Phuzz Phest

Gallery of photos in high resolution HERE

I attended Phuzz Phest music festival in Winston-Salem last Friday night. This was my first time shooting live music with my new Fujifilm X-T1 (and new 56mm f/1.2 lens). I was attending solely as a fan, not working, so it was a great chance to see if the camera was up to snuff and if my DSLR days were close to behind me.

I grew up in Winston, and even lived on the outskirts of downtown for a bit, but things have changed for the (way) better in the twenty some years I’ve been away. Old tobacco warehouses are being converted into lofts and businesses. An entire art and restaurant district has popped up on Trade Street. It was quite the sight.

We stayed downtown at the Wingate, next to Old Salem (I would have preferred to stay a bit more central, but Furniture Market was driving up prices). After quickly checking in, we (my wife and I) headed off to get our festival wristbands at Reanimator, next to Krankies Coffee, one of the main festival venues. We then decided to go in search of food around Trade Street, but the crowds put a damper on that. Luckily I remembered that Ziggy’s, another venue, had a food truck outside. The food truck, Camel City Grill, hit the spot.

We then ventured inside Ziggy’s. When I lived in Winston, Ziggy’s was a small 2 room house turned into a bar. In this new location, it is a huge rock club. And it was almost empty as Skullcollector, a metal band, was starting up right as we were finishing dinner. Rather than rush back to Krankies, we decided to catch a song or two. I enjoy shooting metal more than I enjoy listening, and the wife isn’t a big fan, but we both agreed that they were a very good representation of the genre. A little metal went a long way, and we headed out.

It was quite a haul over to Krankies on foot. As a veteran of urban music festivals, I always want to carefully plan my walking, and knew we’d be planting at Krankies for a good part of the evening once we got there, which made it easier. As I feared, we missed Estrangers, a band I was hoping to see. We grabbed a couple of beers (they had a good selection) and a couple of stools and before we even settled in, The Tills started up. I got kind of a Kinks/Beatles vibe from them. My wife said Weezer. I took a few photos, but was mainly sipping on a beer.

Camera note: The venue was very dark, but the X-T1+56 combo was rocking. But both bands so far had been pretty static. Still, my X-Pro1 would have had a tough time and the X-T1 was fine. I was encouraged. I was shooting b+w jpegs (as well as raw) and with the wifi capability of the camera and the Fuji app on my phone, I was able to post a few straight-out-of-camera images to instagram during the break. Pretty insanely cool.

Next up was Ex-Cult. I was excited to finally see them. They’d been on the bill for Hopscotch in the fall, scheduled to play Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh. I’d caught a band there earlier in the night, and it was hell –completely packed and unbearably hot. I was starting to rethink trying to catch Ex-Cult, who I expected to be far more energetic, when I got word that they’d cancelled and that Spider Bags were going to fill in. Now, I absolutely love Spider Bags, and think they are one of the most fun live bands around, but I’d seen them at the Slim’s day party earlier and I’ve seen them a bunch, so skipped the Berkeley and caught a different show. But I still longed to see Ex-Cult, and finally was going to get my chance at Phuzz Phest. They did not disappoint. Right from the start they had the crowd moving. Amazing to see at somewhere as intimate as Krankies.

Which reminds me, I was a little surprised it wasn’t more crowded. I was used to Hopscotch crowds, and hadn’t seen anything like that. I hope the attendance met the organizers predictions. I’ll certainly be doing my part to spread the word for next year.

My original plan had been to then go straight to The Garage for Twelve Thousand Armies, but I’d gotten word (via Twitter)¬†of a lot of controversy over frontman Justin Williams. This weeks Indy Week goes into some details. I decided to go with my alternative plan and stick at Krankies a while longer and see some of White Fence. What I heard sounded good, and I wish I could have stayed longer. I did feel a little bad for them in having to follow up that high energy Ex-Cult set with their tamer sound.

We then rushed over to The Garage. I wanted to make sure we got in, as the venue isn’t that large and Mount Moriah was sure to pack the place (I’m not sure why they weren’t playing the larger Ziggy’s). We got in right as Twelve Thousand Armies was wrapping up, and managed to get a spot right up front. Mitch Easter settled in next to us to watch the set. Mount Moriah was absolutely fantastic. I’ve seen them several times over the last three or four years, and this was, by far, the best I’ve seen them. Why, oh, why did this have to be a short festival set? I could have stood there all night. Jenks Miller was just killing it in the finale. That set along made the trip to Winston worth it.

By the end, my wife was fading fast. Not surprising, as she’d been up since dawn and was usually 2-3 hours into a deep sleep by the time T0W3RS played at Single Brothers (next door to The Garage). As a result, we only stayed a few songs, but it was fantastic. The last time I’d seen T0W3RS was at Hopscotch, with a full band, acrobats and projections in a large venue (CAM). This time it was a one man show (that one man being Derek Torres). Part of me was a little skeptical as I’m a band sort of guy – give me Guitars, Bass, Drums almost any day. But it worked really well, and I wish I’d been able to see the whole set. Torres put on a show and the crowd, which included Easter, Ryan Gustafson (one of my local favorites) and many more NC musicians, was really eating it up.

All in all it was pretty much a perfect night. The Mount Moriah and Ex-Cult sets join a Six String Drag reunion set as my favorites of the year so far. I was left kind of wishing I’d made a full weekend of it. I definitely wanted to explore more of downtown Winston. I wanted to try to coffee at Krankies. I wanted to catch T0W3RS day party set, never mind Ex Hex, The Love Language, Loamlands and so much more still to come. Well done, Phuzz Pholks, well done. Next year I’ll plan on more.

Oh, yeah. The camera. There were definitely a few times when the focusing was still an issue over a DSLR. Ex-Cult was a challenge at times, being energetic and getting involved in some of the moshing. Even my D700 would have missed shots there, though. Fuji is really, really close to being at that level. So close that I might just decide to put up with the limitations and go ahead and sell off my Nikon gear. I’m going to catch Corrosion of Conformity in a couple of days at a venue I’m used to shooting at before making a final call, but leaning that way.