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.

 

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

 

During the weekend of The Great Escape Festival virtually the whole of the UK music business moves to Brighton for a few days; the streets are full of musicians hauling gear round on various wheeled appliances and every pub and club has a live music line-up. With all of those musicians around, why not put together a daytime event with musicians in Brighton for TGE and a few others shipped in for the occasion. Well, that’s exactly what happened in Caffe Nero (huge supporters of unsigned talent) with the help of Talentbanq (also huge supporters of unsigned talent). The concept’s really simple; two days of live music with two artists appearing every hour between 10:00am and 7:00pm for two days. That’s 36 artists over two days. I only did the Thursday but saw a mind-blowing array of talent.

The fun kicked off at an unearthly hour; singers generally don’t like morning gigs but Cloudy Galvez and Penny Riviera totally owned the first hour of the day. Cloudy’s improvisational style followed by Penny’s raw, smoky torch songs started the day off perfectly and set the tone for what was to come. As the day unfolded there were superb performances across a wide range of musical styles from the delicate whimsy of Jasmine Rogers to the looping wizardry and powerhouse vocals of Lawrence Hill and Mark Sullivan. Zoe Wren combined folk and jazz, Louise Golbey and Ky Lewis added a bit of soul while Nuala and Lots Holloway powered through their respective sets in the usual barnstorming style.

Bringing events to a perfect close, Joe Slater gave his usual passionate performance of his own beautiful and spiritual songs and a cover of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” before Natalie Shay ended the day with her own powerhouse performance. My only regret was that I had to miss day two; the idea of loads of hungover music biz types being assailed by caffeine and the phenomenon that is Hollie Rogers. I think that might actually wake the dead. Anyway, I think we’ll be doing it all over again at the Caffe Nero stage at Cornbury Festival in July.

It’s been a busy old year here at Riot Towers and we’ve sent Allan far and wide to watch bands – well, the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh. On his travels, he’s bumped in to some incredible musicians, but also his fair share of writers and photographers as well. As a result, we’ve invited a few guests from other websites and publications to join in the year-end fun and we’ve got some cracking live pictures coming up over the next few weeks. Allan insisted on pulling rank and starting with his own favourite shots of female artists. As always, in no particular order:

Elle Exxe at the Isle of Wight Festival – An invite to go to the Isle of Wight with a group of artists, writers and photographers courtesy of Ray Jones and Time Out; don’t mind if I do. No photo pass, but it really didn’t matter. It only stopped me from getting to the other side of the pit barrier. The event was broadcast by Sky Arts, which meant a full lighting production on various stages. The Big Top on Saturday afternoon was the main attraction; I’d photographed Elle Exxe the previous October  at an awards ceremony and I was expecting striking imagery. Here’s my favourite shot from the set:

Rider @Water Rats – Rider has been around for a while, quietly plotting world domination while putting her band together; this was their debut gig. Rider is very striking visually and it should have been relatively easy to get some interesting images. Right at the front with a wide –angle lens looked favourite, but it was a looking a bit average until I changed up to the telephoto zoom and moved to the back of the room. Like the Elle Exxe shot it needed very little editing to create something a bit special.

Kelly Halloran @The Union Chapel – Kelly Halloran is a stunningly good fiddle player who tours with Rachael Sage.  I was more than happy to accept a press pass from Rachael’s PR team for her support gig with Howard Jones at The Union Chapel. It’s a lovely venue for photographers; you shoot from the side of the stage if you like and, at this gig, there was no pit and no three song rule. That was the lucky bit, because this shot was taken towards the end of the set. I loved the purple lighting on Kelly’s black suit and I had spotted the unusual angle from the side of the stage. The lights weren’t cycling wildly so it was just a question of getting into position when they blended into purple and:

Hollie Rogers @Acoustic Sex – Remember I told you about the Isle of Wight? You are paying attention aren’t you? Well, one of the people I met there was Hollie Rogers. We were introduced, I was impressed and did a quick search online; it was enough to make me decide to go and see her play five days later. She obviously impressed Ray Jones as well because he booked her to play at his Acoustic Sex showcase at 2 Northdown a few weeks later. There are no fancy coloured lights, but the lighting levels are pretty good so there are no excuses. Hollie’s songs are generally pretty intense and her voice is incredibly powerful, but there’s another side. She has a wicked sense of humour and that’s the side I tried to catch in this shot:

Mollie Marriott @The Borderline – I was lucky enough to see the first and second (and a few more) gigs that Mollie played with her full band. Like everyone else in this list, she’s a terrific singer and writer; she also has a band that are great musicians and lovely people. They don’t just play music together, they’re a team and it shows in the way they interact on stage and off. Mollie’s one of those people (a bit Like Hannah Aldridge) that I never get tired of photographing; there’s always something different to capture. This was a shot from the refurbished Borderline before they really got the lighting sorted out. A challenge, but you make the most of the hand you’re dealt:

It’s been a huge pleasure to meet and photograph these people, but it’s not just about the visuals; they are all gifted performers that you should make the effort to see if you get the chance.