"Radical Face is a band I have followed casually for some time, and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to photograph them this week at Seattle’s historic Neptune Theater.
Opening for Radical Face was Icelandic musician Axel Flóvent. Axel, a kind and unassuming 24-year-old wandered on to the stage with just his guitar in such a nonchalant manner that I initially mistook him for a sound technician. He proceeded to play a wonderful set of acoustic songs with just his voice and guitar.
Axel interacted with the crowd in a wonderful and conversational manner. He shared the background to his songs and helped bring a universal feeling to his music and the experiences that they shared.
Soon after Axel left (promising to talk to fans at his merch table) Radical Face took the stage. Radical Face’s live performance was not quite what I had expected. As fans of the band can likely relate to, Radical Face plays some of the saddest music I know. With multiple albums that frequently cover topics of death, regret, loss, family dysfunctionality, mental illness, abuse, and murder and whose “happy song” is about being in a bad place but being able to move through it I was surprised when I struggled to hold my camera steady due to laughing at the jokes the band made.
Benjamin Cooper (the man behind Radical Race) and the rest of his band had one of the most relaxed and at-home feelings I have encountered at a live show. They joked and bantered with each other and the audience, and simply had a wonderful time. The crowd on their part loved this dynamic, and as Axel had previously pointed out, seemed quite excited and energetic for a crowd that had come out for a mellow evening of music.
In between playing, Benjamin shared the stories behind the songs he was about to play. As he (jokingly) put it, he liked seeing everyone get more and more deflated throughout the evening. Besides this being a fun glimpse into songwriting and the meaning behind the songs, it helped give more feeling to already feeling-filled music. With explanations like “this song is about a boy who sees dead people and doesn’t really know how to deal with it,” “this song is about twin brothers where one watches the other brother die”, and “this one is about a man who commits a murder in the heat of the moment and can no longer go home,” additional weight was certainly added to each song.
Despite the frequently tragic and depressing topics of the music played that night I have seldom been to a concert where I laughed so much and felt so much a part of the band’s joking dynamic. I wasn’t the only one either as the crowd cheered on the next “deflating” song with unanticipated eagerness.
I greatly enjoyed my time with Radical Face and certainly hope it won’t be my last time seeing Benjamin Cooper and his friends in concert."
Photos and Review by Bret Stein