As a steady stream of DeVotchKa fans entered the venue, the fingers of a young Canadian folk singer flew in a pale blur across the strings of an Autoharp. Within moments of Basia Bulat’s first notes, over a thousand talking people stopped, looked towards the stage and listened.
Even though many in the audience had never heard of Basia Bulat (let alone knew how to pronounce her name; “BASH-a BOO-lat”), they were immediately taken with her smokey voice and radient personality.
Trading autoharp for guitar throughout her set, Basia performed mostly songs from her 2007 release Oh, My Darling. While her performances of the quicker tunes “Snakes and Ladders” and “In the Night” struck chords of joy with the audience, her somber renditions of “Little Waltz” and “The Pilgriming Vine” were equally moving.
I first encountered Basia Bulat when she opened for St. Vincent at Bowery Ballroom on February 29, 2008. That night was like many others for me in that I was only concerned with getting shots of the headliner. It was also typical at Bowery that the chatter of the early arriving crowd of NYU students and Village hipsters completely filled the room. More often then not, the opening band of three acts is doomed to suffer through this racket their entire set. Not Basia Bulat – she stopped the chatter dead in its tracks within one song. I was completely captivated.
Her perfomance of “In the Night” that evening is indicative of the kind of wholesome energy that makes me want to run around in a field on a summer night.
Since I was too lazy to write a full entry for her show at the time, here are a few unpublished shots from her Bowery gig.
Basia Bulat’s at Bowery Ballroom, February 29, 2008
The lighting for Basia’s set was very simple. A small amount of red and blue backlight with a modest amount of warm spotlight from the front.
As always, I shot with my Canon EOS-1D Mark III. I alternated between the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS.
My exposure stayed locked at ISO3200 and 1/160 at f/2.8 for her entire set.
As the video is evidence, Basia rocks back and forth a lot while playing so I could have used a higher shutter speed to increase my yield. Since I was happy with the photographs I’d taken of Basia at Bowery, I decided to stick with zooms for the versatility and keep my ISO at 3200 to keep noise down.
I learned before the show that Basia is actually a friend of a friend of mine from Toronto. It’s a small world.