You know the story, it has been re-enacted, identical, enough times to become an almost accepted cliché.
It is a recipe made of marketing, greed, passion, revivalism and nostalgia.
Despite the bitterness of greed and the sourness of marketing, it still tastes good to many.
Once upon a time…
“Greg Dulli’s a busy man these days. From French Quarter bar owner to record producer, along with anchoring the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, he’s surely made the most of his post-’90s Afghan Whigs days. And we’re probably not going to see that Whigs reunion tour anytime soon. Dulli’s quite content with how he’s living, a Bukowski-esque come-on artist of the aging indie set, a dirty old man work-in-progress.”
Dulli answers in the article interview…
Do you ever miss playing music with the Afghan Whigs?
“I played with John in October and November. He got up and played four or five of the shows with me. I haven’t seen Rick in a couple of years. Whenever I play Minneapolis, Rick usually comes and jumps up on stage. If you’re asking if I miss playing in the Afghan Whigs, no. It was a great thing … I loved it, and I loved the guys and we had a great time. But we laid that sword down a long time ago.”
Fact. Reunions often start with an interview by the band leader saying that a comeback will not happen because he is involved in one or many other projects (never call them side especially when they are irrelevant!) and he’s busy. Add statements as “the past cannot be brought back to life” and bla bla.
This is the strategic bit. First part of a marketing move aiming to bring the band name back to the headlines and create expectations to old and young fans.
Silence follows while in the background there is a lot of management network to bring all the pieces together.
Once the band is up and running (but the news not yet disclosed) there are some sessions to rehearse. The old tunes need to be revamped and ready for the road, again.
The Press release (including a plea “keep confidential… not to be disclosed before 8:30am GMT…” )
December 7, 2011. ATP Press Release
“On Sunday 27th May 2012 Alexandra Palace will host the first show in 13 years from Cincinnati’s rock legends THE AFGHAN WHIGS.”
Viral consequence: All newspapers and music sites in the world, rebounce the press release creating a wave of expectation.
Now sit and wait a few days for the news to get as far as possible and then release the tickets to maximize the sales.
A couple of months before this gig, and less than a year after the MTV interview, Greg Dulli says the opposite. Coherence always lose against big cheques.
“…Now the reunion that Whigs devotees thought would never come has arrived. Dulli, John Curley and Rick McCollum will reunite for several shows this year after 13 years, and steadfast Dulli refusals. “The planets aligned, and that’s really the only way I can describe it,” he says. “Everything that had happened, John and I playing together, me spending the day with Rick McCollum in Minneapolis last May and then speaking to Barry [Hogan], those were the three variables.”
Timing. It’s essential. What the people wants, who else on our field is going to reunite. We’re in and around Seattle/Sub Pop late eighties.
With an historical cycle of 20-25 years, these 10’s decade is to launch the 90s revival. Nirvana and Alice in Chain can’t reunite for obvious reasons, (everyone have seen the embarassing approach of Macca with Grohl and Novoselic). Pearl Jam never split hence aren’t sexy enough.
There are not many candidates. The Afghan Whigs moment is perfect.
The Cincinnati band is cooler for an ATP audience than Soundgarden who, of course, reunited too with the same mechanism but it was up to the classy and elegant Dulli & Co. ensemble to bring guitars and grunge years back to the UK stage. Cornell narcissism fitted better with USA grandeur.
After all, the Afghan Whigs most successful album Gentlemen, was a piece of beauty balancing between the flannel shirts music of the age and the love for soul of Greg Dulli. Those anthemic songs (which I witnessed at the time they came out, AD 1993) asked to be listened by the next generation.
It’s about money, for sure, but it’s about educating the masses, too. Young hordes who don’t know Dinosaur Jr but know Yuck need to be informed. When after the three songs for the photos I joined the audience and I saw music journalist Simon Price’s unmissable silhouette enjoying the show I was curious to read his review. That came out on the Indepenent on Sunday and summarizes what I wouldn’t be as good at writing.
For the records. Dulli was in great form for this comeback show (they also played a date in NYC screwing the world premiere), his voice stood out and he pleased a crowd coming from all over Europe and beyond playing the hits. Despite the Afghan Whigs were put on the line-up after Guided By Voices cancelled their appearance, Ally Pally audience was in good mood and enjoyed the show.
The band has expanded in the decades, with a violin and celloist added to the original line-up to give those songs a fuller sound but those guitar lines to go with anthemic songs are here to stay.
Just when I was planning to go home, after three exhausting days of concerts and photography, the encore delivered a couple of gems. A new song, See and Don’t See and the cover of Frank Ocean’s Lovecrimes.
Both have been released on their website as free download.
Apparently there are no plans to record more new material.
The reunion tour, that spanned a good part of the world is over now and Dulli is vague on the future of the band.
Afghan Whigs seems to have enjoyed it and now it’s the quiet phase where market analysis try to understand if it is the second time to call it a day (Pulp), or record an album (Soundgarden) or keep touring for another year (Stone Roses).
I had an open issue with Greg Dulli since 2009. Not that he knows, but when I was cleared to see his Duo project with Mark Lanegan, The Gutter Twins at a intimate Union Chapel show, I found this photo (above) on the church door.
It wasn’t God but still an unexpected vision, especially after being approved and reconfirmed for a photopass. In the end it turned out being one of my funniest post on this blog and a quite nice show, so I don’t regret that journey down to London.
Alexandra Palace is a different story.
If the Union Chapel is all about seating in a cold church drinking hot tea watching a band playing from the altar, the massive Alexandra Palace has a different presence.
Despite the ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror festival, apart from Slayer performance on the Friday didn’t happen in the Great Hall but in the West Hall, the site preserves its dignity and adds a feeling of cosiness that helps seminal and underground bands to feel closer to their audences. And the acoustic is much better.
The dark curtains of the Afghan Whigs stage made it a completely different set from the rest of the festival. Of my photos, several being used by Entec the company providing the lighting for a case study to show their production, they didn’t pick any of the Afghan Whigs concert.
Blue, green and red lights on the dark background. Nice clear spotlight for Dulli and the other elegant band members made this an interesting one to cover.
I tried to portray a classic “indie” band body language with a touch of colourful tones coming from the spotlights.
The West Hall stage is quite high and very wide, which makes it difficult to frame the whole of a band unless using very wide lens and find and adapting a dramatic perspective.
On the good side the pit is spacious and there’s plenty of room to move along even with another dozen of photographers, with is the average at this sort of festivals.
With Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Grizzly Bear just announced to curate the 2013 event, and missing from my archive, I am already looking forward to getting back in and cover IBYM for the third year running.
Stay tuned for more concert action from Ally Pally… and me… and
A bit of proud self-advertising. It doesn’t happen often.
VeriLive magazine is based in Melbourne, Australia, and features me as “Snap photographer” for issue 12 out this week worldwide.
Verilive is a B&W fine art music photography magazine which includes the best of concert photography and also a 7″ collectable vinyl with each issue.
I have a B&W portfolio of 5 over 8 pages. There are 3 double spreads and two full pages. They span my “career” from Morphine to Melt Banana, with more pictures from Broken Social Scene, Patti Smith and Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis.