My friend called them “stilosi” which could be a kind of Italian for “stylish”. I remembered he said “sciccosi” which is another Italian slang for “chic”.
In the meanwhile I managed to sort a photopass for the Cambridge date of Wild Beasts tour 2014.
Since Present Tense, their fourth album was released and reached the UK top 10, the buzz around the band overwhelmed the buzzfeed surveys I find on my facebook timeline.
Everyone was talking about Wild Beasts from the day rumours about a new album spread online (wherever else)?
I did not remember I saw Wild Beasts live. When The Quietus asked to use some of my photos of their headline at Field Day 2011. I thought they were wrong. I totally forgot it. You’ll think with concerts count heading to 600 on my songkick profile it’s pretty normal to forget some gigs but, let’s be fair, until not long ago I could remember any band I saw, photographed, and if I enjoyed or disliked.
Wild Beasts headlined a big London festival, I was there taking pictures but I needed to go back to the archives to remember it. In front of the photos I remembered the gig and also that I wasn’t impressed by that uber-hipster atmosphere.
Curiously enough Wild Beasts Cambridge Corn Eexchange 2014 concert was in the same date my photos of hipsters (also) taken at Field Day on the same day made l’Espresso, the biggest Italian newsmagazine.
It means my best paid photographic work to date. 3 photos with two full pages, I felt a photojournalist for a day.
Still on the “where’s my memory gone issue” I was looking at some festival dates for this summer where Sun Kil Moon is scheduled to play to see if there are chances to photograph Mark Kozelek. He is one of those photophobic musicians who don’t want to see photographer in the area.
Until another photographer pal FB-chatted to me asking if Mark Kozelek had changed his policy because he saw a photo I took of him on a review on the Quietus.
Just before I replied with “not my photo, Tim I’m trying to find out if I can shoot him somewhere this summer”, I googled and actually realised he was true. Photo was by Valerio Berdini, subject is indeed Mark Kozelek and I couldn’t remember I photographed him.
I did and guess where? Under a tent at Field Day.
Maybe is not permanent memory loss just my mind was blown that day. I cannot remember. Fact is, to make this long that I need words to separate the photos, I have shot Wild Beasts live. I have rare photos or Mark Kozelek and very likely if I meet Kozlelek at one of those festival I risk to have him punching my nose, he’s not an easy guy by any standard. Honestly, no one stopped me taking pics of him that day.
Fast forward, to Cambridge, to the Corn Exchange, to Wild Beasts 2014 tour.
Just about a month after the album release, the day before their Brixton Academy date, I was expecting to be a sell out. I get to the venue early to find no one is queuing, East India Youth set is about to start and venue it’s empty. The upstairs stalls are closed.. What’s wrong with Cambridge people, it is true is a Monday but still… WTF? Is the Internet time so fast that from the hype of the album release/stream/pre listen to the memory-loss takes much less than the 2 years I take to forget the gigs I have been to? actually 2 weeks?
Thankfully East India Youth brings quite a lot of those queuing at the bar in front of the stage. I added a couple of new shots to my post about him, he has a nice retro illuminated video leaving his bass player silhouette stacking in front of the screen.
By the time I am back into the pit for Wild Beasts there is much less space in the stalls and much more beards around me than on my face.
It’s about ten years this lads make music together and you can feel the band strength from the moment they enter the stage.
With 4 albums there are few dozens of songs available to play but with an album to promote it’s natural the setlist is highly centred on Present Tense.
Ignoring calls of older songs (“it’s so 2008” they recently said at a London album launch show) Wild Beasts are too good and too young to rely on nostalgia and hits.
They want to play the new songs, conquer new public, be loved by the young girls on the front row.
Hayden Thorpe the band singer is the one in control. When he stands at his keys the band looks and follow his arms. His yellow jacket is studied to match the mostly green lights.
With his falsetto dipping into the 80s, the keyboards occupying the core of the songs, I hear echos of Talk Talk everywhere.
Guitars (and guitarist) are sent into the background. More and more into synthesizers, Wild Beasts music earns in dreaminess and loses the jangly indie-pop hooks of the beginning.
Today they are what Yeasayer would have been if they were born in Kendal, England instead of hanging around Brooklyn.
It’s sophisticated pop without multi-ethnic influence. Sheer British coolness pointing straight at East London to make it an English bastion. Dalston has been already conquered, Brick Lane next.
Sophisticated masculinity. Sexual allusion. Creative hipsters with a twist. Arty without being to conceptual. Pop… away from the mainstream.
With a Mercury Prize nomination for their second record, Two Dancers, headlining sets that followed Smother and now a top ten record in the chart, Wild Beasts are at their peak.
The first time I these green lasers back lighting smokes creating waves of ethereal green waves over an audience it was 11t of July 1988. I was a teenager in Rome and Pink Floyd sold out two nights at Stadio Flaminio, a football stadium at a walking distance from home. We spend the day in the sun, on the grass from 2pm to well beyond midnight. There’s no other live music that will match that production and that light show never ever.
That is the gig I will remember till my last day on earth.
Live music (all music) is dramatically changed in this 25 years. There are not the same amount of money and the cake has to be cut in many more slices because, with Internet, band multiply at a much faster pace than Jesus did with bread and fishes.
Also true I moved away from the fan boy attracted by big productions and I tend to enjoy small venues. For this, I was quite surprised to relive the Floyd’s experience for Wild Beasts.
For a while I was even worried. Have I read on the internet that lasers blow camera sensors? I couldn’t remember if it was a news or a hoax… or it wasn’t lasers. Whatever. I decide to ignore and go ahead.
Or… I would have decided to go ahead but, as always happen, the best lighting is not disclosed until well into a gig so the three songs rule … ruled me out from being in the pit when lasers would appear. They would look incredible from the bottom with the 14-24mm angle hyperbole emphasizing the band. Unfortunately you’ll never see those photos.
I never give up. Wild Beasts are still going, Corn Exchange mezzanine is empty and accessed only to VIP (i.e. photopass holders and guestlist). It is in the dark, it gives a nice overview of the stage and is the most unobtrusive place. I don’t disturb the fans, the band, the venue. It’s perfect (me think).
I sit down in the front row, enjoy the show, mount the 70-200 and wait for lasers to get some cool back shots.
Green lasers arrive, I click once, twice. Check the exposure. They don’t seem to disturb my camera sensor nor even to trick the exposure meter. It works fine in matrix. I underexpose by 2/3rd to get the black nicely black and the photos look cool. Not as good as being in the pit, still good pics, I’m pleased.
If only… someone arrives, with the security-of-a-small-venue-authority and tells me to “stop taking pictures NOW!” He’s in power. No argument. “Put away the camera or I kick you out of the venue!”
Pointless to argue “everyone else is taking pictures” I reply, to get the silliest of answers back “they don’t use professional cameras” which to an intelligent mind translates into “the band manager (the venue manager, whoever is in charge) is fine with non professional photos and video taken of the band to be put online for bad publicity everywhere, but they don’t want good professional photography to represent them”. Good, Isn’t this stupid, I say? I got no answer, just another threatening glance.
Few pictures and I’m with the camera in the bag, enjoying the music, mumbling about stupid policy anytime the lights show me another great photo that is lost forever.
It’s been 10 years I have photographed at the Corn Exchange and all the venues in Cambridge. Since Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in February 2004.
I have done more promotion to the Cambridge live scene than any other photographer in UK. Hundreds of galleries from Cambridge are in all major British music site, from the Quietus to the405, from Thelineofbestfit to Louder Than War to local magazines, blogs and national papers, not to mention this blog.
Still I have to be treated by the venue security as a nuisance, a vandal, a criminal, a lawbreakers because I want to take some quality photos of the gigs I attend, from the back, without flash, without interfering with anyone. I am a perfectionist and I love photography, and it frustrates me to see I can deliver a much better set to report from a gig than the one I am allowed to make.
I won’t stop. Both photographing and ranting against stupid rules.