There’s no doubt that trees contribute a huge amount to our environmental health and sense of wellbeing. And with the climate change agenda ramping up, cutting down any healthy tree is a controversial business. In Leeds, campaigners are currently protesting against Network Rail’s proposed cull of trees in the Armley Park Road area. Their efforts are less about confrontation and more about engagement. They’re exploring public opinion and relevant research, and collaborating with all stakeholders including established advocates like the Woodland Trust. I applaud what they’re doing and the way in which they’re doing it so have shown my support in photographing the trees. I really hope that at least some of them can be saved, in particular the fig trees, which are pretty special. But whatever the eventual outcome, cooperation and genuine dialogue will always leave people feeling better about it. https://armleytrees.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/who-we-are/
He may be in his 70s but on a fairly dismal Monday night Alice Cooper still managed to drag fans off their sofas to pack out Leeds Arena. Having said that, they did have to wait a bit longer for him to come on. Perhaps the stamina doesn’t quite run to a 90 minute set these days. But who cares?! We got a bonus second support and a bonus fourth song in the pit and let me tell you, I was singing along to all four of them. As it says on his website – “Ol Black Eyes is Back!” With a great show, all the hits and all the poses. We could have used flash but didn’t need it as the lighting was just as brilliant as the rest of the staging.
I don’t often photograph the support, but hey, the Stranglers aren’t just any support. They also delivered a great set complete with plenty of back and forth banter. Bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel had to deal with technical issues and a few instrument changes but that’s the beauty of a band that has been around for several decades. Nothing phases them and it all becomes part of the experience. The audience were just happy to be there sharing it all.
Reflecting back on a previous gig in Scotland, lead Baz Warne commented on the sea of grey, or no hair in front of him. An audience as follically challenged as himself! But for the record, in Leeds it wasn’t exclusively a 40+ audience. There were plenty of younger folk there and whatever your age, these bands have something to offer; fantastic musicians, great showmen (and women!) and stonkingly good songs. What more could you want?!
For once, this year, I wasn’t planning to do Leeds Fest. I had some work pencilled in and had already done a couple of other festivals over the summer. Then, a week before the event the work was confirmed for another date and I heard from Sony that one of their new signings to the Music for Nations label, Milk Teeth were opening Friday on the main stage. They looked interesting…in fact one reviewer commented that if you haven’t seen them yet, you really should. Plus they have a female lead. So, I quickly applied for a pass and David Cox at LD Communications managed to get me in, with a promise of main stage pit access for Milk Teeth and, later in the day, the Distillers, also fronted by a woman.
Milk Teeth started life back in 2013 in Stroud, hometown of base player, and vocalist Becky Blomfield. In the early days, they struggled to find a home for their brand of punk; venues in Stroud were few and far between. But they stuck to their guns, played anywhere and everywhere that would have them, and just worked really hard to establish themselves and be heard.
Several years on and several personnel changes later, here they are stepping out onto the main stage at Leeds. They’d played the smaller stages at the festival before but making it into that main stage lineup is always a big deal. Having said that, Becky, guitarist Em Foster and new addition, Oli Holbrook on drums looked completely comfortable up there. Their sound is now probably more grunge than punk (not that care about labels) and for midday on day one of the festival they attracted a really decent crowd and kept them entertained for the entirety of their allocated 20 minute slot.
Chatting to the band in the press tent later they were just really lovely. Down to earth, chilled. Apparently Em drives the tour ‘bus’ that would be taking them back down south for a night of takeout pizza at Becky’s place, before they headed over to do it all again at Reading. And Becky still does their PR.
It’s true they are having a big year, with sell out sets and great reviews from Camden Rocks and other gigs around the UK. But they take absolutely nothing for granted. Sharing a stage with the likes of the Foo Fighters and The Distillers, and, from days gone by, names like Nirvana, Placebo and Sonic Youth is a real honour for them and they are just enjoying every minute of the experience. Things are going great with the new label, there will be a new album early in 2020 and a tour so if you haven’t yet seen Milk Teeth… I left them outside the press tent chatting to the team from Fender who look out for rising stars to partner. They are certainly happy with what the band are doing to promote the cause of guitar music.
As for the Distillers, well they have been around for more than a few years. Led by Brody Dalle the California band delivered a super strong set. I would have liked to stay longer in the pit…at least until the smoke had cleared a bit. Having said that I still managed to get some decent shots in.
Bonus picture of the day – Frank Carter outside the press tent who (with the Rattlesnakes) also delivered a great set, not least because at one point he made the mosh pit women only. He also created a women friendly crowd surfing opportunity. “Any of you women who have wanted to crowd surf but were worried about men grabbing you along the way, this is your chance. Men you will not do anything inappropriate – if you do you will have me to answer to!” And suddenly there was a sea of women being propelled across the top of the crowd. Brilliant stuff! Cheers Frank and thanks to everyone at Leeds Fest for making it happen and getting us in. Particularly Dougie and David, who rescued us when we arrived late, stuck in the Headingley Ashes traffic. You are stars!
This month I took some time out from my normal festival photography to capture the other side of Wilderness. I shot some of the pictures below before the hordes arrived. On reflection though, I actually prefer the more populated images. As always, hot tubs, gypsy caravans and rowing boats nestle comfortably among the painterly landscapes. It was really lovely just to get away from the usual noise and melee in really peaceful surroundings. Talking of noise though,you can find more of my Download pictures in the latest edition of N Photo magazine. I’ve also shared advice and insights on how to approach festival photography. What started out as a two page feature turned into a 12 page lead…which was nice!
Another great year at Download despite the fact that it rained…and rained… The weather did not inspire me to wander far from the main and second stages, but still, there was so much to enjoy and the Donington Park crowd absolutely loved it. Just a small selection of pictures here, kicking things off with the amazing Smashing Pumpkins set. Sadly I didn’t realise that we needed an additional sign-up to shoot Slash. But beyond that, there was plenty of drama, theatrics, pyrotechnics, and perhaps less normal at Download, a big smile on stage courtesy of Eagles of Death Metal lead Jesse Hughes. You can find more pictures and the full shoot story in the next edition of N Photo magazine.
This week we’re at Mosfest. In recent years this popular, two-day festival on the Sheffield fringe has moved from Mosborough to Don Valley Bowl. But the name has stuck and nine years in, the organisers certainly seem to have cracked that winning, line-up formula.
“Cannock Crusaders”, Marquis Drive are Mosfest regulars and they always pull in the crowds and get everyone going. When they joined me, I was enjoying a beer in the sunshine with the other bands in what was a very low-key, back-stage affair. It was great to just hang out and chat to people. For me that meant meeting bands like Jesus Jones who I’ve not seen live since around 1990.
But whilst I was happy to chill with Marquis Drive, Space and fellow Liverpudlians, the Farm were actually itching to get going. Because of course this was no normal Mosfest Saturday. This was Champions League final day and in Madrid, the reds were facing Spurs. Bearing in mind Mosfest began with Mosborough Football Club and the sudden loss of one of the local club’s driving forces, the organisers were completely sympathetic. They moved the Liverpool bands up the the running order to let them go early and suddenly, Marquis Drive were headlining. Brilliant stuff! Most people actually chose to stay and enjoy the whole show. And for Space and co it was the best of all worlds, with a great festival experience and a two nil win that brought the cup home to the Pool.
Roll on Mosfest 2020. But in the meantime If you feel you’ve missed out on this years festival, there’s a second helping coming up next Saturday in the shape of Music for the Homeless. Presented in association with the Cathedral Archer Project you can donate to the charity and enjoy an entertaining show including another Mosfest favourite, the Neville Staple Band. Plus, you can sleep out under the stars to further demonstrate your support for the cause.
Thanks to my mates Rachel Brown (my N-Photo Apprentice) and author/broadcaster Rob Fiddaman, I recently found myself at Opium-No 10, an “indie cocktail bar”, photographing the Barnsley leg of Alan McGee’s ongoing UK tour. Alan is widely credited as the architect of the Manchester music scene, the man behind Creation Records, Oasis and Primal Scream. The Q&A was peppered with a million and one music references, entertaining anecdotes, industry insights and political comment. McGee is engaging, interested and full of energy. In an honest reflection of the rock’n’roll life he’s led, the conversation pulled no punches. Like many people in the audience, I left wanting more of the Alan McGee experience. So, a few days later was I heading to Chesterfield’s Proact football stadium for a second helping.
Another day, another equally fascinated audience and Alan was off again. The Glaswegian is as enthusiastic about the industry as he ever was and is arguably just as involved, with the launch of his latest label, Creation 23 and ongoing management of bands including the Happy Mondays.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s about to be a movie, with Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh renewing their Trainspotting partnership to bring this endlessly colourful story to life on screen. With Nick Moran of Lock Stock directing, it promises to be a rollercoaster of a ride and personally, I can’t wait.
This month I was commissioned to photograph West Midlands band Marquis Drive. The Britpop inspired band were playing in Bramall Lane, Sheffield so we met up there, hopped over the road to the Railway Hotel and spent an hour or so sorting a decent portfolio for them.
The evening gig was a great opportunity to capture the band’s performance. It was, to say the least, energetic and packed with enthusiasm. The whole place was jumping, carried along by the Marquis Drive’s anthemic, joyous sound. They’ve only been around for a year or so but are already carving out a reputation, with no less than Danny Dyer describing them as “a proper fkn band”! The Sheffield Star have certainly given them a positive response: “Marquis Drive had the whole venue bouncing and singing as they created a real festival atmosphere. Such was the buzz created, it would be tough for any band to follow.” In short, if you like Ocean Colour Scene, Shed 7, Oasis and the like then you’ll probably enjoy Marquis Drive.
I got on so well with the band that they’ve already asked me to join them at a Sheffield festival later this year. Of course, I’ve said yes to what will undoubtedly be a cracking, good do.
Headlining this year’s Bingley Music Live – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. This little, three-day, family festival is fantastic and though it’s grown over the years in size and stature, it has successfully retained its warm and friendly vibe.
Sadlly, I missed Friday night but on Saturday we got the Cribs, and Jake Bugg headlining and on Sunday Pulled Apart by Horses, Peace, Ride and Noel. What a great line-up! Plus there was a whole other stage not featured here. Below – a small selection of my favourite pics!
Work has got so busy this summer that for the first time in years I might not actually make it to Leeds Festival. Thankfully though, I got asked to cover some of the pre-festival activity and the Vaccines at the Brudenell was a fantastic gig. No support, just a full house to watch England fail to make the semi-finals of the World Cup!
It was probably a good move to choose a viewing venue where you were guaranteed a good night regardless of the match outcome. The dream may have been over for another four years, but the music kicked off and everyone moved onwards and upwards, carried along by the opener, Nightclub. Great as a standalone event, great for anyone fancying a taster of the band’s latest album, Combat Sports and perfect for anyone looking forward to the festival later this month. The Vaccines are playing the Friday night at Leeds and Sunday night in Reading. https://www.leedsfestival.com/news/the-vaccines-leeds-brudenell-social-club https://www.leedsfestival.com/lineup#stages