As it’s already heading towards March, here’s the list of what I photographed during 2011 and sometimes even manged to find the time to blog about…
2011 has turned out to be the least number of gigs I’ve photographed and been to since 2007 (when I photographed 48 gigs). This was despite not going overseas during the year, something that has meant being away for four to six weeks at the end of each of the previous two years. Admittedly, last year was a bit crazy and I somehow managed to find the time and energy to go out and photograph 75 gigs and festivals, some 24 more than I managed during 2011. That’s almost a month’s worth of evenings that I spent doing something other than going out and photographing a bunch of bands. Last year I had photographed as many gigs as I managed during the whole of 2011 by the end of the first week in August. Although not as hectic from a photography point of view, 2011 was a busy year, with too much time spent on other projects and a move from the handy-for-going-out inner suburbs (Tenerife) go the less handy outer suburbs (Salisbury). The move has undoubtedly made last minute decisions to go and see a band less appealing, even more so when relying on Brisbane’s terrible public transport system to get home.
Even though it’s the lowest number of gigs I’ve photographed in four years, the interesting thing is that it also managed to be the year in which I photographed the most number of acts; 296 acts compared to 285 in 2010. Essentially 2011 was the year I sold out and did a whole bunch of music festivals, more or less the complete set of the major festivals: Sunset Sounds (although only the second day, I was on a plane coming back from the UK and missed the first day), Big Day Out, Laneway, Good Vibrations, Soundwave, BluesFest, Splendour In The Grass, Parklife and Harvest. Looking ahead to 2012 and I’m expecting number of gigs to be even less than 2011 and number of acts photographed to also be well down, in part because there’s no Good Vibrations this year and I made the decision, based on the expense and experience of photographing the last two years, not to go to BluesFest this year. As for the other festivals, I’ll have to wait and see whether anyone wants me to go and photograph them. I really lucked out during 2011 in getting to photograph so many of the festivals I wanted to, including my first time photographing Big Day Out, that I’d be surprised if I got to do them all again in 2012. Still, the year has got off to a good start with my second Big Day Out, Laneway, Soundwave and hopefully Future Music at the start of March, so fingers crossed for the rest of the year.
In terms of venues, it was a close run thing, and for a while it looked like Woodland (my least favourite venue) was going to come out on top, but thankfully a few gigs at the start of December made sure that The Zoo (my favourite venue) maintained its rightful top position (which it shared in 2010 with The Troubadour). Comparing the pie chart with previous years, I’m going to less venues, but whether that’s because I’m being more picky about where I spend my evenings or whether it’s because there are less venues to go to than there were a few years ago is a discussion for another time. As in 2010, I only managed a single visit to the BEC during the year (for Kylie) and not a single trip to the Convention Centre. Gigs at The Tivoli was also low when compared to the nine time I photographed there in 2010.
The full breakdown for 2011 is shown in the pie chart below.
Photographic highlights of the year? Getting to photograph Iron Maiden after all this time was amongst the best 20 minutes of the year, even though I wished I had more than one camera so I could easily switch between long and short lenses. Les Savy Fav was another photographic highlight just for being there in the moment and seeing everything unfold in front of your very eyes. I might have only made one trip to the BEC during 2011 but it was for Kylie and was a fairly amazing show to photograph even though we were positioned miles away from the stage. I got my act together enough at the end of the year for once to write some words for Rave about my three favourite photos from the year:
Within seconds of the start, Tim Harrington was in the photo pit commandeering my highly stylish orange fluro photographer vest and was straight off into the crowd. At the end of the third song I had to meekly ask the bassist if he could get my vest back from where it had been discarded on the stage and spent the rest of the day stinking of man sweat and stale beer.
Iron Maiden were one of the mainstays of my obligatory teenage metal years back in the 1980s and headlined the first festival I ever went to (Donington 1988, supported by KISS, Megadeth, David Lee Roth, Guns n’ Roses and Helloween). It might have taken another 23 years but getting to photograph them was a dream come true. I’m not sure if I took as good a set of photos as I’d hoped to, but it’s hard to concentrate on the task in hand when the adrenalin is pumping through you and you’re grinning like an idiot.
I don’t really put in to cover shows at the BEC (too many bands with onerous photo contracts and too many shoots from all the way back at the mixing desk) and I don’t really put in very often to cover ‘Pop’ acts, but I just couldn’t resist putting in to cover Kylie. We might have been miles away from the stage at the back of the ‘Splash Zone’ but it was such a massive production it was impossible not to take a really nice set of photos.
Ultimately 2011 had a lot of photographic highlights, maxing out on the major festivals a bit part of it but also getting to photograph the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Gang Of Four, as well as a second bite of the cherry to improve on the last time I photographed Joanna Newsom.
Choosing an overall gig of the year is a tough one and most of the shows and festivals already mentioned would be up there in a short list – Iron Maiden at Soundwave, Gang Of Four, Les Savy Fav at Laneway, Sufjan Stevens – plus the likes of Mudhoney, The Go Team and Future Of The Left shows at The Zoo and Van Dyke Parks/Kinky Friedman at The Powerhouse. Splendour at Woodford was again a good weekend and I always manage to enjoy myself at Parklife, even as not much of a fan of dance music.
As in 2010, here weren’t many musical lows in 2011, it was another good year for gigs, although Paul Kelly’s Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air was a disappointment owing to not enough Paul Kelly, Best Coast, as they had at ATP in December 2010, showed themselves to be a better studio band than a live one, and as the year went on I got more and more bored with instrumental, quiet-loud-quiet-repeat, post-rock bands.
Photographic lows? BluesFest was even worse than 2010, with far too many photographers (more than 60) having been accredited meaning that everyone got one song to photograph the majority of acts over the weekend. Although it was a hard decision to make based on the quality of the line-up, I decided that I wouldn’t put in to cover it this year: too expensive and just not an enjoyable enough photographic experience to make the expense worthwhile. Contracts raised their ugly head with Coldplay at Splendour, with no sign that they would be until 15 minutes before the band were due to start the festival’s closing set. I didn’t sign but sadly the majority of photographers were only too happy to assign their copyrights to the band for free. Other than that it was the usual lack of lighting and the lateness of so many gigs that annoyed. Although the Sufjan Stevens show at the Tivoli was one of the shows of the year and I really like the photos I took, it would have been so much better if there had been a photo pit, instead of having to photograph perched on a step in the crowd.
As time goes on I find it harder and harder to pick a selection of best photos from the year. There are lots of photos that I personally like but it’s harder if you approach it from a “Would this make the portfolio?” angle. Good photos? Yes. Mind-blowing photos? Less so. So here’s a selection of some of the photos I took during 2011 that I liked.