The Legend of Leon Bridges

This photo gallery was originally published on D Magazine's Front Row (Click To View)

I shoot a lot of shows and unfortunately that means I've mostly become desensitized to the shimmer of a live show. Now, it usually comes down to "Can I create great work from this event?" Not, "Oh, wow, I'm about to see so-and-so perform live!" I think this perspective works for me, though. Being nervous has gotten the best of me before and it's not a great feeling afterward. When I shot an Ellie Goulding show I was pretty much starstruck and it definitely affected my photos. Point is, that doesn't happen very often anymore, at least I thought that was the case until Leon Bridges came back in town. 

If you don't know the legend of Leon Bridges yet, here's a quick primer: Leon is a 25-year-old singer from Fort Worth, Texas who nobody knew of last year. He was quietly playing gigs around town and hooked up with an indie band from Austin called White Denim. They recorded a couple tracks together, threw em up on Soundcloud around October and by December he was signed to Columbia Records. Since then Bridges has generated a buzz I've never seen before. His shows are selling out in minutes, scalped tickets are going for hundreds of dollars and he's had placements in commercials with Apple and Beats. The greatest part of his story is that it's deserving. Things like this happen, but it's usually a pop star manufactured by a label with superstar hit-making producers. Bridges' success happened the old-school, yet modern, way. And he's authentic. He's the real deal. Not only is his voice like the second-coming of Sam Cooke, but his style is a blast from the past as well--it's a very charming package. Anyway, that's Leon. 

This photo gallery is from his show for KXT's Barefoot at the Belmont series. It's an annual event the local radio station puts together every summer and hosts at The Belmont hotel in West Dallas. It's a popular ticket because the grounds of the Belmont coupled with the band that night and the Dallas skyline in the background make for a wonderful spectacle of an evening. Well, when Bridges was added to the bill the anticipation for this concert was insane. There were probably only about 50 tickets available online and they sold out in a matter of seconds, freezing the website. I was able to attend since D Magazine wanted a photo gallery from the show. 

As usually happens. Things didn't go as planned. The week of the show we had a horrible amount of rain and to prevent the show from being rained out, it was moved to Sons of Hermann Hall--a historic venue on the far east side of Deep Ellum. I was pretty bummed out to hear this news because I was chomping at the bit to snap shots of Leon in front of the skyline, but to my surprise the venue change may have worked out even better photo wise. 

Sons of Hermann hall is an old place. Like, untouched since the 50s type of old. It creates a special charm to it and luckily for me and everyone in attendance this charm was in the same vein of Bridges' old-school aesthetic. The minimal lighting, wood-paneled walls and Bridges' outfit just worked out perfectly in the photos. That minimal lighting created some great contrast that I ended up really loving even though his eyes are lost in a lot of the shots. And it probably goes without saying that he was fantastic. After I finished shooting I finally got to sit back and watch the man perform and I was floored. When he performed Lisa Sawyer I had chills. I'm really glad to have been able to shoot this show because it was truly unique. I don't think many other photographers will be able to shoot him in such an intimate and old school setting with the access I had. That was a special night.