Is anyone ready for a few more of Allan’s photos? He hasn’t had the bumper gig year he was expecting but he still managed to get in a few before lockdown, a few over the summer and a few more after lockdown lite. Let’s see what he has to say about this set of images.

From the end of January 2020 it was obvious that 2020 wasn’t going to be a normal year for anyone. I was cramming in as many gigs as I could get pre-lockdown and hoping that post-lockdown might be a bit easier; so much for that. Over the last few years, I’ve done a fair amount of monochrome work, partly because it worked for certain images and partly because of lighting that was a bit meh. At the limited number of gigs I’ve done this year, I’ve had some decent lighting for colour, so here we go:

Tales from the Towpath (1)

Belle Roscoe had an album to promote and very few opportunities of getting punters to gigs so someone had the radical idea of taking the gig to the punters; on a barge. Starting at Hackney Wick and moving north during the afternoon. This was the second time I’ve shot a gig on a barge. The first one was at Kings Cross on a gorgeous summer day; this one wasn’t quite so warm, in mid-October, but the sun was shining. Matty Gurry just looks like a rock star (as does his sister Julia); all you have to do is get the right angle and press the shutter. I suppose the wind-swept look didn’t do any harm either:

Tales from the Towpath (2)

The album Matty and Julia were promoting (and still are) is called “Talking to the Walrus”, so why not have a walrus to help with the promotion. Not a real one obviously, but a very sinister walrus mask. Now, it’s not every day that you get introduced to a walrus, is it? Did you know they speak with an Australian accent? So, a photo of a walrus in a naval jacket? Works for me:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Eddy Smith

Eddy Smith has a great blues/rock/soul voice and is a cracking keyboards player. He’s also a really good bloke. I’ve photographed him many times, solo and with his band. Eddy creates on particular problem for photographers; he wears a baseball cap which throws a shadow on his face when lit from above. Fortunately at this gig at The Old Joinery in Greenwich he was lit from below and not in full-on blues shouter mode. The soft, warm lighting emphasises the serene mood of the shot:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Georgia and the Vintage Youth

From the same mini-festival at August Bank Holiday, I had another opportunity to photograph Georgia Crandon. It doesn’t matter how many times you photograph Georgia, you always get something different. The look is never the same for any two gigs and it’s always interesting. Like the previous shot of Eddy, the lighting’s quite soft and portrait-friendly and Georgia’s rose-tinted glasses add the finishing touch. I’ll be photographing Georgia in 2021, absolutely no doubt:

SJ (Morganway)

Two weeks before the first lockdown I met up with my friend, mandolin and fiddle player Steve Stott in Brentwood to introduce him to the Morganway experience. If you haven’t seen or heard Morganway, you really should. If the world returns to something resembling normality in 2021, they should be playing bigger venues and building a massive fanbase. They are the real thing; a live band where everyone plays an important part and they and do the whole lot from unplugged acoustic to no-holds-barred rock. Here’s singer SJ, giving it plenty:

Bit of a bonus, here’s Morganway’s “Hurricane” live:

Morganway – Hurricane [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

 

We like to have a visual element to our High Fives, and we like to feature the work of as many gig photographers as we can, not just our own resident snapper. We’re hoping to feature some guest photographers later this month but, in the meantime, we’ll start with five from Allan because he’s got five ready to go. Here’s what he has to say about this year:

There was a time earlier this year when I wondered if I’d have enough pictures for this feature. This was supposed to be a great year for gigs and January, February and the first half of March was living up to the promise; loads of gigs around London, a weekend mini-festival in Fife and my first shoot at the legendary Fairfield Halls in Croydon. A week after the Croydon gig, we were in lockdown. I was lucky enough to squeeze in a few gigs between lockdowns but let’s just say I won’t be doing a calendar this year. I normally shoot a lot of portrait-style shots with one person in the frame, but for various reasons, including avoiding brother/sister fallouts, I’ve shot a few group shots this year. Here’s a few of them:

The Velveteen Orkestra

I photographed Dan Shears at a John Lennon 79th birthday gig at The Hard Rock Café in 2019 and following on from that, we arranged to do some shoots at upcoming gigs in 2020 with a variety of Velveteen Orkestra line-ups. The second shoot I went along to was an early evening gig at Jamm in Brixton with Dan and violinist Sarah Boughton. I got lots of good solo shots of Dan, but having Sarah out of focus in the background gave some depth to this shot.

Amy LaVere & Will Sexton

What could be better than dashing around between venues in Hackney for two nights at the end of January. This was the annual Americana Music Association UK showcase 2020; it needed careful planning, stamina and shoeleather, but there were good shots to be had if you were fast and lucky. Amy LaVere and her husband Will Sexton were individually photogenic, but I was keen to get both of them in the frame. Amy draws the attention by staring straight at the camera, as Will plays the supporting role. If you want to know why this was a black and white shot, it was down to some flat and not very colourful lighting.

Belle Roscoe on a barge

I love shooting Belle Roscoe. They’re a brilliant band and, like the Velveteen Orkestra, they play in a variety of configurations from a duo format to full rock band. Whatever the format, they’re great to listen to and always interesting to shoot. Coming out of lockdown, I shot them at The Bedford in Balham and a few days later they announced a series of guerrilla outdoor gigs on a barge on a Saturday afternoon starting at Hackney Wick. After mistaking the River Lee for the canal and getting totally lost (and horribly late), I finally found the location for the first gig just as the band moored the barge to set up for the gig. As always, the band rocked and there were a lot of interesting shots there for the taking. I think the shot captures the strange setting, the cold and windy weather and the rock star quality of Julia and Matty Gurry.

Dean Owens, Hannah-Rose Platt and Rab Noakes

This was a couple of weeks before lockdown. I had train tickets booked months in advance and fingers firmly crossed that the UK wouldn’t grind to a halt before the event. It was a weekend at The Woodside in Aberdour curated by the fabulous Scottish singer-songwriter Dean Owens celebrating Johnny Cash’s roots in The Kingdom of Fife. The weekend featured a wide variety of artists including Fay Fife and my favourite crime novelist, Ian Rankin.

My favourite session of the weekend was a songwriters’ circle on the Saturday evening featuring Dean, Hannah-Rose Platt and Scottish folk legend Rab Noakes. They complemented each other perfectly and I was positive that there was a good shot coming at the end of the set, so I got myself into position and waited.

Georgia and the Vintage Youth

Just before the first lockdown again, this was a bit closer to home, at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney. The gig was an EP launch and Georgia had the full band for this one. I have to say now that this is probably my favourite shot of the year. It was almost at the end of the set and I’d packed away the zoom and just kept the 35mm lens ready for any close-ups that might happen. It got interesting when Georgia sat down on the stage, got more interesting when guitarist Charlie Manning got in on the act, and absolutely perfect when Georgia flicked the ‘V’. It’s not technically perfect, but I love the Sid and Nancy/Kurt and Courtney feel of it.

So, Allan’s shown us his favourite black and whites from 2018 already, it’s time for the colour shots now. You might recognise some of these, you might not. The Riot Squad like them. We’ll let Allan tell you about them:

Joe Slater @The Jazz Café

A bit of a strange gig this one, because it was the first major gig after a bit of a health wobble. However you look at it, it was great to be in the same room as Joe Slater, Hollie Rogers and Dan Owen. It was a really warm evening in a venue where the aircon struggles at the best of times and Joe’s fashion statement was to wear a hoodie. I’d just picked up the camera with the wide-angle lens when this happened:

DJ Lusinda @Party in the Park New Cross and Deptford

I saw this festival on Facebook and it was just around the corner from the day job. I got in touch, volunteered my services and I was in. What a great move that was. The sun shone for the entire day and the atmosphere among the festival-goers, volunteers and performers was absolutely superb. During the early afternoon, DJ Lusinda worked with Holly Flo Lightly and Minx to deliver a classic set of London hip-hop. I could have chosen any one of half a dozen photos from this set, but here’s the one I’ve gone with:

Mavis Staples @Cornbury Festival

This was my first year with photo accreditation at Cornbury Festival and I have to say it was a good ‘un and a chance to meet up with fellow gig photographers. My attentions were concentrated mainly on the second stage and the Caffe Nero stage, but the one artist that I really wanted to capture was the legendary Mavis Staples. She was totally outstanding and I somehow managed to grab this shot:

Julia Gurry @26 Leake Street

Julia’s one half of Belle Roscoe, along with brother Matty and this was the first time I had the chance to see them. Just sayin’ now, you need to see these guys; they are sensational. They’re also incredibly photogenic, both of them. This was the opening night for live music at 26 Leake Street, under Waterloo Station and it was a memorable on for most of the right reasons; I shot my first book cover there, for starters. Anyway, Julia, nice lighting, what do you think was going to happen?

Lisa Canny @26 Leake Street

The same night; how strange is that? The first time I’d seen Lisa Canny as well. Lisa plays harp and banjo, sings and raps. I’ve no idea how you would classify her and I’m not going to try. I’ve got lots of nice shots of Lisa, but nothing matches the intensity of this basilisk stare:

 

2018 has been a cracking year for gigs. I’ve been all over London and I’ve even managed to get to Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Brighton. I might have to do a count at the end of the year to work out how many different gigs and bands I’ve seen. I haven’t seen a bad gig, I’ve seen a lot of good ones and I’ve seen a few absolute belters. I’m guessing that those are the ones you want to hear about, yeah? As always, in no particular order.

 

Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro @The Union Chapel

A year before this event, Martin told me after his gig at The Forge in Camden that he was booking The Union Chapel. He had no idea if he could fill the venue, or if he would break even on the event. At that time, I suspect I was more confident than Martin was. Anyway, fast forward a year to March 10th 2018 and a packed Union Chapel (almost sold out on pre-sales) saw finger-style guitarist Mike Dawes open for the dynamic duo. The intimacy of Martin and Daniel’s small venue performances scaled up perfectly for this particular venue. The combination of superb playing, perfect harmonies and the laconic interplay between songs was absolutely entrancing. Martin’s Weissenborn playing and Daniel’s virtuoso bass (I actually wanted to hear the bass solo) combined perfectly to create an almost Spectoresque wall of sound at times. And then the obligatory unplugged Union Chapel encore. Want a great Christmas gift? How about the live DVD?

Photo courtesy of John Hayhurst.

John Fogerty and Steve Miller @The O2

I really loathe the O2. It’s impersonal and it’s ridiculously expensive; it’s everything that winds me up about the enornodromes. And, as the start of the evening proved, if the mix isn’t spot-on it can sound awful in the auditorium, which it did for most of Steve Miller’s set. Which was a shame because the last half-dozen songs, when the mix was finally right, sounded superb.

But the reason for my tolerance of this corporate barn was John Fogerty. I’ve been a fan of his work since I was a teenager, progressing from Creedence Clearwater Revival to the solo material. He has a phenomenal back catalogue of classic songs, most of which were dusted off for this gig. When you can open your set with “Travelin’ Band”, you can’t go too far wrong. The band was absolutely stunning; all superb musicians, with keyboard maestro Bob Malone dashing around the stage between blasts of piano and Hammond. The greatest hits all got their airing (including the one we know better from Live Aid and Quo, “Rocking All Over the World”, which he only plays in Europe) but, in a little tribute to New Orleans, we got covers of “Don’t Mess With my Toot Toot” and the Gary Bonds song “New Orleans”. Just phenomenal. Read what Steve J thought about it here.

Albert Lee & Peter Asher @Cornbury Festival

For various reasons, Cornbury was the only festival I did this year. It was a bit of a mixed bag on the main stage, but the bill on the second stage across the weekend was eclectic and classic. The one performance I didn’t want to miss was Albert Lee & Peter Asher in the Caffe Nero tent on Saturday evening. I wasn’t disappointed; the songs were delivered in an Everly Brothers style (well, Albert did play in their band) and were interspersed with anecdotes about songwriting greats in the 60s and 70s on both sides of the Atlantic. It was all very laid back but the quality of the playing and the harmonies was absolutely superb. I’m a big fan of the duo format and this was the ‘two voices, two instruments’ at its absolute best. The tent was packed throughout the set and the entire audience left with a warm glow.

Belle Roscoe & Lisa Canny @26 Leake Street

This was the first night of live music at a new venue and it introduced me to not one but two new artists.

Belle Roscoe are brother and sister Matty and Julia Gurry. They play gigs in the duo format, but also have a band for bigger gigs (like this one). The songs are strong, the harmonies are great and the arrangements, with Matty’s guitar and Julia’s floor tom and keyboard playing augmented by bass, drums and guitar are powerfully percussive. It’s a big sound and it completely won over a crowd who were mainly there for the occasion, and not necessarily the music. And that was just the start of the night; there was still Lisa Canny to come.

Lisa also adapts her live arrangements according to the size of the venue. She’s perfectly happy with just the harp and banjo, but this was also a full band set. Lisa’s originally from Cork and a traditional Irish music background; that background is part of what she’s about now, but there’s a lot more. She blends Celtic influences with pop and rap to create a totally infectious mix that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at times most of the audience was absolutely stunned by what they were seeing and hearing. And then the finale; Lisa playing a projected laser harp (honest, and I was stone-cold sober). A bit of a night.

Skatalites & The Majestic & Nell’s Jazz & Blues

Another night out with Steve J and Mrs J in a slightly smaller venue. Nell’s is renowned for its intimate atmosphere, with a cabaret layout and a very chilled vibe. I hadn’t heard The Majestic before and I loved the band; proper roots reggae. They’ve been around for years doing their thing around West London and they’re such a powerful reggae unit. It’s not about individuals, it’s about everyone playing their part to create a slinky, sinuous groove. I hear a band like this and I can’t understand why there are people who say they don’t get reggae.

 

I didn’t know what to expect from Skatalites, apart from the obvious “Guns of Navarone”. The membership may not be the originals, but most of these guys have been in the band for decades. They’re tight and punchy with the classic tenor sax, trumpet and trombone horn section. It’s a pleasure to hear guys who are this good just doing their thing; but that’s not all. Part way through the set they were joined by the phenomenal ‘Queen of Ska’, Doreen Schaffer. She’s looking a little fragile now, but the voice is still there and the audience loved it. I think I had something in my eye at one point.

It was a taste of carnival at the end of October.