In December The Thin Air set me up to do an 18 for '18 feature with Dowry, aka Éna Brennan. Éna was great at collaborating on picking a location for the shoot, and organised for us to take photos in her chosen location. This gave us a lot to work with in terms of rooms, hallways, and stairways that gave a variety of looks from run down, abandoned and class. Even though only one photo was required for the piece we took advantage of the opportunity to shoot a few set ups around the building.
I was over the moon to get a chance to shoot Arcade Fire for The Thin Air for the second time when they returned to play Malahide Castle for another big outdoor Irish show. They are one of the best bands to shoot, helped by the fact that there is so many members in the band and all of them are personalities worth photographing on stage, but I’ll get back to them in a moment.
First off was the support on the night, Bomba Estereo. I hadn’t heard of them before they were announced as support act and checked them out on Spotify. They sounded like they could be a good opener for a sunny day but having not been able to view the whole set I couldn’t tell. According to friends, and people I spoke to after, they seemed to have been considered very forgettable (easy to happen for an unknown act on a big stage) and weren’t given their full attention. Singer Liliana Saumet was an energetic frontwoman, donned in a very colourful outfit, and barely stayed still long enough to let you get the exact shot I was lining up. This didn’t matter too much since there was no lighting issues to be worrying about.
This was the first big gig I’ve covered since the strict rules were introduced involving bags at concerts was brought in due to the Manchester bombing at the Ariana Grande show. This is a fair enough rule, but it wasn’t iterated to photographers in advance that this applies to us too, and that having a ticket didn’t guarantee me entrance unless I had somewhere to store my bag. There is no on site storage or lockers, so this left us in a bit of a pickle. Getting to Malahide Castle is not as easy as simply attending a gig in the city centre after all, it is just not feasible for a photographer to journey to a show without the kit in a bag. It was only for Owen Humphries having his car, and a ticket to stay for the show, that I was able to store away my bag during the shoot, camera gear after the three songs, and then go back in to watch the show. This was a very long winded process to cover a show and go onwards to enjoy it, and a few songs in the set were regretably missed.
Cameras had to be carried into the arena photo pit without bags that hold spare lenses, memory cards and any other useful items. Off of the back of this experience I immediately removed my name from future events that I would be attending the show after a shoot. Unless I am only there to shoot the band and go home, it wasn't worth it. To be fair to the promoters though, this was out of their hands and they did let us store our bags in a cabin during the support, it just wasn't possible for Arcade Fire.
The band themselves were in flying form. It was a gorgeous Summer's day which is a rarity for an Irish outdoor show and it was the perfect light to shoot the band. They opened with Everything Now, followed by Rebellion and every time Win came near to the front section of the stage that edged him nearer the crowd, he was gone again before you could line up the perfect shot. As they segued from Rebellion in Haiti I got accosted by someone who showed me the setlist and told me that we were done. I argued that Everything Slow, as listed on the setlist, was not a song and merely intro music for the band to walk on to. He was having none of it. The other photographers got wind of the dispute and came over and he eventually relented. We'd gone through so much trouble and effort so far, we were not about to be short changed as Regine was taking centre stage to sing.
As Regine sang Haiti she noticed a fan in the front row with the Haitian flag and ran down the stair from the stage in excitement, like a child on Christmas morning. She ran past me to collect it and proudly sing the final verse & chorus with it in her arms. This provided a cool opportunity to get some meaningful and great shots of her as she embraced it, injecting more emotion into what is already an emotional, yet uplifting song. For a second time round shooting the band, I think I preferred this shoot over their Marlay Park show. At Marlay Park there was air cannons and a bigger distance/height between band and photographer, however they had better backdrop on the stage for the Reflektor tour. Regardless of the conditions, they are always worth the effort to capture live.