Mississippi Studios, My Favorite Music Venue

Why is Mississippi Studios my favorite venue?

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I just like everything about it. MS is not very big, but still has a balcony. They have a great bar inside the music room. The restaurant Bar Bar has great food, a good selection of beer on tap. I love the outdoor patio with the bonfire going strong on chillier nights. The crowd is generally really chill. The staff is absolutely professional. I’m just very comfortable there.

The main room has the balcony above that overlooks the main floor and the stage. The stage is damn near the perfect height. You can still get a good view from the rear of the room, but not so high that the band seems far away. They also keep a rope about 3 feet from the stage. The rope gives photographers a little room to navigate from one end of the stage to the other. I like to get there early to grab a beer or two and post up as close to the middle of the stage as I can get. I try to avoid standing directly in front a mic stand to get a clear view of the whole band. Unless it’s a paid job to photograph a band, I’m happy just standing in the middle as not to disturb my fellow show-goers.

I’ve photographed my fair share of live music, and Portland is my favorite place to see shows. With so many interesting bands and venues, there are many options for photographers, shooting live music is fairly easy to do. If you can get on the guest list, great. Paying the cover is almost always worth it.

Most venues will not have issues with photographers shooting most local bands. I did say most venues will not have issues with shooting live music. A photographer is going to have a hard time shooting at the Crystal Ballroom without a photo-pass, and the Star Theater won’t let photographers bring in camera bags. Most other places are pretty laid back of course. There is just one rule every photographer needs to heed when shooting in any venue. Don’t be a dick!

Nine out of ten shutterbugs photographing live music in Portland are not shooting for a publication, there is no real need to bully your way around a venue to “get the shot“. I understand we as photographers have a desire to capture the best images we can on any given evening. We need to be conscientious to the people around us. I’ve had many people try to clear a path for me in the audience, but I don’t want to affect the dynamic too much. When I need to get closer, I try to be as patient as possible and move up as people start to shift.

Lighting is the most important thing to me.

Without good lighting, getting a good images is very difficult. Mississippi has above average lighting. Despite being mostly LED, the lighting is very good. I don’t like LED light though. Some photographers say they can’t tell the difference between LED and other types of lighting, but I certainly can. The overall quality of LED is just not there. The light is flat, lifeless, and doesn’t look as clean. The further light has to travel from the source, the worse the quality of the light. This is especially true with LED.

As with most venues on a multi-band night, the opening acts don’t get much attention with the lighting treatment as the headlining act does. That’s fine for me, as long as it’s bright enough on the stage to get good shots. Now there is one particular musician in Portland that attempts to build a closeness with the audience by having the lights turned down as low as possible. At that point I put my camera away and just enjoy the set. At the end of the night, the most important thing is the band puts on a great show and we shouldn’t whine about it.

Magenta lighting is the photographer’s worst enemy, in my opinion of course.

I’ve found that Mississippi Studios doesn’t use nearly as much magenta as some of other venues, but they still use it far too often for my liking. When watching the show, magenta light looks just fine, as long as there’s some lighting dynamics. When shooting the show, magenta is just terrible. Skin tones are NOT enhanced by magenta. I just cringe when I see it.

As long as newbie and veteran photographers can keep it together and not disrupt shows, we should be able to as often as we want. Mississippi has been really cool with us coming and shooting, I would hate to see that end.

Here is a small selection of my favorite shows.

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