High Fives 2021 No.14 – Allan’s new artists

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Here’s Allan talking about some of the artists he encountered in the important half of 2021; that’s the half when we had live music again.

I may have said this before, particularly if I’ve met you at a gig, but I love gig photography. Apart from the obvious aspect of actually taking pictures, there’s a whole social scene around gigs. I’ve met some wonderful people on the gig scene, artists, managers, promoters, venue managers, security staff; you name it. It’s taken me to all sorts of venues, from the larger venues with photo pits to the small rooms where one of the major concerns is not obstructing the view of paying customers. These are the sort of venues where you see artists for the first time and where, sometimes, you discover artists that make an instant impact. I’ve seen a few of those over the last few years and, even in a truncated 2021, I’ve seen a few more. Here are a few of them. I thoroughly recommend seeing all four of these performers live. Spoiler alert – one of my five isn’t a performer.

Kat Neocleous

Kat’s a very gifted and versatile performer. She sings, acts, does journalism and works as a presenter on London Greek Radio. She’s now learning to play drums. I met Kat on social media a while ago, then bumped into her unexpectedly at a gig I was shooting at Pizza Express. Soon after that I shot her supporting The Lapels in Finsbury Park, and then at her sold-out headline gig at The Camden Chapel. Kat’s music is soulful; r’n’b with a splash of pop and hugely influenced by the confessional singer-songwriter tradition. Her voice is strong and I’m positive she has perfect pitch – her live performances are something special, even when backed by just one guitar. Her songs are powerful

and she knows how to deliver them to maximum effect. One of the highlights of her Camden Chapel show was her relatively new song “Warrior Heart” which is the headline track for her upcoming “Warrior Heart” EP.

Si Connelly

I’d heard a lot about Si Connelly over the last couple of years but somehow always seemed to miss his gigs because of clashes. 2021 was the year when I finally managed to put that right. Everything I’d ever heard about Si was really positive; I wasn’t disappointed when I finally got to see him at the Hope & Anchor in November (amazingly, my first shoot at the iconic venue) at a Success Express event. I’d thought of Si as mainly an acoustic guitar player (don’t ask me why), but he came on stage with a band and a Strat and proved that he’s a gifted electric guitar player. I saw him a few weeks later doing an (almost) solo acoustic set where he played acoustic guitar and piano. His songs are strong, but what really stands out with Si is his performance. He gives everything onstage, personifying the Andy Murray quote “Leave nothing out there.” From a photographer’s point of view, he’s one of those artists that you instantly know is going to do interesting things. I’ve shot Si at two gigs and I haven’t put the cameras down for a second during his sets. He’s visually and sonically stunning.

Brooke Law I first saw Brooke as a solo acoustic performer at the Talentbanq Eccleston Yards sessions over the summer (which are still continuing even in the deep midwinter). She did a solo acoustic set which convinced me of a couple of things. First that she’s a hugely gifted writer and performer and second that I wanted to photograph her under stage lighting. She’s lively on stage, very watchable and just looks like a rock star. Since then, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to shoot live photos, firstly at Folklore in Hackney and secondly at the Girl on Fire all-dayer at Blues Kitchen in Brixton. Both of these gigs featured her full band and demonstrated that she can perform like a rock star as well as looking like one. I’m not sure that she’s settled yet on her musical direction (I think she’s leaning towards indie/rock, but she’s already had a country hit, so who knows); whichever path she chooses, I suspect she’ll do very well.

Vincent Bugozi Vincent’s from Tanzania and he’s a force of nature. He’s an enthusiastic and energetic performer who knows exactly how to play a room. I saw him first at a charity gig at Leyton Orient Football Club (where I’d only ever been as a visiting supporter) where he and his band were dressed in suits from Tanzania that were as lively as his performance and were perfectly suited to the bouncing African rhythms of his songs. He loves to get off stage and mingle with his audience, using his extrovert radar to pick out willing participants for his performance. It certainly worked at The Orient because he picked out Nuala, one of the earlier performers on the bill. It definitely worked at The Bedford at the end of November, as you can see above. If you want to see an artist that throws everything into his performance and creates a party whenever he plays, go and see Vincent.

Laura McKay, Band Manager

Not an artist this time, but a manager and an interesting story. I had a message on Facebook from a Laura McKay. My first thought was that my sister’s FB account had been hacked (she’s also called Laura) but when I checked the mutual friends I realised that this was a genuine person involved in the music business. You can’t leave a coincidence like that hanging, so I got back to Laura and told her about the coincidence. Here’s the best bit of the story – Laura told me that people in the business had been asking her if she had a brother who was a photographer. I’ve now photographed both of the bands that Laura manages, Sins and The Slacksons (see, I managed to get new bands in there) and I’m looking forward to working with her again in the future. Got to love the independent music scene. The photo is with Sins outside The Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden.

If you live in the UK, go and see any of the bands or artists I’ve mentioned; they’re all great and passionate about what they do. You might even be able to buy me a beer to thank me for the recommendation.

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