Roots, rock, reggae...

The Shival Experience


The Lost Photograph
Gold and Rose

I first heard them at the 2005 Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival, catching part of one tune and all of their last tune for the day. The band plays a mix and blend of reggae, rock, blues and funk. And they put on a vigorous show. Once they're ready to roll, the music keeps coming with no wasted time between numbers pretending to re-tune or decide what to play next. These cats come to play, and their stage presence rounds out the show. The band also has a competent sound man, something that I notice and appreciate after my experiences recording live jazz. It adds up to something more than the sum of the parts, and I've heard them several times since my late arrival at the Strawberry Festival.

The Band:

Al "Shival" Redwine - Guitar and Vocals

Marshailena Butler - Vocals, Flute and Percussions

Renaldo Jackson - Congas, Bongos and Timbales

Nate Robinson Pacheco - Bass Guitar

Greg Barns - Trap Drums

I've enjoyed the music and the photography. I've made photographs of them at three different venues. The first was very dark. We couldn't get the stage lights to stay bright enough for more than about three seconds at a time. I rejected the idea of bringing the lights up for each photograph on the grounds that it would be a distraction to the band and I probably wouldn't know in advance when the moment was right anyway. I got one nice photograph of Al Redwine that afternoon.

My best opportunities for photographing bass man Nate Pacheco and drummer Greg Barns have thus far been at an outdoor performance at Avila Beach. The front line has been easier, but these two seem always to be tucked away in the back, behind things or poorly lighted. We hear them and we see them, which is good, but it's been hard to get a good line and perspective on them with the camera. At the outdoor gig, though, there was plenty of light from old sol and considerable freedom of movement for lining up a shot. As with most "street fair" type venues, background distractions were the rule. I was obligated to frame tightly to eliminate the junk, but I liked the reflections in their sunglasses so it worked out pretty well.

My favorite images of Marshailena come from the Avila Bay Athletic Club gig. There, like the outdoor performance, I had positions of good proximity to the front line without becoming a distraction. The photographs also benefit from softer light versus the harsh, direct sunlight of the outdoor gig. These photographs of Marshailena reveal the advantages. We can sense the proximity visually, particularly with the photo of her at the congas. For that, I was truly "right there" with a 24mm lens, but slightly off to the side and taking advantage of a white wall to bounce and soften additional light onto her face. Her expression, captured at this close perspective, reveals and defines her stage presence and connection to the audience.

In another wide-angle shot, we see Renaldo and other band members. It's really about Renaldo, but I like the light here and the "presence" of the big view. As I recall, I popped a bit of fill-flash off the wall for this image also. In the other photograph of Renaldo, he takes his usual place at the congas. The congas are Renaldo's domain, and we see him there in a tighter shot. He seems very deliberate in his work with the band. I'll see if I can get an image with more drama next time he does some feature work on the congas. He did some splendid "spotlight on Renaldo" work the evening that I made these photographs, but by then the light was marginal and I was busy listening. Hey, my mother loved it, too, and she's eighty-one!

Here, on the right, is Al Redwine. One is a high-contrast image under stage lights, which I printed in a manner consistent with an early 1970s rock-art look. The cool and warm light combination really pops. The other was photographed during the 2006 Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival - one year to the day from when I first heard this band. Exposure, contrast, background distractions, foreground distractions and the usual frenetic activity on stage made for some challenging photography. In spite of a dark background, dark clothes and dark complexion, Al Redwine's presence is vivid, and he seems to lean forward and out of the two dimensions of the photograph. Al is also shown in "Gold and Rose" at the top right of this page. It took First Place at Mid-State Fair photo competition. It was photographed outdoors at an angle almost directly into the low, early evening sun. Moments later, the opportunity for the shot was lost to lens flare by the descending sun.

If you like their genre of music, I encourage you to hear them if you're in the area. The Shival Experience performs regularly at Mr. Rick's and at Avila Bay Athletic Club, both in Avila Beach, California. You'll hear reggae, rock and blues, with shades of Santana and Hendrix. If you like these photographs, you might enjoy others at the Musicians Gallery of this web site. And if you're interested in photographing musicians, check out Photographing Musicians.

Images Copyright © Ed E. Powell
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