Wild Beasts

•April 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My friend called them “stilosi” which could be a kind of Italian for “stylish”. I remembered he said “sciccosi” which is another Italian slang for “chic”.

In the meanwhile I managed to sort a photopass for the Cambridge date of Wild Beasts tour 2014.

Since Present Tense, their fourth album was released and reached the UK top 10, the buzz around the band overwhelmed the buzzfeed surveys I find on my facebook timeline.
Everyone was talking about Wild Beasts from the day rumours about a new album spread online (wherever else)?

I did not remember I saw Wild Beasts live. When The Quietus asked to use some of my photos of their headline at Field Day 2011. I thought they were wrong. I totally forgot it. You’ll think with concerts count heading to 600 on my songkick profile it’s pretty normal to forget some gigs but, let’s be fair, until not long ago I could remember any band I saw, photographed, and if I enjoyed or disliked.
Not anymore.

Wild Beasts headlined a big London festival, I was there taking pictures but I needed to go back to the archives to remember it. In front of the photos I remembered the gig and also that I wasn’t impressed by that uber-hipster atmosphere.

Curiously enough Wild Beasts Cambridge Corn Eexchange 2014 concert was in the same date my photos of hipsters (also) taken at Field Day on the same day made l’Espresso, the biggest Italian newsmagazine.
It means my best paid photographic work to date. 3 photos with two full pages, I felt a photojournalist for a day.

Still on the “where’s my memory gone issue” I was looking at some festival dates for this summer where Sun Kil Moon is scheduled to play to see if there are chances to photograph Mark Kozelek. He is one of those photophobic musicians who don’t want to see photographer in the area.

Until another photographer pal FB-chatted to me asking if Mark Kozelek had changed his policy because he saw a photo I took of him on a review on the Quietus.

Just before I replied with “not my photo, Tim I’m trying to find out if I can shoot him somewhere this summer”, I googled and actually realised he was true. Photo was by Valerio Berdini, subject is indeed Mark Kozelek and I couldn’t remember I photographed him.
I did and guess where? Under a tent at Field Day.

Maybe is not permanent memory loss just my mind was blown that day. I cannot remember. Fact is, to make this long that I need words to separate the photos, I have shot Wild Beasts live. I have rare photos or Mark Kozelek and very likely if I meet Kozlelek at one of those festival I risk to have him punching my nose, he’s not an easy guy by any standard. Honestly, no one stopped me taking pics of him that day.

Fast forward, to Cambridge, to the Corn Exchange, to Wild Beasts 2014 tour.

Just about a month after the album release, the day before their Brixton Academy date, I was expecting to be a sell out. I get to the venue early to find no one is queuing, East India Youth set is about to start and venue it’s empty. The upstairs stalls are closed.. What’s wrong with Cambridge people, it is true is a Monday but still… WTF? Is the Internet time so fast that from the hype of the album release/stream/pre listen to the memory-loss takes much less than the 2 years I take to forget the gigs I have been to? actually 2 weeks?

Thankfully East India Youth brings quite a lot of those queuing at the bar in front of the stage. I added a couple of new shots to my post about him, he has a nice retro illuminated video leaving his bass player silhouette stacking in front of the screen.

By the time I am back into the pit for Wild Beasts there is much less space in the stalls and much more beards around me than on my face.

It’s about ten years this lads make music together and you can feel the band strength from the moment they enter the stage.

With 4 albums there are few dozens of songs available to play but with an album to promote it’s natural the setlist is highly centred on Present Tense.
Ignoring calls of older songs (“it’s so 2008″ they recently said at a London album launch show) Wild Beasts are too good and too young to rely on nostalgia and hits.
They want to play the new songs, conquer new public, be loved by the young girls on the front row.

Hayden Thorpe the band singer is the one in control. When he stands at his keys the band looks and follow his arms. His yellow jacket is studied to match the mostly green lights.
With his falsetto dipping into the 80s, the keyboards occupying the core of the songs, I hear echos of Talk Talk everywhere.

Guitars (and guitarist) are sent into the background. More and more into synthesizers, Wild Beasts music earns in dreaminess and loses the jangly indie-pop hooks of the beginning.

Today they are what Yeasayer would have been if they were born in Kendal, England instead of hanging around Brooklyn.
It’s sophisticated pop without multi-ethnic influence. Sheer British coolness pointing straight at East London to make it an English bastion. Dalston has been already conquered, Brick Lane next.

Sophisticated masculinity. Sexual allusion. Creative hipsters with a twist. Arty without being to conceptual. Pop… away from the mainstream.

With a Mercury Prize nomination for their second record, Two Dancers, headlining sets that followed Smother and now a top ten record in the chart, Wild Beasts are at their peak.

2014 is going to be a touring year, so check the internet and catch them when they come close to you. [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

The first time I these green lasers back lighting smokes creating waves of ethereal green waves over an audience it was 11t of July 1988. I was a teenager in Rome and Pink Floyd sold out two nights at Stadio Flaminio, a football stadium at a walking distance from home. We spend the day in the sun, on the grass from 2pm to well beyond midnight. There’s no other live music that will match that production and that light show never ever.
That is the gig I will remember till my last day on earth.

Live music (all music) is dramatically changed in this 25 years. There are not the same amount of money and the cake has to be cut in many more slices because, with Internet, band multiply at a much faster pace than Jesus did with bread and fishes.

Also true I moved away from the fan boy attracted by big productions and I tend to enjoy small venues. For this, I was quite surprised to relive the Floyd’s experience for Wild Beasts.
For a while I was even worried. Have I read on the internet that lasers blow camera sensors? I couldn’t remember if it was a news or a hoax… or it wasn’t lasers. Whatever. I decide to ignore and go ahead.

Or… I would have decided to go ahead but, as always happen, the best lighting is not disclosed until well into a gig so the three songs rule … ruled me out from being in the pit when lasers would appear. They would look incredible from the bottom with the 14-24mm angle hyperbole emphasizing the band. Unfortunately you’ll never see those photos.

I never give up. Wild Beasts are still going, Corn Exchange mezzanine is empty and accessed only to VIP (i.e. photopass holders and guestlist). It is in the dark, it gives a nice overview of the stage and is the most unobtrusive place. I don’t disturb the fans, the band, the venue. It’s perfect (me think).

I sit down in the front row, enjoy the show, mount the 70-200 and wait for lasers to get some cool back shots.
Green lasers arrive, I click once, twice. Check the exposure. They don’t seem to disturb my camera sensor nor even to trick the exposure meter. It works fine in matrix. I underexpose by 2/3rd to get the black nicely black and the photos look cool. Not as good as being in the pit, still good pics, I’m pleased.

If only… someone arrives, with the security-of-a-small-venue-authority and tells me to “stop taking pictures NOW!” He’s in power. No argument. “Put away the camera or I kick you out of the venue!
Pointless to argue “everyone else is taking pictures” I reply, to get the silliest of answers back “they don’t use professional cameras” which to an intelligent mind translates into “the band manager (the venue manager, whoever is in charge) is fine with non professional photos and video taken of the band to be put online for bad publicity everywhere, but they don’t want good professional photography to represent them”. Good, Isn’t this stupid, I say? I got no answer, just another threatening glance.

Few pictures and I’m with the camera in the bag, enjoying the music, mumbling about stupid policy anytime the lights show me another great photo that is lost forever.

It’s been 10 years I have photographed at the Corn Exchange and all the venues in Cambridge. Since Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in February 2004.
I have done more promotion to the Cambridge live scene than any other photographer in UK. Hundreds of galleries from Cambridge are in all major British music site, from the Quietus to the405, from Thelineofbestfit to Louder Than War to local magazines, blogs and national papers, not to mention this blog.

Still I have to be treated by the venue security as a nuisance, a vandal, a criminal, a lawbreakers because I want to take some quality photos of the gigs I attend, from the back, without flash, without interfering with anyone. I am a perfectionist and I love photography, and it frustrates me to see I can deliver a much better set to report from a gig than the one I am allowed to make.

I won’t stop. Both photographing and ranting against stupid rules.


•March 28, 2014 • 4 Comments

This post is about three things. Marketing, Engaging and vanishing youth subcultures. But mainly it’s about Chvrches, who had an incredible success as a consequence of perfect handling all of these things.


The first trick was all capitals, but internet isn’t case sensitive and in the social networks commenting on capital letters is the equivalent of shouting, it doesn’t look nice.
Than it was to remove vowels. I believe SBTRKT started it and (even my favourites) Japandroids for a while went as JPNDRDS, thankfully this seems to be vanishing. It looks bad, it’s hard to spell and harder to tell.

Then the V in the place of U arrived. Despite the fight of who started it, CHVRCHES and MVSCLES are the first two bands out there with it in the name. I haven’t searched if there’s more.

Why they do this? Unless you are Italian, where the original Ancient Roman Latin fonts were recycled during fascism and are still used by neofascists, the V looks cooler than U. Especially written in all-capitals as is in CHVRCHES.

It gives access to a plethora of unused social networks nicks, web addresses still available and so on. It is still readable and more pronounceable than a word without vowels.

There are more advantages. It guarantees a unique answer when enquiring a search engine.
Try searching google images for ‘churches’ and you will find hundreds of images of catholic temples.

Then simply replace the ‘u’ with a ‘v’ as in chvrches, the outcome is only images of the band. It doesn’t get dispersive, no contamination, no undesired hits.

Ask The National how long it took google to rank their official americanmary.com website before they became famous.

Lauren Mayberry is Chvrches singer and the recognised band frontwoman. Iain Cook (earlier with Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours) and Martin Doherty (with Twilight Sad when The Twilight Sad were wonderful) are two experienced musicians.

Part of Chvrches success is the personal way they (and mainly Lauren) have been engaging with their fans since the beginning and still doing.

Chvrches are not only present on social networks. Anyone nowadays is and it is a must-have, if you’re in the entertaining business.
Chvrches engage personally with the fans… and even with the haters.
Being on social networks to say “buy new single it’s out now”or “Tickets for Leeds gig available” sounds very detached to fans. It is like someone paid in a third world call-centre feeds the twitter account with no connection to the band beyond a monthly TC meeting with the PR office.

On the contrary, when messages come from band members and when band members interact with their audience the magic ingredient of the indie culture which is to give the feeling of belonging, being part, spices up the recipe to a successful dish.
It’s today’s news of this fans made video being praised by the band itself. News makes Pitchfork, Pitchfork is without doubts the most influential music site for the online community whether you agree with this list or not.
Engagement, marketing.

Lauren Mayberry brought this to a whole new level last September when, in an appreciated rant of active feminism, she confronted her own audience being sexist, with a passionate article on the Guardian.

Her letter against online misogyny addressed a big issue of online vileness: people attacking (mainly women) artists with sexist and violent insults giving women no options rather than ignore. The letter has bounced on everywhere from Rolling Stone to, again, Pitchfork achieving several things with one single go. Awareness. Education. Politics and last but not least good publicity to the band.

Youth Subcultures. Where have they gone?
On a brilliant piece on the Guardian, Alexis Petridis recently wrote about the shift of youth subculture.

It is very nice read that tries to analyse how the 80s groups, divided mainly by the music they listened and the clothes they wore, is shifting to the point that aren’t recognisable anymore. There are few ways to analyse this but I tend to agree that the principal reason has a very simple name: Internet.

Since web 1.0 fashion and trends have been moving to fast for people to find an identity that would not change in a couple of seasons.
The arrive of the web 2.0, with Facebook and SN, has moved our physical identity to an online identity. “It doesn’t happen in the street anymore, it happens online” is the sentence that goes straight to the point.

Chvrches happened online. They say it, they were a web based band. Their Lies single appeared about 2 years ago on a music blog post titled Skin + Bone (thanks to Geoff for spotting the error and letting me know in the comments). From there it has been a virtual climb to the peak of the online mountain.

Fans of Chvrches are all over the world, because the web doesn’t have borders. With the exclusion of some big and silly countries (looking at you China still blocking this little innocent blog) their online music is accessible everywhere. You cannot shape a unique identity through cultures of people living on 5 different continents. So the best solution is to stick to what you are, do what you believe and play what you like.

With this in mind I needed to see them live. I missed the launch of The Bones of What You Believe at Birthdays in London, thir debut album which I regretted for about 2 months to not go there (to have the chance to photograph a whole Chvrches set will not happen again soon).
I join the band at their sold-out 2014 tour in a very sold-out Cambridge Junction date.

Fans are young as you would expect but even in a fashion coded city, full of posh students, there’s variety. There’s not a dress code, there are people into indie, into electronica, into dancing. Some hipsters and some pop boys and girls with a crush for Lauren. Few are out for a teenage date trying to get a forbidden drink.

The three of them comes to a symmetrical stage lit to redesign the album cover logo. Lauren Mayberry takes the centre and the vocal duties for most of the set. There’s no drummer, I knew this, still I find difficult to click with a live band with e pre-recorded drum machine operated by a synth. It’s my personal taste, I know, but gives me an unstable feeling. I should be more open-minded.

Lauren is funny and chatty as the Scottish people are. I know they are Scottish only because I read it. The lack of a Glaswegian accent keep them among the worldwide-web bands without a clear geographical base. No idea if they’re proud or even wishing Scottish independence, if it was me I’d cancel borders altogether rather than building more. I like the freshness of their universality.

The gig lasts about an hour, playing the album in full in mixed order and leaves me with a feeling of freshness despite their synth pop electronic tunes are far from my favourite listening.

Towards the end of the set one of the boys in the band (don’t ask me who’s who, the one on the right!) moves to vocals, with Lauren taking keys at his board.
I must admit I enjoyed this. The song has a “street” feel which works.

I understand how important is for the image of the band to have a clever and gifted girl at the centre stage, but if I were them I would consider more tracks with the guy singing on them.

Don’t know if this will happen, what I know is that Internet is the best place for you to find out: [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

It is a very strict three songs rule, which means no photos not even from the back of the venue. No camera in sight and a guy in the front row with is big DSLR keeps shooting the whole gig but us, the photographers are kicked out.

I’ve been photographying music regularly every week for the last 10 years so nothing surprises me much (even if Tool photo release made me laugh out loud) but I regret having missed the album showcase in Dalston last year. There is no pit at Birthdays an no one would have cared of me covering the whole thing.

Point is, Chvrches live are one of those bands where the good photo can come every second and it goes at the same speed.
Lights change fast and go with the song, so anticipation is the key.

My uncle used to tell me during war, when prisoners escaping a prison through a sniper’s monitored point the third is the one more in danger. The first attracts the sniper attention, the second allow the sniper to point at him and the third gets shot.

At gigs photography during song follows the same pattern. First moment a verse appear (and the light with it) attracts a photographer attention, second time that verse happen you get ready for the lighting and the third time you can take the pictures. Listening to the music, understanding its architecture helps a lot music photography.

Just remember many songs don’t have the same verse or chorus three times and in that case you have to converge the second to measure exposure, frame and shot all in a blink of an eye.

Still… I don’t burst shoot. I never do

The Fat White Family

•March 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It all happens at the end of the year.
In December thre are a couple of weeks when a continuous flow of tweets, posts, news, announce the best albums of the year lists.
These are kindly offered by any music publication (with or without any expertise in music) from any media source: the web.

(and beyond the web) ut let’s focus on the web, it’s where I am, it’s (kind of) free, it’s wide, is comprehensive.
This year there was a difference. Spotify unlimited, for free. Most of web publications linked playlists, the ones that don’t only require a quick search and less YouTube browsing.

I spent that couple of weeks lost among the lists to keep up with what I may have lost. To perceive the trends, which in the last 4 or five years saw a decline of guitars being replaced by bedroom laptop pop. Yawn.

First, I discard the albums that are present on every other ranks. I already listened to most, the rest is usually mainstream music that I wouldn’t stand beyond the first song.

Then I focus on the bands I know and I haven’t yet listened to. Corsicana Lemonade is the great new album by White Denim for example which I had missed.

About a week has gonewhen the discovery phase arrive.
(No, I’m not that obsessive, by the way, just helps me to dilute these photos)

Lack of guitars means I am eager to find some.
Skipping between artists and songs I never heard, suggested by people and sites I trust, gather mostly a sequence of skip and fast forwards.

Till my mouse stops onto Auto Neutron. The opening track of The Fat White Family debut record Champagne Holocaust.
The opening organ, almost out of tune, a retarded chorus, it’s like someone taking you by hand into a cartoon set in a post atomic landscape. You can’t skip this, it glues ears to earphones including the single note guitar-solo arriving mid song. It’s already best track of the year. A free ticket to listen to the whole thing regardless any weak point emerging. There are not.

Auto Neutron culminates in a guitar crescendo I have been waiting for a while and Is It Raining in Your Mouth speed things up.
The album keeps slapping unpredictably. Lias Saudi voiceis low and unconventional as anything this band does.

it’s unsettling start to end. It leaves with many more questions than tries to give answers. Most important it left me with enough songs to be satisfied for the first half of the year.

Three months later I have listened to this album endless times, I bought the CD and I still can’t get enough.

It has that sane perversion than only ‘punk’ music offers. But it’s 2014 and I do not know what I mean with punk.

The record has the right dose of provocation, naughtiness, anger, dirt, intelligence and fun. All what rock’n’roll needs to have to keep its soul out of the grave and kick asses.

This is not bedroom pop by a shy nerd. It’s like the Fall and The Libertines someway landed onto the same star with only one recording studio.
There is Birthday Party intelligence and The Clash political provocation, spectacularly showed off from the top of a Pub in London on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s dead.

The unanticipated consequence is that The Fat White Family at the same time are praised by The Quietus, The Guardian and NME, that sponsored this concert as one of their NME Awards special events.

In a scenario were music taste is fragmented, listeners follow the favourite publications to not find themselves outside a comfort zone, the consequence is that publications tend to please their audiences giving them what they want. This trend brought to a music landscape clustered around faved bands, same audiences, same niches, even dedicated festivals.

Another consequence is that what usually someone likes, the antagonist dislikes.
Which is what you expect between Quietus and NME, to name two.

The Fat White Family are nothing close to be an easy band, still in their perverted way managed to make ends meet.

In love with the CD, I have been looking for the first available date I could make to see (and photograph) them live.

From their Southern London base, the Electrowerkz in Islington is accessible heading north on the, erm, Northern line. Angel is the stop.
A couple of blocks down a side street and you find yourself in one of those basement-like venues (it is at first floor): dirty, sticky, smelly, pitch black darkness.
No pit.

Either the band was born to play here or the guy of The Electrowerkz opened this place knowing that at some point the perfect band would materialize in suche a stage.
It is the venue for Fat White Family, it is not the venue for concert photography. Not on a sold out night with a band that defining “lively” is an understatement.

I was expecting this, can’t do it anymore every weekend but a mosh pit every so often is what you know to verify  there is life beyond daily routine.

Few hundreds people gather under the stage. Few girls hate me from before the start. Fans hate photographers like me.
I’ve got here very early to stand in the central spot of the first row. With cameras.
If you are a dedicated concert photographer you gotta be ready to sweat and fight and conquer the frontline. There are no chances to take good pics from the second row. Bob Capa rule always applies more than ever here: get close.

I did. A blonde girl tries to push me out of her way, I resist. She has her reasons, I have mine. I don’t travel Cambridge to Islington on a working day to let her at the front and miss the chance, sorry honey.

It’s from the first chord of the first song, same Auto Neutron that open the album, that the intent is clear: to provoke. To have fun, to surprise, to shock the unbelievers, convert the infidels to the Fat White cult.

It happens at the sound of guitars, pumping bass and steer energy. The energy that only a band at its peak has. Everything is perfect, everything they do tonight would be what it is needed.

Lias Saudi, the lead singer and the soul of the family, takes about a song to get rid of his shirt and tie and ends up shirtless for the rest of the set.

The girl once behind, is now next to me. One of us three photographers gave up at the second song and the second shower courtesy of a flying pint. She desperately tries to undress Lias pulling down his trousers for the whole set. He knows, he let her go ahead to pull out at the last moment. Mimics a resistance which only increases the naughtiness of the show. It’s a sexy, dirty set something rare I wonder if Prince is in the audience.

Sure there was Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand

When Lias, out of the blue, stares at the back of the hall, bends as he were to start a wobbling 100m race, you gotta be careful. He will sprint toward the fans jumping high and landing over them. It’s a ritual that repeats almost every song, it would make good pics if I had a flash. I had not.

Nevermind, I’m having fun, I’m sweating, I manage to change the lens in the most unstable of balances and risky of conditions for a digital body with a sensor exposed to a rain of sticky sugary drinks.

It works I’m so close I need to go wide to frame the band. I can feel Bob Capa pushing my back, I almost fall onto the monitors, Lias falls over me. It’s a body fluid mess joined to concert photography.  The 14-24mm is on.

The music doesn’t stop, the show doesn’t either. I keep shooting, advantages of no pit, no one is brave enough to come and get me out, no one cares if I shoot three songs, if I use flash. It’s pointless. It’s a rock’n’roll animal.

Music goes on, hard to follow, not important to check they pick the right chords. It’s an event, one of those night to remember, one of those gigs that enter high on the list of bests.

Yes I don’t do my “best of” lists, but if there is a list of my favourite concerts, this is probably on the top ten of several hundreds.

Catch The Fat White Family, Live. They’re here [website][facebook][twitter][spotify]

And if you don’t believe me, believe him

Photo tip

With this news Getty last week revolutionised the photography world.

From 6th of March 2014 Getty offers most of their archive, 35 millions photos for free for web non commercial use.
It is still not clear what non commercial is, cause they said newspaper and adv containing sites can use their embedded photos.

This one below isn’t mine, it’s from the same gig and it’s usable by anyone for free. Robin is the photographer that left to save his gear, clothes and everything else from the moshpit. Was it wrong? you judge.

They confessed to have lost the copyright war. Sincerely it’s not them to loose, it’s us, the photographers. They have a plan to capitalise these images with customers info and targeted advs. What is less clear is what will be in the hand of photographers, money wise.
Visibility and credit in change of photos made legal by the biggest agency.

Great? Don’t think. Where I stand, I still don’t know. I don’t distribute through Getty but I do through Rex and what will the answer of other agencies is what everyone is waiting to see.

It’s difficult to get the “full picture”.
For the moment Getty move is very simple to understand.
They set a price. A very debated price online.
How much is worth a low res image for web-only use? Getty fixed the price: $0.00

This set the precedent and this precedent will make it difficult to expect someone would pay for a web image now. Not from Getty, from anyone.

Even worse. If someone takes a web image without permission and a photographer claims his/her (copy)right, the potential consequence in a dispute is that the stealing blogger and the court can state that the market value for such an image is $0.00.

So what? I don’t know.

A truth is that web only images ain’t paid so much. I have been paid for one 0.21 pence so my life will not change.

Still this is serious. Space for photojournalism is getting tighter.

On the positive side there is hope to sell through instagram. This photographer made $15.000 in a day.

St. Vincent

•February 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Mark this day: 24th of February 2014. No, not because it is my niece 4th birthday and my auntie 80th. That’s important to me, not to this blog.

This day is going to be important for St. Vincent.
The album is called St. Vincent. Her real name is Annie Erin Clarke but her stage name is, like the album, St. Vincent.
It is her 5th record and it is out right now.

It is the first LP after she departed 4AD, released with Loma Vista/Republic.
It is the first after the collaboration with David Byrne, Love this Giant, which I never loved and managed to go beyond one of the worst covers of all times.

I don’t know the details of the label change but, seen from the 4AD perspective, losing St. Vincent at this time of her career it is not a good thing.

As things go, she just played a European tour in advance of the album release which ended up in this sold out concert I photographed at Shepherds Bush Empire in London last thursday.
Annie is now back to USA to promote the record with several US dates in the next months and will be back for a bigger tour and summer festivals dates in May and June.
It’s indie-rock schedule, before and after the album there is hard touring going on. It’s where most of the money are. Or… (come to this later, bear with me)

The only other time I photographed St. Vincent it was in this same place which is also one of my favourite theatre to photograph Music in London. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous restriction of the security I’ll be here much more.

She was singing her debut album, Marry Me, in a support slot for The National at the end of November 2007. At those time I posted photos of Matt Berninger and Dessner and Devendorf brother on this little blog, but I totally forgot this tiny girl until checking my whole archive I realised I have already shot her. Had to go back to Spotify to check where and when.

Good occasion to switch on my scanner and go back to some 35mm delight for this very occasion to bring you some of these vintage ones of a shy, less curly, small girl with a hat.

St. Vincent debut was out for just 2 months at that time. Very few people have heard of this Texan girl moved to New York to break through the indie scene. The album will sell thousands, will be reviewed by everyone and paved her path to stardom, just not yet.

In 2009 her second album Actor came out. At that time I must have forgotten her, because I don’t remember asking for a photopass for the tour, neither willing to go. The album got Best New Music at Pitchfork, nowadays what you need to be in the empire of indie-stars.

In 2011 Strange Mercy came out and I couldn’t miss this. To me still her best record. The balance between electronica and fuzzy analogic guitar reach the apex in some incredible songs. The first half of the album is majestic, some songs are so catchy I find myself singing Cruel, Cheerleader without knowing what I was singing. Surgeon has so much depth in it.

I remember the tour and remember being gutted not being able to cover these shows, especially when I saw some incredible pics. Annie Clarke is known to be great live and also to use bright white lights which is not something you get often.

With a progression of 8.0, 8.5 and 9.0 at Pitchfork there is not much to say except that raising the bar so high, so quickly will have lead to expectations being hard to satisfy. There are two ways.

First solution St. Vincent attempted, was (to me) the easy way and the wrong choice: To recruit a legend as David Byrne of Talking Heads (and everything else). Surely this generated a huge press coverage that made the breaking news on all music channels. Unfortunately (expectations at this point became even higher) and the music within the album cannot cope. It seems to stop in the middle between Byrne eclecticism and Annie indie-nerdiness and never find to mature.
Reviewers agree with me, the album is not very well received and going from 9 to 5.9 is almost unprecedented to a Pitchfork ‘Best New Music’ Artist. It was a loud message. (Note, I keep mentioning the Chicago site as a reference because everyone else usually matches to the trend they set, especially about US artists).

Back on the hard road, the other solution was to change direction. It’s risky, it’s difficult. If it works it pays back.
There are few artists that can do this. You need a fan base that is open-minded to follow (checked) and you need, of course, the skills to write good music and perceive the new trend (checked).

David Bowie, Radiohead, PJ Harvey? The ones who managed to reinvent themselves in a credible way are part of rock history.
There are many that dramatically disappeared for failing a direction change (Twilight Sad, Glasvegas) and when they U turn again trying to redo what they were good at fans are long gone. Indie-rock audience is unforgiving.

St. Vincent isn’t the case. She did it right. Her new album is a great record, bold but sincere. It had the first 5stars given by DIY and, most important, resurrects to 8.6 and Best New Music for the third time in a row at Pitchfork. This is what she needed. So now, what did she change?

Everything. And I was unprepared.
I expected an indie guitarist, shy, nerdy, using her guitar to separate from the audience. None of this.

I forgot to have seen her live first time. I will not forget this Shepherds Bush Empire show ever.
There is the same throne on stage that is on the cover of the new album. She steps to play guitar on it, the Prince‘s way.

I just bought the indierock.photography domain for this little blog and the first concert I upload on here is a proper popstar in the making. Weird.
St. Vincent new music, but mostly the new look she shows-off at this gig is a pop concert, as you’d expect for a proper pop star at a proper pop arena. Sure this is where she is going.

She wears the same short dress at all shows, either black or white (as PJ Harvey did latest tour, I got it black) with a melting heart on the front.
From the album cover to the photopass sticker she has white dyed hair on a light blue background. She plays a black guitar on stage. It is plenty of strong lights as a pop show demands and she pours attitude from all pores.

Annie is sexy and she knows that to break into pop music sex is, sadly or not as you want to see it, an essential ingredient as black pepper in proper carbonara.
Self-confidence and seductive not shy, introspective sex-appeal.

Timidity doesn’t work here, as fresh cream doesn’t work in a carbonara, you have to be able to mix simple ingredients without the help of cream. It will be creamy anyway if you do it properly.

St. Vincent mixes it up without the use of anything simpler than great new songs (plus many from Strange Mercy), a renewed self-confident attitude, a stunning look and, as salt and pepper, a band that is so good to be present but never intrusive.

I realised looking at the photos of the 2 songs we were allowed to cover, I have almost no frames of the band. There is a drummer on the back a keyboardist guitarist on the front right and another on the background. They are essential but they only complement St. Vincent playing.

She is a great singer but I realised also how good she is as a guitarist. Her six strings produce a wonderful sound and she is a skilled player confirming US artists give to technicality more attention than British.
She enjoys some solos and shows them off which is part of the I-am-a-popstar-now news. Prince is in town, you never know.

All things converge to the conclusion that this 24th of February is going to be a date St. Vincent and her fans will remember.
I saw her twice at Shepherds Bush Empire but I doubt its capacity would be enough to contain the fans in the future. Surely the aim is to biggest venue, larger crowds, fans all over the world.

She deserved it. This is not a one hit wonder, it’s 5 full albums crafted to perfection bit by bit, being brave to change directions, anticipate the trends, indicate the path to the many artists to follow.

It is St. Vincent year and if you still haven’t discovered how good she is, it’s time to immerse yourself in a perfect recipe of pop and indie music. Her website says it all ILoveStVincent.com you better do too: [Website][Spotify][facebook][twitter]

Photo tip

I have been several times to Shepherds Bush Empire, I talked about the advantages of low stage venues, St. Vincent matured as a musician, I surely matured as a concert photographer, the venue never relaxed their strict policy, one of the very few medium size venues that, to be allowed back in after the photos, wants  all photographers to leave the camera bag, to have a valid ticket and to walk down the street from the stage door than back in from the front. At least a couple of songs are missed.

The only time this didn’t happened, believe me, it was for Katy Perry. Yes, I managed to take photos and stay to watch the show with my camera bag simply walking from the pit to the stalls.

Living in Cambridge this policy is one of the reasons why I turn down several photo passes when they don’t come with a ticket. Sadly.
It’s a long way trip for 10 minutes of music. Thankfully this time a journalist friend had a plus one so I stayed to view and review this show.

For concerts Shepherds Bush is my London favourite venue after Koko. It has several balcony levels, it has the red baroqueness of London Theatres. It doesn’t have the Apollo or Brixton Academy shell-shaped floor but towards the back it is elevated and allows to watch the show if you don’t want to join the party in the front.

Photography wise the low stage and usually good lights deliver good images. Some of the photos here were shot ad ISO 320 or 500 f2.8 1/250s but be careful if you are going to photograph St. Vincent because there is a huge difference between the strong lights on her face and the rest. Matrix measurement failed a few times giving me some shots where her face is too overexposed to be usable. Also when the strong lights go away it’s very dark.

I strongly suggest measuring spot on her face for this, be very careful your spot point is on the face or on a bright area, though. I also set the auto ISO in these conditions with a favourite at 800 and upper at 6400.
The two songs are short and the time she spends away from the microphone is much shorter. Few seconds for a short dance intro before the first song and about 30 seconds for a guitar solo at the end of it. I couldn’t bother to deal with ISO/Aperture and Shutter in 5 minutes.

The rest of the time she sings in front of the mic pole with no opportunity. When all photographers are off, she starts her proper pop show off, more lights on, climbs staircase, lays down, plays guitar.
No, I’m not going to ask why not allowing to cover a whole gig again. No I am not.

London Grammar

•February 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

At the beginning it was Florence + The Machine. It all started about 5 years ago, last decade. It was 2009 and a big girl with a big voice broke through the music scene with an energetic girls riot energy and big melodies.
It lasted about one EP and a supporting role at a NME tour before some clever PR told Florence that it is not indie-rock the place to pay her mortgage. With such a voice pop is the way. In few months black leggins and boots left space to big, embroidered dresses, strong make-up and a lot of hair. Florence abandoned the indie rock league towards stardom so far culminated at Sound of Changes stadium gigs with Beyonce and similar corporate stuff.

At an early Florence gig at Shepherds Bush Empire in London XX were headlining. It was also one of the last time they played as a quartet before one member left the band. End of 2009.

A new decade was about to start, economic crisis and low budgets helped minimalist electro indie pop to get out of artists bedroom andMacBooks invaded the underground scene.
Classic dream-pop (Cocteau Twins) darkened by reminiscence from the good side of the eighties: Joy Division, Cure, Siouxsie and a touch of Depeche Mode.
The recipe worked, the backlights delivered silhouettes and I regret to have missed shooting the XX so many times.

There have been followers, as it always is when you hit the right notes. Several and different, each approaching the scene with a slight different angle. All big around Spitafield and Shoreditch. James Blake, Disclosure and Chvrches to mention the first I can think of but, and I finally introduce to today’s post, London Grammar.
(that with Disclosure have an active friendship and collaboration)

I would bet London Grammar singer, Hannah Reid, was among the teenagers at that Florence + The Machine gig in Shepherd Bush in 2009.
The perfect mix of XX support and Florence headline singing will result, after few years of fine tuning and hiring a couple of skilled musicians, in the London Grammar. This trio will produce the debut album that is of the 2013 sensations. Guardian spotted them since April but the album won’t be out until September.

If You Wait is out on Metal and Dust. With sales on the plus side of 30K It topped the indie chart (despite being distributed by Columbia and Warner which makes the indie chart meaningless but this is a different argument) and sold about 250K albums since it was released. Got to n.2 in UK and beyond.

Where Florence did put her voice at use of sensationalism and big tunes, London Grammar use a more subtle trick.
The big tunes are played down by arrangments made by electronica with some effected guitar and sampled drums. It’s Shoreditch, babe.
The voice, mixed to stand out is underplayed by minimalist arrangments. If it wasn’t that Hannah Reid does have a total different timbre of Beth Gibbons you may think Portishead would be back.

Despite I still cannot cope long with music putting guitar/bass/drums aside for electronic samples, I admit some of this modern times stuff is entering my blood and I am now able to listen to more than 15 minutes without getting to hate tapered denim and floral shirts. This means I had the chance to listen to their album few times.

I came to a full-to-capacity Corn Exchange for London Grammar event. Their first proper tour and one of the first sold out dates create the event.
The trio comes on stage lined up with guitarist Dan Rothman on the left, Hannah in the centre and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major behind keys, drums and tricks on the right.
The stage is big which is first problem of portraying the full line-up.

They brought an all-girl string quartet sitting on the back, if this is at risk of mining their minimalism to Florence grander territories, it helped photo composition.
They also brought a quite big lighting which after the third song and from the back looks very effective, if only we were allowed to take picture.

[rant break] Actually I was the only one allowed, because this was another of those situations started with “Sorry Valerio, there are not photopasses left, list is all full” to then get in with another contact and discovering that there was no other photographer in the pit except me. [end of rant]

Gig starts quiet and songs are carefully crafted, ‘Dot’ works on keys most of the time, I prefer when he moves to the drums to add more beat leaving the melodies to Dan Rothmann guitar.

Hannah plays a piano on the back for some tunes which allows the string quartet to kick in the orchestral movements.
Something now reminds me of Bat For Lashes another of 2009 breakthrough acts.

I stay for the whole gig which, to be fair, it was very short running, under a hour including encore.

I know London Grammar have only one album out and those are all the material they could play. What I wonder is why, with so much influences and Reid incredible voice, they couldn’t put together some covers to make the set longer and confront with their reference. London Grammar is the perfect band to refresh famous tunes.

When I was young (yes I was), any band touring with a debut album used to add covers to make a set longer. It works as a homage to what they love.
Crowd pleasers.
Where are all cover songs gone? What stops covers nowadays, either is insecurity or pretentiousness, the only consequence is to not have the chance to listen Hanna Reid voice for a bit longer.

London Grammar are not on Spotify, sadly, you can still find some of their music and all the news here: [website][facebook][twitter][soundcloud]

Photo tip

I arrived at the Corn Exchange expecting a full pit, as the first PR told me, and I was pleased to be on my own. While I prepare my camera and lenses, a guy of London Grammar crew looks surprised to see someone in the pit.
He approaches me and, beyond the usual reprimand of 3 songs no flash, he says that the first songs are going to be quiet so I have to be silent, choose a spot and don’t move much around. Even the house security was surprised by the request. I say I will do my best to not interfere with the show.

It is a key part of concert photography to be invisible, to anticipate the moment when the music will be louder enough to click the shutter and when to be silent even if there may be a good shot.

There is a big production tonight, that delivered a big show… for the audience. It would have been a very good gig for photographers too with some attention to details. A couple of suggestions.

The band is lined up on a line in the front of a large stage. I gues it is more than 10 meters wide, the band members are far apart and there is no way to frame them together without using a very wide angle.
Suggestion number one. Ignore the big stage, keep the band tight. It will look closer and intimate and band photos will be possible. Guitarist and singer can always walk around which adds up to the show more than standing still.

There are big lights. A backdrop of bulb able to write lyrics and some nice yellow tungsten lamps counterbalancing the blue LEDs spots. Unfortunately all of this were used well after the first three songs.
I know lightwise the best bits of a gig has to come at the end and they can’t blow out the special effects for the beginning. Suggestion 2 (ten years I am asking for this) Why don’t let photographers to take pictures of the best moments? Why not to photograph (also) the last 3 songs?

I am an optimist.

I Break Horses

•January 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I Break Horses came out as a band, few years ago with the classic progress of “new name – debut single – Album” on the Bella Union roster. There was a big tam tam (nowadays known as going viral) on music related webzines and I never understood the origin of the name. But it is a name you remember.

This lead to Hearts, the debut album. It got TLOBF “album of the year” tag in 2011 “winning” over artists as Kurt Vile, The war on Drugs and Bon Iver.
True that this Swedish duo, signed by BellaUnion, checked all the boxes the ‘English-but-in-love-with-Scandinavian-pop’ webzine loves as Bridgewater honestly put in the review.

I listened to Heart several times (and I am relistening it now while writing) despite my musical taste is far from electro-pop, dream pop or new millennium shoegaze (which has nothing to do with My Bloody Valentine, Galaxy 500 or Slowdive). With few listens I appreciated the delicate but very well-crafted sound. Sketched melodies and singer lines, hidden behind a softer noise than you would expect by the genre definition, work in a similar way to those delicate sketches of masters of painting that are better than the final canvas.

From the nineties pioneers, to the (20)10s revival, shoegazers have decrease the volume and the numbers of coats of sound they add to cover pop songs.

There are reasons into that. There are less guitars involved. The distorsion effects are applied to laptops. Bands come often from beyond the Anglo-Saxon axis and get inspired by their traditions.

Is not news that, when Norway is associated to black metal, Sweden is the land of electropop.
Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck, aka I Break Horses, started as a duo. He’s on percussion, she sings and plays keys as far as tinstruments. The bulk of their music is clearly elaborated on a laptop with a mousepad.

It took about 3 years to I Break Horses to put together a second album. It is out now and titled Chiaroscuro, which is the “Italian for light-dark [...] in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.” (Thanks Wiki)

The album streamed a week in advance on TLOBF and, as the previous, it took me few listens to click in.
It has similar patterns to Hearts in the sense that songs’ melodies give the sensation of being just sketched with a charcoal ‘chiaroscuro’, only the ‘scuro’ is more present than the ‘chiaro’.

There are not hits in it. Like it or not, this is the trend (listen to latest Warpaint for example, probably the best ever album without a single tune ever written) and it is the same for I Break Horses. They didn’t change their plot because they don’t follow a plot. It’s a stream of consciousness, they follow their heart.
Emotions go up and down a rollercoaster. It’s like climbing on some darker songs, sliding down with some faster beats and getting inundated with some noise. But there is less noise than in Hearts, more electronics.

The album is being received softly, surely with less pomp than Hearts. It’s half because of a natural tendency of the music scene, usually warmer towards debuts than follow ups. The other half because sticking to the same plot, the music has less chances to surprise the listener.

Pitchfork marked Hearts with a 7.2, in its usual anti-European inclination anytime Thom Yorke is not involved. Chiaroscuro gets an unfair 5.9 in Chicago. A mark that back to my school years would mean “they can do much better but they don’t put enough effort into it”.

On top of the Any Decent Music list of reviews sits TLOBF with a sound 8.5 + “album of the week”.
(Maria also talks about emotional rollercoaster on the interview and I swear I didn’t read this before writing about it 2 paragraphs above :-)

All summed up together I went to the Village Underground to see I Break Horses album launch live, it was my first time.
It also was the 23rd of January, time to kick off the concert season 2014 after the lazy Christmas weeks.

I expected a duo, I found a full band, including a guitarist, a back singer and an added synth. Fredrik Balck sits on drums and Maria Lindén, centre stage is on keys and singing. If the audience was iron dust she’d be a strong magnet. The Village Underground is sold-out but it’s like there are 50 of us.

You can’t avoid staring at her. Her singing, her smile, her moves all works in synchrony. Her Nordic simplicity is the most effective way to make her special. No need to show off, to highlight anything. Is the anti pop star. As their music is the perfect anti-pop. All happens peacefully, calmly, beautifully. It’s dreamy or it is a dream, relaxing as a SPA, anergetic as a vegan smoothy. It is pop denying every single pop cliché.

It all comes together, I Break Horses are simple. Not after any special effect. They are not here to surprise the audience, they don’t have tricks in the hat. They love their music, believe in their songs, talk about their life and send the vibe to people sympathetic with it to the point of inviting anyone to a free after show party I sadly have to miss.

You can be in touch with I Break Horses here, they are heading to USA in spring and I expect a busy festival season playing these songs.
Know more about them here [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

I am entering a delicate territory here but talking about photography of pop and rock stars it is relevant. The entertainment industry undisputably pays a fair share of attention to aesthetics.

I am also Italian and I regrettably bring with me an archetipical amount of “sexism” in my culture that, despite being the least macho man in the country, acts probably on the subconscious to complicate things.

All of this to say?
Well I wanted to put together few words about shooting bands whose frontwoman (it may works as well for a frontman to be fair) is a top-model-like aspect. The occasion just arrived.

Maria Linden of I Break Horses is undisputably beautiful. One of the most beautiful artist in the indie music scene I portraited. Once she walks on stage she magneticaly attracts men, women and camera lenses (the topic of this tip) with her charm.

How to report and review by images a concert of such a band?

One way is to include full band shots. I fired some to Rex but I knew from the beginning that if a photo was going to be picked it would not have been that. Dicto my image on the Evening Standard alongside a review shows is this one

I had band members to shoot with 5 people on stage and I also stepped sideway to get a different perspective, still there is such a power on Maria’s photos that will never be there in any other attempt.
How to portray her, then, and what’s the issue.

I had to change for once my rigid position about (avoiding) microphones as hell, whenever possibile. I am telling you

Going through the set of images I shot on the train back home, I realised that the ones where I carefully waited for the moment she moved away from the bloody microphone did not look like concert photos. They are more like portraits of a model lit by mostly a not ideal lighting.

Back to the devil was the solution. Review-wise, in the case you’ve got an angel in front of you, my tip is to include the microphone. Yes I said that.
I would still wait for the moment the nasty object is out of the face, eyes, nose and mouth if possible, but leave it in the frame. The image will keep that sensation that a song is going on.

There is the option of including the instruments, it works better with guitars, a bit more difficult with a keyboardist and a high stage.

It always arrive the exception to confirm a rule, do not forget the rule!
Microphones are the devil, avoid them whenever possibile and bin all photos where they unnaturally cover singers’ faces.

East India Youth

•January 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

His brilliant debut album, Total Strife Forever, is out today.
Let’s kick off 2014 with an artist that has permeated the whole of 2013.

East India Youth is a solo project by William Doyle. One of the most talked appearances in the London music scene last year.

East India Youth first single Heaven, How Long, part of a 12” EP Hostel, was out in Februray 2013 and immediately was a on music news; for two main reasons.

First is obvious, because it is a great record that instantly acted as a catalyst for the London Electronic music.

Electronica is the music of these years, this isn’t a surprise. The arrive of East India Youth was indeed a surprise. With his sound everything in a confused box seemed to fall in the right place. Doyle mixture of creativity, taste for the sound, melody, danceable loops and also his look stood out.

From that moment (to today) it is as if the reference has been set. The artist to confront with, for any other London electronica ensemble, was East India Youth.

The second reason why East India Youth arrive was on news is because the announced 12” vinyl would have been out on a newly created The Quietus Phonographic Corporation new Label… founded by… erm… The Quietus.

It is a news because … to mention the original article, John Doran, TheQuietus’ editor put it well : “I’d always said that I’d cut my own head off using nail clippers before we started a record label. I’d learned too much from watching other sites and magazines pour all of their time, money and talent into them, just to watch them spectacularly implode. It was, I said, like withdrawing all your money from a cash machine and setting fire to it while simultaneously flushing your own head down a toilet filled with goat’s piss.”
Got it?

Laura Snapes still at Pitchfork at that time, came out with a nice review of the single, which mentions everything from Liars to The Who passing through The Horrors, helping to increase the curiosity inducing everyone to click on that soundcloud wave.

The best bit is when you realise that the above mentions are much more accurate than they read.

Countless play (actually very well countable 49.815 + 15. 783on Soundcloud + 10396 and counting on youtube and more alsewhere) and many mentions caught people attention. New Band of The Day @ the guardian at this point caused East India Youth to became the one to hear in (East) London.

It’s not just marketing or word of mouth, though.
When you get to this point the first believer in you must be yourself. Which is what William Doyle understood quickly and dedicated his time to.

From February till the end of the year his vintage floral shirts, Mac Powerbook and bass have been decorating every other stage, support stage, main stage, DJ set, disco in town… and beyond.

I have not covered a huge loads of concerts in 2013 but I came across East India Youth at least three times.
First for the405 birthday party in April at the Old Blue Last. Shoreditch place to start to be cool.
Then he woke up Field Day Festival goers gathering a very big crowd at midday under the Quietus tent. In a still sleepy Victoria Park his synth started a great day. (the daily life pics on this gallery)

Last (time I saw him) when he opened for These New Puritans (the night pics along the ‘photo tip’ at the bottom).
Unfortunately I missed the other fifth birthday party of The Quietus where William Doyle played together with a stunning line-up made with Factory Floor, Grumbling Furs and Teeth of the Sea. I cannot be everywhere, but I regret this a lot.

Surely in the months from the first time to the last I have attended his live show, the music improved a lot. The set at Heaven was utterly brilliant.

I am not going to review the album here. I know too little about electro/techno/synth/Drum Machine based music to attempt even a couple of paragraphs.
I appreciate (see below) William Doyle was in a band before and this may be one of the reasons why I can listen to his music without getting bored before it’s over. There is memory of ‘songs’ in his tunes.
I also realise electro-pop is the genre of the decade and I keep an ear onto it. The other ear still waits for the day the guitars’ curve will rise back, plug into some Marshall, turns the volume to 11 and blow my mind.

Many are reviewing this by the way. From a tweet of Alexis Petridis going “This album by East India Youth is fucking amazing” last December a plethora of articles emerged.

Petridis himself followed up with a more politically correct tone on his paper making East India Youth a one to watch for 2014: “Something about East India Youth’s debut album Total Strife Forever doesn’t square with the story of the man who made it. To hear William Doyle tell it, he turned to making electronic music for largely pragmatic reasons: the indie band he was in broke up messily and he realised that electronica was a genre that lent itself to a solo artist working from home. He says he recorded the album almost as an afterthought, over three years, while focusing on other projects. It’s not that you don’t believe him, so much as that’s not how the album sounds. It comes across as a hugely self-assured debut, from an artist who knows exactly what he’s doing: he’s confident enough to leap from out-and-out pop to icy ambience to pounding acid house to unsettling experimentation. Whatever the circumstances in which he made it, the fact that he did so marks Doyle out as a rare, idiosyncratic talent.”

The debut album Total Strife Forever is being praised pretty much everywhere and at the moment tops Any Decent Music albums with an 8.3 average (pre Pitchfork) collection of reviews

Clearly if 2013 was the launch ramp for East India Youth the mission is well in orbit now and I do hope to catch up with him at concerts and festival in 2014.

For now, this is a collection of photos I shot last year.

For the future you can follow him online, in line with times East India Youth website is his soundcloud plus the usual bunch of social networks [Soundcloud][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Last two questions I have no answer are.
What’s the origin of the name?
Is Jenny Saville the painter of the brilliant Album artwork?

Photo tip

In the film era, photography exposure was linked to two variables. Aperture and Shutter.
Iso (also knowns as ASA or DIN before that) the sensitivity to light of the film was a given value and, at least for 36 frames on 35mm film, it was set and unchangeable.
Any pre-digital photographer has been matching, either manually, aperture priority or shutter priority, this pair to get the right exposure for the right situation.

Among the many improvement that digital photography brought to the field, the existence of a third variable is not very appreciated.
ISO are not fixed anymore. From one frame to the next if the light changes it is possible to keep the aperture and shutter we prefer and change ISO accordingly

Talking to many photographers this is not always considered a good practice. At concerts I know that many tend to fix the ISO depending on the situation and keep operating on the classic aperture/shutter pair to determine the right exposure.
The explanation I was given is that from ISO to ISO there is a difference in noise that can make a set non uniform. True till some years ago and very true if you are making a story that needs consistence in results.

Less true nowadays that sensors have improved and ISO variability is not as detectable. Also if you are shooting a concert, if lucky, only one or two photos will be picked for publishing.

I read somewhere that some cameras have ISO priority added to the other two semi-automatic modes.
Mine do not (or I do not know) but I tend to vary ISO during a set often.

Lights at gigs change quickly and deciding which is the perfect ISO is not always obvious.
In dark places there is no choice. With the D700 sensor I know 6400 ISO is the highest to have a decent raw file.

When there is more light, what ISO to go for? My question is instead, why do you have to fix it?

I changed procedure. I set the camera in manual mode, decide the aperture (95% of the times 2.8 to be fair) and the shutter (everything from 1/100s to faster is good) and let the matrix decide the sensitivity.

It is, as any automatic thing, a dangerous approach to do and I strongly suggest to learn very well how your camera matrix deals with light, backlights, spotlights before attempting.
I find that with some experience it is perfectly doable.

What I do is to set the maximum limit for ISO to 3200 (6400 if the situation is desperate), set 800 as a standard and allow the value to go up or down without compromising on the shutter speed (a blurred image is worse than a noisy image) and without messing up with changing the ISO, in addition to aperture and shutter from second to second.

Why? Because concert photography happens to quick to have time to set all the dials and I prefer to be as free as possible to dedicate most of my time to composition.
I believe there is no point to have a sharp, clean image if the final result is a confusing and distracting frame because of a poor composition.
What do you do, instead?

PS: One of my photos of East India Youth (likely one of these in this gallery) has been published on the Guardian, or at least the Guardian has paid me for it.
I don’t have a clue where that has appeared so, if you accidentally have come across it, I’d be very grateful if you let me know. Thanks!


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