The Loft is my favorite venue in Lansing, but it's one of those venues at which I don't expect to get any portfolio-worthy shots, and that's simply because their lighting is not the best (barely any front-lighting and tons of saturated backlighting). But I photograph shows there pretty often; they have good acts come in every month, often thanks to Fusion Shows. This show was one of them, and almost an immediate sell-out.
At The Loft you're usually fine with an f2.8, as long as the camera works pretty well at high ISOs. My ISO usually doesn't go below at least 3200 when I'm there.
American Authors took the stage to The Loft's typical show lighting: a bright, orange-y, stationary light shining on only the singer's face with much dimmer backlighting rotating through a saturated red, green, blue, pink, and a very light purple (the color I always wait for in the rotation).
The light on the face makes a tighter shot translate nicely to black & white; this shot was taken at ISO 2500, f2.8, 1/400 sec.:
The bright purple & blue colors are the best for crowd lighting:
The DJ from the local alternative radio station hopped on stage between acts to announce Airborne Toxic Event, and while he was talking the bright orange face light was turned about halfway down. I figured it would be back up when the band started playing, but I was wrong.
This shot was taken at ISO 5000, f2.8, 1/125 sec.:
It's like that one front light is IT. Anything out of the light gets lost in shadows. The above photo is similar to the black & white American Authors photo, but needed a significantly higher ISO and slower shutter speed.
I was really looking forward to taking some photos of ATE's female violinist but she was in constant darkness; not to mention the fact that my autofocus could barely find her, let alone fine the singer's face. *sigh*
The venue hasn't ever turned that light down before as far as I've experienced. It frustrated me. I don't often carry an f1.8 prime because I prefer zoom lenses for shows, but I really wish I had taken it to this show.
So in an attempt to be a problem solver instead of standing there looking irritated I decided to use my flash for a couple shots (I wasn't told not to). That helped a little, but I really hate using flash at concerts. Using the ambient light looks much more natural.
I'm not concert lighting expert (I kind of wish I was though!) but I think it's time to have a chat with the venue's lighting technician!