Glasvegas

Extended and updated!!! On 30/11, a year after these first photos, I photographed and seen Glasvegas on their sold-out tour. Scroll down to the blue paragraphs at the bottom to see new photos and read an update on how and why this band is leading the Brit-pop giants 2008-2009 league.
Good news for photographers on the photo tip.

I photographed Ian Brown almost a year ago. I was attracted by the name of the supporting band: Glasvegas. Months later they are topping the UK charts and appearing on any UK paper.

I loved the name before seeing them. In the internet world without a single domain left unregistered, they managed to come up with such a brilliant and memorable word that puts together their origin and their dream.

I waited curious in the photo pit. When they arrived I was surprised again, by their look.
James Allan, the singer, sunglasses and haircut, reminded me vaguely of some rockabilly figure.
The black & white dress code, emphasized by strong backlights drew dark silhouettes, a perfect setting for a fanatic of monochrome as I am.
I loved their look before they play the first note.
I thought that if their music was going to be as cool as their appearance and as effective as their name I was in front of something big.

Few chords into the first song, I was caught by a vision that helped me to link them to their musical heritage. A standing drummer.
I cannot think at any other drummer beyond Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker and Jesus and Mary Chain Bobby Gillespie, standing at the drum kit.
It is not only an effective image trick, it creates a peculiar beat to a band sound. Without the bass drums and hitting the toms from a different distance the rhythm comes out at the same time simpler and darker.

The portrait seemed complete. Glasvegas looked the perfect next ring to the black & white, noise driven, underground-rock chain that was started by Reed & Cale and followed by the Reid brothers. But they are not just that.

When the first guitar chords reached my ears and James Allen start singing, I realised he was reminding me of Joe Strummer. Beyond the appearance the parallel goes straight into the “oh-ooh” choruses he sings.

I started to deconstruct (or decorate?) my theory.
My hobby to go upstream the music river in search of the source of newer bands’ influences looked an easy one with Glasvegas but, as any apparently easy thing, it hid details that needed to be envisaged.

If the noise of their ancestors, Velvet and JAMC, was created with feedback; Glasvegas build up a sonic wall with reverb. Left hand guitarist, Rob Allen, together with singer James (Allen too, if they are brothers I couldn’t find) create guitar atmospheres over the essential rhythms that are a white base that allow the dark lyrics to stand out.

From a social workers story, Geraldine, to the relationship of a son left by his father, Daddy’s gone their best tune so far, they tell stories that (statistically speaking) hit hard and straight to the heart of many young people listening to it.

“How you are my hero
How your never here though
Remember times when you put me on your shoulders
How I wish it was forever you would hold us
Right now I’m too young to know
How in the future it will affect me when you go
You could have had it all
You, me, and mum y’know
Anything was possible

I wont be the lonely one
Sitting on my own and sad
A fifty year old
Reminiscing what I had

I wont be the lonely one
Sitting on my own and sad
Forget your dad, he’s gone

All I wanted was a kick-a-bout in the park
For you to race me home when it was nearly getting dark
How I could’ve been yours, and you be mine
It could’ve been me and you until the end of time
Do what you want, when you want
Be as fuckin’ insincere as you can
What kind of way is that to treat your wife
To see your son on Saturdays
What way is that to live your life?

I wont be the lonely one
Sitting on my own and sad
A fifty year old
Reminiscing what I had

I wont be the lonely one
Sitting on my own and sad
Forget your dad, he’s gone”

[Daddy's gone - Glasvegas]

These was happening less than a year ago. At that time really few people, beyond the usual Alan McGee, who spotted them in the same Glasgow place where 15 years before he spotted Oasis, knew this band.
They were signed to an indie label, touring incessantly and eager to have a single out.

The hype wasn’t crushing them, yet.
Now apparently it is.
Many TV appearances, radio airings, festivals and concerts after anyone from Jools Holland to Columbia, from Carl Barat to Lisa Marie Presley began praising the band.

Glasvegas weren’t ready for this. The need to express on a recent interview “Glasvegas: We won’t let hype affect us” to me means exactly the opposite is happening. More signs to follow.

With over 50.000 copies sold in UK on the first week, Glasvegas self titled debut would have been a sure number one in any other week of 2008, they have chosen the same of the new Metallica CD.

Glasvegas it is a very good album. It starts strong with the catchy chorus of Flowers and Footbal Tops straight followed by the atmospheric single Geraldine. It Gets weaker in some upbeat surf-ish passages as Go Square Go then reach its peak on the intensity of Daddy’s Gone.

Then Stabbed arrives and indeed you feel a knife on your back. What was a brilliant live track “(I’m Gonna Get) Stabbed” on the CD becomes a spoken text narrate over Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata!
If your ego arrives up to this point, you should start thinking if affectation is turning into omnipotence, shouldn’t you?

Where is the band after this year? Well, if desire of omnipotence was a dream, now Glasvegas are pretty convinced to be gods.

They are living that golden moment of creativity between the first and the second album that Alan McGee’s bands (is it him?) have. This is confirmed by 5 of the 6 songs in their Christmas EP. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) contains Glasvegas approach to Christmas, perfect songs for recession time festivities. Melancholic, sad as they only can be, titles speak much more than any word I could write: Careful What You Wish For, Fuck You, It’s Over, Cruel Moon, Please Come Back Home. Five songs that harmonize with the album.

So what’s the problem with the sixth? Well, exactly the same they had with the CD version of Stabbed. Handling a too classic tune and think you can reinterpret it cleverly.
Here Silent Night, at least, is officially a cover. It would not mislead 80% of reviewers in the world thinking that the piano is a Glasvegas original, as happened with Beethoven Moonlight sonata. The sensation of all-powerfulness that let them think they can control everything is however present, organ, choirs, pompousness make it too much even for Christmas songs’ tolerance.
I hope they understand that is time to stop before attempting to use Verdi’s Aida triumphal march in their next album.


A remonstration. To include the EP only in a Limited Edition which contains the same debut CD is a indecorous trick to exploit fans forcing them to buy the same album twice. Either is Columbia or the Band’s choice, it shouldn’t have been done.

Live they confirmed all my thoughts. Glasvegas have the songs, they are brilliant, the audience love singing along, James Allan has the best “glaswegian” voice, is great to hear Stabbed back in its original version and the future is much brighter than their on stage light setting suggests.
They just need to step down to earth a bit. Interacting with the people, playing a bit more than 45 minutes and make everyone feel that more than a mass this is a rock concert would be good.
Glasvegas will be back headlining the NME tour in February, which unfortunately doesn’t calm down any of my concerns.

Unfortunately as most of Columbia artists Glasvegas’ myspace streams only short samples of their songs, which is annoying. All you can get from the official sources is here: [myspace] [website]

Photo Tip

The complain for the EP inclusion only in a Limited Edition is balanced by an important praise.
When I wrote this article, Glasvegas used the below form to force photographer into signing a compulsory outrageous contract to be allowed in the pit.
I doubt it is due to my rant, but Glasvegas have scrapped the contract.
I could photograph them without signing anything. As it was before the hype, as most of bands do and as all bands should do.
Our concert photographers’ job is promoting their music much more than earn us a living, they must be made aware of this. Thanks guys, very appreciated!

As a counterpart of the “kind” concession, Glasvegas still play their set in almost complete obscurity.
Loads of backlights and strobo, no front lights to let you see the band’s members. Be ready to have a very challenging time to get out of the set some usable shots.
If you want some tips on how to survive with backlights and make the best out of it, you want to read my photo tip written along their pals review,
White Lies.

So far so good, than the hype arrives and destroys again.
The most obvious example of Glasvegas facing the rockstar stardom take advantage of the weak point of the music biz chain: the concert photographer.
Despite we are the ones responsible to spread band images, we are too often seen not differently from a bunch of guys entering the gigs for free.


Recently another band suffered a huge hype, Arctic Monkeys. At the top of it, on the NME tour headlined by Maximo Park few years ago, they banned all photographers from the pit.
Few months after, on their own tour, photographers were allocated back to the pit.
Someone clever of their entourage must have realised and suggested that popstars’ grandeur isn’t a good idea when the target is the “purity” that indie followers believe as a faith. Any quaint behaviour and you lose supporters.

Glasvegas are doing worse.
Currently they accept photo pass requests, they let photographers arrive to the venue but, once there, some security person who doesn’t have anything to do with the band management, handles photographers a threatening form. Either we sign it or we are denied access to the pit.
It doesn’t matter if we travelled at our expenses and no one advised us in advance.

This one below is the form:

We could discuss about the legal relevance of a contract with two iv) paragraphs, the lack of a countersignature from someone from the band, no one actually offering you the pound stated. It would be probably enough to be winner on a lawsuit, but prior to coming before a court, it is the concept that needs to be boycotted.

What Glasvegas pretend is that photographers’ work is their property. We cannot do anything with our pictures. We cannot sell to anyone for any purpose, we can’t show them beyond our portfolio.

Let me clarify with a parallel example.

You are authorized to sell beer at a venue.
You arrive there with your beer, glasses, everything you need at your expenses.

When entering the venue, someone asks you to sign a release form that states:

  • You have to give the band all the beer they want to drink, they’ll offer you a pound (which no one pays to you anyway).
  • You cannot sell your beer to anyone else.
  • If you are really thirsty, you can drink a pint yourself!

Would anyone define such a deal less than absurd? Some concert photographers do.
Please folks, open your eyes.

Glasvegas are not only asking photographers to work for free, they are claiming the copyright of the photos and their freedom of use without paying for it.

90% of band managements are intelligent and open; they let us work aware that our pictures are doing much more for their band than for our living.
Then there are few singularities infecting the system.

There is the need of a strong reaction by concert photographers to avoid that this trend spreads. At risk is not only your chance to get into the profession but even your dignity.

If I was going to photograph Glasvegas today, I couldn’t publish these pictures. They wouldn’t have another review, you wouldn’t see them.
They might be crushed by the hype, don’t let them crush you, though. It is time to think about it.


~ by Valerio on September 18, 2008.

9 Responses to “Glasvegas”

  1. These contracts are just awful, awful, awful.

  2. Yeah so uncool. I understand that my website does worse with just freely uploading the mp3s but photographs?

    Photographs are something to be shared and it’s not taking any intellectual property at all.

    What about the people taking photos with cell phone cameras?

    Some of these photo restrictions just make little sense.

  3. That contract is a bit fascist, isn’t it?

    I wonder if Glasvegas will regret being so militant in 18 months time when their novelty factor has worn off and their second album has bombed.

    On the subject of another point of yours earlier in the article; I agree that Glasvegas is a pretty cool term in reference to the city, but locals from Glasgow have been using that name as a tongue-in-cheek and affectionate nickname for the city for a long time. From that point of view I think the term actually belongs to the people of Glasgow, not the band, and it’s a bit inappropriate for the band to pinch the term and use it to promote themselves on a national stage. They could have tried a bit harder to think of something more original than a buzzword they heard all the local cool kids using.

    Nice photos, though.

  4. Hi Dylan,

    thanks to add your “glaswegian” contribution to this post, I didn’t know Glasvegas existed as a term before I thought it was their invention, I completely agree with you.

  5. Jeez, that contract is an ass. Nice pictures though friend, i’ve just stumbled on your blog and think i’m going to add it to my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

  6. JMO, but I think this is down to management and nothing to do with the members of the band.

  7. Sentiti e risentiti, ho provato in tutti i modi a farmeli piacere ma it’s not my cup of tea. E Daddy’s gone mi mette una tristezza infinita.

  8. The backlash starts here, I’d like to think it’s nuffin to do with the band. When I saw ‘em in Hertford in July, it was a right small venue and there was no sense of any sort of rock star antics etc, but times change so who knows.. Top photos by the way.

  9. jeez, that contract is an ass. Nice pictures though friend, i’ve just stumbled on your blog and think i’m going to add it to my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

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