Most of my gig photography has been in local venues, usually small sweaty bars in the greater Belfast area. In stark contrast to this I stumbled upon a free gig in the more picturesque and exotic location of the Singapore Esplanade Theatre on the Bay. Performing in the Jazz in July concerts were Philippine jazz and funk band Conscious & The Goodness. The band were happy for me to walk around shooting during the sunny afternoon soundcheck and then I was back for the post-sunset evening gig. Quite the difference from death metal night at the Goat’s Toe pub in Bangor.
and once darkness fell…
All shot on digital – the occasion, lighting and Singapore colour too risky to lose the moment for B&W film – Canon 6D with 50mm and 70-300mm lenses
A few years back I did the first photo shoot of a death metal band, Lock Horns – and they became the subject of this first blog post.
In June 2018, they released their first album Molon Labe – spotify link – and launched it at a home town gig in Bangor, Co Down. The band were sounding and looking magnificent with a great set showcasing much of the album.
I used the usual Canon full frame digital with various prime lenses – I brought the Olympus OM20 with Tri-X with an idea to shoot on film. But mingling with a metal audience doesn’t lend itself to manual focussing and careful metering, so digital it was.
Note to self – for future gigs, don’t forget the ear plugs.
Taiko is traditional Japanese ensemble drumming – a full-on percussion experience with visuals to match. These were shot in Ueno Park, Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon but there are all sorts of shows, classes and competitions to go and watch and take part in Taiko.
These shots were taken on Kentmere 400 film – cheap and cheerful but very grainy on scanning (they do sit nice and flat though..).
It does however do a much nicer darkroom print.
And of course, when in Tokyo – give it a go yourself.
Kit: Nikon F60 with Kentmere 400.
Me and Oskar shot on a Huawei phone
Then that ol’ song comes on… Together we’re singin’..
Any trip to the USA should include a visit to the music heartlands of Tennessee – Memphis and Nashville.
For taking photographs in the middle of summer however, it gets hot – 100F hot – and has the harshest of harsh sunlight, so glare and shadow are going to be a problem. I’d the trusty bog standard Olympus E450 with it’s 2 kit zooms which were fine as with the extreme brightness, wide open apertures weren’t going to be much use. And with a lot of colour being washed out with the bright light, black and white was the way to go.
So – a tale of two cities.
Nashville’s South Broadway is exactly as you would imagine it – all guitars, boots and beer, and it doesn’t disappoint. Everywhere you look there’s neon signs offering all you can eat and drink to the soundtrack of country music. It’s a friendly city, accessible and has a laid back charm. There’s a lot more downtown than SoBo – there’s loads of walks by the river, countless music venues, Tennesse State Museum and many country music museums. However you’ll invariably end up back on Broadway with a beer in your hand and wearing a new hat.
For the big music venues, there’s the Bridgestone Arena on South Broadway but for the ultimate in country experience, there’s the Opry – a few miles out of town, and for $35 you can get an unforgettable country music experience.
For sports, there’s the NFL (Tennessee Titans) , AAA Baseball (Nashville Sounds) or the Nashville Speedway – it’s about $10 for an evening’s racing.
About three hours away, Memphis is a very different experience. Where Nashville has a folksy touristy charm, Memphis has a wee bit of an atmosphere – a bit more tense, a much harder rock, blues and soul soundtrack and its central attraction Beale Street has an edge that’s great to experience but with a completely different feel. Still it’s well worth a visit – there’s Gibson Guitars, Rock n Soul and Stax Museums, loads of music venues and in like Nashville you’ll not go hungry or thirsty.
Out of the cities, there’s a lot of Irish Heritage sites – this was the Rogan family homestead, 19th Century immigrants from Co Down.
Finally, no matter where you go you’ll be in the presence of Elvis Presley. Just don’t stand on the King.
Sometimes shooting a gig, especially in a small venue with manky lighting and a lot of shouty drunk people half your age can get you questioning your photography. Then occasionally there’s a band who just hit the spot, visually and musically you’d want to photograph them again and again. Paper Dogs are a 4 piece from Belfast with a very accesible hard rock/funky/bluesy sound with bit of Hendrix, Jeff Healy, Thin Lizzy and many more.
The band are led from the front by lead guitarist and vocalist, Chris Rooney. Looking like a young John Power from Cast (to these old eyes anyway), he’s a dynamic presence and a performer with a bit of class.
The rest of the band, while not as dynamic visually, perform as an exceptionally tight unit. And with a style that looks effortless, they’re easy to photograph – lighting not withstanding. The following shot of drummer Kris Young broke the no-flash rule – it was that or nothing as he was out of range of all the stage lighting
The band’s EP, “The Lost Art of Conversation” is on Spotify – definitely worth a listen and there are some more shots on The Flickr.
Kit: Canon 5D, 50mm, 28mm and 85mm lenses
Lightroom, Color Efex and Silver Efex Pro.
(and a Speedlite 450 EXii….)