The Thin Air sent me to cover Fangclub's album launch in Tower Records, where the band were performing an acoustic instore before a signing session. I had hoped to have a quick catch up with the guys since I'd last worked with them at their Whelans headline show for an AAA piece but I arrived just on time to catch the set, and afterwards they were knee deep in signing records and I had to run. I'm looking forward to asking them all about how their Pixies support slot went since I missed that show because I was in Lisbon. I know... life is tough.
I began February with an Access All Areas for Fangclub's headline show in Whelans for GoldenPlec. An AAA shoot involves a lot of hanging around while the band loads in, sound checks and hang out backstage. It's always in the back of my head to keep out of the way as much as possible and give everyone their space to get on with their jobs, and not be in their face too much when it comes to down time backstage.
I headed in just after the band loaded in and would snap away as they got the stage set up and sound-checked. The lights on stage were looking impressive and there was a neat backdrop, both of which are rarities to see in a Whelans show. For backstage shots I tried to use flash as little as possible. The shot above of Steven and Kev on the couch was one of the only shots I used a flash for pre-gig.
The show itself was heavy on strobes, low lights and harsh red/purple lights. It was the trickiest part of the shoot funnily enough, given the earlier light tests provided some cool shots. The lights were now a trickier affair to get the band in the right light at the right time. I made sure to make my way to the back of the stage to catch Steven crowd surfing during the final song. I was very tempted to run out to the front of the stage to get a closer shot but as it is a small stage I didn't want to risk being in the way as he was thrust back on to it. After the gig I finished the AAA with a shot of the three guys ready for some post-gig celebrations.
Sometimes there are gigs you get landed with on the day, the original photographer can't make it for one reason or another so you step in to help out. Leading up to this show I had thought "Band of Horses would be an alright show to shoot", so luck was on my side courtesy of The Thin Air. Vicar Street is a 5-10 minute walk from my apartment so I made my way up in good time before the band would take to the stage. The lights beforehand were great looking but by the time they came on they took a dull turn and the smoke machine was turned on. This turned it into a tougher shoot than I'd expected it to be but there are some shots that came from this that I'm delighted with, particularly of Ben Bridwell screaming into the microphone while the drummer's hair is swinging in the air behind him. The first song is where the majority of my shots came from, the other two songs were pretty useless for lighting and a waste to shoot.
The Divine Comedy was a Sunday night gig. I was in one of those lazy, hungover moods where it felt like a drag to have to go from the couch, walk the cold quays at night and make my way to Bord Gais Energy Theatre to shoot a show. It was worth it though. The venue restricts photographers to shoot from the side so the variety of shots is minimal which is a shame. What made it worthwhile were the two spare seats that were beside me and another photographer as we shot the gig, so we sat down and enjoyed the set after the three song shoot. I had no notions of staying since it's an all seated show and not something you can just blend into a crowd when done like other shows. The set provided loads of nostalgic moments with songs I hadn't listened to in years.
What a busy month this turned out to be. The first act I was asked to shoot was Super Silly, the first of three shoots for GoldenPlec's Plec Picks 2017 I would cover. I had all my camera & lighting gear packed, and ready to meet the guys in Temple Bar and take it from there. When they arrived I started to get the lighting gear ready and frustratingly found that my Yongnuo flash wouldn't turn on. It turned out a battery leaked and corroded some of the parts. We had to do without and use what limited daylight we had.
Time was of the essence, it was after 3:30pm in early January and it would be dark from 5pm. We took some shots where we met, then in an alley nearby that they were interested in using and onward to three other quick locations that I wanted to use to create more variety. My favourite is the red & white walls of Sin É on the quays. I'd walk past the columns that front the pub from time to time and think from a certain angle they could make for a great photo with a band/solo artist. It was tougher with four people to get the perspective exactly right so a little Photoshop was needed to fill in. The shot of the guys from the chest up was inspired by a Anton Corbijn photo of New Order I had seen in a book of his work.
This whole shoot was done in an hour. The band were great and willing to take more time on the shoot but any longer would have meant struggling to make a well lit portrait. My flash being broken inadvertently led to more set ups, all of which resulted in pictures I love.
My second shoot was with up & coming urban singer/songwriter Soulé. Her debut single on Spotify alone amassed over 178,000 listens by the time the article was posted. The arrangement was to meet in the same area as Super Silly, but I had also seen that she had recently done a photo shoot in that area for another Irish music site, so after a little discussion I was offered to shoot the portraits in Diffusion Lab, the recording studio she would be working in that day.
By this stage I had got my Yongnuo flash cleaned and back in action, and I had found my primary flash which I accidentally left in my work bag after Christmas. I was primed and ready to do some strobist portraits using the studio. There was some cool stickers/drawings on the window which I decided to try and incorporate in the first few shots. I followed that up with some shots using a backdrop, provided by her producer. I lit up the blank backdrop with a purple gel over the flash. A further two set ups had Soulé pose in the vocal booth, and then by a couch with a large print behind it. I was delighted again with the results, and to have been out of the cold for this shoot.
The first gig shoot of the year was one I couldn't wait for, Cage the Elephant with support from Declan McKenna. I've been a fan of Declan's since seeing him on Jools Holland. He was listed to be on at 8pm but came on at 7:45pm. I'm glad i got there early to try meet friends, otherwise I'd have missed shooting his set, which opened with the awesome Isombard. He played a solid 40-45 minute set which is impressive for a new act in a support slot. I'm looking forward to his album and whenever he has time in his busy schedule to eventually come back and do a headline show.
The only I caught Cage the Elephant live was when they supported Foals in the Olympia. Foals wanted the last three songs snapped by photographers so I had to leave after shooting three songs of Cage and wait in the lobby until the end of Foals set. I didn't know them well at the time but I was dying to stay. On this night in the Academy they were superb. I can't say anyone was going home with a bad word to say about the show, they were on fire. Matthew Shultz is a fantastic front man and possibly the best front man I've shot so far. He gives you some great opportunities for a great shot. I felt bad for the rest of the band as he leaves you mesmerized and not wanting to miss another moment of action from him.
The rest of the show was a great example of missing out by not being able to take pictures later at a gig. There was crowd surfing, standing and signing on the shoulders of the crowd, jumping from the drums and falling to the stage while still singing. It was one hell of a show and it is the one that has to be beaten this year. They've just been announced for NOS Alive in Lisbon so I'll be seeing them again this Summer.
My next shoot was of the band Beach for The Thin Air's 17 for '17. I had a day off work for an appointment with the dentist that morning and I got dosed with plenty of anaesthetic for the procedure. The shoot had to happen around one of the lads lunch break from work. The pressure of limited time, coupled with my face feeling numb, and like it was swollen was not a cool buzz to do a shoot with. I was genuinely struggling to think of where to use for a central location that wouldn't be too busy with people, given it was lunch time in a lively part of the city. My head was not with it.
We strolled over behind Whelans to see what it'd be like to shoot in the little, walled off garden area behind it. We tried a few things, I wasn't crazy about the results, the band thought it looked a bit too boy band for the first few shots. We meandered around some more and then went into The Camden Exchange and asked to use their closed smoking area. The band joked around with the flowers and watering can, and this was what we liked the most when reviewing the photos after we were done. They wanted the photo for the piece to show they weren't super serious all the time.
The same night as having been to the dentist and doing the Beach shoot, I went to cover the Martha Wainwright gig in Vicar St. My face was no longer numb and I felt better, and far less pressure than the earlier shoot. It was a fully seated gig so I wandered around the crowd taking shots from afar, trying not to disturb or get the way of paying punters. The most memorable part of the shoot was Martha forgetting how one of her new songs went and stopping the band in their tracks as she tried to remember how it went.
Pleasure Beach supported Bell X1 in the Olympia. It was a case of low lights, red lights and uninspiring results. They arrived on stage in the dark and the singer immediately went to the front of the stage to greet the crowd, guitar held in the air, not a light in sight. It would have made a nice shot.
Bell X1 was a similarly frustrating affair. Lots of annoying blues, a light under singer, Paul Noonan, that cast a shadow on the microphone up his face for many shots that managed to focus properly. The surrounding band members were very much in the shadows so it was definitely a case of the Paul Noonan show, as it was barely worth trying to snap the other band members.
My final Plec Picks shoot was with Fangclub. It was to be done on a weeknight and the weather wasn't looking good for the chosen night during the planning stage, so I paniced to find an indoor location I could use that would suit. It was tough. I settled on reserving the downstairs in one of my local pubs, The Black Sheep. I was told it would be empty but when we all arrived there was a bunch of people dotted around the place, getting away from the busy upstairs bar. The walls were plastered with craft beer logos which wouldn't have been a good look so I opted to use the blank walls by the stairwell. As the feature interview took place I set up my strobist gear, starting with a gelled flash to light up the backdrop.
The corner of the stairwell was the darkest part of that area and worked the best, so I got Kevin, Dara and Steven to squeeze in and pose. With the interview over I asked Bernard, from team GP, to hold the flash & softbox overhead as I snapped as it was easier than using the tripod, and keeping it stable on the step. I tried a red gel for some additional shots before moving the guys out on to the street since the rain had stayed away. I switched to the telephoto lens in order to try get a bokeh effect with the lights at the end of Capel St.
During the final set up the cold was beginning to get to us so we finished up after a few shots there. The biggest obstacle in post processing was editing the corner of the wall that was behind the guys. Making the colour blend was the frustrating part. It seemed like it would be an easy job at the time of shooting but it was a bit time consuming and headache inducing. Overall it was another shoot I was satisfied with and brought to a close a busy January.