Semi Precious Weapons
My My Rock’n’roll can never die”. I have never been so optimistic. I feel so positive to strikethrough My My from Neil Young’s statement: Rock’n’roll will never die sounds more inclusive.
As a phoenix, Rock’n’Roll reinvents itself in the most unexpected ways.
This confidence comes thank to Semi Precious Weapons (SPW), my first 2008 discovery, which is sure to rank high on my playlist for the rest of the year.
If there were two facets of music that I would never imagine going hand in hand, those are garage and glam.
If garage by definition was born, lives and procreates in the basement and centers its existence in a continue struggle for visibility that cannot and must not become mainstream; glam needs spotlights to reflect its bright, shiny, glittery look. Garage, as weed, blossoms in the dust; Glam, as a glorious orchid, would dry up.
SPW, a New York band managed by the legendary BP Fallon and produced by a Name as Tony Visconti put together a wonderful garage-glam ensamble, giving another evidence of the uselessness of rock genres classification.
As Visconti confesses “I’ve been waiting for this band for 20 years! Semi Precious Weapons are just incredible. The songs are powerful, glamorous and, frankly, dirty. Justin is – wait for it – beautiful. It won’t be long before they belong in your iPod”.
Got the point? Two, hitherto conflicting adjectives fit the same band: Glamourous and Dirty.
Weren’t you missing this? I definitely was.
Already quite a known act in the Big Apple, these pictures come from SPW very first appearance in the old continent.
A retro jukebox bar, the stylish Boogaloo in north London, hosted the first of an entire week of gigs that are going to storm and conquer the City.
They paid it back with an amazing rock’n’roll concert which captured everyone from the die-hard fans, traveling all the way from NY to support their debut in front of a European crowd, to some incredulous French guys who occasionally entered the pub for a pint and got absorbed by this mind-blowing performance.
Justin Tranter, wonderfully defined as “the last great modern rock star, the most lewd showman since Prince was king, a fiercely charismatic six foot tall platinum blonde 21st Century Boy morphing of David Bowie as Ziggy, Iggy with a mad stylist and Freddie Mercury on the high notes”, leads them. His voice is so flexible he can remind you of anyone from Freddy Mercury to PJ Harvey.
On guitar, also sharing most of the songwriting with Justin, Aaron Lee Tasjan, the most realistic Angus Young’s clone to appear on the scene for ages. He is the mind between the fascinating idea of glueing garage and glam. Hooky riffs, straight from ACDC legacy, perfectly couples with Justin singing.
A self-centered, nice and funny guy, Justin pens the lyrics. Insolent, arrogant and hilarious they reflect his innate star attitude. Pearls of overconfidence as “I can’t pay my rent, but I am fucking gorgeous” or “Tell me something I don’t know, you can’t cause you don’t” (Semi Precious Weapons), “It’s not my fault I look better in her party dress” (Magnetic Baby), “Don’t tell ’em I’m a genius, don’t tell ’em I mean it” (Genius) leave you pondering not only he means it, but he actually is.
Weirdly, while the glam, shocking look is all on Justin, with Aaron and the others ordinarily dressed; the glam aspects of the tunes are on Aaron’s riffs and solos. Garage parts are indeed inverted, Justin voice is often exploring unexpectedly rougher territories, close your eyes and you forget Marc Bolan and David Bowie.
Uncontrollably wild, Cole Whittle is the living proof that bass players are not the quietest member of rock bands. His loops, with his stage presence, are essential part of the sound, together with the essential 3 pieces drum set, in perfect indie approach to music, of Dan Crean. Light years from the huge, flamboyant drum kits you’d associate to the glam scene. Focused on his precise beat, you know that Dan is in this band when you bump into his haircut.
If a good cocktail is an art, cocktailing music is even more difficult and you need to master this art. No doubt BP Fallon and Tony Visconti know how to handle this. The recipe is very simple: one third of an indie band, guitar-bass-drum, no frills one third of hooky riffs and haunting choruses and a third of a singer plenty of frills. Shake yourself and drink it.
To make this even tastier, the SPW album, We Love You, is FREE to download from their [website]. All you have to do is to leave your e-mail, follow the link and dive yourself in the songs. If you hate mp3, you can buy any item of their merchandise, Justin has a succesfull jewelry line sold through the USA, and it’ll be posted to you together with a free CD. Bargain.
If you don’t like both options quite possibly you are reading the wrong website without yet realizing it, but I give you a last chance though, approaching them through [myspace]
Who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of flash in any kind of photography. I believe photography is to show what is in front of you, and in front of you usually there are not instant blinding lights.
But in life extremes don’t work and compromises are part of the whole.
Boogaloo is a wonderful place, small, cosy, decorated with vintage objects which help to frame a band, but it is dark, too dark to take pictures of such an energetic group. Happily I have brought a flash.
The alternative was to have not enough usable images, something you would avoid when BP Fallon in person asks you for some photos.
I mounted the flash, bounced it on the brown ceiling (advantages of B&W, you don’t care about the colour of reflecting light, if you are working in colour point it to something white) and I kept shooting the guys energetic performance.
TTL reading is the most important thing in concert flash photography. So, if you are planning to couple your camera with a flash, be sure they communicate at this (TTL) level.
Technically it means that in the moment you release the shutter, the amount of light reaching the film (or your sensor, no difference this time with digital) is measured Through The Lens. The shutter then closes automatically when the right amount of light has impressed the film.
This works for time exposures below the so called “flash synchro” (usually between 1/60s and 1/250s on SLRs ) so if you expect a fast shutter speed be careful to check cameras specifications, to avoid overexposure. It shouldn’t be a problem at gigs, by the way.
Practically it is much more simple. It means that with a TTL flash reading, all you have to care is to set the aperture you desire, and think at the picture, without bothering to understand the tedious tables and equations that take into account ISO, distance from the subject, compensation for bouncing in order to sort out the right aperture and not waste your images. It is impossible to do in the short time of a gig.