Wilderness of Manitoba

Time flows.
I could use some trying to understand if it is because I’m getting older or because the times are changing. I have the feeling I’ll waste even more of this obscure 4th dimension.

Olympics are about times. Speed. Being first.
Olympics racing began much before Usain Bolt landed at Heatrow.
The tickets lottery opened months before. People reaction was the craziest since Take That comeback. I wasn’t bothered to join the madness of millions of surfers going for the ‘gold rush’.
With the event getting closer, pushed and seduced by the incredible media coverage, I thought I was missing a one off occasion, Olympics come once in a lifetime next to the place we live. When I was convinced to try the second round of allocations, I read about the other madness: sponsors, rules, prohibitions, policies and police removing even crisps from non-branded bags. Too much.

I left the computer and went downstairs to my outmoded cathode tube TV. I pay for a package I never use. I studied how to deal with with the red button. How to shift between sports.
It’s easy. I enjoyed most of the event and rediscovered the gift of sitting on a sofa, passive, with a cat on my lap. Hypnotized by the dance of hyperactive athletes for over a week.

Olympics have also been about abolishing any other sort of entertainment in UK for two weeks. More appropriately, for the entire summer.

It was predictable and predicted that they were going to be a huge success. Less obvious that they would eliminate any other sort of entertainment in London and surroundings. Concert, tours, festivals, events, exhibitions, museums have been either cancelled, postponed or left empty since Arctic Monkeys sang the Beatles in the Danny Boyle opus.

Organizers had thought that the huge number of people arriving would have naturally flooded anything else put up in town. Instead those people appears to have arrived bankrupt. The worst recession in a century is still on, remember? Tourists and Londoners spent more than their allowance on Olympics tickets and could not afford other nights out in addition to those devoted to understand the obscure rules of Hockey in a match played by two forgotten countries.

At the end of July, just a weekend into hashtag-London2012-hashtag-olympics, the gigs deprivation was leaving me as frustrated as those overindulging in dipping official McDonald chips into Heinz 57 wondering why they cannot cycle at 50 mph.

Thankfully, I remembered Wilderness of Manitoba were not only to defy the venues desolation and tour UK, but planned a stop of their van down the road. I had a pass to photograph them at the Portland Arms in Cambridge. The sofa, red button and the cat had a break.

I heard first time of Wilderness of Manitoba by some Italian friends who felt in love with them at a Festival. Not sure which, may have been End of the Road. I missed them live since. Once in London, once at the Wish You Were Here Festival here in Cambridge. I got the chance to spotify them a lot in the meantime.

Wilderness of Manitoba come from Toronto. The name mention a province of desolated wilderness in the centre of Canada . Add that 4 of the 5 guys on the line-up have beards and the fifth is a girl with a fiddle and wonder. I know, I could stop writing here and you know what this is going to be about. Bear with me.

It’s correct. They play the music you expect them to play.
Pastoral folk, samples of birds singing (Bluebirds), violin breaks and vocal harmonies throughout. The songs sometime erupt in louder deviations to come back on track with the next verse.

It’s the band you would file next to Fleet Foxes, Great Lake Swimmers, Band of Horses, Local Natives, Other Lives, Grand Archives. Or, if you’re older, CSN&Y, Simon and Garfunkel (Evenings) and… well you know.

If you trim your beard listening to acoustic music with a folk twist and a bucolic edge, better check them. Because they’re going to keep your company in the following mornings.

There are bands (are there?) that show a direction. There are bands that follow. To be the first to spot the trend, to launch the fashion, to say I have seen them before anyone else, is a pretty empty exercise. I believe there is music to like and music not to like. Tonight there is a lot I liked.

Wilderness of Manitoba are an unpretentious bunch of friendly chaps. As the cliché’ wants, they really are as informal and approachable as an indie band must be. They arrive here early, prepare the instruments, soundcheck, talk with people.

When they come on stage, the cosy and very hot place is packed. I’m shocked to realize there is someone not yet hit by the virus of handball tournament and badminton preliminaries. Happily surprised they are much more famous than I thought.

In a tight set the lucky crowd is hug and cuddled for the next hour or so by delicate melodies picked at random from the two albums. The additional surprise of few new, unheard songs that integrated smoothly with the set is the sweet dessert.

Walk back home with some considerations. About an Olympic ago I was at a Fleet Foxes gig at the ULU in London. It was one of those landmark moments that started a new imperious vein in music. In a drastic U-Turn indie-music was about to being overwhelmed by a plethora of bands playing acoustic folk kicking out all the jangly guitar pop (Strokes, Libertines, Franz Ferdinand blabla…) that soundtracked the previous Olympics.
Everyone would talk about this, nothing but alt.folk was the music leading the world.

Today it sounds retro’. Vintage. Yesteryear. Those bands, from Seattle to Montreal, that launched the biggest ever sale of violins, banjos and ukulele ever recorded in the northern emisphere are gone. As the Strokes are prehistory, acoustic folk is rapidly becoming history.
Driven by synth dream-pop, a new musical age is emerging. It will last as long as another Olympics break. By the time Rio 2016 opening ceremony will open, expect to hear a different music. We don’t know which. We know it’ll be different. Maybe we’ll be all dancing to the rhythm of samba and bossanova.

London 2012 is over now. The closing ceremony was worse than anything the red buttons showed to me in the previous two weeks with the exception, I must admit, of Freddy Mercury. He looked so smart and beautiful since last time I saw him!

My, erm, highlight was John Lennon singing “imagine there’s no countries…” right when all the world countries paraded in the stadium. Who had such a wonderful idea?

If you’ve got the post Olympics blues this first morning without Olympics on the frontpages, there is the kindness of Wilderness of Manitoba to help.
Try them here [spotify][website][facebook][twitter][myspace]

Photo tip

I am asked every other day how to get a photopass, how to start shooting music, how to get in the pit.
Well there’s plenty of online answers I know. I think there is no other place to start to photograph music other than going to watch it in the tiniest places.

This is your starting point, not Iron Maiden or Coldplay.

Take your camera, know about the local scene, follow the music scene learn which is the trend and what you like. Invest 5£ on a cheap concert ticket and bring your camera.
Go to the pub next door, to the smallest clubs, to the sweaty backrooms and shoot bands on these stages.

I know. Tiny venues have the worst lights, the difficult angles, there is no pit. Conditions aren’t easy. Everything seems to be set to make your experience difficult.
This is not bad, it’s the most important bit. It’s like a survival school. If you pass you’re ready for it.

You need to prove yourself into harsh situations, see what you can get. See if you like your photos, learn to read them and improve. Select the first images for a first online portfolio, challenge the public and see what feedback you have. Put together your best and present it to everyone may be interested.

I have been into photographing live music for about 10 years yet I find very refreshing, not just because of the Olympics, to get into a local pub and photograph emerging bands.
I use this time to experiment, to try different things.
There are advantages at these shows. No three song rules, usually no one is bothered if you keep shooting. You may be using flash, even if I rarely like the outcome. No need to struggle for a pass, most of the times you bring your camera and take photos. (But be ready to stop if you’re asked to!).
These shows are good chance to meet the band, have a chat, exchange contacts and e-mail few shots if they ask. To receive a nice feedback is rewarding and useful to be pasted on your website.

Many photographers became famous for being at the right moment in the right place. Anton Corbijn hanging out with Joy Division or Andrew Kendall with Libertines to name the first to come to my mind. No one knows which band is going to be next Coldplay but if you have early photos you may have a treasure.

Every rockstar began in a small room. Why do you think you should start at the O2 arena?

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~ by Valerio on August 14, 2012.

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