Lil B, The BasedGod. The enormously prolific hip hop artist who has built up a huge online following played a rare live show in Vancouver at FIVESIXTY.
I was there to capture the madness of it all. Full gallery below, just click a thumbnail to start.
Recently I got the chance to take some portraits of Vancouver indie-electro band Humans for the cover of BeatRoute Magazine.
This one’s not for the squeamish amongst you – pig hearts and fake blood make a bit of a mess. A small selection of the day’s shoot can be seen below.
J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph, a.k.a. Dinosaur Jr. came to town to play the whole of their album “Bug”.
First however, Henry Rollins interviewed them on stage. A few more shots can be seen in the gallery below.
OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) – the young, controversial hip hop crew from L.A. sold out the Vogue theatre rapidly, with black market tickets being sold on for 3 to 4 times face value.
Whatever you think of them, they know how to whip up a crowd into a frenzy and are most definitely fun to watch.
The Vogue were well prepared for the show by setting up a security barrier, which gave us photographers access to a pit for those all important first 3 songs.
The lighting wasn’t so bright though, so I was pushing my equipment to its limits to get what I needed as Tyler the Creator, his trademark vans and the rest of his crew bounced around the stage. Full gallery below.
Devo. I like to think of them as quiet legends – much more influential when it comes to modern music than I think most of us realise.
Despite most of the band members approaching retirement age, they put on an amazing show full of costume changes, daft choreography, little gimmicks and of course their trademark “energy dome” hats.
From a photographer’s perspective, the show was a mixed bag. Plus points – A lot of the lighting was bright and white and the video screen provided interesting backdrops for the action on stage. Minus points – No pit, but still the usual 3 song rule meant I had to (attempt to be) at my most charming to be able to muscle my way in to good positions during those first 3 songs. Full gallery below.
I was pretty excited to see that Beardyman was coming to town. The posters around Vancouver were advertising the “World’s best beatboxer” playing at the rather small (but perfectly formed) Fortune Sound Club. As always, the lights in there were a challenge, but with a show that entertaining, I wasn’t too concerned.
Photos of said beatboxer gurning like a champ below.
Tapes ‘n Tapes with support from The Chain Gang of 1974 – Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver – 22nd August 2011
Last month saw Minneapolis indie quartet Tapes ‘n Tapes come to town. They were minus one member though. Their keyboardist Matt Kretzman couldn’t make it due to a family emergency so they had to make do as a trio.
Still, it’s worth looking on the bright side – it gave their drummer (Jeremy Hanson) centre stage which of course meant that he’d be well lit, a rarity when it comes to drummers.
Guitarist/vocalist Josh Grier and bassist Erik Applewick made up what was – for one night – the rest of the power trio. Full gallery after the following shot.
The lesson I learned? Just because a venue has a good lighting system, it doesn’t mean that the lighting that night will be ideal for photography. Always turn up prepared for the worst.
Tonight’s support act Unknown Mortal Orchestra…
…left myself and my fellow photographers at the venue bemused by playing with no lighting at all. Just the band on a dark stage. It became apparent that I had to think on my feet in order to get anything without my speedlite in tow. The solution? Catch other people’s bursts of flash during long exposures…and a little panning and zooming to catch multiple bursts of flash.
I’m not sure how to describe what these guys play…at times I thought they sounded like the Stone Roses stuck in a 60s time warp. Whatever it was they sounded like, I thought it was pretty cool (and better live than on record).
Tonight’s headliners – Yuck – from the UK sound like a little piece of the 90s, mixing grunge and shoegaze influences.
Luckily for me, there was some light to work with, perfect for a set of black and white images which I think fits in nicely with the band’s sound.
A few more images of Yuck can be seen below.
Fucked Up with support from Real Problems and The Strugglers – Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver – 20th July 2011
A free show to see possibly the most interesting hardcore punk band in the world? This was definitely one not to be missed.
Fucked Up didn’t disappoint and lead singer Damian Abraham stole the show with his antics (he spent much of the show pretty much anywhere in the venue but the stage). Full gallery below, just click on any thumbnail to start:
Omar Souleyman puts on a simple show. Just him and his keyboard player. For supposedly Syria’s biggest star, he seems like a humble man, responding to crowd admiration individually and with gratitude.
Within a song or two of his set, the low stage was rushed by the crowd who proceeded to dance a traditional arabic “dabke” dance. Despite security’s apparent panic and a slight look of concern on Souleyman’s face, it was all very calm and well meaning, with the occasional fan stopping to pose for a picture with their hero.
The sea of people and the inconsistent lighting (which appeared to become dimmer and redder as the show went on) made this one of the more challenging shows I’ve ever shot. For the most part it was a show for the fast prime lens, but eventually I took the opportunity to try out some off camera lighting at a show for the first time.
Some fans enjoying a traditional style dance.
…and some less traditional. It was refreshing to see how music can bring different cultures together in one big party atmosphere.
Support act for the evening were local band Basketball…I’ll just direct you to their myspace here and recommend that you go check them out. A fascinating and exciting live band.
This was a night of firsts for me.
Since having moved to Vancouver about a month ago (I’m planning to be here for a year), I was yet to shoot a gig. I decided at the last last minute to head to the Biltmore Cabaret for the first time to check out Guitar Wolf – a self styled “Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll” band that I’d been vaguely aware of for years, but had never had the chance to see.
Now I’ve been to a lot of gigs in my time, but nothing had quite prepared me for experiencing Guitar Wolf. Even before they’d taken to the stage, the crowd was struggling to stay on its feet, with the front row using the stage as a support whilst everyone bopped along to the Ramones.
Although the constantly changing colours were a challenge and the bands’ drummers were almost totally in the dark, I was pleasantly surprised at the power of the lighting – especially considering the size of the venue.
The biggest challenge of all however was staying on my feet. At times I found myself pretty much on stage along with other photographers and members of the crowd as a way to stay in one piece. Occasionally I had to stop to give everything a wipe down, I’m pretty sure that beer, sweat and saliva aren’t ideal for a camera’s inner workings.
To try to put into words what the show was like is beyond me, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking and maybe try to explain what’s going on in captions. All I will say is that to see Guitar Wolf is to be reminded what rock and roll should be all about – the power, the energy, the love of music and, of course, the sheer insanity.
Full, epic gallery of shots below, just click on any thumbnail to start scrolling through.
Having become used to London’s gig crowds who rarely care much for the support acts, I totally misjudged the reaction that the first band on would receive. As a result, I found myself struggling to make my way to the front to shoot Timecopz.
Seems they’re pretty popular on the Vancouver punk scene and I could see why – fast, loud, bouncy, thrashy, fun. I overheard someone say they sound a lot tougher than they look, I’m not sure if that was a criticism or not – decide for yourself. See below for full gallery.
Cheap Time – being from out of town – received a more muted response from the crowd, but still went down pretty well.
Their punk influenced sound was a perfect warm up for the crazed show that was to follow. Gallery below.
I’ve been to the Purple Turtle a couple of times before and knew it could go either way in terms of lighting. All considered, the lighting for Acid King wasn’t too bad, although still not bright enough to get away with using the zoom, so it had to be the 50mm prime all the way.
…but that’s not all…
The Path is Clear were fun to watch, the guitarist’s gurn and stance reminding me of an old friend of mine
…Carlton Melton…LOUD, experimental, crowd interactive, partly grey haired…hugely talented and doing whatever the hell they like. A few shots from the zoom here, but the results were too hit and miss given the lighting.
Kyuss. 90s cult legends. Fathers of a whole genre of heavy music. Well, now they’re back (sort of…they’re minus Josh Homme, hence the name “Kyuss Lives”…but his stand in Bruno Fevery is more than up to the task).
I had the opportunity to shoot at the Bristol date of their recent UK tour. This was not a band simply going through the motions, looking forward to the pay cheque at the end, but seeming to genuinely enjoy themselves playing the music that their fans (and they themselves) love.
The whole of the stage was awash with red lighting, only from behind the musicians were there any other colours of light. Anyone who’s tried shooting a concert in such conditions knows full well that a DSLR has a tendency to overexpose reds, leaving behind little to no detail. The key here (as ever when dealing with red lights) was to underexpose the shot – sometimes by as much as a whole stop – then work on the RAW file in post processing.
Where there are other colours creeping into the shot, some colour correction can do wonders for a photograph that otherwise appears completely red. Otherwise, it’s fortunate that red lighting converts particularly well into black and white.
The gallery below contains more shots, just click on any one to get started.
Also playing were Burden, with their rather effective trade show style banner:
…and Blood Cargo
I’ve been to a few BUG shows now at the BFI. If you’re not aware of them, they follow a fairly simple format:
1. Adam Buxton (of Adam and Joe) introduces some new and interesting music videos on a cinema screen.
2. He uses Photoshop to reveal some of the best Youtube comments he’s found relating to the videos.
3. He awkwardly interviews a special guest, usually a music video director.
Doesn’t sound that great does it? You’ll have to trust me – it’s both hilarious and a brilliant chance to see some amazing visual work on a big screen that would otherwise probably only be seen on Youtube.
Last Friday’s show was a Röyksopp special, focussing on their music and the videos inspired by it – including some of the winners of their recent competition to find videos for their latest album, Senior – followed by a DJ set in the BFI’s bar by the band themselves.
Although they were practically stood in the dark, I didn’t want to dazzle them with flash, so I thought I’d snap a few grainy shots of Svein and Torbjørn behind the decks with my compact digital.
The Underworld is one of my favourite venues, and the desertscene.co.uk boys always put together a strong line up (in my opinion anyway). So although I hadn’t previously heard of Colour Haze (turns out they’re somewhat legendary…oops), I was keen to go along and see what they’ve got to my eyes and ears.
First band on were Sungrazer, a Dutch 3 piece with what I’d call a slow, psychedelic brand of Stoner Rock. They were on early and the crowd was yet to gather, but a strong set accompanied by a trippy slideshow of visuals set the scene for the night.
Next up were German instrumentalists RotoR. They reminded me of a band called Removal (who probably aren’t very well known outside of Vancouver – if you don’t know them, look them up), albeit a slower, more methodical version. Similar to listening to an ADHD afflicted stereo that chopped up anything that came through into staccato riffing, RotoR were much better than I could possibly describe. One guy down the front had obviously had some kind of spiritual awakening during the set and was doing all he could to touch the guitarist and/or shake his hand. Perhaps he’d found love…maybe he was just drunk, but he was certainly having a great time. The band’s technical prowess and fascinating song structures made light work of the difficult task of being an instrumental band.
I know I’ve already used the word psychedelic, but Colour Haze are the true definition of the word. Words almost fail me when trying to describe the band. Long, long songs – the kind where you very easily forget what came mere minutes before as the song has taken so many twists and turns on its journey.
The trippy slideshow was turned up an extra notch and the band quietly went about their set, churning out epic song after epic song to an adoring crowd in this underground sweat box. Lyrics were few and far between, but the passion, the power and the talent on show was sublime. Go see this band.
Later on was the Aftershow, erm, show, at Camden Rock with Steak (formerly known as The Ebbs) and Widows.
Steak had a short, but sweet set. Churning out pleasing stoner rock of the Kyuss / Lowrider ilk, the band continue to impress me.
Widows came on looking like a younger, British version of Clutch (the lead singer’s t-shirt helped a bit I suppose) and promptly started playing like a younger, British version of Clutch (in their early days). However, they played with a level of aggression and technicality that sets them apart from many bands and I’m happy to admit that the Clutch comparison is a lazy one.
They grooved (heavily) and the rather mixed crowd made up of a combination of the more mainstream night that preceded at the venue and those who came across from the Underworld were wrapped up in it. Maybe they made a few people “discover” heavy music that night? Perhaps not, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on their progress and look forward to hearing much more from them.
Photography wise I thought I knew what to expect from the Underworld, having shot there before. I’d decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to try out my new fast zoom, but I quickly regretted having left my fast 50mm at home. There were shots that I just couldn’t get without those extra few stops of light and using the flash would more than likely wash out all the atmosphere created by the lighting and the trippy backdrop, so I had to make do. It was frustrating to say the least…oh well, live and learn eh?
Camden Rock is another beast altogether, other than some red light, it’s pretty much pitch black, so I had no choice but to use the speedlite I’d brought along.
As the venue is essentially a bar, there’s very little separation between band and crowd and this allowed me to get right amongst the action and get some great shots of the crowd having fun.
You might notice a few shots taken with a camera not normally associated with gig photography, I took along my Lomo L-CA with a little flash unit to capture a few extra details in a different way. I think I might do this more often.
The Unicorn was pretty quiet when we arrived; it looked like a typical, struggling local pub on a Friday night. The kind of place where the staff are attentive and friendly, but it’s not because they’ve been trained in customer service, nor is it that they’re just friendly; it’s because yours is the first new face they’ve seen in hours, maybe days.
Opening band Stubb are a three piece stoner-blues band with an obvious liking for Jimi Hendrix. This is no bad thing.
The highlight of their set came right at the end when their bassist unveiled an impressive set of lungs. Give him more time at the mic and Stubb should move up to headlining slots before too long.
Another band not shying away from showing their influences was The Ebbs, if I were to be harsh I’d say it’s enough to know that they closed their set with a relatively obscure Kyuss song (Fatso Forgetso Phase II). What that doesn’t tell you is that the 4 piece put in a confident, heavy, melodic set which was performed with energy. Solid stoner rock with great potential.
During the support acts The Unicorn had slowly been getting busier; by the time the apostrophe-phobic Gentlemans Pistols took to the stage, the back room was a tight squeeze (Time for me to retract my earlier observation, it seems the staff at the Unicorn were just friendly…appearances, as they say, can be deceiving).
Sounding a bit like The Black Keys might if they developed a prozac habit and an obsession for heavy music from the 70s, Gentlemans Pistols were a joyous ball of heavy, hairy, bluesy, rock and roll.
Working through material from their self-titled album and newer songs, they played with verve as the temperature steadily rose in the venue. Somehow managing to sound tight yet loose; this was pure entertainment, both visually and aurally.
The crowd were so drawn in by Gentlemans Pistols that someone even yelled those famous words “I love you Jesus”. I’ll gloss over frontman James Atkinson’s long beard and healthy head of hair and put it down to a spiritual epiphany. It really was that good a show.
I arrived at the Underworld in good spirits having spent the day with owls, sheep, reggae and (very) cheap and (very) strong cider at the Lambeth Country Show. As a result I was hoping that Brant Bjork and the latest incarnation of his backing band could top off a great day by putting on a good show.
Tonight’s main support act, Magna Saga on first inspection have a sound heavily reminiscent of Tool, but they the ability to flip a song on its head, head into territory more associated with Biffy Clyro, before suddenly becoming a stoner rock riff machine. Magna Saga look like being ones to watch within the “desert rock” scene and – given the right conditions – beyond.
The former drummer turned multi-instrumentalist, Brant Bjork, has a rabid, if small following; the packed crowd was a sea of Fu Manchu and Kyuss (or more specifically, Garcia Plays Kyuss) T-shirts – two of his former bands – so it’s immediately clear where most of his following has been plucked from.
Bjork’s music channels Hendrix, Jazz and 70s rock to create a laid back groove and – having seen a few of his shows before – I was expecting that laid back feel to dominate the show. Turns out I was wrong. It quickly became clear that he and the crowd were there to rock.
This year’s album “Gods and Goddesses” – Bjork’s 9th with his name in the spotlight – brought a fuller and more spacey sound to his songs. It felt like a big step forward, bringing something new to his loyal fans when it seemed his sound was in danger of becoming stagnant. The new band seems to have understood this and – with a big injection of their own energy – they’ve helped to turn the Brant Bjork gig into a party. You could see this in the crowd’s overwhelmingly positive response throughout each and every song old and new as it turned into a heaving ball of smiling faces.
My only real criticism of the night would be the short set. The Underworld on a weekend doubles up as a club so an early finish is enforced, cutting around 30 minutes from the band’s usual show.
I left wondering why Brant Bjork isn’t playing much bigger venues and gaining wider exposure. Bumping into him at the aftershow club night at Camden Rock, I asked the question. He gave a mischievous smile and shrugged.
Who cares as long as we’re enjoying it?
Kyuss are rightly regarded as pioneers of the “stoner rock” genre (or “Desert Rock” if you prefer). Originating in the Californian desert, they blended metal, psychedelia and masses of low-end frequencies, wrapping it up with a DIY punk attitude. Sadly for those who were late to the party – such as myself – they split up in 1995, with the members moving on to other musical projects. Since then, guitarist Josh Homme has been the most commercially successful thanks to Queens of the Stone Age (and other projects).
Tonight’s show was the first leg of the Garcia Plays Kyuss European tour. With no reunion forthcoming, Kyuss lead singer John Garcia decided to bring back the live sound of Kyuss by assembling an experienced band of musicians from the Low Countries. With no announcement of a UK date at the time, upon hearing of the tour I quickly booked my travel to Dublin (note that a London show has now been added for 6th July at the Electric Ballroom in Camden).
Even the less observant will have figured out by now that I’m a huge Kyuss fan, but my friend who had joined me for the trip was only really aware of them in passing. As a result, I was hoping that he could bring me back down to earth should my judgment be clouded with fan-boy optimism.
Support act Howlin’ Widow were given the unenviable task of warming up the crowd and managed to do so in style. The 5-piece from Belfast delivered a short, lively set of fast paced grooves topped off with the raspy howl of lead singer Tom Clarke. With elements of 70s hard rock and strong nods towards Down evident in their sound, the audience lapped up every minute of it. Whilst the songs haven’t made a lasting impression on me, I found Howlin’ Widow to be the perfect appetiser for the main event.
A cynical onlooker might suggest that this tour is nothing but a money making scheme. Even the name of the tour – Garcia Plays Kyuss – sounds like it could be an album by a pop star past their best, trying to squeeze some extra cash out of loyal fans by releasing an album of cover versions. I arrived with this thought in the back of my mind. What if his heart isn’t in it? Could this ruin Kyuss for me?
The band walked on stage without Garcia and opened with the instrumental Molten Universe…it sounded like Kyuss, just like Kyuss. Granted, it didn’t really look much like Kyuss, but (if you squinted enough) bassist Jacques de Haard could possibly pass for an older version of Josh Homme.
At that point you could sense that a weight had been lifted from the fans’ shoulders, that the musicians were going to do the songs justice. Before long Garcia appeared on stage to launch into Thumb, the opening track from Blues for the Red Sun. By now the fervent pack of Kyuss fans were going wild and the temperature in the small venue started to soar rapidly.
No one, least of all myself, was concerned that it wasn’t really Kyuss in front of us, especially as the band nailed every song whilst clearly having a great time on stage. Also, even though Garcia has never been the most energetic of front men, you could see he was putting heart into the performance, his trademark throaty delivery coming through strong and clear. The set concentrated largely on Kyuss’ final 3 of their 4 albums and even when Garcia introduced songs from two of his post-Kyuss bands – Slo-Burn and Unida – the throng of fans sang along with every word. With no security barriers, Garcia and the rest of the band were able to fist-bump and shake the hands of the crowd throughout the set. Garcia looked at ease and happy to be performing these songs again for new (and perhaps old) fans.
There were some notable absences from the set list, such as Demon Cleaner, but the audience seemed so wrapped up in the occasion that few seemed to notice until they’d left the venue.
I left the venue hoarse, dripping with sweat and with a massive grin on my face. I turned to my friend for a reality check. During the set he’d decamped to the back of the venue to try to cool down and soak up the music. I’ll take this opportunity to paraphrase his review of the gig:
“The band were tight, the songs were good. I really liked the one that’s probably called ‘belly of the beast’ [Odyssey]…anyway…you know it’s a good gig when sweat drips on you from the ceiling”.
Quotes associated with Josh Homme suggest that he’s not only unwilling to have a Kyuss reunion, but believes it to be a terrible idea. I have a feeling that the people at Andrews Lane Theatre tonight would disagree.