Dig It Up! 2013 – Hoodoo Gurus + Blue Oyster Cult + Flamin’ Groovies @ The Tivoli, 18.04.2013

Dig It Up! 2013 - Hoodoo Gurus @ The Tivoli, Thursday 18 April 2013

When I used to photograph for Rave, I made myself a name as the photographer who was more interested in photographing ‘old time’ acts.  Obviously part of this is an age thing, and wanting to photograph acts who were part of my musical heritage when I was growing up, but it’s also partly about photographing acts who have the stories to tell and the lines and wrinkles to prove it.  I’ve rarely had much interest in photographing the current big-name pop acts at the BEC, but maybe in another 20 years I would be (not that I can really  see myself photographing in my 60s though).   There’s just far too much ageism in the music industry as if it’s not plausible that anyone over the age of 30 is still able to write a good song or being entertaining when they play live.  The older I get the more I realise that these acts are the more interesting and generally more photographic.

Last year’s Dig It Out!, with 5, 6, 7, 8s, The Sonics and Hoodoo Gurus playing Stoneage Romeo in its entirety, was a sell out in both Brisbane and Perth, despite not getting the full festival.  By comparison Sydney and Melbourne got the whole all-day, multi-stage festival but didn’t sell out.  Guessing flights and accommodation would bite into any profits plus not sure how you would arrange a multi-stage event assuming you used The Tivoli as the main stage. The only realistic possibility would be to use The Jubilee, which I’ve seen used with two stages before (one inside, one outside), although I’m not sure if they’re still doing live music outside of cover bands these days.

Flamin’ Groovies start the night but from where I’m standing the sound is very hit and miss, as is their setlist. Some times over the course of their 45 minutes, they sound great, at other times, it’s a very thin line between a revered band playing classic garage rock tunes and a band playing a Saturday night during high season at Butlins at a seaside resort in England.  When it’s good, and it all comes together, it’s great, when it’s not it’s fairly average, and at times the band does sound a little rusty and under-rehearsed.

Having not photographed for 5 weeks, not since The Mark Of Cain at The Hi-Fi, I suddenly realise at the start of Flamin’Groovies’ set that I’ve forgotten how to photograph; the band aren’t the only ones that aren’t completely up to speed.

Having checked Wikipedia in advance, the Flamin’ Groovies perform with three-quarters of their 1970s line-up, not the original line-up but a recognised classic version of the band.  For Blue Oyster Cult, there’s one of the original band playing although two of what might be termed the ‘classic’ line-up, lead vocalist Eric Bloom and lead guitarist  Buck Dharma. Often when doing pre-show research, it becomes hard to remember who’s who in which band on the actual night and so photographing depending on age is usually a sure bet to exclude any modern day ring-ins.  Not doing the in advance research can lead to oversights, including not realising the guitarist on one of my favourite albums plays with The New York Dolls and the bassist from one of my favourite bands from (at least) my 20s played with Garbage at Soundwave.

Looking over the foldback speakers at Blue Oyster Cult’s setlist, it looks rather brief given their 45 minute show time.  I think all of the photographers are out of the photo pit within a song-and-a-half, the songs feel like they go on for ever, as do the guitar solos.  They’re an odd choice for the three band bill and also the full Sydney/Brisbane festival.  The majority only know the one song and of course it’s greeted with a rapturous response when it’s played at the end of the set.

I’ve seen the Hoodoo Gurus a number of times now, and the more I see them, the more I come to like them.  I think the first time I saw them was at Falls back in 2005 or 2006 and I can remember being slightly bewildered by the massive crowd response.  Last year’s Dig It Up! was a really enjoyable night, even though the band obviously will never mean as much to me as it does to those who grow up with them.  Having played their debut album in full at last year’s event, this year they play their second album, Mars Needs Guitars.  I’ve never heard the album but it sounds like a must-buy, especially based on the first side of the record.  It’s fun to photograph and having warmed up over the course of the previous two acts,  I feel a whole lot more ‘in the zone’ when it comes to photographing the headliners.

The band have stated that Dig It Up! has a finite life, and were even unsure whether it would make it to a second year.  Even though Brisbane misses out on the full festivals experience, it’s still a really entertaining night, with support acts that you’d be very unlikely to see otherwise in Australia.  In a lot of ways, it’s the support acts that the band have brought in that really make it what it is.  Hopefully it will be back again next year.

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