Allan reviewed the Track Dogs album “Kansas City Out Groove” in the summer of this year and he was impressed. The album’s a glorious mixture of musical styles and influences stitched together in the way that only the most accomplished of musicians can do convincingly. One of our great regrets is that we couldn’t get someone out to a live performance on their UK tour. We’ll definitely be there next time. We were more than pleased when they agreed to share some of their UK tour discoveries with us and, obviously, with you. Here we go:

 

The Dark Horse – 7a Kingsmead Square, Bath

Howard and Garrett discovered this place after our recent Chapel Arts gig and it was the perfect wind-down; fantastic selection of rums and cheese board to boot, low lighting and comfy, what more could you ask for?

 

 

Scones and Clotted Cream aboard the Edith May Barge in Lower Halstow, Kent

Apart from loving to play concerts below decks on this 100-year-old Thames sailing barge, they do the best scones with cream. The barge was even featured in the Wonder Woman movie and is truly a step back in time. Well worth the visit.

 

The Floating Coffee company – breakfast barge in Birmingham just off Brindley Place

A full English is on every touring band’s priority list and this place was one of the best we’ve found. We even ended up selling some merch to the people sitting next to us who happened to be from Kansas City. As you can see, we love all things barges! 

Parmo (Teeside Parmesan), Smith’s Arms, Carlton                                                                                                              

It’s a chicken-fried steak (breaded fillet) with bechamel thing that is cheap but enormous and filling, and typical to Yorkshire. It’ll cure what ails you, for a few days. If you’re in North Yorkshire, just ask. It seems everyone has their own take on it, but they all seem to agree; there’s never any Parmesan cheese involved.  

10:50 FROM VICTORIA Micropub, Strood

Built in a bridge arch under the very tracks of the 10:50 train from Victoria. Ciders and Cask Ales including their own “Ten Fifty” house brew. Great patio! It’s a laid-back urban oasis. It feels like you’re in your neighbours back yard – no TVs or fruit machines. Not intrigued enough? Ask about the folks chillin’ a few arches over.

We’re really pleased that Lynne Hanson made this contribution to this year’s High Fives. She came to our attention with the gorgeous album “Heartbreak Song for the Radio” which she made with Lynn Miles; we loved it at Riot Towers. Not surprisingly, Lynn and Lynne also turned out to be lovely people and it was love at first sight (and hearing) for the Riot Squad. Have a listen to the album and to anything by Lynn and Lynne individually and make sure you look out for any live dates near you. We’re looking forward to welcoming her back to the UK in 2019.

 

CANADIAN FOLK MUSIC AWARDS

I released an album this year with my longtime friend and songwriting mentor Lynn Miles. Our band name is “The LYNNeS” and our album “Heartbreak Song for the Radio” was nominated for 5 Canadian Folk Music Awards.  It was a huge honour to hear our name called out for English Songwriter and Ensemble of the Year and definitely the biggest highlight of 2018 for me.  

 

MOUNTAINS

Nothing will make you feel smaller than standing at the base of a mountain in the middle of the Canadian Rockies and looking up before spending a hours scrambling up the side of it.   I recorded an impromptu demo of a song I had JUST written at the base of a mountain, sitting next to a glacier lake, while the sun came up and the birds sang.  I’m not sure any single moment can compare to the beauty of that one in all of 2018.

 

GIANT PANDAS

I am such a fan of the Giant Pandas, and finally got to visit them in person at the Calgary Zoo this summer while on tour in Alberta, Canada.   Highly recommend Toronto Zoo giant panda cub fall compilation for any and all who may be having a bad day.  Guaranteed to lift your spirits: 

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLQiAqc1MI8

 

SWEET SWEETS

I love touring England … and managed to fit in not one but TWO tours this year.  I have to admit the weather was a bit friendlier the second time around, with the first go-round taking place while England was under seige from The Beast From The East.  White-out conditions that definitely made me think I was back in Canada.  But I digress.  I admit I have a bit of a sweet tooth so have been known to partake in a round of sticky toffee pudding or two.  However, I have NEVER encountered anything quite as spectacular as the sticky toffee pudding at the Bull’s Head in Alton.  Seriously it was so good it should probably be illegal.   

 

FRANCE

I got to play some shows in France for the very first time. This was a serious highlight for me, as I grew up in Ottawa, Canada and speak French. I am a lover of languages so getting to sing a song in my second language was a wee bit of a thrill, albeit nerve wracking as well! One of the real perks of being a touring musician is getting to see so much of the world while travelling around playing my songs and having a chance to see the engineering feat that is the Chunnel was also a serious highlight. Humans can be pretty ingenious and getting to ride on THAT train was pretty cool.

 

I first met Ray Jones about three years ago at a Time Out gig Mollie Marriott was playing. Two years later, Ray was fronting up a company (Talentbanq) promoting live performances by unsigned artists. It must have been quite a journey to make this happen; the reason it worked is that Ray and his fellow directors are absolutely passionate about music, live music particularly and that’s the reason the company’s working so well. Ray’s nominated a combination of favourite venues and events for his High Fives and given us carte blanche to add some narrative and photos. Let’s hope this works.

 

229 Great Portland Street 24/01/18

This venue hosts some really interesting events, including low-key warm-up gigs for artists preparing for arena tours. On the night of the Talentbanq launch, the action started in the small room before moving to the main auditorium (which was packed to the rafters) for the big stage action. Quite a launch event for a new company. The photo is Rebecca from Anavae.

26 Leake Street 10/05/18

Another first. The inaugural live music event at 26 Leake Street in the arches under Waterloo Station. You got the initial feeling from the audience that it was more about the occasion than the music, but that attitude evaporated as soon as Belle Roscoe (with the full band line-up) took the stage. And then on to Lisa Canny, again playing a full band set featuring the show-stopping laser harp. The photo is Lisa Canny.

Caffe Nero Brighton, The Chill Out Sessions 17-18/05/18

Let’s take a small Caffe Nero branch just off Brighton seafront and have a mini-festival there just as The Great Escape is kicking off. And, over two days, let’s have three artists playing every hour between ten in the morning and six in the evening. It sounds crazy and it probably was, but it worked, it ran to time and featured thirty-six artists (pretty much the entire Talentbanq roster at that time). The opening day was everything you could wish for at the coast – gorgeous sunshine and loads of delighted Caffe Nero customers listening to superb performers for free. The photo is Clint Nelson playing cajon while backing Mark Sullivan.

The Jazz Café, Camden – Hollie Rogers, Joe Slater, Dan Owen 29/05/18

A more traditional venue that has benefitted hugely from a refit that pretty much rectified all of the original layout problems. This was a cracking triple bill featuring two of the Talentbanq powerhouses, Hollie Rogers and Joe Slater with blues prodigy Dan Owen topping the bill. Joe and Hollie were both enthusiastically received by a knowledgeable and respectful audience before Dan Owen took centre stage and blew the roof off. The photo is Joe Slater.

L’Escargot – The Soho Music Festival 16/06/18

Another interesting and iconic venue and even more interesting concept; three sessions (morning, afternoon and evening) in three rooms, with audiences moving from room to room while the performers play three sets in the same place. The event was hugely eclectic, I honestly can’t recall a gig where I’ve seen a crooner, a classical pianist and a rapping Celtic harpist (that’s Gary Williams, Genia and the inimitable Lisa Canny) and will be back in 2019. I suspect it will be bigger. The photo is Gary Williams.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to be involved with all of these Talentbanq gigs and to work with a team who really look after the gig photographers. We all appreciate it – Allan.

We made a special effort this year to make the High Fives more visual and to invite more gig photographers to make a contribution. The first to respond was Michael Butterworth who Allan has met at many a gig this year. Michael’s a great live music photographer but, unlike most of those people who are in the pit at gigs or who use their elbows and shoulders to get to the front of the stage, he’s a really good bloke. Here’s what he has to say about his favourite things this year.

 

Wow, what a year. I’ve met a lot of new people this year and covered more gigs than ever.

1 – Ferris & Sylvester @ Battersea Arts Centre

 

I was asked to photograph this gig by a friend. As I often do, I checked them out on the internet to get a feel for them and boy, was I a lucky snapper.

They are an up and coming London duo, who are great songwriters – With clear references in their catchy setup to the mid-60s sounds of Greenwich Village combined with their meatier blues tones, Ferris & Sylvester sit somewhere between Jack White and First Aid Kit (great band). Their clever combination of blues, folk and rock ‘n’ roll has created a distinctive genre of their own.

As I usually follow where the music takes me, The Battersea Arts Centre was new to me. It’s a lovely old building (in the mists of fundraising for refurbishment) the gig was in the wood-panelled Great Hall, with the stage sticking out into the room, just in front of the three French windows.

I also bumped into my friend Paul (Pablo) Ettinger, in the interval and he told me about his new business venture Talentbanq (see below).

2 – Lots Holloway and Lisa Canny @ Soho Music Festival

 

Aligned with the Mayor’s #SoundsLikeLondon event taking place throughout June and as part of Music Venue Trust’s #FightbackLondon campaign to support independent venues, TALENTBANQ announces The Soho Music Festival . A one-day celebration of independent music and musicians to be held at one of Soho’s most famous addresses. A festival that is designed to grow over the next three years to bring back music to basements, small rooms and rooftops in the bohemian district flanked by Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.

TALENTBANQ programmed 12 hours of live music to take place in The Salon Noir, Salon Vert and The Library at L’Escargot on Greek Street. Heralded as one of the capital’s finest French restaurants, its upstairs rooms whisper the stories of times gone-by and provide exquisitely intimate spaces to discover new music.

From 11am to 11pm L’Escargot hosted no less than 10 red-hot, breaking acts – each chosen for their ability to deliver exceptional live performance. Uniquely the day was divided into three sessions, where the audience moves from room to room.

The artistic line up ranged from Classical Crossover Piano, through Tango, to UK County, Swing, Rock and possibly the wildest Celtic harp ever to grace a stage. All this plus of course an after-party because in Soho; when the music stops, the music starts!

Among the many talented musicians, two stood out for me, Lots Holloway a multi-instrumentalist Lots Holloway writes and produces catchy indie-pop tunes. Her talent for song writing shines through in clever lyrics, strong melodies and memorable songs that manage to stay with you long after you first hear them.

The second was a real firecracker – Lisa Canny. She’s a charming red headed Irish singer song writer whose main instrument is a harp, however when she gets going it isn’t a gentle classical music recital you get – she attacks it, on occasions, like a heavy rock lead and bass guitar.

3 – Dan Owens @ London Jazz Café

 

At one of London’s most iconic live music venues. The Jazz Café features live music with a restaurant around the balcony.

What a night of music, opening the evening was the charming Joe Slater, who delivered a smooth, saturating blend of rock, blues and soul that is beyond his years.

Drawing inspiration from The Beatles, The Boss and Oasis, Joe’s songwriting and unique vocals take listeners on a journey comprised of energetic sing-alongs and anthemic ballads, full of interior and reflective moments, that only the greats could inspire.

The filling of this amazing musical sandwich, was given to us by wonderful Hollie Rogers who often plays with a full backing band or as a duo with double bass (as she did that nigh), and performing with notable candour and honesty and with endorsements like these:

“Reminiscent of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, amazing voice” – Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)

“A magnificent and powerful voice” – Suzanne Vega

Do I have to say more?

Finally Dan Owen, what a tour de force. Dubbed as an old blues man, he has been singing publicly since he was 13 (nearly half his life). Dan performs with the raw power of that deep, rich, resonant voice, he has gone from performing for politicians at Westminster to partying in Nashville with Willie Nelson. This young man from Shropshire, with the big blues voice has a wealth of stories to share.

He performed many of his own song and closed the evening with a rendition of ‘Little Red Rooster’ a classic blues song, perfectly demonstrating his power and energy.

 

4 – LAIKIPIA @ Century Club

 

In lovely venue, just off Shaftsbury Avenue, this was the first musical journey at the Century Club with Paradise London Live and Success Express Music.

A fabulous evening of new and emerging music culminating in a passionate and energetic performance by LAIKIPIA (named after an area of Kenya).

As is their intent, they are best described in their own words:

Through the original worlds that their music explores, LAIKIPIA has developed a distinct sound, combining a unique blend of harmony driven storytelling, hypnotizing dance floor beats, and melody rich instrumentals.

LAIKIPIA is creating new music true to themselves; strangely alien, yet comfortably familiar, their music welcomes all ears, completely disregarding the walls between genres.

So you see, quite a unique and amazing duo.

5 – Afterhere @ 229 The Venue

 

I’ve shot several things this at this venue, including the official launch of TALENTBANQ, single and album launches – however the one I’ve picked was this one.

As a huge Heaven 17 fan, I was delighted and privileged to whiteness Afterhere’s debut live performance. This is a brand new project of HEAVEN 17 front man Glenn Gregory and Berenice Scott.

While Glenn Gregory along with band mates Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh scored a number of hits including ‘Temptation’, ‘Come Live With Me’, ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ and ‘This Is Mine’ as Heaven 17, Berenice Scott joined their live set-up in 2011 while releasing her most recent solo album ‘Polarity’ in 2014.

As well as Heaven 17, the pair have also been part of Holy Holy, the supergroup led by Spiders drummer Woody Woodmansey and producer Tony Visconti who perform the songs of David Bowie from the period between 1969 to 1973 at concerts around the world.

As Afterhere, Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory got their first commission for the soundtrack of the ITV drama ‘Liar’. With their debut album ‘Addict’ released this year, music from it featured in another ITV drama ‘Vanity Fair’ broadcast in September 2018.

So, although the two of them have played together for the last seven years, this was their first live outing as a band and with Glenn playing keyboards live, as he said “I’m a bit nervous, as although I play the keyboards in the studio for Heaven 17, I usually just sing when we perform live”. The other key difference was Berenice sings most of the vocal parts. Two of the stand out songs for me were the title track and single form the album ‘Addict’ and the powerful ‘Blackout’. As always, the evening went too quickly, but there was an extra special surprise for the final song. Their version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’, a Bob Dylan classic, was introduced by James Strong the Director and Producer of ‘Vanity Fair’ – whose idea it was to adapt the song for the series.

With such a great year, musically, I found it hard to pick out just five amazing gigs.

 

2018 was a bit of a year, really. There was a strong showing in the first few months of the year and it felt like the early albums would be difficult to beat. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or the fact that, for one reason or another, I wasn’t able to review too many albums in the latter part of the year but the early albums were very difficult to beat. I’m only featuring albums that I reviewed here, so great pieces of work like the magnificent Stone Foundation album “Everybody, Anyone” doesn’t get a mention. Oops, it just did. Anyway, as always in no particular order, here are my five favourite albums of the year.

“Southern Wind” – Dean Owens & Will Kimbrough

I’ve been a fan of Dean Owens since my introduction to “New York Hummingbird” six years ago. Dean’s a consistently great performer whose songs cleverly combine universal themes like love and loss with a particularly Scottish outlook. Over the last few years he’s been increasingly involved in collaborations (with Amy Geddes as Redwood Mountain and the upcoming Buffalo Blood album with Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt) and “Southern Wind” was a joint project with the superb and in-demand guitarist Will Kimbrough. The album is a classic; there’s no filler and lots of killer and you can clearly hear the influence of the wonderful Ronnie Lane, particularly in “Last Song”. I wasn’t going to single any particular song out, so how come that just happened. It’s a meeting in the mid-Atlantic between Leith and Nashville and it’s a Thing of Beauty.

Here’s the original review.

“Psychopastoral” – Phil Burdett

Coincidentally, I first met Phil Burdett on the same night I met Dean for the first time (this stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know) and they’ve both had very different journeys since then. If I had to pick one word for Phil’s attitude to his music, it’s uncompromising, and I mean that in a very, very good way. His back catalogue is all worth checking out, but his latest project “Psychopastoral” is something else. It’s a song cycle which tells the story of the journey home spread out over 24 hours. Sounds simple? This Phil Burdett. The songs are linked by spoken-word interludes and (courtesy of Lyndon ‘Songdog’ Morgan) and musical fragments created mainly by Senor ‘Al’ Franklinos. I know, it sounds like it could be a bit pretentious, as I said, this is Phil Burdett; it works perfectly. And Phil’s gone one step further than Pink Floyd by making the whole project one massive track nearly an hour long to force listeners to hear the project the way it was intended to be heard. Didn’t think I’d ever write a sentence with Phil Burdett and Pink Floyd in it.

Here’s the original review.

“Out from Under” – Michael McDermott

We can link this back to Dean Owens as well, because Will Kimbrough plays on this, as he does on a lot of Michael’s recent material. Told you he was in demand. The title song is big in an E Street Band style and, let’s face it, Michael will always get those Springsteen/Dylan comparisons and for all the right reasons. He’s a superb songwriter who understands the American songbook and its highways and byways and isn’t afraid to take a trip down any one of them. The album shifts seamlessly from the pathos of “This World Will Break Your Heart” to the joyful Motown exuberance of “Rubber Band Ring”. I said back in May that I hadn’t heard a better album this year and I stand by that now.

Here’s the original review.

“Anger Management” – Gerry Spehar

I loved Gerry Spehar’s previous album “I hold Gravity”. He’s a natural songwriter with a gift for a telling image. So just combine that gift with an exploration of the state of modern America following the election of Kurious Oranj. It’s political in less direct ways as well; “Bitch Heaven” digs into the story of Woody Guthrie’s campaign against Trump Senior and the Beach Haven property, while “Son of an Immigrant” double-underlines the blindingly obvious truth that the vast majority of Americans are immigrants if you go back far enough, including the current occupant of the White House. It’s an angry album, but Gerry is managing the anger by diverting it into creative channels. This is an important album and we should all listen to it.

Here’s the original review.

“Out Past the Wires” – Rod Picott

OK, quantity isn’t everything, but Rod Picott defied the current trend for shorter albums and EPs by releasing a double album (twenty-two songs in total). If you have the material and it’s good enough, get it out there. It’s good enough, it’s more than good enough. Will Kimbrough plays on it and also Neilson Hubbard (notice a theme here) but it’s not just about the playing arrangements, it’s also about the stories and that’s what Rod Picott is really good at. In fact, the stories are so important that Rod’s also publishing a book following the lives of some of the characters appearing in the songs and that should really be worth reading.

Here’s the original review.

 

Let’s be honest about this, I’m just using this to buy time until a few more guest contributions start to come in and I’m seriously hoping that’s going to happen some time soon. What we have in this selection is some shots that managed to be left out of the original selections for various reasons that I’ll explain as we go along. Anyway, I like them and they’re pretty much all we’ve got for today, so let’s just run with it, shall we?

 

Basia (Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band) @The Vaults, Leake Street

The only reason this one didn’t make the cut for the original monochrome set is that it was only shot on Saturday December 10th.I don’t know what it would have displaced, but it would have been there. I’m a huge fan of this band; musically they’re superb, they’re great fun and there’s always something very visual going on. There aren’t many bands with five visually striking characters, but these guys are always great to photograph and they always throw some interesting shapes. The biggest problem is knowing where to look; there’s always so much going on. This is Barbara, or Basia, whichever you prefer.

Sound of the Sirens and Samantics at The Slaughtered Lamb

Did I ever mention that I love Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood, or Sound of the Sirens, as they’re better known? Yep, thought so. The Holy Grail of Sirens photography is to get a shot with Hannah and Abba facing you, but without microphones in front of their mouths. Sounds easy, yeah? I beg to differ. Myself and fellow gig photographer Richard Bolwell have been trying for years without success. I’m still not sure that this qualifies, because it’s between songs during the encore, but it captures the spirit of a great night and the dynamic between the three people on stage.

Red Berryn (Dominic Cooper) at Leek Blues & Americana Festival

I decided to escape from London for a few days to head Up North to Leek in Staffordshire, where I worked for a while in an earlier incarnation. I was heading for a Graham Parker gig in Holmfirth on a Sunday, but it coincided with the festival. In for a penny then. The format of the Festival is lots of pubs putting on gigs of various sizes over three days and you never quite know what you’re going to get. What we got early doors on Friday was Red Berryn who did Chuck Berry. So, all the usual duck walk shots, but then I got that brief moment of complicity between performer and photographer that just worked.

Julian Eccleston (Houndstooth)

The band formerly known as Coffeepot Drive; are you still with me? OK. Whichever name they go by, this band is hot, hot, hot. I took Mrs M along to see them and told her that if she didn’t love them, I would sell all my guitars. Well, the Les Paul and its poor relations are still with me and Houndstooth are still the funkiest rock (or rockiest funk) band I know. And they are lovely people. One of the many times I saw them play this year was in the Caffe Nero tent at Cornbury Festival. The lighting was, well, daylight filtered through canvas basically, so the challenge was to find some visual interest. Julian saved the day by wearing mirrored shades that nicely reflected the framework of the tent. I owe you one Julian.

Kathryn Williams (supporting Stone Foundation at Islington Assembly Hall)

Time to ‘fess up. When I picked the original High Five black and whites, I completely forgot about this one, which is pretty dim given that Kathryn really liked it. As always at The Assembly Hall, the lighting was variable but OK if you picked your moments. If you’ve seen more than half a dozen of my photos you probably realise that I tend to get in quite close and crop quite tight. This one needed the space isolating Kathryn and emphasising the apparently pensive mood of her stance. I was really happy with this one, even on a night when I shot Paul Weller and Graham Parker, as well as Stone Foundation.

 

So, Allan’s shown us his favourite black and whites from 2018 already, it’s time for the colour shots now. You might recognise some of these, you might not. The Riot Squad like them. We’ll let Allan tell you about them:

Joe Slater @The Jazz Café

A bit of a strange gig this one, because it was the first major gig after a bit of a health wobble. However you look at it, it was great to be in the same room as Joe Slater, Hollie Rogers and Dan Owen. It was a really warm evening in a venue where the aircon struggles at the best of times and Joe’s fashion statement was to wear a hoodie. I’d just picked up the camera with the wide-angle lens when this happened:

DJ Lusinda @Party in the Park New Cross and Deptford

I saw this festival on Facebook and it was just around the corner from the day job. I got in touch, volunteered my services and I was in. What a great move that was. The sun shone for the entire day and the atmosphere among the festival-goers, volunteers and performers was absolutely superb. During the early afternoon, DJ Lusinda worked with Holly Flo Lightly and Minx to deliver a classic set of London hip-hop. I could have chosen any one of half a dozen photos from this set, but here’s the one I’ve gone with:

Mavis Staples @Cornbury Festival

This was my first year with photo accreditation at Cornbury Festival and I have to say it was a good ‘un and a chance to meet up with fellow gig photographers. My attentions were concentrated mainly on the second stage and the Caffe Nero stage, but the one artist that I really wanted to capture was the legendary Mavis Staples. She was totally outstanding and I somehow managed to grab this shot:

Julia Gurry @26 Leake Street

Julia’s one half of Belle Roscoe, along with brother Matty and this was the first time I had the chance to see them. Just sayin’ now, you need to see these guys; they are sensational. They’re also incredibly photogenic, both of them. This was the opening night for live music at 26 Leake Street, under Waterloo Station and it was a memorable on for most of the right reasons; I shot my first book cover there, for starters. Anyway, Julia, nice lighting, what do you think was going to happen?

Lisa Canny @26 Leake Street

The same night; how strange is that? The first time I’d seen Lisa Canny as well. Lisa plays harp and banjo, sings and raps. I’ve no idea how you would classify her and I’m not going to try. I’ve got lots of nice shots of Lisa, but nothing matches the intensity of this basilisk stare:

 

Our good friend Dean Owens recently returned from a short tour and working holiday around Tennessee and South and North Carolina. He’s just completed his final show of 2018, a reunion with his old band, The Felsons and found some time to tell us about five of his favourite things from his travels in the Southern states. And, just a little teaser for you, Dean’s latest project Buffalo Blood, a collaboration with legendary producer Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt will be the first release on Eel Pie Records in February 2019.

 

The Louisville Lip

I got to visit my hero Muhammad Ali’s grave in Louisville Kentucky. A special moment for me. I wrote a song for Ali that’s on my new record – Southern Wind. I wrote it the night Ali passed away and it’s called Louisville Lip, which was one of Ali’s nicknames when he was first starting out and still called Cassius Clay. I drove up to Louisville with an old friend of mine and we just made it to Cave Hill Cemetery before it closed for the day. I left a copy of Southern Wind by the grave and sang him a verse of Louisville Lip. I’ll never forget it.

 

The Levitt Shell

Getting to play the historic Levitt Shell in Memphis was fantastic. Levitt Shell was where a young Elvis Presley played his first show all those years back. I’m the first Scottish artist to play there so it was a real thrill to be able to play on that stage on a hot Memphis evening and to get to sing my latest single – Elvis Was My Brother. Amazing really.

 

Wild Ponies

Meeting and becoming good friends with Nashville duo – Wild Ponies. Doug and Telisha Williams are brilliant in their own right and to have them back me as my band was just fantastic. Great people with big hearts. We’re going to be hooking up again in the US in the Spring. Bring it on

 

Albino Skunkfest

Playing the Albino Skunkfest in South Carolina and getting a standing ovation……at NOON!!! It was here I was given my new nickname – Merle Haggis. Ha ha. Wonderful people at a wonderful festival. I’ll be back.

 

Buffalo Blood

Meeting up with my www.buffaloblood.com friends Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt and finalizing our plans for our debut album and world premiere at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on the 25th January.  Can’t wait.

It would be an understatement to say that this has been an eventful year for the Music Riot team. Steve Jenner has had two books published in late 2018, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Twilight” and “On the Radio” (with his brother Paul) and we thought it was a perfect opportunity to showcase some of his past Music Riot escapades and demonstrate the sheer quality of his writing, not to mention his enthusiasm for and knowledge of Popular Music. Just sit back and enjoy some effervescent music writing.

 

Setting the scene

Here’s an example from one of the books published this year, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Twilight”, a collection of live reviews, some of which initially appeared in Music Riot. This was from a review of a Brian Wilson show:

‘My mate can drink 3 pints of lager through a straw in less time than it takes to boil a kettle.

According to some, this makes him a ‘legend’.

Brian Wilson is regarded by many as a ‘genius’.

I would argue these labels have caused problems for both men and have probably influenced their behaviour and probably not in a good way.

Sheer enthusiasm

It’s a prerequisite for membership of the Riot Squad that you’re enthused to the point of obsession about popular music. The wordplay’s quite impressive as well:

Elvis Fontenot – an explosion of manic cajun and punk–zydeco energy. The outside area at The Cock is long and quite narrow and so if you find yourself at the front, they are In Your Face in a big way. A gurning bundle of leering, squealing, careening, lurching riot, they are Big Fun. Combining the pace of a Ska band and the intensity of punk with squeeze box and scrub–board tricks and tuneage born on the bayou, this was full of vivacious kick and naughtiness but with extremely high standards of musicianship and let’s hear it for the sound man who kept the whole thing in beautiful balance. Absolutely the best thing at the Festival so far. Mama’s Got A Squeeze Box. Somebody Sign These People – Now.

Photo courtesy of John Hayhurst.

Hilarious similes

Steve has a very creative turn of phrase. This reference to the drum sound is from a piece about the John Fogerty gig at the O2, referring to some ‘issues’ the sound crew was having during Steve Miller’s set. Steve made the comment during the set, then gave it a quick road-test later when we were backstage talking to the band. You know it’s a good line when it Makes The Band Laugh:

The keyboards, which would play an increasingly important part in the set were virtually absent; the guitars lost in a quite horrible swamp of all the things I do not appreciate which sometimes seems to be ‘the way it is done’ when an American band plays a stadium rock gig. The drums sound like someone is throwing an empty filing cabinet down a lift shaft; the bass is an intrusive, rubbery Audio Prevention Scheme.

Social campaigner?

A very serious point made in Steve’s grumpy, irascible old codger voice. It’s an old technique, sing humour to make a serious point, but he does it so well:

Venues, promoters and bands themselves often bemoan the relative lack of female punters and offer various socio – politico – entertaino(?)- reasons for this. The truth is much simpler. There are not enough bogs for women. It is not rocket science. As a bloke you cruise past, cheerfully unzipping before you so much as reach the door, whilst the queue for the ladybogs has already lit a campfire and are preparing a bivouac for the night. And it’s not even a good chortle for the average bloke; they’re tricky blighters, these women. I know. I’ve been kept by one as a sort of house pet for the last forty years or so. As a token bloke, they hold you personally responsible for all life’s discomforts and they take it out on you as a representative of the foul brood who have brought them to this ignominy. Please, ye great and ye good, if you make one resolution this year, it has to be more ladybogs in music venues. And High Five to you, too.

The important things in life

If you’ve read any of Steve’s work, you’ve probably seen a reference to beer. He enjoys a beer; proper cask-conditioned, hand-pulled beer, not cold, fizzy gnat’s pee. He enjoys a single malt as well and I could tell you a story about drinking Jack and coke after a DJ gig, but I think that has to wait a while. Anyway, back to bitter:

Now, when I go out to see a band, I like a beer. To be honest I like a beer when I don’t go out to see a band as well which is why I also have problems with 4 (Tight seats in venues – Ed). But for the sake of the good Lord, why, why oh why do some venues insist on dishing up five – count them – five – draught lagers AND NO BITTER? WHY?? Take the O2 Indigo as exhibit A. Gorgeous venue. Excellent sight lines, marvellous acoustics, washroom facilities you could picnic in – and NO BITTER! My most recent visit there was to see Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and what a breathtaking gig that was. But it also happened to coincide with the night when the Guinness was ‘off’. (What does that even mean? It was past sell-by? It was giving off a sulphurous odour? WHAT?) And so we were offered a wide range of near-identical fizzy light brown chemical substances which could loosely be described as ‘lager’ (and don’t even try to tell me British Bud isn’t ‘lager’). I wasn’t expecting an array of twelve real ales and a couple of nice porters, but – not even John Smith’s, the last refuge of the scoundrel? Bah and humbug.

Allan’s had the brace of Nikons at quite a few gigs this year and he modestly says that he’s produced some cracking shots. Don’t say this too loudly, but the rest of the Riot Squad think that he’s probably right. However, he doesn’t get so much of the photographic spotlight this year as we’ve invited a few more gig photographers to showcase their own images and they’ll be appearing throughout December in the spirit of giving a bit of exposure to some extraordinary photographic talent. We thought it was only fair that Allan got first shot. So, in no particular order and with a running commentary from the man that reviewer Steve Jenner calls the Dapper Snapper are Allan’s favourite five monochromes.

Hannah Rose Platt @St Pancras Old Church

I’d seen Hannah around at a few gigs over the years but it was only about a year ago that we met after I heard her gorgeous single “1954”. She was one of those people that I wanted to photograph straight away. With long blonde hair and a very fair complexion, I could see some great opportunities under strongly-coloured lighting. Guess what? The only paces I’ve seen her perform have been very atmospheric but very dimly lit and only really suitable for monochrome.

This shot was at St Pancras Old Church, a fabulous intimate venue where the stage is lit by a couple of bedside lamps. Here’s the result:

Genia @Soho Music Festival

Genia’s a pianist from Russia, playing in the classical idiom and she featured at the inaugural Soho Music Festival earlier this year. Have you ever tried to photograph a pianist? There are only so many angles to use and it can easily get clichéd.

Genia was the opening artist in one of the festival’s three rooms in L’Escargot, starting her set at the unearthly time of 11:00 am. After grabbing a few usable shots, I sat down to review the selection and when I looked up from the viewfinder I saw that Genia’s shades had created the perfect shot with piano keyboard reflecting in the shades. It took two attempts to get it right, but the result was dramatic. The only problem was that with eleven hours ahead of me, chances were that I’d peaked a bit early. I had.

Lynne Hanson @Green Note

Gig photographers are a dedicated bunch; it’s not just swanning around in the sun at Cornbury and the Isle of Wight, oh no. I went out to see The LYNN(e)S at Green Note at the height of the Beast from the East (remember that?). Lynne Hanson and Lynn Miles collaborated on the album “Heartbreak Songs for the Radio” and were touring the UK to promote it. Loved the album and couldn’t resist going to see it live.

It was a superb night. I may have mentioned before that the light in Green Note’s challenging for photographers, which is why I roundly applaud any good image coming from that particular venue. The other challenge is respect for the audience; don’t block people’s sightlines and don’t have the shutter on burst mode during the quiet songs. So from my little perch by the door and using a longish zoom, I grabbed this shot of Lynne Hanson on the far side of the stage. Lynne likes it.

Hollie Rogers @The Jazz Café

You couldn’t move in the Jazz Café on this night without falling over a photographer; no unhealthy rivalries, just lots of mutual respect. Two Talentbanq artists were supporting blues guitar virtuoso Dan Owen (more about him later) and Hollie was the first of those to take the stage.

If you’ve seen Hollie perform (and you really should) then you’ll know that when the voice goes into overdrive, she’s incredibly powerful and all of this shows in her face. I’ve got loads of shots of Hollie looking incredibly intense. I won’t say I was looking for something a bit more contemplative, but when I saw the opportunity I was ready for it. The lights on the night were actually pretty colourful, but, with light and shade, I could only ever see this working in black and white.

Dan Owen @The Jazz Café

Later the same night. Now we all know that lead guitarists like to throw a few shapes, don’t we? Which is great because otherwise all of our pictures would look the same. Dan’s no exception and he’s also a bundle of raw energy, the archetypal livewire. It’s great fun with these guys, following them around the stage, trying to capture the perfect combination of light and shape. I wish I could say that this shot was all perfectly planned, but it wasn’t.

The camera settings were right for the conditions and then Dan stuck the acoustic out at arm’s length. I like the shot because of the calm intensity in Dan’s face and the fact that it’s not a Strat or a Les Paul he’s throwing around, it’s an acoustic. I looked at the shot in colour but the lighting was a bit meh, so I tried monochrome – bingo.

 

 So, there you go, my favourite five monochromes of the year