Today I bring you up to the north-east of England, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
A city much more famous for its bridges (on one occasion crammed by naked people by NY photographer Spencer Tunick ) that for its musical heritage.
From the times when The Animals attempted to adapt the blues from Mississippi to Tyne, I cannot think of much more music coming from there. I am likely to forget someone important so, if you know (or you are) them, my apologies, and please add to the comments!
Truth is that a lot of Brit music since the Portishead proliferates in small, unpredictable places. Coventry for the Enemy, Wakefield for The Cribs, without even getting to today mainstream cities as Leeds or Sheffield, rock doesn’t travel anymore on the expected London-Manchester-Glasgow highway.
I believe this is good. I like imagining small-town garages packed with teenagers playing loud and screaming without microphones, dreaming of a pub’s backroom or even an amplified stage.
Among these brilliant examples Maximo Park shine. I would define them a sort of art-rock act with clear post-punk/new-wave influences. I don’t put too much attention in genres classification so better you don’t put too much attention to my attempt. They emerged in the mainstream a couple of years ago with an excellent album: “A Certain Trigger” curiously out on the techno label, Warp.
Then, to me, it comes the live act, which is the bidirectional, physical, passionate moment where the band can touch its audience and audience can touch them.
I saw Maximo Park live twice. In 2006 headlining the NME tour. Opening for them, there was an act which in few months brought entire UK by storm. The Arctic Monkeys.
Well, that night, entering the stage after a overgenerous set by the Monkeys, Maximo Park had to give their very best. They did a splendid show.
There are not many UK bands that are real fun live. Quite often you see performances that are only the live version of the CD you listen sitting on your sofa. Maximo Park, lead by a showman as Paul Smith, are pure energy juice, double concentrated.
I was quite happy, despite disappointing second album “Our Earthly Pleasures” still on Warp, to see them again on their ongoing 2007 tour.
Folks, they can still put on a hell of a concert! Still conducted, directed, staged, acted, and performed by Paul Smith. A one-man band. Impeccably dressed, his face mimic, his body language, his singing and cheering to the crowd is the show.
Back home, I didn’t change my mind about the two key points. Maximo Park are to be seen live and Maximo Park second album’s songs are not as strong as first, even live.
I still suggest that if they are around and you are in town, better you grab a ticket and throw yourself into 90 minutes of “pure energy juice, double concentrated”.
Here it comes the joy of photographers: A jumping hyper excited front-man.
Then with the joy comes the problem…how to catch him flying up in the air?
Well, it is not that easy and it needs quite a lot of luck too. If you get him framed, incredible pictures are guaranteed.
It would be much easier with the help of a flash but 99% of cases you are not allowed.
You have two choices then, at your discretion, either ignore the rule, use the flash and risk to face the security that may want to kick you out of the pit (and this is really unpredictable and up to the management) or get prepared and be creative.
If you choose the second option, some points can help.
As usual, knowing the band and the songs is very important. Having a quick look at the set-list before the concert is also quite useful. The more you know what to expect, the more it helps you being ready and in the right place.
The right moment is often just before a song starts, or a second before the end of the song so that the “landing” takes place when the drummer hits the cymbals. Is not that easy singing and flying, is it?
Stay in front of the stage, be concentrated on the front-man, point him through the lens and always follow him, ignore the rest of the band.
A wider angle lens helps you to frame the subject avoiding the risk of cropping it out. I use a 35mm lens, on…35mm films! Even if you are not moving, your bouncing friend is! Go manual, using the fastest shutter speed possible sacrificing the depth of field, it minimizes the blur especially if your autofocus works well in the dark. You can try panning, outfocus, overexpose. Be creative!
Never hesitate waiting for the next occasion, jumps are not many in 3 songs, a jump lasts a fraction of a second and if you miss one you may have missed everything. Continuous shooting could be helpful. Saving film (or memory card) it is always the worst option.
Good luck, this time round really accounts for 50% of your chances.