Jana Varga @The Sound Lounge

Monochrome; it just keeps on hanging in there, After about 1960, the mass market had adopted colour film as the norm and black and white photography was seen as old-fashioned by anyone other than photography enthusiasts. It’s a common thing; the public embraces the new and instantly rejects the old leaving it to claw its way back. Just look at the resurgence of vinyl among music enthusiasts. Even my first attempts at gig photography included quite a few rolls of black and white film. Black and white TV is virtually gone now, with fewer than 5,000 black and white TV licences across the UK, but monochrome lives on in arthouse films and photography, particularly gig photography. Why? The glib answer is that sometimes it just looks better. Maybe the comments on some of these photos will help answer the question.

Cloudy Galvez @ Pizza Express, Holborn

Cloudy Galvez @Pizza Express Holborn

Cloudy’s someone that normally works well in colour, particularly with a bit of interesting lighting but this shot at Pizza Express was lit purely in purple, so it was a monochrome shot before processing it as black and white. One of the things that makes black and white shots work is high contrast, which this shot definitely has. I break two of my photography rules in this shot; there’s a microphone in front of Cloudy’s face and there’s a silhouette from the audience cutting in to the bottom left corner, but Cloudy’s gesture and the eyes looking straight down the lens (which they actually weren’t, Cloudy told me she had no idea I was taking that shot) make the image work.

Jenny Colquitt @Green Note

Jenny Colquitt @Green Note

This is a shot from a few weeks ago. Green Note’s a fabulous venue and, if you know how to work the angles, you can get some really nice shots. If an artist’s wearing something really colourful, you can get some great colour shots. Jenny was wearing neutral colours, so monochrome was always going to be the way to go. This shot was taken from just behind the mixing desk, giving a viewpoint that you can’t always get at this venue and the shadows created by Jenny’s hat add to the contrast of the shot.

James Sayer @St Martin-in-the-Fields

James Sayer @Crypt Lates

The Crypt is another one of those venues that has fairly monochrome lighting; unless there are strikingly-coloured stage clothes, black and white is going to be the best choice. This shot came towards the end of the gig and it was one of those unique moments. James was joined on stage (and at the same piano) by his brother and his father. It took a few attempts to get the perfect angle for the shot, but the end result really works.

Jana Varga album launch @Sound Lounge

Jana Varga @ The Sound Lounge

This is a lucky combination of knowing the perfect shooting angles at a venue and having something interesting happen while you’re using one of those angles. There’s a position where you can shoot the artist against a completely black background; if you happen to be there when something interesting happens, then you automatically get a good shot. On this occasion, Jana (who is incredibly photogenic) created a perfect shape and it was just a question of pressing the shutter release.

Martin Harley (Harley Kimbro Lewis) @Landmark Arts Centre

Martin Harley @Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington

This was my first visit to this venue in a deconsecrated church, where they get everything right. They look after the audience well, the sound is excellent and they pay attention to lighting the stage effectively for the audience and any passing photographers. This shot is one of the rare few that look good in colour and black and white, but the monochrome just edges the contest. It’s always a joy to shoot Martin (and his partners on this night Daniel Kimbro and Sam Lewis) and this shot captures something of the real Martin Harley.

We thought we’d said goodbye to 2021’s High Fives but here’s a late contribution from Mike Butterworth with some great shots from gigs he’s managed to get to this year. We may have a final Hogmanay contribution from Allan on the 31st; who knows?

Photo courtesy of Johnny Ng

Like last year many of my usual festivals were postponed again and many of the independent and small venues were not open for business, this includes The Half Moon at Putney who were forced to close and break their run of live music every day since they started in 1963!

Nile Rodgers @ The Big Feastival, Oxfordshire

At only my second festival of the year there was an amazing headline performance by Nile Rodgers. An incredible musician and although I was aware of his broader influence, he played songs from several artists, as well as classic Chic songs.

Nile Rodgers & Chic – The Big Feastival

With Bernard Edwards (also from Chic), Rodgers wrote and produced music for other artists, including the songs “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” for Sister Sledge and “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” for Diana Ross. After Chic’s breakup in 1983, Rodgers produced several major albums and singles for other artists, including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, “Original Sin” by INXS, Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and “Notorious”, and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. He later worked with artists including The B-52s, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, The Vaughan Brothers, Bryan Ferry, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Daft Punk, winning three Grammy Awards in 2014 for his work on their album Random Access Memories.

Nile Rodgers & Chic – The Big Feastival

Leddra Chapman @ The Jazz Café, Camden

Like many gigs this year, a lot of them were ones that were rescheduled from 2020. This gig was supposed to be played on the 10th anniversary of the release of Leddra’s debut album ‘Story’, but as it was postponed for the third week March 2020, we had to wait 19 months! She rose to prominence when her debut single, “Story”, was released on 7 December 2009 to much critical success and strong radio support and play from Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2 during his last weeks as host of the station’s breakfast show.

Leddra Chapman – Jazz Cafe

Playing to a full house, and so pleased to finally be playing to an audience, Leddra perfomed all the songs from her debut album.

Leddra Chapman – Jazz Cafe

Cloudy Galvez @ Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston

Cloudy is an up-and coming artist pioneering the introduction of a new sound: 12-string progressive soul with a touch of pop. Whether accompanied by drums and bass, or solo, Cloudy delivers one thing live that other artists don’t: the non-stop set. The songs flow from one to another through beautiful improvised transitional sections, allowing the music to breathe and do the talking for itself. It truly is a captivating continuous mix of original material, packed with push-and-pull, catchy hooks and beautiful melodies inspired by her Colombian heritage, designed to catch your attention and stay in your head for days.

Cloudy Galvez – Servant Jazz Quarters

This evening, being her first full gig since contracting long COVID, she was only able to play a six-string guitar as her usual 12 string is still too heavy. Another notable difference was her more conventional set, with breaks between her songs – as she still doesn’t have the energy to play continuously. That said, her slightly lower tone to her voice, requiring a lower key for one of her songs, was sounding amazing and a remarkable achievement given her situation a year ago. Many of the songs were reflective of her last 18 month, not only of lockdown, but the dramatic changes in her own life as a result of COVID.

Cloudy Galvez – Servant Jazz Quarters

Lauren Housley @ The Half Moon, Putney

Lauren is a singer and songwriter hailing from Yorkshire, UK. Her love of music started early, with a deep connection to great songs, the craft of storytelling and an emotive vocal performance. “It was like magic to me, that music could have such an impact on the way I felt. It became my therapy.”

Lauren Housley – The Half Moon Putney

Lauren Housley is the ‘GIRL FROM THE NORTH’ whose new album was released in April 2021. Dealing with love, loss and the turbulence of growing up and learning about life, Lauren brings a refreshing air of optimism and heart-warming hope with an empowering belief in oneself to overcome obstacles. Hear some of Lauren’s new, unreleased material in a stripped-back intimate setting.

This was the first gig at The Half Moon Putney since their closure in March 2020. Lauren, the band, and the audience were all so appreciative of this opportunity to be part of a live performance.

Lauren Housley – The Half Moon Putney

Natalie Shay @ The Camden Assembly

Natalie Shay is an indie pop/rock artist & BRIT School graduate hailing from North London. The multi award-winning musician has established an ever-growing presence, media acclaim and a loyal fanbase through her explosive live performances and viral-worthy anthems, recognising her as one of the UK’s hottest emerging talents.

Natalie Shay – Camden Assembly

Shay sold out two headline shows in 2019, with her music continuing to pique the interest of notable publications such as Billboard, Clash and The Line of Best Fit. To date, she has amassed hundreds of thousands of streams, with her single, ” being placed in Spotify’s New Music Friday, New Pop UK & Wholesome Editorial Playlists. She has also worked on EDM tracks, racking up over 2 million streams to date.

Natalie Shay – Camden Assembly

Natalie is now set to release her latest 80s inspired single, New Wave, delivering a relatable anthem for those new lovers.

She performed a powerful and accomplished set headlining what was going to be the release party for her last EP, but as that was released in April 2020, we all had to wait 18 months because of COVID restrictions. However, it was well worth the wait, especially as she included a new song about coming to terms with who she is, past, present and future – that she wrote during lockdown. The full band added to the depth of the performance. These are just a few of the many amazing performance I’ve seen this year. It was really nice to be back as some great grass roots venues. Another great year of live music, in spite of the limited access due to the pandemic.

Time for a few more of Allan’s shots from 2021. Just by way of a change, they’re all colour shots.

I do a lot of black and white work these days, for various reasons, mainly to do with getting the best results with low lighting levels, but I do still like a splash of colour. Here are a few shots from 2021 (well, the part of it where we actually had gigs to shoot) where the colour treatment works well. Three of them are helped along by brilliant sunshine as well. Here we go:

Stilt Walker @Becontree 100 I’m fascinated by stilt walkers, possibly because my balance is so bad that I could fall off the floor. At any music festival you can guarantee that you’ll see stilt walkers. You can also guarantee that they’ll be colourful and glittery. Another helpful thing is that they’re entertainers and part of their job is to engage with the public, including photographers. What sets this apart from the majority of my gig shots is that I wasn’t trying to get a background as close to black as possible; exactly the opposite, in fact, and the colours really pop against the almost completely white background, and the long zoom allowed me to crop tightly to get rid of any extraneous background.

Duncan Menzies @Hackney Wick Duncan Menzies is a member of the London folk trio Copper Viper but at this gig, he was playing fiddle for Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band at an outdoor gig as lockdown restrictions began to lift. This shot was taken during the interval as Duncan was preparing to rejoin the band for the second set. It’s a striking outfit and the contrast between the traditional clothes and hat and the reflective sunglasses is what makes the picture work.

Cloudy Galvez @Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston This shot isn’t packed with vibrant colours but it has a very warm feel that conveys the atmosphere of the gig. The shot has a glow that matches Cloudy’s smile, which was pretty much fixed during the whole set. It was a very special night because it was the first gig for Cloudy as part of her recovery from long COVID. It’s been a long journey but she’s back on stage again doing what she does best. I think this shot captures the ambience of the evening.

Georgia South (Nova Twins) @Becontree 100 The reason I was at Parsloes Park in Dagenham was to see Nova Twins. They’ve spent the last five or six years working their way through the lower reaches of the music business and it’s just beginning to pay off. Georgia South makes some amazing sounds with her bass and a battery of effects to complement Amy Love’s guitar playing and vocals and spends a lot of time dancing around her pedals stomping on footswitches. Nova Twins always help photographers out with bright clothes and Georgia’s hair is always striking. She does a great smile as well.

Eleni (Echo Wants her Voice Back) @Pizza Express, Holborn Pizza Express is a bit of a challenge. The lighting’s a bit bland but you can work around the cabaret seating to get some decent shooting angles. If you want a green room shot, take along an ultra-wide lens. You can around the lighting and get good results in colour if an artist’s wearing something colourful. Eleni was pretty helpful in that respect, wearing a shade of green that worked perfectly in those lighting conditions. The other thing that makes the image striking is Eleni’s long black hair, particularly falling across one side of the face. Eleni’s a powerful performer, but it’s always nice to catch a shot where the artist is totally in the moment, almost serene.

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.