Cactus and Elsie Binx @ The Magic Bag

On Saturday night I finally made my way out to The Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan.

I can't believe that it took me this long to finally make it out there, as this was a great venue. I was digging the beer selection, the stage lights were cool (and existent!), the bathrooms were clean, and the show sounded pretty damn good.

I'm not gonna lie, going into this event I wasn't expecting very much. A local pop-rock band opening for some aging classic rockers didn't sound like the most exciting of nights, but I had been looking for an excuse to check out this venue, and it was also a good way to support some friends, so off I went.

And it was totally worth it. I seriously enjoyed both sets.

I've had the chance to see Elsie Binx a few times before, and I was never exactly blown away. A newer band, they're still going through some growing pains as a group, but they're a bunch of super nice dudes and they're all very passionate about what they do, and I can totally respect that.

This was definitely the best performance I've seen out of them, though. The mix was great, the timing was on, and the stage presence was there. They have also introduced some new, and better, songs into the set list from the first time that I saw them, and I'm pretty sure that this has helped with my opinion of the band.

Currently, they're in the midst of recording a new album and have a crowdfunding campaign running to help fund it. If you're into 2010-era Versa Emerge, or Paramore-esque female fronted mainstream alt-rock, this is a band I'm pretty sure you'll dig.

I had never heard of Cactus prior to this show, and never did much to look into their catalogue prior to the performance, and I'm very happy with that decision.

I was kind of expecting a somewhat relaxed and noodley 70's style dad-rock band to come out and play a mellow thirty-five minute set before hobbling off stage to get to bed early, and instead was met with a high-energy, hour-long show of wild musicians that, despite being grandfatherly, cannot be described as dad-rock.

Cactus actually employs some of the best musicians from my parent's generation, including guitarist Jim McCarty (who has recorded with such notable acts as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Seger) and drummer Carmine Appice, who literally wrote the book on rock drumming.

Appice's drum solo stands out particularly sharply for me. When was the last time you saw the drummer leave his kit and come to the front of the stage to lead the crowd in a clapping rhythm, over which he freestyled a drumstick beat? This was definitely a new one for me.

Afterwards the band grouped up behind their tiny merch table to shake hands with and sign memorabilia for a giant crowd of eager fans.

Seriously, I've seen smaller crowds piled up around the merch table after shows at the Caesar's Colosseum. And yet these guys, after just busting ass on stage for over sixty minutes took the time to speak with all of them. Mad respect for these dudes.

It might seem a little odd to have a pop-rock outfit opening for "The American Led Zepplin," but there was good reasoning behind it.

The drummer for Elsie Binx, Dylan McCarty, is actually son of Cactus guitarist James McCarty. Look closely enough, and there's totally a resemblance.

Shooting-wise, I also really enjoyed this show. The Bag's stage has some very nice lighting, and is raise dup just enough that I can get some rad low-angle shots while also not being brutally high, causing every picture to be right up the nose (looking ay you, Harpo's).

The crowd was also great to work with, as people would often offer me a place in front of them in order to get a better shot. "I know you won't be here long, so it's all good," as one guy put it.

Overall I think I'm very happy with the way these images turned out. I tried some new settings on my D7000, and at first I wasn't sure if I was digging the look, or if they all came out with a plastic-y sheen. I'm still a bit on the deciding stage of that one, but I'm thinking it's a look that I'm not minding. I'll probably try out a couple more shows this way and see how it goes, but so far it's not terrible.

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© 2015 Lauren Hedges