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.

 

We’ve given Allan some interesting assignments this year and he’s also managed to blag his way into a few others. He’s had an interesting year and he’s desperate to tell you about some of the highlights. Why don’t we just let him get on with it?

 

 

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Twilight” cover

It’s not a big secret but, in case you didn’t know, our live reviewer from Up North, and myself have been friends since meeting on our first day at University. We’ve had a lot of interesting times together and separately but nothing quite like this year (Steve’s party piece is to almost, but not quite, get us into conflict with people that look like they could kill us just by looking at us).

Steve’s an unashamed rampant enthusiast; once he decides to tackle something he makes Norman Hunter look like a six-week old kitten (70s football reference – Ed). This year’s big project has been writing and publishing. Skip back a sentence and you’ll see the word enthusiast; even with adjective ‘rampant’ to help it along, it’s not the full picture. He’s a force of nature; a hurricane or a whirlwind maybe. So it’s no surprise when he announced that he was publishing not one, but two, books at the end of 2018. “On the Radio”, co-authored with his brother Paul, which is autobiographical and takes us from Steve’s birth to the point where Steve and Paul are granted the licence for High Peak Radio; it’s a great read. The other book, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Twilight” looks at live music from the viewpoint of someone got the bug in the 70s and has been a fan ever since. Many of the chapters initially appeared as Music Riot reviews, but that’s not the reason it’s one of ‘pinch myself’ moments of 2018. 

In May of this year Steve gave me the commission for a cover shot for the book. As luck would have it, three days later, I saw exactly the shot he needed backstage at a Talentbanq gig (more about them later). Anyway after all the publication issues were resolved, I was able pick up a book with one of my photos on the cover. It was quite a moment.  

Martin Belmont photo 

I’m a big fan of Graham Parker – always have been. The strange thing is that I’ve seen him more times in the last 3 years than I ever did when he was at his commercial peak in the 70s/80s. When I discovered that he was touring with a band and The Rumour horns, it went straight into the diary – twice. Once at Islington Assembly Hall and once at The Picturedrome in Holmfirth to tie in with a weekend at Leek Blues & Americana Festival in Staffordshire with Steve Jenner and his wife Sue (also a friend since University days). 

I published a few shots from the Wednesday Islington gig on social media directly after the gig and made my way Up North the following morning to shot the Leek festival, head over to Holmfirth on Sunday and back to London on Monday. When the pace slackened a little, I checked to see the response to the photos on social media. One shot of Graham Parker’s guitar player Martin Belmont had been seen and shared by Martin and was getting a lot of attention. When I checked, I recognised a lot of the names that had liked the picture, but I was gobsmacked when I saw that the collection of loves for the shot included Charles Shaar Murray and the rock photography legend Chalkie Davies. I’ll just leave it at that.

Talentbanq @The Shard 

I mentioned Talentbanq earlier. If you go to gigs in some of the cosier venues in London, you’ve probably heard of Talentbanq. For those who haven’t, it’s an organisation promoting unsigned acts across London and it’s fronted up by Ray Jones, formerly of Time Out magazine. There are two things you need to know about Ray – he knows everyone in hospitality and the media in London and he’s fanatical about live music. Just the person to organise the first open-air live music performances at the top of the tallest building in Western Europe.

And the opening day, August 4th, was an absolutely perfect summer day in London; no clouds, brilliant sunshine and perfect panoramic views over London from a height of nearly 250 metres. It was an honour and a privilege to be there, watching incredibly talented artists playing to people who had no idea that live music was part of the package.

And just to add a bit of interest, Julia Gurry, from the incredible Belle Roscoe, announced in the Green Room, just prior to performance, that she was terrified of heights. She still did the show and here’s the evidence:

Claudia Fontaine tribute gig

 Gig photography; it’s really specialised and you would imagine it must be incredibly competitive. My experience is that, unless the tabloids are involved, there’s a huge amount of mutual respect between gig photographers. Most of us are doing this because we love it and we respect that motivation in others. Take a look in the photo pit next time you’re at a gig and you’ll see camaraderie and mutual respect; gig photographers will congratulate each other on great shots; it’s a privilege to be a part of that community.

That’s a long-winded introduction that partly explains why I was invited to photograph an event this year where Annie Lennox made a guest appearance. The photo gig should have gone to the fabulous Emma Jones but she couldn’t make it and recommended me as a replacement (see, told you we look after each other). The gig was a tribute to the late Claudia Fontaine (just Google the name; you’ll be amazed) and Annie had agreed to appear. We did all of the megastar liaison about photographic restrictions and eventually came up with shots that Annie was happy with. Unfortunately, for contractual reasons, I can’t illustrate this with an Annie Lennox photo, but I hope this pic of the wonderful Beverley Skeete works for you:

Stone Foundation with Paul Weller, Kathryn Williams and Graham Parker

You may have noticed the occasional mention of Stone Foundation in my random typings. I’m a huge fan and I’m not alone there. They’ve attracted a lot of celebrity attention from the likes of Robert Elms and Craig Charles and from musicians including Dr Robert, Graham Parker and Paul Weller. When they announced a tour in November to support the latest album “Everybody, Anyone”, I was at the front of the queue for tickets; the photo pass was a bonus. No three songs and out this time; the pass was for the whole gig, so something special was happening. There was a bit of a clue when Derek D’Souza (long-time Weller photographer) showed up in the pit (no egos, mutual respect and handshakes all round).

So, to cut to the chase, Kathryn Williams supported (along with Michelle Stodart) and during Stone Foundation’s set there were guest appearances from Kathryn Williams, Paul Weller and Graham Parker. Apart from the really obvious stuff like the band doing “Tear Your Playhouse Down” with Graham Parker, I have no memory of the gig. I do have a few good pix:

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.