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One minute ’til showtime. Me and a few other photographers are gathered around a table next to the artist stage entrance at Warsaw in Brooklyn. The room is roughly configured and finished to the standard of a midwestern VFW. There’s even some old Polish ladies hawking kielbasa across from the merch table. Nothing is happening. People are just milling about, not even anxiously. Really-Nothing at all is happen. Suddenly a large security guard guts out a path from one side of the room to the other, opening his arms to let his full wingspan demonstrate the minimum space he demanded, which quite frankly is a lot of fucking space. A thundering voice stirs the air-“Please stand back, PLEASE, please MOVE”- and then Crystal Castles’ Edith Frances and Ethan Kath are escorted with a few others to the stage very, very presidential like. Some guy behind me mutters “they’re… umm… a big deal”.
A moment later me and the other photogs are through that same door- standing on stage with Crystal Castles in total darkness. We can vaguely make out the faces of the crowd, mostly we can just see their teeth poking through the shadows, exposing a small army of cheshire grins. I wonder for a second what will happen next, AND THEN SUDDENLY ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE. The strobe lights, bass, and live drums slam together in unison- an audiovisual hammer frantically banging away at every molecule in the capacity crowd. The audience springs to life, giving it all back, and these two impossible forces, this bedeviled band with this tiny, intense lead singer and enormous sound- and this raging crowd beneath a pulsing bright strobe light show that belongs in an industrial warehouse basement somewhere in East Berlin before the wall fell- they’re one gnarly mass- bouncing and thumping, one solid thing.
Edith Frances wasn’t always strangling microphones and lacing vinegar pickled percussion with her strong and sugary voice. She’s new to this project, falling into the gig this summer as a replacement for original singer Alice Glass. But you’d never know it. She appears to fill the entire room, controlling it in the way only magnetic entertainers can. Total X factor shit. Makes no sense unless you see it for yourself. She must weigh less than 100 pounds- but she punches way above her weight- and she is the only thing anyone can see right now, standing in the middle of the stage with the intensity and ferocity of a prize fighter staring down her opponent. She begins her set dressed in a Crystal Castles knit cap, an overcoat, and sunglasses- basically the get up donned by the bad guy in a DC comic book, or a wrestler trying to cut weight. Within seconds she’s ripping things off her body, pouring water all over herself, and sending every follicle of her multi-color, candy cotton- hued- hair in all directions. She’s gyroscopically circling, the microphone stand’s steel base is her central axis as she pivots the mic back and forth into the crowd, then back at her face. In a world left wondering how much shorter a video must be to hold our ever shrinking attention, she’s dominated the eyeballs of the entire room and nobody can look away. My heart is racing now. I can feel my pupils dilate as I stare through my viewfinder. This does not feel like concert photography. This feels more like what war photography must be, but beautiful. I actually feel my heart start to race, and through the smaller frame of the viewfinder Edith is enormous, planet-like really. The strobes are flashing chaotically. She’s disappearing here and reappearing over there,unpredictably and uncaring, teleporting from one place to the next, spinning at impossible speeds in her own orbit, pulling at us all with her own gravity. The photographer’s, me, the audience, all of us give up, and just let her suck us in, devour us. This is how big stars become huge stars. And we’ve only heard the first 2 songs of the set.
Here’s some shots from guest contributor Toby Tenembaum –> IG @lightmatterstudio: