The Ting Tings
Unless you are a teenager, there is no such an uncool thing in UK as confessing to read NME. Recently, I must admit, with good reasons. NME isn’t anymore the music news magazine it used to be. In 50 years + of existence the magazine has constantly published an issue a week claiming on the cover that the “Next Big Thing” has just arrived. Statistic is an exact science, inevitably they have been right quite few times, but many other very wrong.
NME machine promotes several concerts and a main tour each February.
From a photographer’s perspective it is a good occasion to cover four bands in the same night, to them they are, obviously, Next Big Things.
Let’s give it a look back.
Kaiser Chiefs – Bloc Party – Futurheads – Killers
A line up like this, today, will sell out any festival in minutes. Despite the Futurheads didn’t really make it big and the reason why Kaiser Chiefs did is a big mystery to me, three out of the four have become arena filling groups.
Mistery Jets – We Are Scientists – Arctic Monkeys – Maximo Park
Again, leaving the Mistery Jets in their niche of new-psychedelic band in love with Syd Barrett, all the bunch was quite good including the Arctic Monkeys that are the best band England delivered in years.
I am not into press so much to know if something changed in NME editing or budgeting but I am into live music enough to notice that something changed in the quality of their line-ups.
Mumm-Ra – Horrors – View – Automatic
Erm, what? The Horrors are the only ones I classified as mildly interesting. For their stage look more than for the music. I know Birthday Party quite well, you know what I mean.
The View occupy the crowded area of post-Libertines bands which is already full with the original ex-Libertines; Mumm-Ra appeared and disappeared from my mind in their 20 minutes timeslot and the headliners, The Automatic, never entered my mind …actually I left the venue midway through their discovery of a “…monster up on the hill”.
It’s February 2008. Next round. When I first read this year line-up, I thought it was a joke. Are they putting together a list of support acts with funny names?
The Ting Tings – Does it Offend you, Yeah? – Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong – The Cribs
Despite I was already put down by Joe Lean when supporting the CSS and truly offended just reading a name such as “Does it offend you, yeah!”, I decided to go!
I was driven by a curious appearance of the Ting Tings at Glastonbury and intrigued by The Cribs set at Jools Holland TV show.
As a photographer you always have at least two excuses to justify your id with your superego that you are going to a NME gig with such a line-up.
One is that you are not paying; the second is that, in the end, you are working.
Pictures of a key band at their debut may be very important for your photographer’s carreer…well, it hasn’t turned out to be the case so far, but nevermind, excuses are not intended to be reality.
If you arrived up to here, you may have noticed, The Ting Tings are a duo. They apparently play drum and guitar on stage. They are a boy and a girl and they are NOT the White Stripes. You understand it is a different story not when you see that the drummer is the man and the singer/guitarist the girl but when you realize that most of the music is not coming out of their instruments. Hidden somewhere, a laptop or some weird machine is working its beat out of nowhere, free of minimum salary and unions. Bargain!
Trapped in thirty minutes of basic drumming, plain chords, few choruses and repetitive pre-recorded dance-pop synthetic loops, the set left me trying to remember which of the six was the song which impressed me at Glastonbury.
That’s Not My Name, as you would expect, arrives at the end. It has the catchier, funkier chorus than the rest of the anonymous list. I’d lie if I said it doesn’t work, I did find myself tapping my right foot while changing the films but… is this really enough?
Around me everyone finally is joyfully handclapping, today’s youth is easy to satisfy.
Mp3s are turning the music world back to singles’ age. Actually, not even singles, ten seconds of a song are enough for global fame achieved on teenagers’ mobiles.
But “wasn’t there a light there never goes out?”. Indeed, and that is stage light, that is live music.
You can entertain your school mate with a ringtone between math and history classes, but you cannot keep a thousand people happy with a 10 seconds bouncing chorus. Even repeated and repeated several times it won’t work, not with me.
When you have a messy stage that is waiting to host four bands, with three drum kits, zillions of amplifiers, cables, stage monitors and so on, trying to get a clean defining picture is not easy.
This is why I like when bands, especially bands not yet very famous and recognizable, stick their name or logo on the bass drum. It helps.
Try this simple thing, imagine you don’t know what this article is about, pick one of the pictures without and one with the band name.
The picture showing the name works out better, doesn’t it? Considering that the average time an observer spends watching a photograph is just few seconds, knowing instantly who is the subject leaves you the rest of the time to concentrate on the image with the mind free from quizzing about it.
If you are shooting a band which has the name clearly visible, take few shots with it. The only suggestion is be aware not to cut it and, if you have to choose what to focus (as always happen at concert where low lights force you to wide apertures and short depth of field), always focus on the artist. A fuzzy name is still readable and acceptable, a blurred artist is likely to be unpleasant.
Concert photography is a difficult art. Through a lens concerts are all very similar, setting and lighting are low, instruments are always same shape, 3 songs are always too short.
Very small details that seem irrelevant can make the differences between a good picture and an average one.
Just to deny, in facts, what I am saying I am closing this article with a couple of pictures that have the name cut and the subject blurred and dark. The exception confirms the rule or writing about photography is much easier than, erm, photographing! Your choice.