I find my favorite lenses for small venue concert photography to be primes of 1.8 or faster. I usually bring a 35, 50, and an 85, if it’s a larger venue then a 135 as well. I like to shoot with no flash, especially if the lighting at the venue is interesting. Keeping the shutter speed around 1/30 to 1/200 leaves room for some nice motion blur while keeping what’s important sharp. If I’m having trouble focusing in the dark, I’ll use the af assist grid on my external flash while having the actual flash itself disabled. The only issue with using the af assist grid, is that you can’t shoot with continuous auto focus, so this will only work for artists that aren’t moving around a lot. The shots below are all without any flash.
These first three shots are from Frankie McQueen shows in Calgary.
Shot with a 35mm at F2 with a shutter speed of 1/125s
Shot with an 85mm at F1.6 with a shutter speed of 1/160s
Shot with a 35mm at F1.4 with a shutter speed of 1/30s
These next two shots are from an Acid Jac show in Calgary
Shot with an 85mm at F1.4 with a shutter speed of 1/125s
Shot with a 35mm at F1.4 with a shutter speed of 1/40s