Tag Archives: live music photography

2014 – The best of the best

Another year has nearly come to a close so it’s high time I got sorted and posted my ‘best of the year’ lists.  This list is MUCH easier to do with the help of Last.fm – if you don’t have an account then I suggest you get one!  I’m a big fan of stats and music, so I’m on there regularly checking which bands I’ve been listening to more than others.  The ‘top artists/top tracks’ isn’t exactly a true reflection of what I like the most, but it’s a pretty good guide.

So without further ado, here’s the listicles.

TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2014

  1. The Courteeners – Concrete Love.  I was never a big fan of these guys until photographing them at Shepherd’s Bush last year.  Found it hard to not listen to this album at least twice a week since it was released.
  2. The Heartbreaks – We May Yet Stand a Chance.  Another corker from these guys, just missing out on the top spot (it was a REALLY tough choice).
  3. Interpol – El Pintor.  Did not expect Interpol to be in my top anything this year!  They’re back and as good as they’ve ever been (as good as their early stuff anyway).
  4. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader.  Finally got to listen to an album from these guys after banging on about them all through 2013.  Did not disappoint.
  5. DZ Deathrays – Black Rat.  These guys make me proud to be an Aussie 🙂
  6. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
  7. Eagulls – Eagulls
  8. Johnny Marr – Playland
  9. The Orwells – Disgraceland
  10. Morrissey – World Peace is None of Your Business
  11. The Family Rain – Under the Volcano
  12. Maximo Park – Too Much Information
  13. The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads
  14. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
  15. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
  16. Wampire – Bazaar
  17. Bass Drum of Death – Rip This
  18. Liars – Mess
  19. Howler – World of Joy
  20. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  21. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
  22. Temples – Sun Restructured
  23. Hookworms – The Hum
  24. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love

Honorable mentions: Meatbodies – Meatbodies and Cheatahs – Cheatahs

TOP 25 TRACKS OF 2014

  1. Absolved – The Heartbreaks.  An easy number one this year.  Incomparable.  These guys know how to write a pop song.  If they had a bit more exposure it could have been a Christmas number one!
  2. Leave This Island – Maximo Park.  Another band from the 00’s coming back this year with some brilliant stuff.  This track will always remind me of my birthday in Edinburgh at the start of the year.  Lovely stuff.
  3. How Good It Was – Courteeners.  Summer in one song.  Hard not to sing along to.
  4. Continental Shelf – Viet Cong.  This is why you don’t do your end of year lists until at least mid-December.  Only heard this track about three weeks ago and it’s been an earworm ever since.  Formed from the ashes of Calgary band ‘Women’ (who were also brilliant), no doubt their album is going to be in my top 10 next year.
  5. Easy Money – Johnny Marr.  Is this not the most catchy song you have ever heard in your life?!  Pretty much.
  6. Anywhere – Interpol
  7. Reflective Skull – DZ Deathrays
  8. Where’s Your Car Debbie – Slaves
  9. Come on Over – Royal Blood
  10. So Now You Know – The Horrors
  11. Mess on a Mission – Liars
  12. XXX – The Bohicas
  13. Money – Life
  14. Tied up in Nottz – Sleaford Mods
  15. Trainwreck 1979 – Death from Above 1979
  16. So Oh – The Charlatans
  17. Here it Comes Again – Amazing Snakeheads
  18. Nerve Endings – Eagulls
  19. Dirty Sheets – The Orwells
  20. Let’s go to War – Manic Street Preachers
  21. Istanbul – Morrissey
  22. Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic – Slug
  23. Bad Attitude – Wapire
  24. Lawman – Girl Band

Honorable mentions: Wanderlust – Wild Beasts and Drown the Monster – White Lung

TOP GIGS OF 2014

  1. The Orwells – The Fleece, Bristol.  Expect little and be surprised.  Could not believe how good these guys were live, pushed it as far as they were physically able.  Super entertaining.
  2. The Heartbreaks – The Lexington, London.  Hard not to enjoy a gig by these guys these days.  They have such lovely fans as well – learning the dance moves to the ‘Absolved’ video clip, much to the delight of the band.
  3. Eagulls – Electrowerkz, London
  4. Amazing Snakeheads – Electric Ballroom, London
  5. The Courteeners – Brixton Academy, London
  6. The Cribs – East Village Arts Club, Liverpool
  7. Her Parents – The Monarch, London
  8. Menswear – Queen of Hoxton, London
  9. Manic Street Preachers – Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin
  10. Twilight Sad – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London

FAVOURITE PHOTOS OF 2014

This blog wouldn’t be complete without a list of my favourite photos that I had taken at gigs in 2014.  Still pinch myself that I’m lucky enough to get in the pit at gigs these days.  Long may it continue!

Enjoy your holidays if you have any, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

Jx

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Bass Drum of Death/Crows/Yak, The Shacklewell Arms 13 November 2014

Once again The Shacklewell rolls out three incredible bands in one night – how do they manage to get it right so often?!  (I suspect Bad Vibrations had a big part in all of this…)

My main purpose of heading to the gig was to see Bass Drum of Death but decided to head there early to catch Yak.  Knew nothing about them until they started playing, and I still don’t know anything about them apart from the fact that they are remarkable live.  Definitely seeing them again at some stage.

Seeing as Yak were so fantastic, odds on the next band, Crows, would have to be crap, SURELY. Nope, another remarkable band and another remarkable performance.

And then there was Bass Drum of Death.  By that stage the crowd was packed in like sardines and the mosh pit was like a whirlpool, sucking everyone in.  Almost lost my balance up the front a few times but couldn’t stop laughing because everyone was just having way too much fun.  Not the best shots of these guys due to no flash/being jostled constantly, but I gave it a red hot go.

Managed to not break the camera and the 24-70 survived to tell the tale… just.  Black and white shots again because red lighting is just NO FUN when you’re trying to take photos without a flash.

If you can, check out ALL the bands in this post, live.  It’ll be worth your while!

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The Heartbreaks, The Lexington 5th November 2014

The pointy end of the year is almost upon us, which means that, as always, there are a shedload of gigs occurring in November. I didn’t get around to buying The Heartbreaks tickets when they were released as there were so many other gigs going on around the same time, and I’d pretty much seen these guys every time they had toured London.  After much thought on the morning of the gig I decided that I would most surely regret it if I didn’t go along, so tickets were bought and I started to get really, really excited.

Of course after the gig I thought that, had I known how brilliant they were going to be, I WOULD have regretted not going.  The Lexington didn’t feel packed to the rafters up the front, but that’s probably because of your standard ‘Lexington bottleneck’ at the stairs, whereby everyone is too English and too polite to move further into the crowd and therefore stand awkwardly in front of the bar, getting in the way.  We were right up the front so no problems with dancing like a maniac, and everyone was just lovely – singing, laughing, dancing and having a great time.

Call of the night came from a guy standing behind us who shouted “Lovely ol’ job!”.  It was indeed.  The crowd down the front managed to pull out some choreographed dancing during Absolved, and some people were having SUCH a good time that Matthew had to comment on it at one stage – females screaming and all sorts!

I know I say this every time, but it’s shocking that these guys aren’t more well known in the UK.  They have released one of the best albums of 2014 (if not THE best), and I still spin their debut album every few weeks.  They’re all so bloody lovely as well, no airs and graces, humble and very witty.  If I could recommend any band from this year (or the last three years even) that you should listen to right now it’s these guys.  Do yourself a favour 🙂

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Menswe@r at Queen of Hoxton, 9 August 2014

Just between you and I, I was a big fan of Menswe@r in the 90s.  They were easily in the top 5 of my most favourite Britpop bands ever (because everyone loves a list) and I religiously collected their (very snazzily designed) CD singles on import in Australia when I was a teenager.  I never understood the flack they got back then, and I was always proud to say I was a fan.

I guess people say it’s a nostalgia thing going to see your most loved bands from when you were a teenager and to some extent it is.  When the band you’re seeing has been revived with a new line up and fresh energy, it’s all about going to see a bloody brilliant gig.

The only thing that marred the night was a few ‘lads! bantz! pints!’ guys in the crowd who at their age should really know better, but fortunately that didn’t take away much from the overall experience.  Johnny Dean and the new Menswe@r line up clearly love playing together as they put on a fantastic show and seemed to really enjoy themselves.

My only regret is not bringing a zoom lens with me (for fear of it being confiscated by security!) and having to make do with my 50mm 1.8, which I hid in the arm of my jacket on the way in (don’t try this at home kids).  The shots were all quite close as a result… live and learn!

If you were a fan of Menswe@r in the 90s, or even if you weren’t, I can highly recommend you go check them out if you can.  If you don’t get a chance though, here’s some pics so you can pretend you were there.  Enjoy!

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Teleman, Islington Assembly Hall, 20 May 2014

My first time shooting at Islington Assembly Hall last week, and in fact the first time I’d actually been there for a gig.  Gorgeous venue, and one I hope to go back to at some stage.  They’ve been putting on some great acts recently so I’m sure I’ll be back there before too long.

Teleman were great, very chilled.  For some reason I was disappointed with the shots I took after I left the venue, but when I processed them they seemed to turn out alright.  I’ve been playing around in Lightroom a bit more recently and have come across much easier ways to remove red lighting from pictures where the end result does’t make the artists look sallow skinned and ghost-like!  I had to apply this to some of the Teleman photos and I’m pretty pleased with the results, compared to the originals.

The pics on Shout 4 Music are here, or check them out below.  Enjoy!

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The Crookes, Dingwalls 29 April 2014

For some reason I forgot to post this and it has been in draft for the last month!  So cast your mind back to late April…

I’m in two minds about Camden’s Dingwalls, after one crappy experience on my first venture there (Tribes – horrible crowd, oversold, no chance of getting a drink at ridiculously packed yet understaffed bar etc.) and one brilliant experience following that (The Heartbreaks – amazing crowd, great space for photos in various spots around the venue, brilliant lighting and meeting the band afterwards). It could have gone either way with The Crookes earlier in the week but luckily it fell mostly into the latter category.

Difficult getting a decent shot of the guys from from front of stage as there were two rows of teenage girls forming a rigid barricade that none could pass through – their fans are staunch! I released myself from the throng after a couple of songs to discover that it wasn’t too busy from the side, and the lovely sound guy let me pop through the barrier to get closer to the stage. Nice one.

As I said, the lighting at Dingwalls is pretty decent, so no need for flash. I don’t know why I bothered to bring it really! I used ye olde faithful 24-70mm f/2.8 for the whole gig. Had my 50mm in the bag but didn’t bother using it. HANGING to pick up a 70-200mm f/2.8 in the coming weeks. My time will come, save save save…

Pics of the evening below, enjoy!

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The Twilight Sad, Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen 1 May 2014

Never would have thought that a band I don’t know too much about would manage to impress me so much in a live setting. Don’t get me wrong, I know of The Twilight Sad, and I bought their first album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters when I first moved to London in 2009 (I’m an Aussie for those of you who don’t already know!). Never really kept track of what they were up to until having the opportunity to photograph and review their gig at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen last week for Shout 4 Music.

Oh. My. Word.

Haunting. Intense. Bleak. Yelling. Dark. Austere. THE LOT. Complete wall of sound from start to finish. This was their second sold out London date, playing Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters in its entirety and it was bloody lovely. Almost forgot to take photos at some points because it was hard to look away! Just brilliant. I saw on twitter afterwards that the sound up the back wasn’t that great, but from where I was standing it was perfect.

Flash stayed in the bag (it would have completely drowned out the ambiance/highlighted the dry ice too much) and 24-70mm f2.8 was a permanent fixture. Had a great spot up the front and almost couldn’t get out of the gig because it was like sardines up the back. If I were a big fan of the band I would have rightly been in heaven after that gig.

Review on Shout 4 Music here, and pics of the evening below, enjoy!

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Traams/Crushed Beaks, The Lexington 30 April 2014

Well well well, Traams eh?  2014’s dark horses!  Gig and a half on Wednesday night, one that I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by (why? I have no idea…).

Their album “Grin” has been one of those very few albums this year that I’ll continue to revisit when I’m bored of whatever new treasures I’ve recently added to my iPod.  Always a great listen, but live they really put some magic into it.  More live bands like this please!  Energy in buckets and stage presence like no other (the bassist especially, just too bloody cool) .

The gig was wedged between two other gig nights for me (both of which I was photographing and reviewing – hectic) so I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did.  Glad we arrived early as Crushed Beaks were also fab, with yet another ridiculously cool bassist. I wasn’t really intending on taking many, if any photos, but I’m really glad I took my camera along.  It’s always the times when you least expect something awesome to happen…

As I was only taking photos for myself I just popped my 50mm f/1.8 on my camera as it’s light and easy to throw in my bag.  I should use it more often really as it’s a lifesaver in low light conditions, which The Lexington can be at times.  So, SO glad I bought the camera with me!

Pics below for your entertainment, enjoy!

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Life/The Heartbreaks/We Are Scientists, March 2014

Busy week last week with a couple of really decent gigs (amongst day job duties).  Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to be able to do this so often!  Going from small venues like The Garage upstairs, to next day shooting at O2 Shepherd’s Bush, and being able to photograph some of my favourite artists is just the best.

Wednesday night saw me popping along to shoot Life at The Garage upstairs for Shout 4 Music.  I stupidly left my phone at home on charge (well done Jen) but luckily managed to find The Garage as it was right on top of Highbury & Islington station.  Don’t get me wrong I’d been there before, but that doesn’t mean anything – all venues look the same in the dark!  Was really looking forward to seeing Life as I’d been a fan of theirs since they were The Neat a couple years ago and had seen them a few times in that guise.  So much energy and brilliant playing, it’s a shame this wasn’t their own headline gig!  Horrendous red lighting and the guys moving around a lot proved a challenge but managed to come away with some decent shots.  Keep your eyes on these guys, one of the better ‘new’ bands around at the moment.

Then Thursday night I was shooting The Heartbreaks at O2 Shepherd’s Bush for London in Stereo.  I LOVE The Heartbreaks.  Not sure if you are aware of that already (probably…).  Not just from a music point of view but they’re also just so easy to shoot – they look great, they pose (unintentionally) wickedly and they always look like they’re enjoying themselves.  Pity there weren’t more people at the O2 at that time of evening to see them.  Managed to say a quick hello to the boys in the stairwell after their set and luckily got to stay for the other two acts – Superfood and We Are Scientists.  Took some worthy shots of both bands, but Keith and Chris are just so charismatic that taking a bad photo of WAS was virtually impossible – apart from the constant jumping around resulting in blurry shots!  Stuck around for the required three songs and had a giggle at some of their banter.  Funny guys.

Met yet another photographer (Jeff Moh) who I recognised while I was at the gig, but only after I got chatting to him about leaving cameras in the back room and he told me his name.  Cool guy, LOTS of stories to tell as he’s been in the business for quite a while now.  Will no doubt bump into him again soon.  I used my 24-70mm 2.8 for all the O2 Shepherd’s Bush shots, and a combination of that and my 50mm 1.8 for the Life photos.  That 24-70mm 2.8 is just the cat’s PJs.  I am truly in love!  Wondering why I didn’t buy it sooner really.

Shots below, enjoy!

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Bombay Bicycle Club, O2 Brixton Academy 14 March 2014

Gotta love a gig that’s so close to your house you can leave home about 10 minutes before you have to be there!  First time shooting (properly) at Brixton Academy so had to go through all the awkward “do I go this way?” talk with security at the back of the venue.  Got told off for attempting to take a test shot of the support act because I wasn’t physically in the pit yet – no professional photos AT ALL at Brixton Academy unless you’re in the pit for the first three songs.  Yeesh!

Despite that, had a fantastic first three songs for Bombay Bicycle Club.  There were around 7 other togs in the pit, plus another four video guys and around four security so it was a tad difficult moving around without hip and shouldering someone.  Didn’t fall over though (bonus) and managed to take a few good shots, huzzah!  Security shooed us all out once the third song ended and sent us out the back (no going into the crowd after that to enjoy the rest of the gig – booooo).  Managed to meet and have a quick chat to Nathan Barnes, a fellow photographer who shoots for The 405 and who I follow on twitter.  He approached me and I was surprised that someone actually knew who I was!  Check out his work here.  No doubt we’ll be bumping into each other at a gig again soon.

As alluded to a few blogs ago, I have been saving up for a new lens and – drumroll please – it has finally arrived.  These shots were taken with my new Canon 24-70mm f2.8 Mk II.  Bit nervous about taking pics with a new lens at such a big gig (well, big for ME), but judging by the results it seemed to work out just fine.  I am completely in love with it, and get the feeling I’ll be taking it to almost every gig from now on.  My 17-55mm f2.8 will soon be gathering dust… Pics below and up on the Shout4Music website here.  Enjoy!

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