The Gutter Twins
I wonder who respects photographers!
This is different folks, better read through it, in white the concert review, in green …well, you’ll see reading through the e-mail exchanged to get into this gig.
It used to have a name, it used to have a TV show, it was followed by millions, live CDs used to hit the top ten despite quite few recorded examples were really noteworthy. It was called: Unplugged. A format that conquered the world in the nineties and made MTV richer.
People ending up buying Neil Young since it was unplugged as if it was something special and not what Neil Young had been alternating for the previous 3 decades.
The power of marketing tags, words as “organic”, “free range” or “fair trade” (sigh) to seduce consumer’s appeal.
Trends change, new words need to freshen up the same old ideas.
Playing acoustic today is and will always be the same affair as ever but with a different name:
“An intimate evening with…”
It wasn’t easy from the beginning:
This evening was intimate with last year SubPop super-group: The Gutter Twins.
Best known for the umpteenth collaboration of Mark Lanegan, originally from SubPop’s Screaming Trees, with Greg Dulli, originally from SubPop’s Afghan Whigs.
Considering that SubPop heroes in 2008 have been Fleet Foxes, this is a totally SubPop affair.
Let’s see why.
Such a special occasion, an intimate rock concert played in a church! I want to photograph this! I insist and manage to get better news:
I hoped to start my concert photography year with an electric shock to revert the 2008 acoustic-ness. I didn’t get neither the photography nor the electricity.
I hoped these two guys would bring back 90s SubPop sound into a church.
Clearly I didn’t interprete the “intimate” bit correctly. It wasn’t about the venue, it was about the music.
So I haven’t realised that this was going to be exactly the opposite.
21st century SubPop is booming again thanks to Fleet Foxes. The wind changed and is “blowing the mind” of artists such as Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan convincing them to adventure into an unplugged, pardon me, intimate tour.
…don’t worry, I am still trying to sort it out, it is the usual boring stuff, believe me, days go, dozens of e-mails unanswered, all for the passion of 10 minutes of photography…
I got a sign, but not a breakthrough yet:
The two friends come on stage at 9pm. I know you can’t see them, trust me.
Greg Dulli alternates between the left and the right, between acoustic guitars and keyboards.
Mark Lanegan, you know, he sings.
Their producer (I missed the name, sorry) helps on acoustic guitar. Either he needed some money, some exposure or was simply bored to sit next to the mixer backstage.
To be fair, he was committed and enjoyed his role next to his heroes but his attempt to put a bit of virtuosity into the set, in the end, had the only effect to dilute the intensity of having just Dulli and Lanegan on the same stage.
Back to the concert. Musically it was a poor set.
If I follow Bob Dylan claim that a good song it is still good played just on an acoustic guitar, well, I’d conclude the Gutter Twins, in addition to a manager able to speak with their press, lack good songs.
At the end of a tune with exactly the same chord progression of All Along the Watchtower, Mark Lanegan kind of agreed with me and went: “There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief…”.
Crowd wowed, Mark smiled then muttered something. A noticeable things to highlight here: Mark Lanegan can speak!
… if you wannabe a rock photographer remember, patience is a virtue…
I urge for a clear answer but I still get ambiguous messages:
If I flip the perspective, retaining Dylan‘s concept alive, electric guitars have a saviour role in rock’n’roll.
Gutter Twins album, Saturnalia, is not a bad album. Neither as good as Gentlemen or Dust and nothing in between, but still some nice electric stuff with hints of electronic keyboards.
Greg Dulli clearly is not a master of technique, as any of his SubPop 90s mates, however he has the intensity, the capacity and the skills to transmit emotions. A plus that can be boosted with the help of some sound effects coming out of pedal and amplifiers.
Stripped to the bone in those few strums, excitement get lost. Rock music isn’t just about melody, harmonies and keys, it is about tones.
What Lanegan and Dulli haven’t lost and what saves the concert are indeed their voices.
Listening to two of the best singers of the 90s standing (well…sitting) one next to the other it is worth the price of the ticket.
The way the two harmonize their singing gives to the songs’ structure much more than the contribution of the two guitars. Lanegan voice is one of my favourites voices around. When he is left alone the church shines of his darkness. Dulli with his much higher pitch was quite amazing too.
I imagined how the two would sound a-cappella. It didn’t happen, though.
What happened, instead, was listening Mark Lanegan singing a cover of the Everly Brothers hit All I Have To Do Is Dream in the encore and to make things even more hilarious, the unnamed producer performing Tennessee Waltz.
In the end a very intimate gig, so intimate that I can’t show you.
Unfortunately it didn’t satisfy my desire of electrig guitars and I am still looking forward to putting my hand back on my cameras to take some proper concert photography shots. So far this is all you get, a colourful venue, but Live on 35mm music is still on B&W!
It looks a meaningless photo tip this time, but exceptions are there to confirm rules, believe me (and the proverb).
When e-mail isn’t working is time to get the phone. I call and in two minutes I am told that my name is on the list. Everything is OK on the phone. Great, but I prefer to have a written confirmation.
Few days after and two more useless e-mail I am still waiting for it, a third e-mail with the handful “give you a call threat” it usually helps a quicker answer:
Don’t give up.
…finally, over one month from my first message, I got what I wanted:
This is the e-mail you need before you leave home with your cameras.
It is your ticket to the photopass (and the gig). Print it and bring the e-mail with you.
Anytime my name was lost in some guest-list, and it happens often, it saved me.
Except this single time.
So why I have no pictures of the Gutter Twins? Because when I arrived to the venue, with my printed e-mail in hand and despite my name was down on the SubPop list with a clear tick on the “photo” field, I was denied to photograph. The band doesn’t want photographers. No exceptions. Not even from the back or the balcony. Forbidden.
2 hours and 20£ to get there, I decide to stay for the gig. Back home I wrote to the PR asking for explanations. I got this back:
Which I can only reply using some SubPop favourite lyrics:
“I wish I was like you
Find my nest of salt
Everything is my fault
I’ll take all the blame
I’ll proceed from shame
Sunburn with freezer burn
Choking on the ashes of her enemy”
[All Apologies – Nirvana]