I met Di Holmes just over a year ago at a gig at The Union Chapel, where our mutual friend Dean Owens was supporting Rosanne Cash. We were introduced, saw each other’s camera bags and started talking photos (the way you do). I’m honoured that Di has agreed to share her five favourite images this year with MusicRiot; this is live music photography of the highest order (and with tech specs included). Cheers Di.

The Kwashibu Area Band – Womad Festival

01-diThis is my favourite shot of the year taken at my favourite music festival!

No opportunity of being in the pit for this one so I fought my way to the front.

I’ve come to realise that the three song rule for us toggers is great in order to get those close-ups but most of my favoured images are taken during the closing of the set, when the performers are reaching their euphoria. I think this shot depicts that euphoric energy: the evidence is clear that at this moment there is no better place to be!

The band are fronted by ‘Pat Thomas’, who throws some lovely shapes.

The bond between the band members throughout the set was obvious. These guys were simply having a ball!

1/250 sec at f/2.8, ISO 250.

The Lone Bellow – Komedia, Brighton

02-diOh Boy! I discovered these guys on ‘Later with Jools Holand’ & was immediately hooked! Desperate to see them live & even more desperate to capture some images. I saw them no less than 7 times over the following few months.

It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, with each of the three front liners taking their turn in the spotlight. A lot of sweat flies around their stage.

I have umpteen shots of the whole gang but I particularly like this one of Zach Williams & Kanene Pipkin snapped during a moment of appreciation for fellow band mate Brian Elmquist.

It was a small, intimate gig, but as with every audience fortunate to be in the presence of this amazing band, they grow wilder with every strum!

If you’ve ever seen them play live, you’ll know how much energy they create on stage… it’s sheer electricity, and I love it!

1/40 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Charles Bradley – Womad Festival

03-diHaving nonchalantly walked past the Siam tent I was stopped in my tracks by a huge roar of the crowd & shuffled in to investigate. Charles Bradley was strutting like a peacock. I particularly loved his outfit & wanted to get a shot, but I discovered that this was his encore. There wasn’t time to get down to the front so I quickly put on my 70 – 200mm f/2.8 lens & fired a few shots… capturing Charles in all his glory… I can almost hear his note!

1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400.

Howe Gelb – Café Oto, Dalston

04-diThis was the last gig of a three week tour for ‘The Howe Gelb Trio’ who were playing songs from Howe’s new album ‘Future Standards’.

I was lucky to be included on the guest list, though not lucky enough to bag a seat on the front row.

A little frustrated by my position, an unclear view with obstacles of bobbing heads, I decided to use them to my advantage, creating a frame to accentuate the action. It seemed to work & I was more than pleased with the outcome.

It was a magical evening with the crowd respectfully leaning in to the maestro from Tucson, Arizona.

Joined by fantastic musicians Thøger Tetans Lund & Andrew Colberg, Howe named this his “favourite show ever” so I was delighted that I’d helped capture this memorable evening of sonic beauty.

1/50 sec at f/2.8, ISO 2500.

Lucinda Drayton 

05-diMy passion for photography extends from the stage to ‘Location Shoots’, enjoying the creation & direction in a controlled environment.

Here is an image that I took of beautiful songstress Lucinda Drayton during one of those sessions.

We started the shoot in Britain’s oldest public house, ‘The Royal Standard of England’ in Beaconsfield, which has a wonderful medieval feel. We then moved on to a glorious spot amongst the autumn leaves & finally ended up here, on an industrial estate close to home. It’s a place that I particularly love due to the multi-directional light that seeps in. For this shot I used a video light to create a soft glow on Luce’s face.

I previously photographed Lucinda for the cover of her latest album ‘The Road Least Travelled’.

Accompanying her on this particular road was Willow, Lucinda’s loyal lurcher who immediately struck an attentive pose whenever I uttered the word ‘rabbit’.

Good girl Willow!

Much respect Lucinda!

1/60 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250.

Cheikh Lo TitleWOMAD line ups never fail to excite and this year was no different. It distinguishes itself from the rest of the festival circuit by being more inclusive and contemporary; other festivals either pride themselves on being of a certain era (Reload, etc) or tolerate a high proportion of artists now on the chicken-in-a-basket gig circuit. Any veterans playing here had better still be hitting their stride.

A well organised affair, even the rain didn’t stop play with Bellowhead on the main stage on Friday, they played their optimistic blend of folk-rock that started the umbrella dances. Attendance was down for campers as some opted to just come for the day on sunny Saturday.

Saturday was therefore a different story weather wise and the energy lifted. Hassam Ramzy from Egypt delivered smooth, soundtrack-ready grooves.

Cheikh Lo was surprisingly first up on the main stage, and having got there early, we were treated to an extended sound-check with all of the band. He came on and the clouds parted. According to the radio coverage, Cheikh brought a hair-drier with him, not to dry his now knee-length dreads, but to warm his hands. Although only five albums in, he has toured Europe extensively over the years (especially France and the UK) so he knew to come prepared for British Summer Time. I caught him at London’s Jazz Café in the mid-nineties and had a great time in the half empty venue; years later, Cheikh Lo now commands the size of audience he deserves.

A man pushed his way to the front next to me, then said, ‘Who is this guy, is he any good?’ I would have forgiven him except he stood for most of the set with a finger in one ear and his phone clamped to the other. In Dakar, where Cheikh Lo has both a street and bus stop named in his honour, there is no doubting who this humble man of the people is.

Here he treated us to a set that was neither promoting his new album particularly, nor a greatest hits package, just dancey Afro-Cuban Jazz as he refers to it. Perhaps he was rather restricted from playing much of his recent release “Balbalou”, as he didn’t have his vocal collaborators from that album with him and was short of an accordion, kora and piano on stage. Cheikh, himself a talented multi-instrumentalist, played high-hat and guitar at the front, before evicting his kit drummer to take it on himself for a couple of songs. Tracks from the album he did play included the title track, “Balbalou” and the wonderfully stop/start “Gemou Ma Ko”, a rarer love song. Live, Cheikh Lo is blessed with as many grace notes as grace-pauses to underline his rhythms. The translations of his song titles sound like a manifesto for peaceful change: “The Pacifist”, “The Truth”, “Enough of Revolutions”, “Lower The Weapons”, and so on. There is no fist in the air however, just pretty melodies and hip-swinging rhythms.

After over an hour of wonderful Senagalese music, I went to meet him to get my CD signed, I only managed a hurried, ‘Merci beaucoup’ as I shook his soft hand. He wrote on the CD “Good vibes” which summed up the whole experience.