Here I am,
Back from an intercontinental break dedicated to 3 different projects on documentary photography beetween India and Kashmir. A break from UK, from music and also from analogic photography.
I am quite fascinated by the discovery of the digital world. Mainly because I am into colour photography at the moment and digital allow colour photography as film does not (e.g. 6400 ISO shots).
Colour suits me more than B&W. This is why the most attentive of you may have notice that liveon35mm subtitle has just had an important word added… “mostly”.
I don’t know how much it is going to last, I am still keen on photographing on film, using my lovely Zeiss lenses, spending my spare time in the darkroom; but there are periods in life when things have a twist, change, and this is one of those moments.
It felt also the right moment to cover a full festival. My choice went on Pavement‘s curated ATP because of the nice addition of having chalets replacing camping, indoor gigs replacing the rain and because of its tradition of wonderful line-ups.
All definitely true, ATP is a wonderful music experience.
Last…erm, quite. This edition had by far the worst line-up ever put together for an ATP festival.
Only the weekend before Groening’s choice was so much better and if you cross the Atlantic the (still incomplete) first day of New York September ATP is already looking much better than the entire Pavement‘s weekend.
I have my prejudicial idea, based on a consideration of a clever marketing strategy. Pavement announced the reunion implying it could have been a one-off and being ambiguous about things.
Soon after they announced some NY dates and that they would curate this UK festival. The old continent waiting for the unwritten rumour of Malkmus getting back with his friends for decades, sold out the 5000 chalets beds in a blink. It is not a case seven friends flew from Italy for this event. They didn’t know Pavement would have played Italy and everywhere else too.
Once sold out, what was the point for the organizers to add costly bands to the line-up? In fact, they didn’t.
Lesson number 1 learnt. Don’t buy ATP festival on the very first hour, wait and see for the line up to improve. If the event doesn’t sell out new interesting bands will be added to achieve the goal.
Lesson number 2. When a band reunites it is for money. So once the machine is up and running, they will tour as much as they can.
I already learnt this with RATM back in 2008 but I must have failed to record. So Pavement didn’t obviously play only Minehead and Central Park but are playing any other city in the world with more than 100.000 inhabitants. Literally.
Lesson number 3. Reunions are celebrations. Nostalgia moments for the people who are missing a band of their youth for so long. They are not for the bands, don’t believe the ones who tell they realized they have something more to say. It’s not true. Again It’s Frank Zappa foreseeing lesson “We’re Only in It for the Money “. Proof? Just name an album of a reunited band who had any impact in their career. Past is past. There is no way to relive the past, the only thing you can live is nostalgia of the past, which is why reunions happen.
This was the case of this Pavement gig, which I find it difficult to review, critically.
It’s like having another date with an ex lover. Still in goodlooking shape nevertheless 15 years older. And more expert.
Musically the band has improved. Which is a fact but not the important one in the alternative world. After all most members kept playing in side projects in the years so no surprise their musical skills got better.
Pavement rock! Actually they have never rocked that hard.
Most important Pavement, out of a couple of albums, have written some of the most beautiful songs of the nineties. Songs that are snapshots of a way of life. Songs that still sound great if played from the authors.
Any among Summer Babe (Winter Version), Stop Breathing, Cut Your Hair, Range Life or whichever is your favourite, today would do a career for a band.
Easily the two hours of their set is a blast for the ones (many, including me) who came here to see one of their favourite bands once again. It is also mindopening for the ones who have grown up to the bland sound of a myriad of bands trying (and failing) to mimic Pavement.
And this is the other key difference that is missing tonight.
Indie music (or alternative as the Americans prefer to name it) in the nineties was not a genre, was an attitude.
Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Sebadoh in USA Smiths, Wedding Present, The Fall in UK never charted and most important never bother to chart. They played music for a cult following and were happy with that. Youngster idealism. Fuck the system and that anti-corporate stuff that was going on.
Since brit-pop, indie rock become mainstream. It meant number one, rockstars attitude, money. It was (and still is) a music genre, but it is not anymore a way of life. Either Oasis or The Strokes, Blur or Kings of Leon pretend to play alternative rock (they probably do) but they fill stadium and are part of the rock stardom.
Playing in an indie band nowadays doesn’t mean you fuck the system. It means you use the system and the system (which is very clever when it’s about making money) adapts to the philosophy and makes you believe it is still cool as it was. Which is not. It sells you outrageously expensive special editions albums (including Pavement’s), cool T-Shirts made in some exotic far east countries and so on.
It is the Steve Jobs attitude of being cool. Looks great on the front, than turn the gadget and reads “Designed in California, assembled in China”. Ever seen something more racist? How many indie-people complained about that writing on the back of their iPod, iPhone, iMac? How many even bothered to notice that? They would have back in the years.
If punk was of the 80s, reunions are “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” of the 10s.
Pavement headline gig at Minehead was a great gig for any lover of Pavement music who (as them) doesn’t care anymore about that indie depressed attitude which implies living a miserable life and caring of small things.
If only because of this, guys, please learn how to play your set without stopping every time the music reaches a high. Either for useless chat or, worse, to bloody tune a guitar that never needed to be in tune.
We loved you when you couldn’t play, your solos were out of tune and logic, your setlist was not a greatest hits (out now on deluxe edition, of course) but a way to tell how your life was and discover it matched ours. Songs we could strum, sing and even live in our rooms.
A life we did share 15 years ago. A life we don’t share anymore. So please, give us the impression it is still like that. That’s nostalgia.
Another reason why you’ll see some colour shots for a while, is that there is a key difference between photographing a music festival and photographing a single concert.
Differences in terms of costs, of course. Each roll of film is about 4£, multiply that by two (you need to shoot at least two rolls of film to hope in a decent set from a gig) and then by the number of bands to cover, more than 20 here, and get an idea of how much a festival would cost. This sums up on the festival ticket because photopass at festivals rarely, if ever, include the ticket.
Then you go home spend more money for the chemicals and on average 4 hours of your time on each band. This to develop, scan, edit the workflow.
Next step is to send the pics to magazines, the band, the label (or whatever) and they’ll answer like that: “Thank you, awesome pictures! We don’t have any budget but we want to use that if you agree. Of course, we will give you full credits”.
I went to the bakery yesterday. I bought a baguette tasted and told the man at the counter that the bread was so good I wanted to eat it all. I apologized because I couldn’t pay for it but, of course, I told him I would tell anyone how good his bread is. The bastard pretended my money or called the police.
So this is the other reason why there is no film photography here today. Photographers can’t always afford to work for free, and overall it is our choice when to do it.
Note: Despite the same shirt, this shot was taken at the end of the Endless Boogie set where Malkmus played a cameo on last song.