The Streets

This is dedicated to the ones who missed The Streets Brixton gig for a power failure. Sorry guys not sure this fulfills the missed occasion.
Recession is clearly hitting Britain hard, and I am reporting it. Check my “side project”:

Valueless – The Decline of The British Empire
A photographic diary into UK gloomy recession

As I wrote for the Public Enemy. I am not an expert of “urban” music. I don’t even know how to define The Streets so, instead of speaking rubbish, I’ll let Mike Skinner speak. A collection of lyrics and interview. I can finally put the photos since at last I got access to a pit in 2009.

“…Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they change it.
Just when I’m loving life, it seems to start raining.

Memories are times we borrow
For spending tomorrow.

I came to this world with nothing
And I leave with nothing but love
Everything else is just borrowed…”

[Everything is borrowed]

Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
My microphone cost me six grand.
What is your most treasured possession?
My microphone or my Panerai watch.

[Q&A, Weekend – The Guardian]

The price of a modern pulpit, after all rappers are the new preachers aren’t they?

“…This ain’t a track it’s a movement
I got the settlement
My frequencies are transient
And resonate your eardrums
I make bangers not anthems
Leave that to the Artful Dodger…”

[Let’s push thing forward]

What I learnt quite a while ago though, is that The Streets, in fact, are one single person: Mike Skinner. I saw him few times on telly or so and he always gave me the impression of a nice, direct and honest guy.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have quite a baggy jaw line.

[Weekend – The Guardian]

Oh well. Has he? No, not really.

“…I’ll not feel no fear
Cause I’m not really here
I’m nowhere near here…”

[The Escapist]

His english approach to rap is quite catching even to the ones (me) that don’t buy rap. He infuses the classic singing with trip-hop, dance and a very melodic twist.
As if Eminem met Lily Allen on a Bristol club. If he means something to you.
I can’t quite grasps most of what he says, though.
I tried to accuse the Birmingham accent then I read that despite from there he has a strong London accent. Left with no excuses.

What is your favourite word?
My job is word-based, so it changes all the time.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Butters. Deep. Hench.

[Q&A, Weekend – The Guardian]

Yes, definitely me I don’t have a clue what two of these three words mean!

His fans adore him, truth is that urban acts tend to have a much closer communication with the audience compare to the detachment observed at indie-rock gigs.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
Many times
[Q&A, Weekend – The Guardian]

You’re advised girls.

“…Who’s round is it?
Down that beer quick smash my glass back down fall over the table
All rowdy and pissed
Seems the only difference between mid week shit and weekend is how loud I speak
And whether I try to pull a girlfriend
That’s it who’s got dough?

Buy a drink, chat to a lady, the girls well fit definitely, not maybe, she’s rude I’d shag
her and make tea right there

At street level
That’s it that’s it that’s it
Yeah oi heavy, heavy
At street level
That’s it that’s it that’s it yeah.. oh oh”

[Same old thing]

“We eat junk food, sat drunk on the tube
Every time the train clunks I feel like puking
Wonder whether that beautiful bird’ll ring…”

[Too much brandy]

“Alcohol is the answer. What was the question?”
[The Streets – myspace]

“…I saw this thing on ITV the other week,
Said, that if she played with her hair, she’s probably keen
She’s playin with her hair, well regularly,
So i reckon i could well be in.

he didn’t look too bored with what I was sayin’.
Her hair looked much better than the other day.
She had her fingers ’round her hair, playin’.
I Saw on the telly that’s a good indication.
Stood up to buy the next drink though, “Nay.”
Suppose that’s just our girl’s way.
Im tryin to think what else I could say,
Peelin’ the label off, spinnin the ashtray…”

[Could well be in]

Midway through the concert I got finally caught by a curious combination. First I noticed a song because it plays over the Let it Be chord progression, then I grasped it contains some touching lyrics and just after the end his back vocalist sang the chorus of Glasvegas’ Daddy’s Gone.

Google always has the answer. The song goes as…

“Two great European narcotics,
Alcohol and Christianity,
I know which one I prefer

We never went to church,
Just get on with work and sometimes things’ll hurt,
But it’s hit me since you left us,
And it’s so hard not to search…

I miss you dad but I’ve got nothing to remind me of you”

[Never went to church]

…and, if not clear enough, is dedicated to his dad.

Which explains the Glasvegas insertion. Moving.
You can listen Never went to church on

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
To my dad for not making it back to Birmingham to see him while I was in London doing The Streets.

[Q&A, Weekend – The Guardian]

I’m sympathetic, It’s personal.

Back to the gig. Skinner is back rapping on a classic song theme for the encore: being left.

“…Tryin’ to pull her close out of bare desperation
Put my arms around her tryin’ to change what she’s sayin’
Pull my head level with hers so she might engage in
Look into her eyes to make her listen again
I’m not gonna fuckin’, just fuckin’ leave it all now
‘Cause you said it’d be forever and that was your vow
And you’re gonna let our things simply crash and fall down
You’re well out of order now, this is well out of town
She pulls away, my arms are tightly clamped round her waist
Gently pushes me back and she looks at me straight
Turns around so she’s now got her back to my face
Takes one step forward, looks back, and then walks away …”

[Dry your eyes]

Concert closure is kindly offered by Mark Twain

“…I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me…”

[Heaven for the weather]

Which living person do you most despise, and why?
Boris, the idiot mayor of London.

[Q&A, Weekend – The Guardian]

I wanted to highlight this.

The Streets website doesn’t seem to work properly, so all you have left is his [myspace] and your ability to browse youtube in search of something audible.

Photo tip

When it comes to photograph a solo artist (even if it has a band name) few portraits are unavoidable.

I don’t like telephoto lenses, you may have noticed I don’t use them too often, but I think the 85mm f/1.4 as a portrait lens is unbeatable.

I know they are quite expensive glasses to buy (but last forever, mine is more than 10 years old).
They need some photographic skills to be used at gigs as well.

The depth of field when used wide open is ridiculously short (I’m talking about few centimeters guys), so focusing on an eye while someone performs in the dark is quite a challenge even for an AF cameras.

I am crazy enough to focus manually, and this makes most of the shots useless, but the reason I do it is because when among the many out of focus photos I manage to have something sharper, the results tend to be amazing.

The way the 85mm wraps around a person face making it tridimensional, blurs the background and emphasizes the film grain is one of the reason why I can’t move to digital.

To use it you need to be quick. Experience helps quite a lot. If you can predict the artist’s movement and be there at the right moment, you are halfway through.
When the artist stops for a second don’t think, just shoot. Use a speed around 1/60-1/125 of a second to minimize your movement.
At f1.4-2.0 you should be fine around ISO 800-1600 for an average lighting. You can ignore the background, it is usually far enough to be indistinguishable.

If it doesn’t work, don’t despair, there’ll be more occasions.
And sometimes out of focus shots can be quite interesting.

~ by Valerio on January 30, 2009.

7 Responses to “The Streets”

  1. I just came on my computer to try & sort my finances out, I knew it was gonna be a grim affair and so decided I would do a quick search on The Streets to see if I could lift my spirits before going ahead with the uglier side of life when I came accross this page. All I can say is thank you so much, every moment of your time spent doing this has been greatly appreciated. I love The Streets and have so much respect for Mike Skinner.
    This page has been put together beautifully, I really enjoyed reading all Mikes Skinnerisms and absorbing the wonderful photography.
    Thank you for lifting my spirits.

  2. Wow, thanks to you!!
    I Hope this helped to sort your finances, as well!

  3. Even if someone superficially looks at me as a “real rocker”, I have always loved DRY YOUR EYES.
    Amazing song. Simple and direct.

  4. You are welcome Valerio, I just really enjoyed looking at those fantastic pictures all over again, they are amazing. and yes, I did get ahead with my finances, using that mental energy that only inspiration can supply.

    I’m so pleased you love Dry Your Eyes diamonddog, I’m far more an indi-rocker kinda gal myself, I’m a dedicated collector and follower of those Irish rockers Ash, but it has never made me feel I shouldn’t love The Streets too, music motivates our mood, our moods are so damn varied our music should reflect the same freedom.

  5. Fantastic job, Vale.

  6. Thanks Porillo!

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