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Jessie J @ Eatons Hills Hotel, 13.03.2015

Jessie J @ Eatons Hills Hotel, Friday 13 March 2015

I photographed Jessie J at the Riverstage last time she toured as well as her set the following day at the always horrible Future Music Festival and it was fun to photograph (apart from the whole Doomben crowd experience obviously).

It’s always good to get away from a typical night of photographing indie bands standing in the dark, staring at their feet and exchange that experience for a designed-to-entertain pop show performance. The downside is that the show is at the Eaton Hills Hotel. It’s a really nice room, one that is similar in size to the Tivoli but, dare I say it, possibly a better room to actually see live music in. It might have all the charm of a big cattle shed, unlike the lovely interior of the Tivoli, but the open space means good views of the stage from everywhere and the sound is pretty good too. The worst thing about the place is that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Every time I get excited when an act announces a tour and a Brisbane date, that turns to instant disappointment if I see that they’re playing at Eaton Hills.

It also seems a very strange choice for her given that she played at Riverstage last time, somewhere that must be about six times the capacity of Eaton Hills, and had a very respectable audience there to see her. I think the Riverstage must have been an all ages show, rather than this show, although I know they sometimes section of the upstairs area for all ages tickets here. Either way, she’s played much bigger venues in Brisbane and that was before her profile was raised through being a judge on the Australian version of X Factor.

Living on the other side of the city, it’s a good 45-50 minute drive (with no public transport going anywhere near the place). Running late to be there for the meet time, my situation isn’t helped by my phone losing the GPS signal that’s trying to direct me to the venue. A venue so far out in the sticks that there’s GPS blackspots tells you just about all you need to know about Eaton Hills. It’s a shame it’s not nearer the city and it would be an excellent addition to Brisbane’s music venues, rather than somewhere that instantly puts me off thinking about going to see a show there.

Eventually I manage to get there just in time for the arranged meet time with the promoter’s rep. We’re then told that there’s a line marked out on each side of the photo pit floor that we’re not allowed to cross, having to pick a side to photograph from and stick to it. The rep also gives us a warning, as if we needed it, that we’re going to have to push through the audience to get to the photo pit and it’s going to be an unpleasant experience.

Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ (or should that be The Gap Band’s Oops Upside Your Head) is the introduction music, with the crowd going absolutely made for it. Jessie J makes her appearance at the top of the stairs coming down the middle of the stage, except being made to stand out to the side, I don’t instruments and mic stands in the way blocking a clear shot of her entrance. She poses on the drum riser except once again the line on the floor that I have to keep behind means I can’t get a photo of this.
Once she’s on the stage, she moves a lot, from one side to the other, and although the lighting isn’t great, I manage to get a few good shots. Then it’s all over and we’re escorted out of the pit, this time avoiding the crush of the crowd and being taken across the sacred white line and out of the fire escape door at the far end. I thought it had only been two songs but apparently two songs were segued into one and that was our lot.

The promoter’s rep offers the photographers access back into the venue if we want to stay but instead I end up chatting to her for so long, about the joys of the meet and greets she has to run, as well as all the gossip and dirt about dealing with self-important band management and various pop artists egos, that in the end I just end up calling it a night and making the 50 minute car trip back home.

Ultimately the experience was nowhere near as fun as last time but if there’s a next time at a more easily accessible venue, e.g. back at the Riverstage, I’d seriously think about putting in to cover it.

Mogwai + Mick Turner @ The Tivoli, 04.03.2015

Mogwai @ The Tivoli, Wednesday 4 March 2015

I’ve seen Mogwai a number of festivals but only for a handful of songs before needing to go and photograph another band on a different stage at the other end of the festival site. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a complete set, which makes tonight a special event. It’s disappointing that the lights are set really low and the photos aren’t very good. Looking at them in preparing this post, I’m slightly shocked at the quality of them. I guess this is the problem when you try to take a well-rounded gallery that features photos of all the members of the band rather than just the main focus point, guitarist Stuart Braithewaite in this case.

The Mick Turner support set was another reason to apply for accreditation for the show. I think every times I’ve seen him play a solo set, it’s just been him on his own, but tonight he has Bedroom Sucks’ Joe Alexander accompanying him on drums and drops a Dirty Three song, in the form of ‘Deep Waters’ into his performance. Every time he plays a show in Brisbane, I hope that he brings some of his art to sell at the merch desk so I can add some more prints to my collection, but sadly this time around he’s just brought merch related to his newly released and excellent Don’t Tell The Driver album.

The Courtneys + Hinds + The Furrs + Soviet X-Ray Record Club @ Black Bear Lodge, 19.02.2015

Hinds @ Black Bear Lodge, Thursday 19 February 2015

Even at the time it felt like this was going to be one of the year’s best shows. I felt sorry for The Courtneys, headlining the night and having to follow Hinds and having to do so to a much reduced audience. I don’t know the story about why or how Hinds found themselves to be touring Australia The main frustration from the night was that they were here without any merch. No music to sell, no t shirts, absolutely nothing and after seeing them play I would have happily bought everything they had on offer from the merch desk. They’re back in Brisbane in a couple of months and hopefully bringing suitcases full of merch with them.

Gooch Palms + Woodboot + Tempura Nights + Eyes Ninety @ Crowbar, 13.02.2015

Gooch Palms @ Crowbar, Friday 13 February 2015

Yet another Crowbar show and one that further cemented my views on the place.

The upstairs bar is nice and the $10 price for a pint of cider, and a nice tasting one at that, are a welcome addition to the Brisbane scene where you normally expect to pay $8 or $9 for a 250ml bottle of nasty cider. But downstairs, where the bands play, continues to put me off from going to shows there.

More than a year on from the show, my one residing memory from the night is one of uncomfortable claustrophobia as the crowd size increases for the headliners and I find myself trapped between the side wall and a group of energetically dancing punters, which would all be fine and good except, with the wall on one side, I have nowhere to move into and am finding it hard to keep myself balanced and feeling uncomfortably claustrophobic. I end up pushing my way out and around to somewhere where there is a bit more space but it means being nowhere near enough to the stage to take any decent photos. It’s a huge disappointment as it’s been a while since I’d seen Gooch Palms and they’re always such a fun band to see.

Knaw + Updead Apes + Fancy Boys @ Crowbar, 12.02.2015

Knaw @ Crowbar, Thursday 12 February 2015

I had/have no idea who Knaw were/are and although they came recommended via Facebook, I was at the Crowbar to see Undead Apes play their first show in ages (due to one of them living overseas, Indonesia I think). The name Fancy Boys was familiar from the mid-late 2000s when I first moved to Brisbane but I’d never seen them before. Turns out it’s some of Knaw plus some of Undead Apes, which I guess makes the whole line-up for tonight an obvious choice.

Knaw started interesting in a Jane’s-Addiction-when-they-were-good way but then went off into a bit of a slap bass, Chilli Peppers diversion. At least that’s what my memory of them from 12 months ago is telling me.

Laneway 2015 @ RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, 31.01.2015 – Part 3

St Vincent @ Laneway 2015, RNA Showgrounds, Saturday 31 January 2015

It’s the evening of the Asian Cup Final and the VIP bar is a lot more full then it should be as Laneway reaches the pointy end of the day and the festival’s big names start to make their appearances.

What’s interesting is that I can spot a number of reviewers preferring to watch the football over the bands. Although I’m in-and-out cover the evening, taking time to have a quick sit down and something to drink between photographing bands, many of the people I see in there seem to be watching the match for the duration, the full 90 minutes plus the additional extra time. I don’t quite know how they manage to turn in reviews over the course of the next few days. I guess they just throw some standard words together, use the Singapore and NZ Laneway shows from the previous week and Twitter to get some setlist information and write the usual non-committal street press review. I do see this sort of thing on a regular basis in and around Brisbane’s music venues and wonder how on earth reviewers manage to review bands when spent the evening stood at the bar outside of the main room, talking to people.

Highlights of the third part of the day are St Vincent and Future Islands. St Vincent is the act of the day by a large margin and, as ever, it’s irritating that Brisbane doesn’t get any sideshows and instead we’re meant to feel worthy that we get a 45 minute set of highlights rather than the option of a full show, twice the length.

I didn’t get the Letterman hype about Future Islands but seeing them in the flesh, it all makes perfect sense.
The jury is out on Banks and FKA Twigs. We actually get instructions for photographing Banks, which limits us to one side of the stage, and is something you don’t see a lot of from singers who have only just released their debut album.

Both Banks and FKA Twigs play with a lot of smoke machine action, which my camera hates and which causes it to consistently struggle to focus. Afterwards, the FKA Twigs lightshow looks good from back in the crowd, but just a nightmare to try and photograph from up close. It also reinforces the difficulties when the stage is really high and you’re photographing directly into the lights. It’s a shame as it’s the performance is very photogenic.

The lowlights from the third part of the day are Jungle and Mac DeMarco. I got a review promo of that last Mac DeMarco album, endured it just the once and swiftly concluded that it was an awful album. I can’t quite grasp his meteoric rise. Jungle are like some sort of band you get in to play your wedding if that’s your thing.

Although at the start of the day, I have every intention of being there until the bitter end (or at least until the last photo pit opportunity has finished), I don’t stay for the last couple of acts I had originally planned on photographing. I’m sure photographing Flight Facilities and Flying Lotus would have been fun, but, as experienced by many of the photographers on the day, you just reach that point where going home is the most appealing option and the lure of photographing another couple bands, mostly for the sake of photographing another couple of bands, isn’t a strong enough incentive.

It never helps that when spend a day running around photographing a music festival, you still have the joys of the editing process starting as soon as you get home. For all the fun involved, photographing music festivals has a definite next-day downside.

Laneway 2015 @ RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, 31.01.2015 – Part 2

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As ever, there is a GPS tracker for the day, for as long as my phone battery runs for. As I have my laptop with me, I’m able to sneakily charge it up between bands from the comfortable confines of the VIP bar area with its luxurious and much appreciated air con.

At least I think I did.

Looking at the stats it says that I covered 6.33km over a total time of 8:22, which isn’t as long as I was at the festival for, with at least 90 minutes missing. Also comparing this to 2012, when it was at its previously more concentrated location at the showgrounds, it shows I covered a similar distance of 6.61km. Incredibly the 2013 data shows a total distance of 15.68km over a total time of 10:11 hours. I can’t find any 2014, I don’t know why. Maybe I just forgot to set a tracker going, which is very unlike me, even if I suddenly remember after an hour or two. Thinking back, I might have had a problem with my phone which meant it didn’t record even though it was running. Either way, it’s odd and ever-so-slightly unbelievable that I would walk 15.68km when the stages were closer together and only 6.33km this year with the stages more spread out. Very odd.

Highlights of the second part of the day are Royal Blood, Courtney Barnett and Angel Olsen. I wasn’t expecting Royal Blood to be this good and for a two piece, they sound massive. I probably should have checked them out during that time when they were being a Brisbane band, a fact they seem to have carefully airbrushed from their official biography.

It’s frustrating that there’s a massive clash between Angel Olsen and Royal Blood, both acts I would have liked to have seen for the entire lengths of their respective sets. Her latest album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, is ok but nowhere near as good as its predecessor (and her debut album), Half Way Home. I only see a couple of songs before having to walk to the other side of the festival site but come back via a trip visit to Seekae to see the end of her set. Annoyingly she finishes in advance of her advertised set times, so I only get to catch the last song. The disappointment is fleeting with Courtney Barnett starting straight after and she continues to impress.

The lowlights from the second part of the day are Highasakite, who have that contemporary Scandinavian sound but are just fairly dull, with that that made for triple j radio play sound (and other glossy FM ‘alternative music’ radio stations), when compared to a number of their peers.

Laneway 2015 @ RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, 31.01.2015 – Part 1

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In recent years I’ve generally concluded that Laneway is the best of the major Australian festivals, the depressing thing that in 2015 it’s almost gains that complement by default through being the only festival left.

Depressingly for me it means that my festival season is over and done with by the end of January. I would have loved to photograph Soundwave again this year, having covered the last five, but have no one to photograph for this time. The Vine, who I’d covered it for previously, didn’t have any interest, I’m guessing owing to their change of ownership last year. Anticipating this, I contacted Soundwave last year through their media account email to ask them to add my CB reviews editor email address to their database and keep me informed of their tours/accreditation processes/interview ops etc. Although Collapse Board never ventures in metal territory, the relative lack of women on the line-up year-after-year, means that I think we should be covering any opportunity we can get. Although there was no dream billing of Babymetal on this year’s line-up, we should have been seeking out people like La Butcherettes.

Of course being Australian music industry PR, I never heard anything back from them. It’s extremely frustrating looking at some of the online media that did get photo accreditation to cover this year’s Soundwave and seeing based on the web stats that you can easily access, that Collapse Board’s reader statistics smash them out of the park, and we’re far from the heady days of our prime readership.

Having written the above paragraphs at the time, or at least in early 2015, it’s now over 12 months on and I have no notes are to how the day panned out. I managed to get on the Soundwave mailing list for Collapse Board and the festival was promptly cancelled when I might have gotten back into the fold to photograph it again.

The main comment about Laneway 2015 was that it moved location, from the end of the RNA Showgrounds being developed, its home for the last few years since its move from Winn Lane/The Zoo, to the other side of the showgrounds. The old location had a number of problems, predominantly sound related, and in particular those related to positioning stages in a steel roofed cattleshed building, but the closeness of the stages meant getting around was easy. The photo pit of any stage was probably less than two minutes from any of the other photo pits. It meant maximising the time available to actually watch the bands throughout the day, minimising the effort needed to get through the crowd and to the next photo pit.

The new location is where a chunk of Soundwave used to be located, it’s a much bigger area but one that lacks anything in the way of charm. It’s part car park, part grass area, part thoroughfare. Much like Big Day Out, the two largest stages have been located next to each other (inside a tent) to allow one to be used while the other is set up for the next act. The Future Classic Stage is also in a big top, while the Mistletone stage has most of the acts I want to photograph most of all during the day but is the smallest of the lot and located the other side of the infamous underpass.

It still might be the best of the festival lineups, but bigger doesn’t mean better and you get the feeling it’s becoming just AN Other Australian music festival.

Highlights of the first part of the day are Perfect Pussy & Tkay Maidza.  Perfect Pussy because of being such an exciting live band to see, Tkay Maidza because she definitely has a star quality about her.

The musical lowlights from the first part of the day are, as they usually are, the other Australian acts, the ones who aren’t Tkay Maidza.  I know they’re all at the start of their careers and getting on the line-up, as so much is with regard to opportunities in the Australian music industry, is a lot to do with who you know, rather than what you know, but it’s just the typical story of average triple j fodder and little that stands out as someone to keep an eye out for in the future.