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.

Ray Jones – CEO Talentbanq

Today’s High Five contribution is from someone who’s had a huge impact on the independent music scene in London over the last few years. As Business Development Director at Time Out he hosted the Time Out Rising Stars events at various London venues including Jazz Café and 229 The Venue, showcasing new talent and creating great nights out. After leaving Time Out, Ray became CEO of the start-up enterprise Talentbanq whose mission is promote and represent independent musical talent in London. Talentbanq was launched officially three years ago at 229 The Venue and has been promoting artists and events around London to critical acclaim (and full houses) ever since. Until COVID hit in March 2020. We all know the impact the virus has had on live music over the last ten months, despite the best efforts of Ray and some of the people mentioned in his contribution. Here’s Ray’s thank you to some of the people promoting grassroots music:

Thanking Champions of Grassroots Live Music Scene

At this extraordinarily difficult time I wanted to give a High Five to just a few of the people who champion the grassroots live music scene.

I have to start with Immy and Risa at The Green Note. This Camden hideout is beyond special. The tiny stage, the slightly higgledy-piggledy furnishings, the totally bonkers second tiny venue in the basement, the bifold toilet door and just about everything about the place. It’s all magic – especially the music. Immy and Risa are custodians of authenticity.

Perhaps the only thing wrong with The Green Note is that it’s not a short walk to The Spiritual Bar.

Raphael Pesce has truly created a spiritual home for musicians. This is a place for kindred spirits to meet. It’s a safe space with a small stage where audiences go to listen, to discover, to adore.

Next I’m heading south of the river. To Balham in fact, where Tony Moore provides one of the best stages in Britain for rising talent. Tony is a legend – and not just because of his history with Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew. No, it’s because he knows more about promoting live music than most on the planet. To talk with him is humbling – and to present a show at the recently refurbished Bedford is such a buzz.

Tony Moore

I want to give mention to special people who each deserve their own paragraphs but I think these high fives are meant to be brief.  Kate Jones ( Busk London ) Vin Goodwin ( Big Night In ) , Harriett JW ( Secret Sessions ) , Katie Smith ( Front Room Songs ) , Neil March ( Fresh on the Net ) Kate Bond ( This is Wired ) Ian Forteau ( So-live ) Ilana Lorraine ( Sessions 58) Dom Chung ( Soho House ) Joy Warmann ( Imaginary Millions ) Sep Cole ( Pizza Express ) Karen D’Arcangelo ( Vibe Village ) Alex Kerr-Wilson ( Discovery 2 ) Peter Conway ( Nashville Meets London ) Rob Lewis ( Richer Unsigned ) Beth Keeping ( Write Like a Girl ) Isi and Lewis ( The Round Up ) and Louise Wellby at Jam Sandwich. Apologies to those not listed. It’s not easy remembering stuff during the lockdown !

One lady worthy of special mention is Lorraine Solomons of Success Express. She was first mentioned to me by The Carnabys when I was running Rising Stars at Time Out. Lorraine is a tireless champion and promoter of new music and independent artists. She is a prolific promoter exuding passion and enthusiasm. From Omeara to The Strongroom to The Century Club – Lorraine is there. And where she goes, music goes too. 

Lorraine Solomons

Before writing a book rather than a post I am going to close by saluting the youngsters coming through – and at the same time pay due respect to promoters outside London.

I choose Alice Banister ( and Jake Etches) at Hope Valley Promotions, Manchester.

Watch out for those names. They have energy, ambition and refreshing ideas.

It’s so great to see a new generation of promoters fearlessly coming into a business currently suffering such trauma.

Alice Banister

Live music will return and I hope all of those mentioned above will be there plus a whole army more.