Hamilton Leithauser

The Best Gigs of 2017 by Aaron Corr

Cage the Elephant: The Academy

The year got off to a flying start with Cage the Elephant making their long awaited headline show in Ireland, in The Academy.  Not only was it an amazing gig to shoot, thank you Matt Shultz for being one of the best front-men of any modern band, but also because the music and the atmosphere.  It was genuinely electric.  I've only been a casual fan to this point yet the gig gives me shivers to think of it.  The setlist, fucking hell it was unreal.  I can’t think of how any one person could come out of the gig with anything but “gig of the year” on their lips, and it was only bleedin’ January!!  It could have been all downhill from there, but thankfully not.  

Read the GoldenPlec review and see all my photos here.

Hamilton Leithauser: Workmans Club

I was not prepared for how great Hamilton Leithauser's gig in the Workmans Club would be.  I heard the singles from his current album with Rostam, but hadn’t yet given it a spin.  The Walkmen had always sort of disappointed me live,so I felt like I could potentially take it or leave it with this gig.  This was a completely different ball game to a Walkmen show, the tunes were all fantastic, and I loved his banter and tales in between songs.  He did a stunning rendition of In A Black Out, finger picking the acoustic guitar and holding the crowd in the palm of his hands with his signature voice.  His story about the origin of the lyrics for The Brides Dad was a fun wedding tale ahead of playing said song.  Often singers can bore you by over-explaining but Hamilton nails it, and it makes you pay more attention to the lyrics.  The gig was under an hour and it left everyone wanting more.  I can’t wait until he returns, however long that will be.

See the full gallery here.

The Moonlandingz: Whelans

After seeing Fat White Family early in 2016, and it being one of my favourite gigs of that year, I couldn’t miss Lias Saoudi’s return to Whelans with The Moonlandingz.  They may not have built up the hardcore fanbase of FWF yet but that has changed now that they’ve played our shores.  Their debut LP was released that Friday, so the band and crowd were well up for a mad show.  Lias, aka Johnny Rocket, arrived out with black make up on his face and cling film wrapped around… kitchen roll(?) to his midriff, swinging beers and a bottle of wine.  They started with their three most popular & well known songs, a brave move for any band, and yet the gig got better and better as it went along.  The duet with Slow Club’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor for The Strangle of Anna was both strange and brilliant.  The band barreled towards the end with some b-sides and yet the momentum kept rising, with only one song providing a bit of respite for the crowd before Man in My Lyfe near tore Whelans apart.  They were a band to rival Cage the Elephant for best performance of the year. 

Click here for my full gallery.

Metronomy: Body & Soul

When I took Joseph Mount’s portrait last year it looked there was to be no touring at all for the album.  Thankfully he broke that sabbatical in 2017 for a handful of dates, followed by full on festival schedule in which they came to Ireland for Body & Soul.  It was my first time at the festival and, I must admit, they were the band that swung it for me to go.  They headlined the first night and they were as brilliant as ever.  Photographers managed to be granted 4 songs to shoot, possibly in the confusion of all the initial songs segueing into each other.  They kept the momentum going and barely let it up, even debuting a new song, which is still in my head.  They always look like they are having a blast on stage while lashing out their unique brand of pop brilliance.  I can’t recommend seeing them live enough.  Even my GoldenPlec partner in crime for the weekend, who previously wasn’t convinced by them, was completely won over. 

Click for GoldenPlec's review and click here for full gallery.

HMLTD: Workmans Club

HMLTD were recommended to many of us at team GoldenPlec by Niall, who moved to London last year and has caught them a few times, citing them as quickly filling the top spots for his favourite gigs of the year.  While we may not have got the full London experience, with a half busy but very enthusiastic crowd mixed in with some technical issues for the band, it was still a solid display of their potential.  My GP friends and I all looked at each other and agreed that HMLTD would be the perfect band for a Halloween night.  They are in line with Moonlandingz/Fat White Family for a raucous gig experience, full of showmanship, sweat and catchy tunes.  The unusual twists and turns to songs like To the Door keep things interesting, mixing glam, psych rock and electronic all in one.  Broken guitar strings and faulty PA meant we were denied an encore but the next time everyone in the room will be back with friends in tow to experience them.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: The Academy

The return of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has to make my list for this year, particularly since they started their first tour in quite some time in Dublin.  I got to see the guys soundcheck some of their new material ahead of the show, in which they played a good amount of new songs from their upcoming album, Wrong Creatures.  Usually a band playing a fair chunk of new material can be off putting when they have an extensive back catalogue of favourites to work through, but I enjoyed hearing the debut of these tracks live.  The gig also had the BRMC trait of being very loud indeed.   The boys & girl are back, Pete might be grayer but they are still sounding mighty.

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BNQT: The Button Factory

BNQT is a ‘supergroup’ consisting of Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Fran Healy (Travis), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) with Midlake as the core band.  On this date of the tour we were minus Alex & Ben but it didn’t take away from a mighty and fun gig.  Everyone on stage is having the time of their lives, running through choice favourites from each band in between cuts from BNQT’s debut album.  They also peppered the gig with some classic covers of Neil Young, The Beatles and finished with Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down.  I went in to this gig tired, half thinking of leaving a few songs after I shot the show, but left with a bit of pep in my step and a big smile on my face for what I got to witness.  Their name isn't well known, so it was to a smaller crowd than any of these band members would normally get in their own gig which added to the ‘you had to be there’ vibe of the show.  If HMLTD were Halloween, then this band were Christmas. 

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The best gigs that I didn't shoot this year were...

Interpol: Alexandra Palace

I couldn’t miss Interpol playing Turn On The Bright Lights from start to finish for its 15th anniversary tour.  They announced they were to do the set at Electric Picnic, but I’ve retired from going to EP.  A trip over the water to London was in order to see them play in Ally Pally.  The buzz about the night was great, the weather was sunny and people were handing out Interpol related samples of the book Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman to those queuing.  Bar someone getting sick beside us fifteen minutes before they were due onstage, the night was a treat.  They launched straight into Untitled, played the whole album and capped the main set off with Specialist, one of their best tracks which just missed being on the album.  They returned to play a ‘greatest hits’ set, even playing a new song which is not in their tendency to do since they toured TOTBL.  I was envious of the photographers shooting the show, the lights were so much better than when I got the chance to shoot the band on their last Irish visit.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper: The Olympia

Buying the ticket to Alice Cooper started off as a laugh.  I couldn’t be more happy for that spur of the moment decision because it was one of the most entertaining and fun shows I’ve ever seen.  To think I very nearly could have photographed the show too near kills me.  Missing out on The Thin Air asking for people to cover this show is my biggest regret of 2017.  At least I was there and didn’t let an amazing show pass me by.  He played all the hits I knew, and everything I didn't know entertained the hell out of me as well.  It was a bit cheesey at times watching the guitarists in near competition with each other to throw as many plecs to the crowd as they could, but it's just all a bit of fun and showmanship while they are playing killer leads on guitar.  The pyrotechnics and theatricality of it was a hoot.  Alice Cooper, what a legend.

Depech Mode

Depeche Mode: 3Arena

This was my second time catching Depeche Mode on this tour, the first time being at NOS Alive in Lisbon.  I really hoped to photograph this show and had my name to it but to get into why it didn’t happen would lead to a rant and who needs that, right?  This is about the show, and it was way better than Lisbon and possibly the best show I’ve seen of Depeche Mode out of the four times I’ve seen them. The set list was incredible, while focusing on their more recent noughties and later nineties output through the first half, they showed how after all this time they still have great songs and are not content to stick around as a nostalgia act.  

The latter half was a blitzkrieg of classics which didn’t let up until it was time for them to leave.  Martin Gore’s ‘acoustic’ moments were the best I’ve seen yet, with A Question of Lust and Strangelove getting an airing.  Dave Gahan has more energy now than most front-men under half his age. He controls the crowd like we are puppets and he is the master, no better is this visible than during Never Let Me Down as he  gets the signature famous crowd wave going midway through the song. This always gives me shivers down my spine to participate, and to look around at the view.  God knows how it feels from their vantage point. Once again, they are unreal.  

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.