High Fives 2021 No. 4 – Allan’s 2021 Gigs

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It constantly amazes me that I’m taking pictures of musicians doing their thing on stage. It’s something I love doing and takes precedence over anything else that might be going on in my life. It was a huge blow when lockdown was eventually announced in March 2020. We all knew it was coming, but it took a while to sink in properly. I was lucky in that I got to a few outdoor socially-distanced gigs in 2020 (including a Georgia Crandon gig on the coldest night of the year in December). So when things started to open up again in the summer of 2021, I was desperate to get back into action.

Rebecca Riedtmann @The Sound Lounge 30/06/21

This was a gig that should have happened in December 2020, when Rebecca was heavily pregnant but actually took place on June 30th this year and was her baby daughter’s first gig. There was enforced distancing and mask-wearing but it was still a proper indoor gig at the wonderful Sound Lounge in Sutton. You could sense that everyone in the audience was excited to hear live music again and Daisy Clark (who had played at the G7 summit in Cornwall) played a well-received support set. Rebecca and her band, as ever, looked like they were having a lot of fun. No signs of rustiness and many signs of a group of people who have a solid professional and personal bond doing what they love doing. The response to a storming set was heightened by the anticipation of the audience that had been starved of the live experience for fifteen months. Big shout out as well to Hannah and Keiron at the Sound Lounge for all of the work they put in to keeping venue alive. The shot above was from the soundcheck.

FAERS @The O2 Academy2 Islington 20/08/21 When I told my friend Al Stuart, a great gig photographer, that I’d been shooting at the venue, he asked if the gig was in The Desmond. I was puzzled until I worked out that upstairs at the O2 is known as Academy 2. Bit of a change in the rules for this one – evidence of full vaccination was required, but masks inside weren’t mandatory and no distancing was observed. It was also sold out. Honestly, I was a bit uncomfortable with that. Problem solved – although it’s a fairly small room, it has a pretty wide photo pit to accommodate the one photographer on that night – me. While everyone in the audience got up close and personal, I stayed in the photo pit to shoot ORDERS, Bandit and then the headliners FAERS. As a contrast to Rebecca’s Americana gig, this was a full-on indie rock gig; noisy, sweaty and crammed to the rafters. Great fun to watch from my sanctuary in a spacious photo pit. The night was completed when Stephen Anderson-Howard of FAERS jumped into the pit, climbed up the barrier and leaned over into the crowd creating the shot above this paragraph. Proper gig photography.

Dean Owens & The Southerners @Green Note

The first gig of Dean Owens’ last tour was March 13th 2020 in Edinburgh. The second was almost eighteen months later at Green Note in Camden on September 1st 2021. Again, there were sensible restrictions in place to ensure that Green Note (with a very small team of staff) wasn’t put temporarily out of business by the dreaded COVID ping – fill in an online form, provide proof of vaccination and take a lateral flow test within the twenty-four hours before the gig. I was happy with all of that (although some customers weren’t too chuffed). Dean and his two compadres Jim Maving (guitar and backing vocals) and Tom Collison (keys, electric bass and backing vocals) were totally up for the much-delayed gig and a great night was had by the restricted and socially-distanced audience. If you get a chance to see any of these guys, take it. They’re all great musicians and lovely people. And Dean’s songs are uniformly superb.

Various – Leek Blues and Americana Festival 30/09/21-03/10/21

I have a bit of history with Leek (the one in Staffordshire, not the Netherlands). I worked there for about two years in the mid-1990s and loved the experience. I was an outsider in a small, fairly remote town and I was made to feel very welcome. A few years ago Music Riot’s northern correspondent and very old friend of mine, Steve Jenner, moved to Leek and, in 2018, invited me to this festival. I took the cameras along on the off chance. It worked out because in 2019 I was back there as official guest photographer. If you want to know what that means, it means getting up on a Saturday morning to go and shoot the kids’ matinee performance (which was great fun) among other things. Obviously the 2020 festival didn’t happen but I was raring to go for 2021 and I wasn’t disappointed. The festival is mainly free events in pubs in the town centre (and there are a lot of pubs in Leek town centre) and paid events in The Foxlowe Arts Centre and other performance spaces. The whole thing is put together by volunteers who are, without exception, lovely people and total musicheads. I absolutely love it and always block out the start of October in the calendar every year. This year was quite strange in that I met up with a few people that I know from the London scene, which was all a bit strange, as well as all of the people I now know in Leek. I recommend it to anyone as a great mix of local and international artists. The shot above is the incredible Ian Siegal performing in The Foxlowe as Saturday night joint headliner.

The Black Mamba and Ru @Union Chapel 23/11/21

There were virtually no COVID restrictions by this time (and the ones still in place were being largely ignored). I’m still wearing a mask in enclosed spaces but, towards the end of November, I was in a minority. I was at the gig to photograph Ru, who was doing a short support set for her Portuguese compatriots The Black Mamba, who represented Portugal at Eurovision. Don’t let that put you off; they’re a seriously funky band. Also, I’ll grab any opportunity to shot at Union Chapel; it’s such a lovely venue. The shot above is Ru during her set. It was a special night, but the icing on the cake was guest performances during The Black Mamba set by Bumi Thomas and Omar.

There are a couple more honourable mentions as well. The second High Tide Festival in Twickenham, organised and curated by Eel Pie Records (big shouts out to Phil, Kevin and Lucy). The weather was perfect and there was a great selection of artists on the main stage and in various locations around the town centre. A great day out. There was also a lovely night curated by Success Express (thank you Lorraine Solomons) at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston. Five very different artists played short but powerful sets on the night. Si Connelly, KT Wild, Russell Jamie Johnson and Lina Stalyte were wonderful but the night belonged to Cloudy Galvez who made her first live appearance since a long COVID diagnosis in 2020. It’s great to see her back on stage again. And it’s always good to end on a high note.

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