band portriats

Pip Blom: Whelans Upstairs by Aaron Corr

I first caught Pip Blom earlier in the year supporting The Breeders earlier in the year in Vicar Street, and thought they were a deadly band. 8Radio championed them after that point so they kept in my mind, and I kept up to speed with what they were up to and awaited another Irish show. This finally came with one of the final dates of their own European tour.

Shrug Life

Shrug Life

Support on the night came from Shrug Life. Normally a three piece, this time Danny Carroll performing solo, and then a portion of the set with backing vocals by Naoise Roo.

Initially it looked like it would be a case of loud band playing to quiet crowd but people soon relaxed and got really into it. There may not have been moshing, but there was dancing by some, and enthusiasm with the whole room.

The lights were the same throughout, and were the usual pain in the arse to try and calm in the editing. After the show I hung around to try get a portrait with the band after they sold some merch. They were lovely and gracious in doing so. I took the portrait in the hallway between the room and backstage, using the ambient light. In shooting gigs I don’t bring flash with me, so you make do with what you got.

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January In Photos by Aaron Corr

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.