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.