. One of them was my friend Jennifer who got me into concert photography, Roxy, who I met when photographing The Pretty Reckless, and the last I didn’t know. What I did know is they were all excited for tonight.

The lights went down and Meka Nism’s standard intro played over the speakers and soon enough the band took their spots on stage to  get going. Meka Nism is a large band with two guitarists (Bobby and Jeremiah Bennett), their new bassist, Jarret Robinson, keyboardist Jay Adkisson, drummer Jeremy Mansfield, and Meka on vocals. And for such a large piece band, they mesh so well together. “From Out of Nowhere” off their album The Shift: Anthems for a Revolution shows off Meka’s wonderful vocal range from low growling to high falsettos. Bobby and Jeremiah show off their shredding skills.

While they are playing, I’m snapping off shots. The Haven has no pit, so I’m always up in close to the stage or to the side to get some shots of the drummer who is usually in the back, so side stage shooting is the easiest way to reach them. The one thing I immediately noticed is The Haven lighting is running a wild mix of red, green, and white together in some songs, so timing shots when it’s not under that crazy lighting is hard. I also notice Meka doesn’t have her LED lights with her. The last time I photographed her she had these two beautiful LED spot lights that illuminate from the floor up, which provided some unique lighting on her face and beautiful pictures.

The thing I love about photographing Meka Nism is their playfulness. Meka has an amazing costume design as a shaman with a 3rd eye headpiece and her long red dreadlocks. She will also give you great facial expressions. Bobby will give photographers some great shots of him playing and also be playful sticking his face right into your camera lens. Jeremy is always smiling from the drums and if he sees me is willing to look over for a few shots.

Their set list also included “Mouth of God”, one of their most recognizable songs. Meka transitions her voice beautifully again from a with so much ease and she stretches out notes without effort. This is a song when you get a chance to hear and see Jeremy bang out some fast paced drum beats. While on the other side of the stage, Jay is headbanging away on the keyboards, which I love to see. Bobby and Jarret play side by side together, which provides some nice shots, and Jeremiah is standing up on a box near the speaker.

They closed out with “Mekamorphosis”, with an opening where Jay once again shows off his keyboard playing. The one thing I love about this song is hearing Meka perform these notes that I could only describe as operatic. Her vocal ability and range constantly blows my mind. Once they wrap up the band comes together to take a bow and the crowd enthusiastically applauds and screams.

I scan through my pictures, while Meka Nism is packing their gear, I watch fans who come over to talk to various members, ask for pictures, and buying merchandise. It’s easy to see why they were voted as Best Metal Band by the Orlando Weekly.

After Meka Nism’s gear was off stage, September Mourning starting bringing their gear up. I was amazed by the amount of production items they use in their set. There was a massive backdrop, multiple curved claw like posts, lightboxes, a large strobe light, and other side stage lights. The one thing that caught my attention was the drum set.  It was all in black and shone like onyx.

Along with all the stage gear is  the band’s costuming. September, lead vocalist, wears a very detailed white costume along with face paint and a large wig. It is impressive enough on her let alone for her to perform in it as well. Riven, Wraith, and Stitch wear all black, with Riven and Wraith in armored like shirts.  They put a lot of effort into crafting this image.

Once again the lights went down, this time much darker than before, and they came walking out on stage. The musicians took their spot and started to play their opener of “Eye of the Storm”. The song comes out with heavy guitar rifts and September’s chilling voice. She brings some high falsetto’s into this song which will give you goose bumps. Definitely one of my favorite songs from their Volume II album.

Photographing this band is pure bliss. They are all about setting the tone with their lighting and most of it is either dark and shadowy with lots of haze, for beautiful effects in pictures, or bright. I had no problem capturing some great images of the band. September moves with such grace on stage you can’t help but to focus on her. And September was more than willing to play to the photographers, looking at you at the right moment, pawing playfully at the camera, I couldn’t have asked for more. Stitch with his mask is a mystery and since the drums were set low and to the right, he was easily accessible. Wraith and Riven perform their roles well, trying not to show any emotion during their performance, which makes it eerie in a very good way. Photographers appreciate bands who want to be photographed and September Mourning did not disappoint.

Nor did their music. September Mourning performed an amazing cover of “Stand By Me”. They slow it down from the original and then pump a heavy metal sound into the chorus along with September’s screaming. I’m a fan of bands performing covers in their own style and this version works phenomenally well for the band. “Angels Into Dust” has a nice melody and one of softer singing September performs up front. By the time the chorus comes, you are thrusted back into the heavy metal screaming. She has a powerful voice and knows how to manipulate it in each song.

September enjoys interacting with the crowd explaining to us how she is hybrid human reaper. She also showed some love for Meka who was intermixed with the fans. She encourages the fans to sing with her on the song “20 Below” another of my favorites from their Volume II album. It is one of the slower songs from the band, but you’ll easily find yourself singing along with it.

The band closed their set with “Children of Fate”, which fits the storyline of September wanting  to give human souls a second chance and fighting against Fate itself. It is a very powerful song and perfect song to close their set. The one thing the ending left me was wanting to hear more songs from them.

After the show, September and Wraith were at their merchandise booth and happily spoke to the fans and took pictures with them. I asked if September would take a selfie with me for my own Facebook page and she immediately got into character draping herself behind my shoulders eerily staring at the camera. I loved the picture. When bands are willing to interact with their fans like this, the fans remember and share the experience, getting the word out even more about the band.

Overall, having Meka Nism and September Mourning perform together was a perfect combination. These are two bands I can easily see touring together and who knows, maybe one day they will. If you have a chance to catch September Mourning on this tour, do yourself a favor and go see them. You will not be disappointed.