Austra

Body & Soul Festival 2017 by Aaron Corr

This festival marked two firsts for me.  My first overnight festival where I'm doing photo coverage, and my first Body & Soul.  I've always wanted to go but it's right in the middle of a holiday blackout with my day job and I hated the idea of ruining the fun by leaving the festival early.  What I've found is I've wasted a few trips there and it's time to make up for it.

GoldenPlec sent me with resident reviewer Bernard and we roadtripped to Ballinlough Castle Estate to be greeted with a quick entry through secutiry and in to the Us & You Eco campsite.  My tent was set up in no time and I was amazed to discover all the relevent bits were still there since I last used it at Electric Picnic and couldn't remember what state it was in.  From there it was straight in to watch some bands, starting with Jafaris in the forest on the Pagoda stage.  I followed up with Talos on the main stage and pretty much kept there for the day, covering Anna Meredith and true headliners of the night, Metronomy.

It's now just over a year since I took some portraits of frontman Joseph Mount, and the release of their fourth album.  At the time he said he wouldn't be touring the album and I was a bit heartbroken.  A year later and a handful of gigs lead into festival season and the band make their return to Ireland.  I can sacrifice a headline show in Dublin to see them again at a festival.  I've only ever caught the band at festivals, since they've rarely played their own shows in Ireland, so this wasn't a bad thing.

They were in flying form and had amazing lights to shoot them on stage.  They segue their first three songs together, the same opening three songs from Summer 08, and as I go to leave I get the nod from our photographer liaison that we have one more tune to shoot.  A cool mistake and one I wasn't going to debate.   This was far better shoot than at Longitude 2015, when they were on a higher stage and where wide angle options were not great.  The Body & Soul stage is a cool one to shoot on, but the little raised bit in the centre does get in the way of a good few wide angle band shots from the weekend.  That gripe aside, it was a great start to a weekend's shooting.

After waiting around for final act of the night, Parcels, the festival organiser came onstage to announce that the band was here but their equipment stuck in Berlin.  They were replaced by Le Cool.  This was disapointing as I was really looking forward to seeing what Parcels were like.  I just stayed for one song as it was time to unburden myself of the camera bag and go enjoy the festival's sights at night.

Saturday began with photographing Loah.  I've seen her twice live since I did some portraits with her for Plec Picks 2015 but never shot either of those shows.  It was great to capture her, bright and colourful on stage on a sunny day.  Next up was Icelandic band Mammút.  I didn't hang around to watch their show, they didn't really do much for me.  I went to explore the festival and get some people shots around the walled garden.

I returned to the main stage again to photograph Lambchop.  There was nothing interesting to shooting them so I moved on during the second song and didn't stay.  The day was redeemed by La Femme, a French new wave band whose only song I knew was the one featured in the Renault adverts recently.  They put on a great show, swapping instruments, vocals, dancing around the stage, smoking cigarettes and looking quintessentially French.  

The day was further improved by Sleaford Mods arrival. This was the first time I've caught them live and they were cool to photograph, primarily vocalist Jason Williamson's passion in delivering the words on stage.  I always have a laugh at Andrew Fearn just standing around the back smoking, drinking and pressing play on the laptop.  

Bonobo were my last act to shoot on the main stage.  At first I thought it would just be smoke and silhouettes until their vocalist came onstage during the second song and saved the day and the photos.  She was beutifully lit and greatly improved upon what I was getting from the camera beforehand.  The night finished with King Kong Company in the Midnight Circus Tent.  I tried to shoot in this tent earlier but it was just DJs, low lighting and heavy on red lights.  Not helped was the extra addition to the stage at the front which made for a tight squeeze in the centre of the pit, and made it a no go area for photographers according to security.  Shots were limited for movement as a result, and the lighting didn't get a whole lot better, with dry ice and heavy yellows and purples washing everything out on stage.

Sunday was a better day, starting with Æ MAK.  This is my second time photographing them, after their support of Warpaint recently.  I nearly didn't make the set as I packed my tent to drop to the car, leaving my camera gear in Bernard's tent and locked with my coded lock.  When we returned the combination wouldn't work suddenly and we were stuck.  I managed to squeeze my hand in what little could be zipped open, reached his bag and he pulled out his swiss army knife from the front of it.  A zip was removed and we were in.  All was well again.  

Ailbhe Reddy followed Æ MAK's performance and later on I returned for Sinkane.  The big clash of the day came in the form of the two bands I wanted to see most that day.  Austra and The Moonlandingz. Due to band cancellations, the Midnight Circus timetable was given a reshuffle and hence the clash.  I had fifteen minutes between Austra beginning and Moonlandingz taking to their stage.  I was not missing them for the world.  I stayed for half a song for Austra, hence how limited options I had from their set.  I took a few shots and ran.

The Moonlandingz were so good they deserved a set all to themselves when I submitted them to GoldenPlec.  Lias, aka Johnny Rocket arrived on stage cling film wrapped to his mother, walking backwards to his microphone.  From there she escaped and he took off, launching to the front of the stage, stalking the crowd, dribbling beer and pulling all sorts of shapes an poses.  They are such a good band to shoot live, and I love the music and attitude.  Like Fat White Family, they are a different beast live to on record.  Unfortunately Rebecca Lucy Taylor was absent for backing vocals and her duet on The Strangle of Anna, opting to stay at Glastonbury it seems.  

The second to last band I shot that weekend was Hundred Waters.  This was another band that just didn't stir me at all.  I found the singer to seem a little shy, sometimes seeing the cameras and turning around.  It could have been coincidence but to me and a fellow tog is had an air of unconfidence.  Maybe we were wrong.  

The last act of the festival, Birdy Nam Nam, cancelled and the headline slot was given to Mykki Blanco, upgraded from the Midnight Circus tent.  This was of much benefit given that stage's set up.  We were advised that we could shoot the whole show as he loves photographers.  I chose to stick with the usual three songs as it was cold, late and I wanted to get home to bed as I had work in the morning.  Unfortunately bed was to wait as he had a DJ play for half an hour before he came on stage.  When he did arrive he was like whirlwind, boucing around the red light soaked stage, picking up props and roaming the stage.  I left my zoom lens in the bag and kept to my 24-70mm for the whole set.  By the third song he jumped into the crowd and got them to form a circle pit.  This was the best part of the shoot and a great way to end the weekend.

So I've talked about the bands a bit, now it's time to show off the people, the festival goers and music lovers.  It's a great festival for people to dress up and not give a damn.  I didn't realise there was so much going on around the site to encourage this, secret parties, raves, masked balls and wine parties.  I didn't see the half of it.  Maybe next year.

March In Photos by Aaron Corr

March was one of the busiest months I’ve had in quite a while.  Make hay while the sun shines and while the music is good.  I started with Hamilton Laithauser (minus Rostam, ex-Vampire Weekend, who he had made his new album with) in Workmans Club.  I’d seen the Walkmen a few times before but I never realized how tall he was, it took me by surprise as he came out and towered over the small stage in Workos.  It was an hour set and was brilliant from start to finish.  I’ve always loved his voice in The Walkmen, and his solo songs were a lot more personable, and laced with a bit more story, given a humorous background preceding them.  I made sure to get a vinyl signed by him after the show as he drank a pint of Guinness.

Full gallery here.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats were on town before St Paddy's Day to play the Jameson Bow Street Sessions in the Academy for competition winners.  The night before they played a private acoustic gig, streamed live on YouTube and other sites, in the newly refurbished distillery.  GoldenPlec had the chance to interview him and have some behind the scenes photos taken.  I had asked if this brief opportunity would afford me the chance to take a proper portrait but it was just to be for BTS shots, so I left additional flash gear at home and shot with the natural light in the room.  

He was a cool and charming guy.  It was nice to mingle with him and the band after the show.  I had won a Jameson prize last year which still was reaping me benefits this year, so as a result of that I was on the list to go see him do his proper show the next night.  They were fantastic, full of enthusiasm and great stage presence from everyone on stage.

Full gallery here.

When I saw that Rick Astley had sold out the Olympia and that the job was for the taking at GoldenPlec I knew I should do it for the craic.  It’s become a funny talking point in chats with friends since, everyone asks “well, how was the tune live?” but unfortunately I opted not to stay since I had 8 gigs to shoot in 2 weeks and many of the others were gigs I would be staying for the full show.  I did hear one hit song of his in my three song shoot so I was happy with that.

It was a busy photo pit.  Light wise he was very well lit, as you would hope and expect.  The frustrating part is that the rest of the stage can’t be accounted for in many shots otherwise I’d risk over-exposing his face.  Rick was the man of the evening so the camera settings had to be dictated by how he was lit, therefore the rest is underexposed.  He moved around a lot, making sure to cover all sides of the crowd.  Once I’d many a nice shot set up he’d move on quite fast.  Still, it was a fun one to shoot and it’s good to see him enjoying it so long after his initial fame.

Full gallery here.

Ride came to the Olympia Theatre the night after Rick.  I've never, ever listened to them, but I decided to do it given the hullabaloo about them reforming and talk from folk online being very excited for them at previous festivals I'd been to.  It was a busy photo pit again that night, many of whom were big fans of the band.  As the pictures prove, there was lots of purple and blue lights (a pain to post process when over-saturated).  Again, because I had a busy weekend ahead of me I decided not to stay on for more of the gig.  The time it can take to edit would mean I'd be behind before the weekend begins if I don't crack on and begin that night.  

Full gallery here.

On the Friday of the week was the big gig for me.  The Moonlandingz.  They brought Goat Girl along for the tour with them.  I had just missed the opening set by Vulpynes, who were chosen by the band when they put out a call for female bands to apply to support on the tour.  

I was looking forward to The Moonlandingz show since it was announced.  Fat White Family played Whelans the year before and it was one of, if not, my gig of year.  It was mayhem, it was a gig that stands out from everything else and this was my hopes for Lias Saoudi's other project, and I was not disappointed.  They opened with three of their biggest songs, the type that you would have expected nearer the end of any other band's show.  Immediately the crowd was going nuts for them.  From a shooting perspective (I didn't shoot the FWF gig) it seemed a bit easier of a shoot than the Fat White's show but it was still mayhem and a mad experience at the front of the crowd, with no photo pit, and battling against the current as everyone moshed.  The lights were consistent, the only time I'd change settings was when Lias jumped into the crowd.    

Lias, or Johnny Rocket as he is known in this venture, was wrapped in cling film, with a roll of kitchen paper tucked inside, smeared with oil/Vaseline and black painted eyebrows.  He writhed around on stage, jumped into the crowd, crawled around the stage and clung to Rebecca Lucy Taylor during their duet on the Strangle of Anna.  It was a spectacle and another gig the likes of which you rarely see these days.  If you've not seen them yet, then what are you waiting for?  Go!!

Full gallery here.

I had the desire to shoot Austra again in the Button Factory but I hadn't got around to sorting it out versus just going as a punter.  The day before the show I got asked to cover it for The Thin Air so the stars aligned perfectly.  I love this band and Katie Stelmanis' voice.  Exhausted from The Moonlandingz show and the late night that followed, and armed with a fractured finger from the night, I again faced no photo pit and a squeeze through the crowd to shoot the band.  I unfortunately missed the support from Pixx, which looked like a great set to shoot.

Full gallery here.

The Sunday of the weekend left no rest for the wicked but at least a more chilled affair to shoot.  Warpaint in Vicar Street with support from Æ MAK.  I'd yet to see them live, so when I saw their name last minute as support I legged it from my apartment to the venue to be there on time.  The duo who front the band danced their way in sync through each song and provided some cool shots in the process.  

I last shot Warpaint from the aisles of the National Concert Hall last year, so now I got to get up close to shoot from the pit (finally a pit this weekend!!) for The Thin Air.  The lighting conditions were not as ideal as the last time, heavy, low lit blues, purples and smoke drenched the stage.  The harsh colours washed over most of the shots that it made editing another nightmare to get through.  The band had some fairy lights draped over potted plants behind them, which would have made a nice background, however this had limited effect in the results.  The band were great and wound down my weekend perfectly over a pint, watching from the balcony.  

Before I had time to get too settled on the couch after work on a Monday evening I had to get back out there and cover the Car Seat Headrest gig in The Academy.  Traams were the support and played a blinder.  The three song shoot was a lengthy one due to how long their songs went.  I ended up with far more photos than I typically do for a support act, mainly because they were cool to shoot.  I far prefer these results to the headliner's shots.

Car Seat Headrest came on to a dimly lit, and more smoke filled stage than what had preceded them and kicked straight into it.  The guitarist was the most interesting band member to shoot on stage but he was in a shadow a lot of the time.  It wasn't too bad a shoot overall but I don't think anything really pops out for me.  As the gig drew on and I took to the balcony to watch, they kept breaking strings and having to swap guitars and re-string where they could.  It still made for a good gig.

Full gallery here.

After a day's rest from shooting I got back to it for Stormzy in the Olympia Theatre.  I had no idea what to expect since he had not toured in six months and this was his first show back in action.  The crowd was very young and chanting ahead of him taking to the stage.  Annie MAc was in the balcony to watch the show.  The anticipation was huge.  

As he took to the stage and kicked into it, he would stride across the stage in the dark, dim reds and blues barely lighting him.  It was panic stations in the photo pit.  Thank god for the few minutes he took to chat to the crowd in between the second and third song.  This was where we could snap away while he was lit.  The third song thankfully had better lighting and provided some further shots of him in action.  Overall it was not the easiest of shoots and I did think I came out with nothing to show from it.

Full gallery here.

The final gig of March was going to be a belter of show.  Run the Jewels with support by The Gaslamp Killer, once again in the Olympia Theatre.  It was hard to judge when the three song shoot would be over, I shot and left within five minutes.  Although he was cool to shoot, there is still not much variety in shooting a DJ.

Run the Jewels were epic.  It sold out in no time and the venue was buzzing.  Killer Mike and El-P were brilliant to shoot, they barely stop moving on stage but at least when one passes you by, the other isn't far away.  The lights were definitely not of the Stormzy variety which was a relief.  The pit was busy with photographers once more, but this time the band had a videographer shooting with a unit to steady the camera, which proved another obstacle to avoid.

I leave a busy March to have a quiet April.  It's been a busy month with personal stuff and I'm planning a big trip with work that I'm morphing into a holiday in which I will be gone for 15 days, my longest trip away ever I'd say.  So with that I may be quiet for a little while but on my return I hope to bombard the blog with pictures from Orlando, Miami and the Bahamas.  Until next time, adios.

Full gallery here.