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Rainbow Chan + Nonsemble @ GoMA, 29.05.2015

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I was supposed to be at GoMA last week for Sky Needle & McKisko but managed to get my times wrong and couldn’t make it.  It was a lot earlier than all of the other Up Late shows I’ve been to and there was no way I could get there in time by the time I saw the playing times advertised.

I’ve no idea what the audience for Sky Needle and McKisko was like but tonight it’s claustrophobically busy.  The David Lynch exhibition is surprisingly in the smaller of the two downstairs galleries and the way the space has been configured, the rooms aren’t very big, making it difficult to spend much time looking.  I would have liked to have spent a lot longer than I did but moving between the rooms was slow going.  I went back for a second attempt after I’d finished photographing but it was just as packed as before.  Although they did the Xiu Xiu plays Twin Peaks nights, I’m surprised that only did three of the more traditional up late Friday nights that GoMA normally does for its major exhibitions.  I had planned on going to see Xiu Xiu but managed to wait too long and then it sold out.  Tickets were on sale for ages before the exhibition started but as soon as David Lynch did the Q&A session at QPAC, it sold out.

The lighting is terrible, it’s so low and there’s so much LED, that I’m essentially having to go to cameras setting that I’ve never ventured into before. It goes down to the depths of ­3200 and sub 1/25 shutter speeds at times, although I quickly decided that anyone stood in this much darkness wouldn’t have a lot of time spent on them.  Photographing Rainbow Chan is an incredibly frustrating experience. You can only really photograph her when she’s stood in the light near her laptop.  As soon as she stands back to dance, it’s too dark to focus and the light drop off just made it even worse.

The Lynch exhibition is great, despite not really being able to spend much time admiring, what with the business of the galleries.  Brisbane doesn’t have an awful lot going for it culturally and GoMA is the cities brightest shining light.  Getting an exhibition like the David Lynch one is a big deal and, to be honest, a bit of a risk given the conservative nature of Queensland.  You would have expected the exhibition to have gone to Melbourne or Sydney rather than Brisbane.  The day after the show I fly up to Darwin for a one night stopover on my way to Kununurra for work and thanks to the exhibition they’re showing Inland Empire as one of the films on the inflight entertainment.  It’s typical Lynch fare in that it all makes perfect sense until that point where it doesn’t anymore and by the end you really have no idea what’s just happened.  Looking forward to the Twin Peaks sequel, hope it’s more like the first half of the series more than the second half.

Gang of Youths + Ecca Vandal + The Furrs @ Woolly Mammoth, 16.05.2015

Gang Of Youths @ Woolly Mammoth, Saturday 16 May 2015

I’d had a few listens through of the new Gang of Youths as I knew they had an upcoming show in Brisbane and wanted to check out whether they sounded like a band that would appeal and be worth checking out to photograph.

At the same time as this is going on, there’s a piece on the Guardian’s website (and probably everywhere else) saying that people stop listening to new music when they hit the ripe old age of 33. Although this was a decade ago for me, I’ve never felt the need to stop listening to new music, and, if anything, over the last couple of years I’ve listened to more new music than since when I was a teenager. Obviously some of this is music I’m sent but Spotify (and other streaming services) have made it so easy to listen to new music, that I can’t really see any argument as to why people don’t, or stop even before they reach their mid thirties.

It’s my first time to Woolly Mammoth since it stopped being Woodland and the whole establishment was renovated/taken over. Having lined up out the front, I miss that I needed to collect a wristband from the box office just inside the front door before heading up the steps that are almost hidden behind a curtain. Although there’s been a lot of changes downstairs, the back room doesn’t seem to have changed a great deal, although the sides of the stage have been closed off and there’s a proper backstage area now, rather than just being a space with a curtain separating it from the main room. Depressingly, despite the money that’s been spent on the place, the lighting is no better than it used to be. The lights are set up to be centrally directed at a singer in the middle of the stage, with little else outside this one area. With all the backlighting, it also means shooting into the light from in front of the stage and all the problems you get with lens flare.

Even worse than the lighting, is that it’s a late gig. I didn’t come to see The Twerps last week as I didn’t want to see band playing an 11:20pm to 12:20am set but it looks like this is standard times for Woolly Mammoth, with the advertised times for tonight matching those from last week Saturday. It means that the headline set starts later than the time I left last night’s Jack Ladder show slightly before the end as I was too tired to stay.

The late start time and not wanting to hang around means that I only end up staying for 30 minutes. Much like their album, Gang of Youths’ set is front loaded with the higher tempo songs before too many slow songs kill the mood. The lead singer like something from a Timotei advert when he takes his hair down and continually swishes his hair around. I had also been keen to check out the much hyped Ecca Vandal but find her disappointing after seeing Tkay Maidza recently. She tries too hard with her between song banter trying to whip the crowd up and it’s all a bit “throw your hands up in the air” hip hop cliches. She really reminds me of someone from the murky musical past and it’s only later that I realise that it’s probably Skunk Anansie. I always find it a bit weird when Australian acts start making names for themselves in the press and on the radio and they remind me of less than cool bands from the past (although to be fair, Skunk Anansie were ok).

Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders + Alex Cameron @ The Brightside, 15.05.2015

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There are two things you learn in each and every Jack Ladder review. The first is that his real name is Tim Rogers, while the second is a line or two that compares his voice to Nick Cave. It’s strange because listening to the new album I’m reminded far more of David Sylvian, and even Brian Ferry, than I am of Nick Cave. It’s interesting, whether by curated choice or by coincidence, that the last song played before the band start playing is Japan’s ‘Ghosts’.

Earlier in the evening, Alex Cameron provides an excellent and complementary choice of support act, at least until he closes with a cheesy karaoke version of ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree’. His album is available for free download should you want to check it out.

Brightside’s reputation for terrible lighting continues and means very low shutter speeds. The Alex Cameron photos end up being much better than the Jack Ladder photos as there’s more room at the front to move around. Seeing to Jack Ladder is as much about getting to see Kirin J Callinan play guitar as it is to see the the band leader but I fail to get any decent photos of him. The Brightside is a lot busier than I had expected, even though it’s a Friday night, and is mostly full for the headline act.

I had really wanted to buy album a copy of the new Jack Ladder album on vinyl but it’s $40 at the merch stand. Although I guess this is becoming the standard price for vinyl in Australia, it’s crazy that it’s cheaper to buy from US (less than US$20 from Amazon) and or from the UK (about $25 from Amazon, despite being sold over there as an import album). Obviously adding the Postage & Packaging then makes them more expensive than buying in Australia but don’t labels/bands get cheaper deals for bulk shipping?

I continue to be utterly confused by current vinyl pricing. There’s plenty of albums selling for around the $25 mark in the shops but also plenty selling for twice that, even when they’re just single albums and you’re not paying twice the amount (or more) to actually get a double album worth of vinyl. In recent trips to the shops, I’ve seen that Gang of Youths album retailing for $57 and that new Blur album, The Magic Whip, going for $69. Even if I really liked Blur, I don’t think I would be paying almost $70 for their new album, however good it might be, and especially not when the alternatives are $20 for the CD or nothing if I chose to listen to it on a streaming service. (Since drafting this, I’ve also seen The 1975’s new album retailing for $85 and the new Shadow Puppets at an obscene $105 (although this is for some limited version of the album that’s not actually that special).

The upshot of all this is that I think I’m going to have to put together a list of Australian albums I want to own on vinyl and buy them in the UK. Then they’ll just have to go with the rest of my record collection until some point in time when we’re reunited.

Charli XCX + Tkay Maidza @ The Met, 07.05.2015

Charli XCX @ The Met, Thursday 7 May 2015

I don’t know why but I’ve struggled for new music that I’ve liked so far in 2015 [and continued to do so for the rest of the year]. Last year was such a good year for music but this year has been more of less an endless parade of over-hyped acts and disappointing releases. It says a lot that one of my favourite and most listened to albums so far this year is the Young Guv album, and even that is far from perfect: with only 7 tracks, it manages to be too long and too short at the same time and despite the low song count, includes a couple of obvious filler tracks at the back end.

My other favourite album so far from 2015 is Charli XCX’s Sucker. My favourite albums from the last three years have been Sky Ferreira’s Night Time is My Time, Lorde’s Pure Heroine and Lana Del Ray’s Born To Die and although Sucker is good, I don’t think it matches the heights of the albums from those other three acts. It’s far too long for starters and would be better with a few tracks less. I also have issues with a couple of the key songs on the album; I just find ‘Break The Rules’ and ‘London Queen’ annoyingly juvenile when compared to the rest of the album.

Playing at The Met is always a strange choice of venue, as one that rarely gets used for live music, as opposed to its normal, everyday purpose as a night club. I think I’ve only photographed at The Met once before, when Regurgitator played and I Heart Hiroshima supported. It wasn’t the most enjoyable of photographing experiences, as there was no photo pit and the lighting was terrible, one of my very first encounters with blue LEDs.

This time around, there is a photo pit, although it’s tiny in its narrowness. The stage is so low that being in the pit is almost too close, and the 24-70mm lens I’ve got with me isn’t actually wide-enough. I don’t get to say that very often.

Tkay Maidza continues to be an excellent act, for one actually worthy of the hype from the Australian music media, and likely to achieve big and great things. But whereas Tkay has that down-to-earth charm, Charli XCX takes it to another level in terms of a slick, professional pop show performance.

The experience is just like being in a pop video. It’s like when you see clips of massive pop stars who would normally be playing arena-sized venues playing to a selected, lucky few fan club members in somewhere a lot closer to something on the toilet circuit.

She says it’s her first time in Brisbane, so like most of us who’d ever been there as photographers, she’s obviously repressed the whole Parklife experience. She played early in the afternoon on the Atoll stage all the way back in 2012. Thanks to taking my usual approach to festival photographing, and squeezing as much into to the day as is humanly possible (plus keeping on the move to avoid Parklife punters asking for photos) I’ve got some photos to prove that she’s been in town before.

She also tells us that she’s been in the city for a few days prior to the show, and regales us with her eating out experiences. It’s always a bit disappointing when you find out touring acts have actually been in Brisbane for a few days before their show as you always think it would have been cool to have arranged a face-to-face interview for someone to do. With Brisbane often being the first stop on an Australian tour, this happens a lot and it’s a shame these potential opportunities doesn’t present themselves very often.

Anyway, it’s one of the shows of the year.

Peaches + Monster Zoku Onsomb + MKO @ Max Watt’s, 06.05.2015

Peaches @ Max Watt's, Wednesday 6 May 2015

Having flu means a couple days of work. It also means missing out on the interview, Q&A and book launch with Peaches at Avid Reader the day before the show. I tried my hardest to get there by spending the entire day in bed and getting up at the very last minute I needed to get up by in order to make it but it was clear that physically I just wasn’t up to going to it. Having been so excited to have gotten a ticket (Avid Reader is tiny), I was really looking forward to it and so disappointed that I just wasn’t in a state to make it.

The following day it’s still touch and go as to whether I’m going to be in a fit state to go to the show but by early evening, I’m feeling a lot better than the day before. At least I’m feeling much better until I end up having to park miles away from the venue and the walk to Max Watt’s completely drains the little energy I have and leaves me completely exhausted and feeling terrible again.

Since the last time I was here, the venue has changed name from The Hi-Fi to Max Watt’s House of Music. The story behind the name change/takeover always seemed a bit dodgy to me but either way, it’s a terrible name, with the added bonus of a terrible logo and it just reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons, when Moe converts the bar to a family restaurant called Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag. I’m not sure if Max Watt’s does Million Dollar Birthday Fries.

It doesn’t help matters that there’s no photo pit tonight and I make an early decision that unlike I usually do, I’m not going to claim a spot at the front against the stage. In my physical state I just don’t feel up to being crushed against the stage as the venue fills and for the surge forwards when the headliner starts. Instead I decide on a spot at the top of the first set of steps back from the stage and being dead centre it feels like an obvious choice given the performance nature of the show that I’m expecting to see. It’s only just before the Peaches starts that I realise that if anyone decides to stick their camera phone in the air then maybe this won’t be the best place to stand and being a show in the 2010s, of course everyone is going to have their phones above their heads.

Thankfully, there’s no three song rule for photographing Peaches (or at least no one told me). Only getting three songs of Peaches would be the worst. She’s such a fantastic performer and every song offers something different to photograph. The photos turn out pretty well. The only annoyance in the photo when Gentle Ben makes a guest performance and sets fire to the shaving foam he’s sprayed across his chest. I get the shot but of course it coincides with someone sticking their phone up in the air, right in the middle if the frame. It takes a slightly awkward crop to save the image but Ben has been using it for his Facebook avatar for almost a year now so I’m guessing he likes it at least.

HITS + The Horrortones @ Triffid, 03.05.2015

Horrortones @ Triffid, Sunday 3 May 2016

The continuing series of first time visits to new/refurbished venues continues with a first time expedition to Triffid. I miss living in the inner suburbs close to the city, and if I still lived where I use to live in Teneriffe, this venue would have basically been at the end of my road, within a 10 minute walk. Who knows, I might have even offered my services to be venue photographer.

Although I don’t venture upstairs to the balcony at the back of the room, my first impression is that I’m not sure if I’d really want to be there for a sold out show. It doesn’t feel like a 800 person venue, downstairs didn’t seem a lot bigger than the Zoo which I think is in the 500 person capacity region and I can’t imaging upstairs would hold that many people to make up the difference, at least not for a view of the stage.

Sadly, it’s The Horrortones last show. They haven’t said why they’re calling it a day, but I’m guessing that everyone is too busy with families and other adult commitments. In coming up to 10 years of being in Brisbane and thinking about photography and the bands I’ve photographed, I think music photographers have a limited shelf life in terms of being close to active bands and it probably is in the 7 – 10 years mark in most cases. Most bands start in when the members are in their 20s and by the time they’re heading into their 30s different life priorities take over and mean a lot less time to spend on musical endeavours. When I think back over the last 10 years, so many of those bands from 2005/2006/2007 that I used to see around the Valley, and obviously especially in the likes of Ric’s and 610, don’t exist anymore, and a lot less of the personnel who played in those bands are still active on regular basis. A new generation of bands comes through and brings with them a new generation of music photographers.

As I’m sure I’ve said before, most music photographers are usually only a couple of editors away from having no media accreditation for anything but the small local gigs at venues that don’t have any camera policies. Triffid doesn’t seem to have any camera restrictions, and this is obviously a good thing for people like me.

It’s still a shame for The Horrortones to be calling it a day. I always thought they’d be the sort of band that would play a show every now and then, even if it was just for Christmas or some other occasional on-off events.

Been a while since I last saw HITS, and I’m sure I say this every time but each time I’m blown away by just how good a live band they are. I treat myself to an early birthday present by buying a copy of Hikikomri on vinyl when I leave. When I get home I find that it doesn’t come with a download card, so, not actually having gotten around to buying a turntable in Australia yet, I’ve not actually listened to it yet. One of these days I will get around to buying myself a new turntable to play all these albums I keep buying [it finally happens at start of 2016, although I need to now buy a preamp for it]. I keep expecting vinyl to come with a download card as a mandatory inclusion these days, so it’s always frustrating when it doesn’t. Hikikomri can join my copies of Change Becomes Us by Wire and Lost Songs by Trail Of Dead as albums that I bought as mementos from gigs by the bands but haven’t yet actually heard.

Babaganouj + Flowertruck + Statler & Waldorf @ The Brightside, 20.03.2015

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I wanted to go and see Babaganouj again as I hadn’t seen them for ages but just did this show as a pay on the door, rather than actually trying to sort out accreditation. I still feel that if a band is charging less than $15 or so that I should just pay to go rather than get a freebie. It’s probably an old fashioned stance but supporting local scenes financially is important and when you’ve got a local band playing, there’s always going to be a lot more people wanting to get on the guest list.

It’s my first time to The Brightside since it’s been The Brightside. I didn’t move to Brisbane until after it had stopped being a venue and was just being used as a nightclub, although I think I did photograph here one year when Big Sound used it as a venue. The lighting is terrible though and it feels like there’s a competition between venues as to which one can have the worst stage lighting. In terms of the venues I’ve photographed at in 2015, I’d say it’s a close call between The Brightside and Crowbar. At least The Brightside has more space and a view of the stage if you’re more than a couple of rows back. Further experience throughout the rest of 2015 confirms that Crowbar is the worst venue. I keep on wishing bands I like and/or want to see didn’t play there.

Sonic Masala 2015 @ Greenslopes Bowls Club, 14.03.2015: Part 2

Screamfeeder @ Sonic Masala Fest 2015, Greenslopes Bowls Club, Saturday 14 March 2015

I’m there for the duration but throughout the day, the numbers ebb and flow. I guess it helps that Greenslopes isn’t too far away from where I live and I’m used to photographing music festivals from first to last.

I think a lot of people headed off early to catch Oblivians play their first show in Brisbane, and I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t head along to see them, even though the rest of day continues to be good. Following on from Part 1 and saying Sonic Masala doesn’t do lowlights, I guess being so far out of the Valley, if only for one day, means missing out on anything happening there, rather than being able to duck out and move between venues easily when there’s something else on somewhere else. Although I can’t remember exactly, I have a feeling that there was a similar clash of events last year.

Considering lowlights  bit more, the other one is the lighting at the Bowls Club; it’s not great. It’s all back lighting on the main stage, meaning glare issues and low shutter speeds to compensate for lack of front lighting, while the smaller floor stage has limited additional lighting and photographing relies a lot on the ambient lighting.

The 2016 Sonic Masala Fest has just been announced and the line-up shows it’s going to be another great day of music.