Nick Oliveri

•July 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t updated this blog for ages.
I just don’t have the time to dedicate to less than 200 contacts a day.
I am sorry for the ones who have been waiting, the many still subscribed, the people who write to me to ask more photo tips and put on more bands’ photos.
Sorry

We are all victims of Social Networks.
When liveon35mm started, I was shooting on film, there was no Facebook, Myspace was the next big thing and blogs were the best way to interact on the virtual world.
Not anymore.

Nowadays we spend more time on FB than anywhere else online, Facebook has become the Internet and the Internet is what is being linked onto Facebook (or Twitter).
it’s a fact and google analytics confirms it. Forget G+, Pinterest or , erm, Ello.

I haven’t stopped shooting gigs, though. Who’s in touch with me (on liveon35mm Facebook page for example or Twitter :-) knows.
I don’t like posting “just another gallery” of a live show in here. I didn’t do it in 2007, when music photography blogs were a handful, I don’t feel like starting today where there are at least 3 online galleries for any concert happening anywhere in the world. Concert photography has become so ubiquitous to the surreal point that it becomes a news when it is not anymore in the news.

These months I photographed many good gigs and some of the photos have not seen the light of the day, the best always go to my ever growing live music gallery on my website, if you’re interested.

Rarely I have the will and the time to write about a gig again. This is one of those moment.
I love all the crazy guys that went around the stoner age.
I posted Briant Bjork with his Bros. here actually I have to rescan that pic of him, is one of my favourite 35mm shots.
Than also Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age when Nick already left, and Kyuss when Nick rejoined them.

I have seen Nick Oliveri with and without clothes in most of his bands

Yesterday he came to Cambridge to play a date of his solo Death Acoustic tour 2015.

I didn’t know he had an acoustic album years ago, 3.5 mark on Pitchfork.
I didn’t know he was on tour.
I didn’t know even know he plays guitar too.

What I know is that he’s a super cool guy and on stage and, in a tiny place as the Portland Arms, it can only be fun. In fact if anything else this show is a lot of fun.

Promoter told gig would start at 10PM, but around 9:30PM, after an embarrassing support band, Nick’s on stage plugging his only guitar. It doesn’t take much does it?
A table next to him hosts a beer, a tequila and a couple of glasses.
A microphone pole.
A nice backlight and a lot of smoke to blur the background.

Even the ingredients for some photography are present, despite the light is never enough, it was OK.

There is not setlist, not a band. He goes freely picking songs in a back catalogue that would made envious about 80% of modern rockstars.
Not many, not even Josh Homme, can write down in the CV to have been part of Kyuss, Queens of The Stone Age and Mondo Generator.

Only Nick can say to have been sacked by all of them while dedicating the songs he plays to them. It’s a kind of great rock’n’roll mystery what went on inside those changing rooms.
Badasses.

The show starts and end on acoustic guitar, vocals and screams. Latter is the most interesting part.

Nick isn’t a great guitarist, he jokes during the set about what those two more strings are for. Mark Sandman would probably have agreed.
Nick is not a great singer either, especially when he confronts implacably with John Garcia‘s songs. Nevermind, he can scream those parts out.

Afterall Oliveri has an amazing band with him: the fans.
They are ready to sing, chat, joke and, if invited, happy to stage invade.

Midway through the set there is a group rendition of Queens Of The Stone Age early anthem Feel Good Hit Of The Summer that basically goes on and on around the line… “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol
Cocaine”. Sang with 50 people on stage is one of the best pits of Portland Arms since Pulled Apart By Horses crowdsurfed.

Everyone knows that, when a girl comes to tell he has 20 minutes, about a hour into the set, it means much longer.
So we are delighted to two more songs for the main set, some chat, about three for an encore, two more pints fell on the floor, another drunk guy that has to leave because he cannot, literally, stand. Few more are attempting that British gimmick of dancing with a pint in hand while gigging, with mix results.

A hour and half later the gigs closes. The super-sweaty Portland Arms opens the door to the beer garden and I am all ready for a pint and a chat to refresh a bit.
It’s a wonderful, warm summer night.

Not Anymore. I see a strong light on the horizon. Not sure what it is. A second one leaves two options. Either Milton village is being attacked by an air strike or a summer storm is about to arrive. I live close and leave in a rush, without beer. I got the scooter, a light denim biker jacket. 5 minutes I am at home.
5 minutes and 1 second Cambridge is submerged by the most violent storm I ever seen here.
A sign?
I download the photo you can see here.

Nick Oliveri meanwhile is going to play London and touring Europe, including my hometown in Rome. If you’re around and up for a fun night out, this is the gig you’ve been waiting for a while.
Nick is online somewhere here [website] [Facebook] [Twitter]

Photo tip

I received an e-mail recently, a girl wanted to know some info on how to behave when she had to go to one of her first live gigs… one of the question was:

“Would I be better off only taking with me things I need (ie. Camera & camera accessories, phone, ID, confirmation email and travelcard) as opposed to a backpack with my things in?”

It’s a fair question. Gigs are busy, when photographing you lose track of your belongings, space is never enough and queue at the cloackrooms after the show is usually much longer than my patience.
The answer needs a counter answer. What’s the venue like?

If you’re going to shoot in a big theatre, with a pit, you’re fine with whatever you have. Leave all the bags and coats under the step of the barrier delimiting the pit.
Under,not over, because you never know who’s in the first rows and your lens are quite expensive to be at hand reach of some excited fans. Plus the risk of liquid spills is high, photographic gear doesn’t like beer as you may want, so keep it protected enough but not too much that is unreachable. It happens often that plans are wrong and the lens you need is the one in the bag.

In a small (packed) venue, with no pit, as it was this tonight, it’s tougher. You need to find a safe place, so arrive early, get to the front and spot it. Look if other photographers have one. I usually leave it to the front next to me, in sight all the times. Or under the stage if there is space. The worst case scenario is you have to move the stuff with you along the stage if you’re moving. Don’t keep backpack on your back, that’s annoying for the other people and useless to you.
Leave it in the cloackroom is an option for coats and stuff, but the essentials (batteries, lenses, memory cards) needs to be with you all the times.
Even when you’re allowed to shoot the whole set, going to the cloackroom to get the charged battery and coming back to the front can be a (too) long Odyssey.

Hinds

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hinds are the band formerly known as Deers.

Internet taught me the reason of the name change. It is because of another band, The Dears, who threatened to sue Deers for name infringement. The 2 bands do not even share the same name.

It is a grotesque sad story indeed. The Dears are a Montreal band who for a couple of albums rode the wave of Canadian alternative music (without being that great at surfing to be fair). The wave, originally generated by Arcade Fire at the beginning of the century, arrived to European coasts and broke out about 10 years ago. Without having the strength of other Canadian bands, The Dears slowly disappeared from the music horizon.

Recently, they had the brilliant idea (sarcasm here) to spend the few dollars they earned, to pay a lawyer to sue a fellow Spanish indie-rock band, Deers.
WTF!! (Stands for: What the Fuck!!). Hoping in what? Bad press coverage and what else?

What they are basically saying is that Dears’ fans are so stupid that could easily confuse between their favourite band and this lovely girls.
If this wasn’t devaluating enough,  what for? Accidentally spotifying a song of Deers instead of one of Dears before realising they are different bands (loss of $0.01)? Buying a Deers album (yet to be released) instead of one of the Dears (loss of 2$)? For real? How much does a solicitor letter cost? Couldn’t you invest in a new guitar for yourself instead of allowing your lawyer to buy for himself?

In facts, they must have understood that the silly legal move was utterly stupid because it is now difficult to find that The Dears from Montreal are the band forcing Deers from Madrid to change name into Hinds.  Enough.

Hinds, which are cool, took the news in style. They drew a lovely cartoon to NME explaining the situation in which they report that “They force us to, we received an email from a Canadian lawyer saying that our name created confusion with his band’s name. And that name is not even deers (LOL). We tried our best, really, but we have no choice. So… Okay!!! Let’s take this with a smile ☺!!! deers are now… Hinds.”

Pass this on to your friends, hoping they’re not fan of The Dears.

Let’s talk about Hinds. There is a lot to say.

As I mentioned, they are not American, British and not even Canadian. They are from Madrid, Spain.
They are 4 young girls. They play garage rock, sang in English, with a joyful Spanish twist. God knows if garage rock needs joyfulness.

Carlotta and Ana play guitar and share vocals. Curly Ade plays bass and blonde Amber (born in Holland) sits on drums.
Is this it? [cit]. Yes, it is. The perfect line-up.

Carlotta and Ana told (again NME) they first got together, learnt to play instruments listening to their favourite music which includes the Black Lips and took off from there.
Then they asked Ade and Amber to add the rhythm section and the Hinds were born. It already sounds as a classic indie-rock fairy tale.

With two difference.
Madrid. The Spanish capital is not the first place to come to mind when talking alternative rock.
The all-female line-up. This is not breaking news though, there’s a comeback of girls’ rock. Not only of historical acts as Electrelane and very recently Sleater-Kinney with a beautiful album, but relatively new bands as Warpaint and Haim are now playing the main stage.

It’s a relative short story from now on. With the debut album still to come, it was a long time since a band got so much press with only a bunch of singles and few shows. That are instantly sold-out. I tried to get in at the Lexington in November, too late. I bought a ticket for the small Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, before even asking for a photopass, just to avoid being left-out again. London Press lists are always tight to photographers despite they are mostly unattended.
Meanwhile they sold out another date at the bigger Electrowerkz.

At The Line of Best Fit they have a great intuition on newcomers. I read about them for the first time.
The Guardian, who won the Pulitzer price and has the traffic, also has a great set of music journos who championed Hinds for the popular “new band of the week” section.

All this press needs attention and I needed to fulfil my curiosity. I went to see and came back tryng to name the last gig I had as much fun. Leaving apart Fat White Family which are something else, I must quote Japandroids at the Camden Barfly in 2009 .

Carlotte came to stage with the other girls to write the setlist on a paperbag with a black marker and to ask the soundman to keep DJing for a while. The sound goes on till the Strokes arrive. They leave and come back walking through the sea of fans packing an oversold venue. I stepped to the front from 7:30 to get to the right place. It’s almost 10pm when they start. It takes seconds to understand it’s going to be a great gig.

Imagine all the passion of latest newcomers overwhelming the lack of technique due to youth. A indie-rock manifesto since the Stooges.
A band that clearly spent time having fun in a garage, rehearsing and learning to play at the same time.
It’s natural they will get better with time, playing and playing again, but the sincerity and the warmth coming out of the tunes is all here and I do hope won’t be sacrificed to skill.

Every giggle, every smile every move is done with straight honesty.
Indie fans feel that and love that.

Songs as Trippy Gum and Bamboo quickly get everyone dancing in a lively mosh pit (at this point I would be worrying about my lenses as per usual). Vaguely retro but into this era without being caught into 60s vintage as Girls. (PS: I love Girls and want them back)
I don’t give up, I know this is the place to be in London tonight. Jangly guitar and lot of smiles. A good English (all songs are sung in English) including Castigadas en el Granero the only with a Spanish title.

It can’t be a long show, literally for the lack of songs. No one complains. They played all their catalogue and sounded brilliant from start to end. Pop hook, chorus, fresh sound, crisp and young riffs. Simple, pure.
They always smile, have a laugh if something goes wrong, never look preoccupied if some cables unplug or a string is out of tune.
A lovely evening, between them, with the fans all it was missing was a Spanish summer open air night.

When it’s time to close the gig, Hinds don’t have anything left to play but would love to play more. So they call anyone to jump onto the stage. Once as many people as the stage can squeeze are on, another version of Bamboo is played with a sing-along of 100+ people.

It’s the kind of situation in Spain (or Italy) would be absolutely normal and part of the local folklore. To the English “Health and Safety department” of Boston Arms it must have looked dreadful. A bored big man, shini yellow jacket, “security” font Arial Size 128 on the back, came to the front to check no one ain’t doing no wrong.

Obviously nothing happens, apart an unplugged cable, a guitar that stops working and need change and some big laughs to build an impromptu moment that everyone will remember for a long while.

It must be a beautiful sensation to find yourself on a stage in front of people that sincerely adore you as much as you sincerely do what you adore.

Hinds just finished their tour, be sure you keep in touch with them at the right places (a plethora of domain changes it’s happening right now), the following should help to not get lost: [website][facebook][twitter][Instagram][Spotify]

Photo tip

Boston Arms is 50 yards away from Tufnell Park’s tube station. Northern line, High Barnett branch. One stop after Kentish Town, two from Camden Town. It’s North London zone2. To my knowledge a no go zone years ago, now that Camden and Kentish towns expand rapidly area is becoming a trendy.

I had never been in this part of London before. Someone tells me this wouldn’t have been my first pub of choice unless I was after a fight on a Friday night plan.
I cannot confirm. On a Wednesday night, tonight, it looks cheerful and cosy, the perfect place to play such a gig.

It was my first gig at Boston Arms music room too. The room is a large pub room dedicated to live music and separated from the main pub. There are few tables on the right, the bar on the left and a wide nice wooden floor hosting maybe 2-300 people.
I am given a leaflet saying Oasis’ superstar Noel Gallagher is playing here in about a month which translates in: the place is hip at the moment.

Unsurprisingly there is no pit and there are only LED lights, this is the norm of venues of this size. Concert photography wise it is a wide angle place, f2.8 throughout ISO >3200. Time to show off your D750 if yours does not have flare problems. I keep going with my beloved D700 paired with a D800 and a range of 14 to 70mm focal lengths. More than enough.

The no pit situation implies to get to the front early, especially when sold out. There is some space under the stage platform to leave a bag and coat, which is very useful.
At the entrance I was told three songs no flash. As anyone with some experience of live music knows, no pit and a sold out small venue means you can shoot the whole gig unless someone asks to stop, which usually does not happen. It didn’t. The girls are so into the music that don’t really care of photographers’ presence.

It’s about 3 or 4 “pro” cameras (+ point and shots + mobiles). It’d be all nice if a photographer, likely at one of her first ever gig experiences, didn’t ignore anyone else and stood in the way of any other lens present. An unusual all access made her feel empowered and above anyone else.

If on a standard night most of my photos are binned because of a mic pole in the way, in this case most were trashed because of a camera, or the whole combo photographer + camera, is in the frame. She acted selfish, aggressively and disrespectfully. It didn’t help anyone.

Not sure she will ever read this little blog but, if it happens, my tip to you is this.

“You can be the greatest music photographer the UK scene has ever seen, you will not get anywhere if you do not learn to respect who’s doing your same job.”

Charli XCX

•November 24, 2014 • 2 Comments

Subject.
I receive an e-mail by a photo editor of a German music magazine.
This was unexpected.

Content.
She asks if I want to go to London Heaven to shoot Charli XCX. She offers a price for it (reasonable considering 99% of publication are “Sorry, we don’t have budget for photos”).
I am free. Free means nothing programmed that is absolutely unavoidable. Still this was about knowing last minute that I had to rush out of my job, get home, get the cameras, hop a train to London, go to the gig, comeback home late night, edit the photos, send the low-res and seeing my lovely girlfriend only once deep in her dreams, in bed, at around 2am. Next morning same alarm clock, wake up and go to work as if nothing happened.

Reaction.
Who is Charli XCX? I didn’t have a clue.
One month since this show I keep writing her name everywhere with an E at the end. Why Charli and non Charlie? I don’t know.
The distance between my listening (Einsturzende Neubauten while I write this) and pop girls is pretty much the same I have between what I like in photography and HDR seascapes.

Further Actions.
Google her.
Spotify her.
Youtube a live song by her.

Conclusion.
Cool. She must definitely play a nice show, fuck indie-depressing-rock, fuck noise-earbleeding-drones, fuck literate-intellectual-songwriting. Tonight I’m going to have fun. Or photograph fun.

I reply OK-ing. I’ll go. Technical e-mails with details follow but everything is smooth and sorted. I’m Italian but do love German organisation skills.

The venue.
Heaven in London is a small hip venue in the arches near Embankment tube station.
It has a nasty security policy, big men very busy to get rid of photographers rather than helping photographers to promote the artists and their venue.
I know that. I get there early.
I get in the pit for the two support acts. Pretty unknown but still worth. The nice side of pop music photography is action and good lights. Dream condition if you spent last ten years shooting guys standing still, in the dark, behind a mic pole, in skinny black jeans.
Spoiler. I noticed the ceiling covered in white and pink balloons.

The Audience.
If you think pop means screaming teenagers on the first rows, you are right. We’re at Heaven but it looks like hell for the exhausted girls at the front rows. Some have been queuing since 7am.
It’s not ‘heaven’ also for the group of parents chatting outside, under the “Arches”. It must be harsh to wait for the next three hours in the winter cold. I am tempted to suggest some of them to cross the bridge and head to the Royal Festival Hall for a drink and some intellectual stimulation. The World Press Photo catalogue is on sale already, at discounted price.
Inside Heaven is all about expensive merchandising, showing ID to get a drink and waiting while screaming or, better, screaming while waiting.

The Artist.
Charli real name is Charlotte Emma Aitchison and she was born in… Cambridge! (Wiki says) in 1992? Gosh!
It means when I moved to Cambridge she was one of those 9 years old cute girls dancing with hippie parents at the strawberry fair. Who knows?
Last week she was walking the red carpet of the American Music Award next to the biggest pop-stars. If you believed Cambridge exported only Pink Floyd and seventhy+ nobel prizes think again. We have Charli!
She is half my age, she achieved twice my goals. Including global stardom (I will be patient). She’s not a photographer.
She supported Katy Perry, Coldplay. Sang songs with Iggy Azalea and Icona Pop. Great management behind.

The Album.
Doesn’t exist. It has a title: Sucker. A big label: Atlantic Records. A couple of number 1 singles: Break The Rules and Boom Clap.
The record has been on the new releases calendar for months and pushed back endless times. It’s ready, but the success of the singles holds it to build expectation. Yes, this is how the pop formula works nowadays.
You don’t come out with a single plus an album. The single arrives, than the next, than the next… iTunes. Spotify. YouTube. Do not stop till success and press coverage is big. Once you exhausted your bullets, here’s the gun. Unloaded. Released.
Strange marketing, as if marketing was a crystalline process.

The Gig.
Sucker is everywhere, in case you forget the title. On the merch, printed in Charli XCX (and in her all female band) outfit, in the selftitled songs hook that goes “Fuck you, sucker!” including middle finger raised, about 56 times in the first 3 minutes of the show.
Yes, I know, I should switch off Einsturzende Neubauten Lament, an elegy of first World War, if I want to write about Charli XCX show. But I’m not sure I’d succeed anyway. I may be her father. I am light years away from teenage rebellion, even from rebellion altogether, to accept such a sad truth ain’t easy.
Charli is an empowered girl, heading a girl power movement. Feminist enough to shout out what she thinks; sexy enough to be a wet dream for an army of teenage boys.
She introduces a song, London Queen, for the first time in London. She began playing small clubs and illegal raves in UK and walked the glittery American Music Award Red Carpet with Jennifer Lopez and Taylor Swift, will soon fill arenas this side of the pond.
And until she does it with enough honesty to be convincing, well why not.

The hit.
I moved to the back of heaven, for the rest of the gig. Forced (by the above famed security) to put my camera in my bag so that the only pic I get of the pink and white balloons’ rain is taken with my old iPhone.
It’s time for Break The Rules, her most successful hit and catchier chorus.
A couple well into their 20s, next to me, dances wildly. She went heavy on red lipstick, he on black mascara.
The silliest rhyme I heard since I my teenage years (but hey, those were the 80s, silly by choice) goes
” I don’t wanna go to school, I just wanna break the rules”
Goes on forever and every time gets more people into a sing along. #FeelingOld

The Lyrics.

“Electric lights
Blow my mind
But I feel alright

And never stop, it’s how we ride
Comin’ up until we die

You catch my eye
Bitch, you wanna fly
I’m so alive

I don’t wanna go to school
I just wanna break the rules
Boys and girls across the world
Putting on our dancing shoes
Going to the discotheque
Getting high and getting wrecked
I don’t wanna go to school
I just wanna break the rules”

Connect with Charli, she is online [Website][Facebook][Twitter][YouTube][Instagram][Spotify]

Photo tip

Few important take home lessons around this opportunity.

– Have your camera bag ready and your batteries charged. A call can arrive last minute.
You don’t want to put an excuse while you think the reason you are refusing is because you have no time to recharge camera batteries.

– Be ready to read into the opportunity and don’t let it go.
If someone offers you a job for the first time to reject it is your right, but be sure you have a strong reason to do that.
Because networking is essential and the chances that person will call you again after you said no are, erm, nil.
Being in London for this gig disrupted a few of my plans and I lost some quality sleep but I earnt some good money and added a contact that can comeback useful in the future.

– Don’t be rigid on your music taste and favourite artists.
I agree, if it’s mainly for free (or in the hope of some agency sale) I’m the first to chase only the artists I like, but to have in your portfolio some acts beyond your interest and taste help making it look less of a niche and more professional.
You can also have some fun. I did enjoy that Katy Perry gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire years ago.

– One question I could not avoid asking was “how did you find me?”

Which I asked. Surprisingly I received the obvious still unexpected question.
“I googled concert photographers in London, your name popped up high, I looked at your Portfolio and was happy with it”

Two lessons more to self (2 tips to everyone)

– Always work on promotion and SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, and translate into “how many chances people has to find you out of a google search”.
It’s about indexing photo, tagging them properly, being featured in external sites and also have a website in the right place.
– Always keep an up to date and strong portfolio on your site.

A bit of advertising here, Photoshelter has all you need to get you going at best web speed, so being on Photoshelter for years I strongly suggest you consider it if you’re serious about photography.
With this link you can also save some $$ if you join up. Give it a try.

Great portfolios, easy to manage websites and state-of-the-art SEO.

Alvvays

•October 23, 2014 • 2 Comments

I haven’t updated this blog for a while but it’s the right time to celebrate its 8th year running with some new photos.

Alvvays have been on my radar for few months, missed them at a London festival, went to catch them close to home
I have a soft spot for indiepop. It is not my genre but it works pretty well when neither Michael Gira nor PJ Harvey do.

Summer nights, refreshing evening to cheer you up with a drink. Contemporary vintage. Nostalgia of old music without wanting to listen to the Beach Boys.
That is where Indiepop enters my life.

OK, Let’s spend a couple of lines on the name. I know, It’s internet. To be or not to be that is the question. Easy is the answer. Depends if the search engine finds us or not.
To get up there in the first half page of google isn’t easy, you know everytime you do a search of site without typing your name.
Name. One and foremost, a unique name helps a lot. A word that doesn’t exist. But still recalls another that does exist. Genius.
Alvvays replaced the W with 2 Vs. Looks wrong (to me) but works great. Google it and see. Than try to Google, for example, Perfect Pussy and see if you get anything about a punk band (DO NOT do this at work).

Unique name. It’s not just that, sure. Being the only Valerio Berdini in the world it would have made me a millionaire.
You need to be good (*reminder to self*), constant, professional and catchy. I’ll get to that later.

Chvrches did it first (or was it Mvscles?). Whatever, V in the place of U looks cooler than VV in the place of W.
Few years back someone pioneered the idea using caps lock (that google ignores) and removed vowels. Band as SBTRKT appeared but, let’s be honest, it didn’t work because it is impossibile to remember the sequence of consonants when you don’t have the whole name. And it’s unpronounceable which doesn’t help words of mouth.
I always get LND or LDN wrong for All London airports international code, for example. (Don’t think you care)

Right I finish this. I needed to squeeze a couple of pretty pics of Molly, rather, pretty Molly pics and need some words between them.

Molly Rankin is Alvvays’ magnet and a magnetic front-girl. She sings, plays guitar and capture audience attention.
Wikipedia tells me she is a member of the Rankin family, a musical institution in Canada that I never heard of until I got to Wiki to check. (Call me ignorant but I am honest)

This to say Alvvays are from Canada. Nova Scotia…. (google/maps/Nova Scotia) … oh yes, it is that protuberance in the east of the country just north of the US. Must be beautiful there.

Alvvays album was out earlier this year and welcomed enthusiastically in UK. They saturated my twitter liveon35mm feed for a week (it’s linked cause I’m close to 1000 for too long go follow me break the barrier), that’s how I was caught by the name, first, intriguing articles, second. I couldn’t avoid them.

Spotify now has their selftitled album on stream so I am listening to it right now.

9 fresh songs. They open with a nice jingle, not a proper riff, more the sort of things Robert Smith of the Cure used in songs, all with the right vibe from start to end.
Jangling guitars and Molly’s voice embodying that happiness of being young and doing what she loves most.

I wanted to buy the album and get it signed after their set at the Cambridge Junction. They came to open for Real Estate, I took these photographs there.
Unfortunately I forgot my wallet at home, so I couldn’t buy neither the album nor the glass of white wine belonging to a lady that I spilled from a table. #FeelingGuilty

Alvvays are a 5 members band. If Molly is the band’s (sweet)heart, the other 4 are the band’s mind.
Down to earth, they have the quintessential indie attitude playing quintessential independent music, dressed in quintessential indie fashion including indie accessories, spectacles, converse, t-shirt, skinny jeans kind of stuff.

So, they do what it says in the tin. And they do it well.

Signed to Polyvinyl (which I hope one day will bring to us another Japandroids album) is a warranty of sincerity.
They will play the album almost in full tonight in a 30 minutes slot. It sounds crisp and shiny (and better than Real Estate but don’t tell them).

Alec O’Hanley on lead guitar has the melodic touch, Kerri MacLellan on keys adds the pillars of the songs, with simple harmonies.
Let’s make it clear, it’s not rocket science, it’s not Thelonious Monk quartet and not even the Cure. But it’s pleasing.

If you want a comparison, you better look at Camera Obscura or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
This is on offer and better you take it now.

The most complicate career you can choose, as a professional band in 2014, is this sort of delicate, not showing-off, jangly pop.
It’s difficult to write songs that stand out from the huge bunch they’re with.
It’s difficult to impress your audience when you walk on stage the same way you dress to go to the cornershop to buy milk.

Alvvays managed to fill a whole album with 9 indie-pop pearls and it will be nice to see these guys growing and pointing at bigger stages.
To support Real Estate was good but wasn’t doing justice to their potential.

Listen to them, tell your friends, bring them back to UK.
You now know how easy is to find Alvvays online, but if you’re super lazy, I’m here to help with few links [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]


Photo tip

Junction2 is a tiny posh venue, as posh as the city of Cambridge.
When is seated there’s no pit, actually the seats are in a pit.
When it’s standing most of times there is no pit.

Rarely as tonight, they put a pit. It was so tiny that the girl passing the photopass tells me she doubt I can squeeze in. I know I will.
Every small pit is better than no pit.
Why?

General opinion among music fans and venue securities is that music photographers want a pit so they do not have to arrive too early and still have a privileged spot in front of long time waiting first row fans. It’s true. We love our job, still is a job. When you are doing a job to be in the ideal conditions to work helps.

I have covered so many gigs without pit, I mean wild shows, shows with violent moshpits, deafening concerts that I am experienced enough to tell that the problem is not music photographers being picky.

The main reason we want a pit is because it helps shooting better photos.
Why? Yes, because we are close but mainly because we can move.

A concert is not static, and even with the static artists different angles help to find the right photo.
To move along the stage in a soldout theatre with people standing it is not a option when there is not a pit.

It is already tough to get to the front but we must. Second row is a no option. We need to be in front of anyone else.
Fans are right to complain. First row should be for them than to these big lenses taking photo.

Music venues, please, do all you can to put press pits at gig if the band allows photographers.

If you want that we do our best job we give us the condition to work.
If there is no chance we are going to have a pit, please tell us in advance.
We’ll live at home the 70-200mm and probably the second body attached to it. We’ll be lighter, we will be less of a hassle.

Pulled Apart By Horses

•August 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It has been a bizarre summer in terms of live gigs.

On one side I wasn’t very keen of going here and there shooting music because I was concentrated on a different photographic project.
On the live music side many things went wrong.

First the artists: Prince above all, Jack White, Neutral Milk Hotel and Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon to close. I am a big fans of all of them, they are not big fans of photographers which means either I went to see the gig without cameras (Neutral Milk Hotel) or I didn’t go at all (Prince, Jack White).

Then there was the Jabberwocky/ATP festival cancellation. One of the most outrageous behaviour I have ever seen, but I will not write about it because there is nothing more to write. The internet is plenty of insightful analysis that all bring to the only reasonable conclusion: whoever is the responsable they didn’t care of the fans but only of the money.
It’s capitalism, baby.

My friend came from Italy for this and, in addition of struggling to refund the festival ticket, has paid a flight, a stay and everything. We had a nice countryside canoe ride on the River Cam up to Grantchester Meadows, though, which was nice and very Pink Floydy.

So back in Cambridge and back in time, since I don’t like leaving this blog abandoned and I am plenty of photos of gigs that I haven’t used, I fished out a concert that happened in Cambridge in May.

Pulled Apart by Horses played a tiny date at the Portland Arms. If you read me you now know this delightful pub with annexed one of the best music space in Cambridge.
It’s the right time now to get those shots out of the hard disk now.

Pulled Apart By Horses (also known as PABH) have been on the scene for a while. Following the classic indie band trajectory, they formed in Leeds in 2008, putting together the rests of dissolved bands. They released singles and demoes as everyone until they were noticed and signed by Transgressive records to release their self titled debut in 2010.

Despite this, it’s live that the band has always gathered its followers. Exploring the post-hardcore genre that has been going around in UK since the start of the decade, together with the like of Blood Red Shoes, Rolo Tomassi, Future of the Left and several more, PABH raucous shows became the worst kept secret of the underground UK scene.

The second album was out a couple of years later, Tough Love. BBC mentioned it as their album of the week, it cemented their success and increased their following. Together with continuous sold out dates in bigger and bigger venues all around the country including festival stages that are increasing in size under their feet.

A third album has been expected for a long time and that time has come. It will be out next week, 1st of September 2014, on a new label, Best of The Best Records, with a sheer title: Blood.

When PABH came to the Portland Arms, about 3 months ago, there were no rumours on the new album release, despite it was obvious. The above mentioned “indie-rock trajectory” implies that they were due an album somewhere around this year.

This was a special night with The Witches opening (another must see live band) for them. In a 150 people crammed venue. All the ingredients for the punk-night of the year were set.

And the punk night of the year, it was.

All volumes set to 11. T-shirt quickly left space to bare chests. Girls and boys having their wild night out experience. Tom Hudson screams set the energy level to maximum and all the rest followed.

I am not a big punk hardcore fan and if I have to mention one thing I don’t digest of it is the singing.
I appreciate the fast 2 minute songs and the fast music that tonight breaks the world records flowing at a pace of five hundred miles an hour but the singing is my problem.

I love the uncoordinated energy releasing mad dancing of the moshpits. I love the crowd surfing and the band surfing moments.

I like the sweating that for a hour let me think that UK ain’t that cold in the end. And I loved, surely more than the Portland Arms owners, the dismount of the ceiling due to a crowd-surf slightly more vigorous than the health and safety specs.

I could stay here mentioning anyone from Ramones to McLusky. Venturing into a political essay on Dischord and Washington DC scene all to attempt a poor review of this gig but I am a photographer and will not.
I think nothing better than these pitures can convince you that as soon as Blood is out, attending one of Pulled Apart By Horses gig would rejuvenate your soul.

Follow the band online to know where and listen them onto Spotify to know why: [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

Meeting fellow photographers in a pit is common. After few years going from one venue to another you realise that, despite the growing number of concert shooters that coined the saying “there’s more concert photographers than concerts”, we are a limited bunch and we know each other, at least locally.

What is less common is to meet one of the greatest concert photographers of all time in a Cambridge pub backroom. Steve Gullick is a legend of and beyond music photography.
Personally he is responsible together with Jim Marshall to have pulled me into this exciting journey of shooting gigs (even on film, but that journey is someway stopped, with regret, for now). So he’s behind the concept of this blog too.

I crossed my path with Steve already, at another couple of gigs. I remember Josh T-Pearson at the Union Chapel, Mogwai at the Junction in Cambridge and probably some Mark Lanegan’s too.
But having the chance for a chat is rare in those minutes before the show starts.

Tonight I finally succeed to have a quick chat and we decide to go for a pint at some point, point that I’ll make it happen soon.

For the ones who do not know Steve, he is probably the man that has been closer to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain after Courtney Love. He followed the band, the whole madness of Seattle “grunge” and punk SubPop scene from the beginning. He is author of incredible album covers from the legendary USA scene to latest Foals and Smoke Faires. Steve basically photographs pretty much any artist I am in love with.

Gullick’s photography is on film, mostly, is B&W, mostly, hand processed by him in his darkroom, mostly, very contrasted, saturated, mostly, unusual in angle and lenses used, mostly, and… in a word (and one adjective)… utterly fascinating.

In a world where all music photographs look the same, three songs rule kill creativity. A world where all promo portraits are done in a 30 seconds slot taken next to a fence of a festival backyard or in front of a dressing room, Steve manages to maintain his unique style.

A friend of mine and another great photographer told me that Steve plays in a rock band too: Tenebrous Liars. They are good!
I know this because a couple of years ago I bought their vinyl. The reason was the original Gullick hand-printed landscape on the cover but I put on my dusty turntable the vinyl and I got to love the music inside.

Few months ago, instead, Steve embarked in a huge project on pledge music to make a 200 pages book on Nirvana and their years a reality.
It goes without saying I managed to pledge for a signed copy the day it was launched and now that the book has finally been crowd-funded I am looking forward to receiving it, hopefully in front of that pint.

There is still time to grab a copy of Nirvana’s Diary here and even some original signed prints.
Which you must do if you have ever appreciated this little blog and even if you do not.

Deap Vally

•August 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Shall I write about the most expensive gig I have ever been for… erm… free? Yes but I’ll do it below in the “photo tip”.

Before that, few words about Deap Vally, which is what I went to see few weeks ago in this summer of concerts that, as usual in UK, is being all about weekend festivals with a sparse theatre shows.

One of these few shows that I managed to spot, sort and go have bee Deap Vally’s at Madame Jojo’s in London.
I was recently at Madame Jojo’s for Smoke Fairies album Launch.
I love Smoke Fairies, you must know this if you aren’t new to this old blog… I also loved the place and promised I’d get any chance to give it a second visit.

Deap Vally have been out for a while and I’ve been missing their show for more than that. It was time to fill the void.
When they came out they kind of checked all the bits Iusually like in a band.
Garage – checked.
Bluesy – Checked.
Duo – Checked.
Guitars and Drums – Checked.

Even the plus of having two girrrrrls on stage. How to miss that?

I bought Deap Vally debut album, Sistrionix, about a year ago. Yes, it has been out for a while.

It was very talked about too. Well covered in the mainstream paper reviews, one of the last few advantages of signing with a major, Island, when not targeting pop audeinces.

The album, I must admit, feels good on first listening, and it’s a pleasant record, but in the following months it hasn’t seen my CD player often. Is there a word meaning the opposite of a “grower”?
2013 was a great year for music and even 2014 hasn’t started that bad at all. With so much music to go for, stream, spend money into, I forgot to monitor Deap Vally UK tours. Also read… come to Cambridge girls!

Deap Vally are from Los Angeles, California, not your first garage location. Too sunny, too starlet, too sunset boulevard.

Their story is the classic “two friends met at school”, with the best twist. The school was a crochet class!
I think if garage musicians aren’t many in California, musicians who want to put on garage blues band in Los Angeles and bot love crochet is a tale ready for a movie. Not a Hollywood one, though, time to move to Berlin.
Born to be away from LA!

Facts are: Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards met, became friends, talked about music and started a band which name is Deap Vally which I don’t know what it means.
They were born in 2011. Lindsey is on guitars and Julie sits behind the drum kit.

They comeback to London about 3 years since they met and about one since the album was released.
Madame Jojo’s is a small venue and sells-out quickly. It’s what here call “intimate”.
The over decorated baroque, fake gold-plated, red-velvet, opera-theatre design matches well the band. Maybe in their subconscious recalls crochet days.

I like Madame Jojos because it is one of the few venue with some tungsten lights, the traditional yellow light, that is being replaced by LEDs.

First a storming set by Howl, a support band that choses the least obvious name to bring their garage fuelled blues-rock to unexpected heights.
Than the usual half hour standing in the (not pitted) front plus five minutes of compulsory clapping, waiting.
Julie and Lindsey arrive, in shorts and glitter.

With just one album out and enough tour bus rides on their diary I know what to expect, song-wise. The album and a couple of new songs written during tour breaks.  More than at songs, I am interested at the sound and the live show.

Inevitably the first two blues-rock duos to come to mind are the (Jack) White Stripes and the Black Keys. If you expected someone to replace the void they both, for different left to take different directions, you’re not going to be satisfied.

White Stripes are irreplaceable since the day Meg vanished off the musicbiz. Because, despite what I believed when they were active, the White Stripes are Meg and are not without her. Listen to the way Jack White plays those song in his solo tour and you know that that magic is missing behind a massive wall of sound. Meg added those key voids, pauses, that Jack White can’t handle.

Black Keys, instead, went the Grammy way. The day they stopped being a duo, the day they added Rhythm to the Blues, recruited a bassist it was over. That Hills County inspired blues was left behind together with FatPossum.

Deap Vally could beseen as a void filling of either of them, but they are not.
They have their personality as a band, which is good, and also they are not because they don’t have that genius in songwriting of their epitomes.

After about an hour of music I was left with the feeling of having seen a surrogate of something. Something not yet defined.

Lindsay guitar skills aren’t at the level of Jack White or Dan Auerbach, they don’t even have Japandroids’ Brian King stormy energy. If you play guitar in a duo you have to take control of the void left by the lack of a bassist. Troy is a guitarist that would gain from bringing a bassist in the band.
Which is exactly what Haim did and gave them a very successful time.

Julie drumming is vigorous, coupled with her stage presence and flying hair, it is very entertaining.
I love when bands bring the drummer ahead and, even if she doesn’t dare to stay on the edge of the stage as Shellac’s Todd Trainer, I’m close enough to feel the passion.

Deap Vally have few good songs, and the good songs work better just because they are… better. Those have a good riffs, hooks, some melody and the chorus.
The mostly male audience gathering at the very first rows is pleased.

I think the fate of Deap Vally relies on the quality of the music that will be in their sophomore release.
I don’t know when it is going to happen but this is a classic example of a band that is in front of that “second difficult album”.

The future will tell, and internet will be of help too: [Website][Facebook][Twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

I get out on Soho narrow streets outside Madame Jojo’s on a pleasant London summer night. I have time for a stroll. While I find my way towards Piccadilly Circus tube station, I put my camera back in the bag and get out my loved 14-24mm to check everything is fine.

It is not. The zoom ring is very stiff, basically the lens doesn’t zoom and in a word doesn’t work. Repair is the solution. The amount of a Fixation bill is my next problem.

The venue was relatively quiet with only a couple of photographers at the front, no pit but quite a lot of people behind me. Difficult to get lenses out of the camera bag in this situation. I decide to mount the 24-70 and leave the 14-24 on stage, in front of me, just in case. It’s plenty of space between me and the drumkit.

Monitor suggests Lindsay Troy will be standing on the left, Julie Edwards sits at the drums. The few hardcore fans are busy shooting crap videos (vertica video is wrong, by the way) and taking photos instead of enjoing their idol in flesh and bones. Prince has a point here.

Second half of the set, Lindsay decides the moment, neither I nor the audience was expecting, arrived.
She walks towards me, stands in front of Julie drum-kit and jumps onto the few people standing there. Quite concentrated on filming a rare moment she got closed to them, they were all concentrated at their smartphone. Lindsay jumped and slowly fell down to the floor.
She was recovered by few aficionados who lift her back towards the stage. One of the worst attempt to surf-crowd I ever attended.

I saved my camera but I didn’t manage to save catch that precious ultra wide zoom lens which flew down from the stage in the hard wood floor.
Few (read: very many) bad words, with the hope it survived the crash, I put it back into the bag deciding the concert was lively enough to be impossible to change lens without a pit.

The morning after I filled a fixation form while having breakfast, sent the lens by registered mail. Prayed.
In a week time the nice (but expensive) people at Fixation called, collect my money and delivered my jewel back. It is working great, my bank account slimmed by £250.

At the price of this gig I could attend a couple of major festivals.

You can support the costs of my stupidity if you want and decorate your room. I have a large selected live-music gallery on my site at Photoshelter. you can order any print you want of Deap Vally or any other artist in my portfolio that will be delivered to your home.

Slow Club

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s called indie pop for a reason.
Because it’s pop. And because it’s indie.

It’s a niche. It isn’t much on TV or national radio to break into everyone’s home.
You need to search for it. You need to desire it.
The only mainstream media to talk about independent music, and only in England, are national newspapers.

Only recently, thanks to streaming platforms, papers became multimedia channels to offer listening in addition to the traditional articles with photos.

The Guardian streamed Slow Club third album, Complete Surrender, before its official release. The newspaper capability to permeate the ethereal atmosphere of the internet managed to bring the band in many more homes including mine.

Slow Club aren’t new to the niche. They still are to the masses.

The first album, Yeah So, was out in the summer of 2009 (5 years is a long time in today’s music average band lifetime).
The album opens with When I Go a delicate country-ish lullaby and goes on with Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson multi-instrument playing along those melodic lines.

A Christmas EP followed the end of the same year, Christmas Thanks For Nothing. It was not a weird choice. Rebecca voice sounds perfect for a Christmas album. Big, deep, sound. Curiosity made me play Silent Night on Spotify on the warmest day of the year to discover it is an instrumental! The rest of the EP covers Darlene Love and has a couple of originals that, to be fair, are better than the covers.

At this point of their career Slow Club were still looking for a musical identity. I would classify them more among the indie-folk brigade together with the Laura Marling, First Aid Kit and the other girls that grew up with Mum’s Jony Mitchell vinyls.
Rebecca potential still has to come out powerful as it will be.

2011 arrived and Paradise, their second LP, came out late summer. From the first song the message sounds clear. Slow Club are moving to bigger songs. Arrangements gets more elaborate, rhythm is prominent and Taylor’s voice is finding her natural space and place.
A place which is not anymore in the folk tradition but not yet in a soul filled indie-pop.

Paradise deserved all the very good reviews it had worldwide, and in the indie-music blogosphere the band is now well known. They are played to a thousand people in the lovely London Koko to put them in contest.

At this point I haven’t seen them yet. I am much quicker to get in touch with rockier, garage, noisy new bands than more melodic, new-romantics.
But I get there in the end.

3 more years, another summer and another Slow Club album arrives: Complete Surrender. From the cover it’s clear this is a different thing. The colourful painting of Paradise is replaced by an almost monochromatic photo.

This is the piece that marks the division between two eras.
Change of label, they moved from Moshi Moshi to bigger indie Wichita, but most important they moved their sound to a contemporary indie version of Northern soul.
It does fit very well in the definition of blue-eyed soul for obvious reason but I would be unfair to Charles Watson.

Slow Club started as a duo and Charles Watson has an essential part in taking the band music to their sound, never drifting into clichés.

Both Charles and Rebecca are multi-instrumentalist and they alternate between guitar, keys and vocals. Rebecca plays drums too. I like when musicians move to their favourite instrument for a particular song. I imagine them composing music on a particular instrument and going back to that once in concert.

I arrive to the Portland Arms in Cambridge, delighted to see them in such a tiny venu. I know regret I sent my 14-24mm to service due to Deap Vally guitarist kicking it off stage and blocking the zoom ring at a gig the night before this.

One of the reasons that brought me to this show was a Rebecca Taylor interview at TLOBF where she gives her tips for dating.
It emerges an open, sincere, honest personality. Strong and at the same time fragile. The kind of frankness I love.

I get the same impression from the show. New songs have her voice stepping out and imposing itself over the band and the audience. Incredible performance that is rare to find nowadays. Suddenly Rebecca steps back, sit at the drums or at the keys. She hides behind the microphone, almost wispers, leaves space to Charles in a presence that is as essential as it is unobtrusive.

Indie fans love feeling the artist close to them. To be “one of them”. Slow club are indie to heart. Rebecca is inches from the fans, she chats, she asks for an elastic to tie her hair in the super hot room. She get one from ‘Fiona’ a girl in the audience that passes her a rubber band. She’ll then acknowledge Fiona when presenting the band. It all comes naturally and it is lovely.

She introduced the band. Indeed. Slow Club are a quartet on stage. Watson and Taylor keep control but are joined by a rhythm session, drummer and bassist at the beginning before they start exchange instruments depending on the songs’ need.

Expectedly the show rotates around the latest album (A pic of the setlist is here). They started with a couple of oldies but the new songs point to a different direction and the bands has more than a reason to emphasise them. Most of the album will be played and among my favourites The Queen’s Nose sounds as a soul classic, revisited for the third millennium. Number One is a powerful slow ballad where Charles singing finds a perfect place in the harmonics with Rebecca tapping in.

As it always happens when bands change directions (Bob Dylan anyone?) there will always be someone disappointed. It’s the artists the first that have to believe in what they do, and Slow Club ‘convinced me they are convinced’. They wants to bring their sound in everyone’s home. Together with the genuine approach of two young guys that believe in their songs.

Very much worth catching them live now, unless you like big shows in huge theatres in the next years.
For everything else there is internet: [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

So it is possible! So there are wise bands out there.

LED lights have been concert photographers’ nightmare in the past five and more years. They replaced most complaints that were dedicated to red spotlights.
Camera sensors never dealt well with red and too often B&W stopped being an aesthetical decision to become a technical necessity.

Since the LEDs arrived I almost wish for the red lights. LEDs are very cheap to run, give a variety of effects and many small venues have them as standard lighting. As the Portland Arms.
If they are set to a single colour from blue to red through purple, photos are going to have serious problem of sensor saturation as last photo in this post here.
It becomes again a B&W necessity with load of toning of saturation/hue/luminosity levels on the separate colour channels.

Slow Club showed you can set LEDs set to a more neutral colour that won’t make photography job impossible. For the beginning of the set light was good enough (still not enough) to shoot. Than it turned monochromatic for a bit, rotating all colours for another while and in the end stopped on a too pink tone but still this was enough for some photos.

If you are a band, and you want good photos of your show, tell the light technician to add enough green/yellow/orange to the LEDs to counterbalance the purple/red/blue.

It doesn’t have to be forever… give us at least three songs.

 
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