Vicar Street

The Best Gigs Of 2018 by Aaron Corr

2018 saw some amazing gigs come this way. My absolute best gigs of the year, one, two or three of which are up there in the list of best I’ve ever experienced, I was in attendance but not shooting. So to begin things I’m going to take a look at the best gigs this year that I photographed. Not to be mistaken for the best shows to shoot, these are the best gigs I saw, heard and experienced in all their glory.

Part 1: Best gigs I shot.

Wild Beasts: The Olympia

The band announced their impending split toward the end of 2017, bowing out with three final shows in the new year, one of which was a final Irish show on February 15th in the Olympia Theatre. It was their second last show ever and it was everything you would want from a Wild Beasts gig. They played a selection from all their albums split out over two sets. If you were at a festival and they played either of these sets it would have been brilliant, never mind getting both fully rounded out, and well conceived set lists in one night. There was no support, the whole night was devoted to them and saying goodbye. It sent shivers up my spine at times, and the crowd sang along and reacted like I’d never seen before at one of their shows. They truly ended on a high.

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Paul Draper: Workmans Club

I have to add this to the best of 2018 list, if not for it being great to finally see Paul Draper return to playing gigs, because Mansun’s epic Attack of the Grey Lantern was played in full to mark it’s anniversary. This was an album I came to late in it’s own promotional cycle. I got in to Mansun on time before they ultimately came back with Six, which is one of my favourite albums of all time. Like Wild Beasts, Paul’s gig was comprised of two sets; the first being his solo material (which the crowd lapped up) and then Grey Lantern. It was an incredibly packed and sweaty gig. Paul could let the fans sing as much of the album as needed. It was a fun show. Here’s to when he comes back to pay Six in full.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 3Arena

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are not a band that swing by Ireland very often. I missed them back around 2002 when they played in the High Stool in Limerick. They seemed happy to just play a festival here every once in a blue moon, and the only times I’ve caught them were at Electric Picnic in 2006 and Longitude in 2013. On this night they were more a co-headliner with Beck than mere support. They were touring the anniversary of debut album Fever to Tell, but this was not just a nostalgia show or a run through the album from start to finish. Karen stalked the stage, singing and screaming to songs from all through their career. They played for a good 1hr 15mins, and given Beck’s delays to get onstage, they may have just pipped him to the post with a longer set. While I enjoyed Beck’s set, the first half was flawless while the second half lagged. That’s why I’m highlighting this as Yeah Yeah Yeah’s show to steal.

Click here for full gallery, and here for The Thin Air’s review.

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever: Whelans

I am still getting used to saying their name right. Even as I typed the header I got it all mixed up. The Aussie’s brought the heat with them on this night as they gave Whelans a very hot and sweaty August gig. They have just been announced to support Idles in Iveagh Gardens in 2019, turning an already great gig into something extra special. There’s not much else I can add to the review below so just take my word and get an Idles ticket if you haven’t already.

Click here for full gallery and here for The Thin Air’s review..

Julien Baker: Vicar Street

This gig took me by surprise. I was a last minute addition to the list to shoot this show, and I can’t say I’d ever heard a track of Julien’s before that night. Her set was extraordinary, her voice is incredible and the guitar sounds were gorgeous. The gig made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up many a time.

Click here for full gallery, and here for GoldenPlec’s review.

David Byrne: 3Arena

One of my biggest gig regrets was leaving the front of the Electric Arena when David Byrne & St Vincent were to take to the stage, to go to the Main Stage to see another band I loved play an alright set. Everything I heard about the show I missed was that it was an “I was there” moment, and I missed it. Finally getting to see him playing a host of classic Talking Head songs and solo material, while putting on an amazing visual performance on stage in the 3Arena made up for it. The atmosphere with the crowd was one of pure joy, with everyone out of their seats and dancing for the majority of the show. Seeing Slippery People, Naive Melody and Road to Nowhere live will stay with me for a very long time. If he brings the show to a Broadway residency I’ll be booking my tickets first thing.

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Interpol: Olympia Theatre

For the first time ever I went to see a full three night residency of a band in the Olympia. This wasn’t entirely planned on my part, but it’s the way it worked out and I’m all the more delighted for it. Over the three nights they relied on the same foundation of a set list but changed up a lot of tracks on each show. Over three nights they played all but Obstacle 2 from Turn on the Bright Lights.

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Part 2: Best gigs I didn’t shoot.

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Arcade Fire: 3Arena

Seeing Arcade Fire “in the round” was an experience. It brought you closer to the band, the band rotating around the stage so you got different vantage points from the one spot, and the light show topped it off. The set was brilliant, and thankfully didn’t throw in any of the weaker tracks from Everything Now. The show was designed to bring the band and audience together and they succeed completely.

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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Kilmainham

This show goes down as one of the all time best I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Nick Cave at festivals a few times over the year, and he is truly one of the best, and most passionate performers you’ll ever see. I wondered how he would bring the intimacy of his smaller Skeleton Tree shows to a large outdoor show but he effortlessly pulled it off. Emotions ran high in the crowd during songs like Into My Arms and Distant Sky, and many tears were shed. He still brought the darker songs out for a run through, as well as bringing many fans to the stage during the murderous Stagger Lee. The gig was epic and unforgettable. Not only is this my gig of the year, I think it has safely secured a place in my top five shows of all time.

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The Killers with Franz Ferdinand: RDS

I love a good double header of a gig, especially if it happens to be outdoors and the sun is shining bright. Franz Ferdinand opened the evening for The Killers, and played a shorter version of their Olympia set from earlier in the year. The Killers came on and played a killer set (pardon the pun) and kept the crowd in great form, singing along to all their hits. Brandon channeled an Elvis look in the encore, coming out in a gold suit to finish the night in Las Vegas style.

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Idles: Button Factory

This show goes head to head with David Byrne to battle for my second place for gig of the year. I was happy to not shoot it and just take it all in, especially since it turned out to be dark lighting conditions, and full of strobes for the most part for shooting, and you could barely move an inch with all the jumping and moshing in the crowd. I ended up on stage at one point, jumping around with a bunch of other fans while the band played and in the crowd at the same time. They have provided the album of the year and their show does everything in it’s power to try win it’s place as gig of the year. They’ve got two Dublin shows already in line for 2019, both of which I will be there yelling Danny Nedelko at the top of my lungs.

Kurt Vile: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

Kurt Vile can be a tough cookie to photograph at a show. With his hari covering his face for the most part, it’s like trying to photograph cousin IT from The Addams Family in a foggy haze. The last time I shot a show of his it was in Whelans on his solo acoustic tour. This was quite a different experience and was tricky during the first song or so.

Kurt managed to show his face a little and from there it was just a battle with the low lighting and dry ice. Some of the colours were really washed out when editing but converted really nice to black & white.

Julian Casablancas & The Voidz: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

I was surprised to get a photopass for this show, purely because I figured the man himself wouldn’t be too fond of press at shows. When I got the pass I thought to myself “the lights will be shite”, and sure enough, they were.

Promiseland

Promiseland

Support came from Promiseland, a Tasmanian devil onstage, who couldn’t keep still between running to his decks/samplers and jumping off stage and into the crowd. He came on twenty minutes later than expected. The lights were brutal and the constant movement didn’t help. The most still he was through the shoot was during this shot as he stretched his back on stage.

Then we get to Julian Casablancas and the Voidz, half an hour later than listed time and just as in the dark as Promiseland. Julian takes to the stage and sits on the drum riser, head in hand for a moment before he began to sing. Within a minute he comes to sit at the front of the stage to face, or not face the crowd. While the stage is lit bad, he was completely in the dark and the lighting guy showed no interest in fixing that.

Myself and fellow GoldenPlec photographer, Colm Kelly were the only two photographers in the pit and were at either side of Casablanas, facing the same struggles. The camera couldn’t focus because it was so dark. I’d switch to manual focus and it still wouldn’t shoot. I swapped lens to a f1.8 50mm and still it struggled to find a focus point. The only hope was catching him while people in the audience snapped him with their phones. Never more so was I happy that people at a gig kept their flash on. This is the only reason I’ve anything usable from the show.

His guitarist wore clown make up and even he was constantly in bad lighting. The below shot may look like things weren’t as bad as I’m making out but this was the best I got in the bunch. He would also veer too far forward on the stage away from whatever light there was and I struggled to get him in any action shots, particularly while side by side with the second guitarist.

Overall it felt like a waste of time but if you’re going to have a shit shooting experience it may as well be with someone of note. I can’t call it the worst shoot I’ve ever done as the audience saved some shots. Band’s like Beach House still hold that honour.

Click here for more photos.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

Pavement’s main man Stephen Malkmus returned to Dublin with his band, The Jicks, in support of their new album, Sparkle Hard. I covered the show for The Thin Air and got in early to catch Tandem Felix for my first time.

Tandem Felix

Tandem Felix

My first portrait shoot after I moved to Dublin was with David Tapley of Tandem Felix, for Plec Picks 2014, & Éna Brennan, aka Dowry, is also in the band and featured in a shoot of mine from the past year, yet I’d never got around to catching them live. They were great too, I can finally say!

I enjoyed shooting Stephen Malkmus. The lights were ok, nothing amazing or bad. It wasn’t a busy pit on the night, and the venue wasn’t sold out which surprised me for a Friday night. Those who missed out missed the Pavement ‘covers’ he threw in at the encore which made everyone’s night.

Julien Baker: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

GoldenPlec sent me to shoot the Julien Baker show in Vicar Street. They had featured her quite a bit in advance, with an interview on the site ahead of the show. I didn’t manage to listen to her much but I came out captivated by her songs, her voice and her power on stage.

Becca Mancari

Becca Mancari

Support came from Nashville’s Becca Mancari. She was to be with another guitarist but had to go solo due to a Ryanair issue. She was funny and charming on stage, and the lights were perfect for capturing her performing.

Becca Mancari

Becca Mancari

Julien Baker

Julien Baker

There’s not much I can say about Julien Baker’s performance that hasn’t been said in the GoldenPlec review. What I can say was that, much like the support, the lighting conditions were excellent and the spotlights in particular adding to the effect. So much so I made sure to take more wider shots to incorporate them highlighting her on stage. The only distraction was the keyboard set up which got in the way when shooting from the left side. Not a big deal in the overall scale of things. It was a amazing performance by an artist I look forward to hearing a lot more from.

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May Photos by Aaron Corr

Slow Riot

Slow Riot

May began with two Limerick bands playing The Grand Social.  GoldenPlec sent me to cover London based Whenyoung's first Dublin headline show, but first up on the night was Slow Riot.  

Whenyoung

Whenyoung

Whenyoung took to the stage with quiet confidence and belted out great tune after great tune.  They would later find themselves invited onto the support slot to Nick Cave and Patti Smith in Kilmainham the next month, which is high praise.  They are making great buzz for themselves so the coming year should hold big things for them.

Full gallery.

Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher

Last year I photographed Liam, and this year I complete the Oasis set with Noel Gallagher in 3Arena for The Thin Air.  Photographers were restricted to one side of the stage at a time, no shooting from the center areas.  I was delighted when he raised the guitar like a rifle and aimed it at me for a posed shot.  He would do something quirky like this if the right photographer caught his eye at the right time, like sticking his tongue out for another.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs finally made a return to Ireland, where they've only played a handful of times in the Republic and never their own headline show since they've become ever more popular.  This night was a double headline show with Beck.  Covering their show for The Thin Air was a massive highlight.  When I arrived at the Arena I was only approved to shoot them, the Beck pass only got confirmed while I was there.

Karen O, as expected, was a legend to shoot.  She wore unique designed clothes and stalked the stage being all kinds of cool.  Brian Chase behind the drums looked like he was having a whale of a time, looking like the happiest drummer on the world I heard someone remark after.  Nick Zinner was just quietly cool to the right, letting the guitar do the talking.  

Full gallery.

Beck

Beck

Beck's pass arrived just before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs shoot, it was to be shot from the soundboard and a contract needed to be signed.  It literally signs away the rights to the photos which I hated to sign, but I knew in all fairness none of his reps are going to be chasing any of us down to get hi-res copies of a photo(s) taken from a soundboard for promo use.  He arrived very late to the stage, due to production delays I presume, and as a result went past curfew to play the same length of a set as YYYs.  He opened with a storming three song intro and the lights were great given how far back I was shooting.  

Pip Blom

Pip Blom

The Thin Air kept me busy in May with The Breeders rescheduled show in Vicar Street, with no storm Ophelia to stop them this time.  Amsterdam band Pip Blom opened up that evening and were a great support.  I look forward to hopefully catching them again.

The Breeders

The Breeders

The Breeders looked delighted to make it back to Dublin after being primed for their last gig but red weather alerts causing everything in the city and country that day to be cancelled.  The lights were quickly lowered and a smokey haze filled the stage, much like the last time I shot them here.  In the brief time between songs the light was at it's best and that's where I managed to snap Kim Deal with a big smile to the crowd as she bantered with them.  This was the type of shot I wanted to get from photographing her.   

Full gallery.

Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman

It had been a while since I was in the Tivoli.  I put my name down with GoldenPlec to cover Ezra Furman's gig there.  Although my name was on the door to shoot, there was no photopass which caused a little bit of annoyance and confusion with security in the venue, even though there was no pit for photographers.  

Full gallery.

Mac DeMarco: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

Mac DeMarco

The Thin Air sent me to cover one of Dublin's most in demand gigs of the year, Mac DeMarco's Vicar Street sell out.  Support on the night was from Montero, led by frontman Benny Montero, who is also a really cool artist.  They played fun, quirky tunes that were quite easy to get stuck in your head (the last song Pilot in particular).  The light was consistent throughout their set and Benny was cool to shoot.  I got talking to him at the merch stand after and he was hoping to do a gig the next night since they had a night off in Ireland but logistically things weren’t in his favour.  Pity as I would have been there with bells on.  I picked up one of his mini posters and got him to do me a drawing on the back, now I don’t know which side to put up on my wall.

Just before Mac DeMarco and band took to the stage the lights went low and the smoke machine started.  This is a big ‘uh oh’ for us photographers in the pit.  Blue lights with smoke made for a bit of a struggle through the first song or two.  Mac wandered the stage with microphone in hand, throwing it from one hand to the other every few seconds.  Frustratingly I didn’t get a shot of any of those exact moments due to either bad position or the lights not being right for the shot.  Focusing gets pretty difficult in those conditions.  The lights improved during the third song but it wasn’t as good as Montero levels.

I’ve never seen Mac DeMarco live before nor have I listened to him a lot.  He's one of these people I wanted to wait until I caught him live to catch the buzz, as I kept hearing from friends that he puts on an amazing, and energetic show, so I looked forward to it.  However it was an over fourteens show and while the fans were lapping it up, singing along and giving big reactions throughout,  my expectations were maybe too high.  It was a good show but as a friend who is a big champion of him to me said afterwards "it was very tame compared to Primavera".  Maybe next time.

To read the review of the night click here.

Grizzly Bear: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

My next October assignment was to shoot Grizzly Bear for The Thin Air.  Their support on the night was Liima.  The light was very tricky, lots of smoke and backlight, if any at all.  The camera had to battle pitch dark with the brightest white light when there was any usable light, a tricky combination at a gig with mixed results since you can often be left with what looks like a floating head.  

Thankfully the lighting for Grizzly Bear was better, particularly since they had a cool stage design with a wire mesh smokey/cloud look decorating the stage.  This was their first date of their European tour, and Ed Droste was in the crowd in Whelans the night before to see his friend, Jonny Pierce, at The Drums show, which I blogged about here.  Through Ed Droste's Instagram, it seems the band had a nice few days in Dublin ahead of the start of the tour.  It looks to be their best yet.