The Mark Of Cain + Blacklevel Embassy + The Sea Shall Not Have Them @ The Hi-Fi, 21.03.2013

The Mark Of Cain @ The Hi-Fi, Thursday 21 March 2013

I always feel awkward at gigs where a band plays to a small crowd but where I’m stood right at the front photographing.  It’s worse in venues where there isn’t a front barrier as at least the steelwork provides some separation between the band and the crowd and your own little area to work in.  For opening act The Sea Shall Not Have Them, there’s far too many photographers crammed in the photo pit compared to people who have come early. The trouble with photographing instrumental post-rock bands is that there usually isn’t a great deal to photograph and after the first song, I’m the only photographer left in the photo pit taking shots. As an instrumental post-rock band, they’re an interesting choice for the opening act but one that works really well.  It’s just a shame that more people aren’t there to see them play.

The Mark Of Cain’s gear has already been set up on the stage so the two support acts play in small area at the front of the stage. I like it when bands play in a tight circle rather than spread all the way across a stage.  Thee Oh Sees showed the advantages of playing in this fashion at ATP Altona a few weeks before and made me wish I’d gone to see them when they played at The Zoo.  Although it may be a result of this stage set-up, Blacklevel Embassy play between themselves and play off each other rather than looking to project out into the empty spaces of the venue.  Watching the interactions and the eye contact close up from the photo pit is the visual highlight of their set, together with getting to marvel at the band’s superb drummer from the very front of the room.  The only downside is that the bassist plays with his back to the audience for a lot of the time, and taking photos of people’s backs is rarely a good thing.  With ear plugs the bass sounds amazing, a real scuzzy, dirty sound, although sadly without ear plugs it doesn’t sound half as good.

Although he played on TMOC’s most recent album Songs of the Third and Fifth, there’s no John Stanier for the accompanying tour.  I thought substitute drummer Eli Green played well but read after the show on Mess+Noise that others thought the complete opposite.  Apparently one song went wrong but it might have happened after I’d taken my early mark.  Following in John Stanier’s footsteps is never going to be an easy task.  Although I miss Stanier from a photographic point of view, I do enjoy photographing Eli Green and am fairly happy with the photos I got.  Too many of them turn out to be slightly blurry, my fault for not having set the shutter speed fast enough.  Normally I would have expected a shutter speed of 1/200 to have been more than adequate but maybe that says something about the speed and power of the drumming.

It’s not until I get home and start on editing the photos that I realise that each member of the group has their name and role embroidered on their shirt.  It’s frustrating to only pick it up after the event, as if I’d noticed, I would have made sure to have taken the time to specifically photograph each one .  As it is, I have plenty of good examples of Kim Scott’s monogram, some average shots of Eli Green’s and a few photos of John Scott’s but where his guitar strap is partially covering his name.

I remember when I started taking photos on film, I would often not photograph in the first 30 seconds, instead using that time to have a good look at what was before me on the stage and work out a plan to work to.  Over time I’ve stopped doing that so it’s frustrating to have missed something like that by being too eager to get into the big picture items.  A similar thing happened at The Stone Roses recently, when it wasn’t until I was back home and editing the photos that I noticed all the Toby jugs on the top of Mani’s amp.  Again, if I’d spotted this at the time, I would have made sure to have got a few good shots of them (whether he brings them on tour, whether he collects them and spends his tour downtime roaming antique shops looking for new ones to add to his collection or whether they’re part of the rider, I just don’t know but would be interested to find out the story behind them).

The start times for the three acts break down to 8:30pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm, with The Mark Of Cain not scheduled to finish until midnight.  A gig that finishes at midnight means not getting to bed until 1am, later if I can’t resist downloading the photos I’ve taken and having a quick look through them. On a weeknight, having to go to work the next morning and do a full day’s work, staying until the very last note has been played is an ever-increasing unattractive proposition, however much I want to stay.  I would have really liked to have stayed for the whole set but only stay for about 50 minutes.  Fifty minutes is more than enough time to get a good impression from a night but as someone who always used to stay at a gig until the bitter end, walking out early always leaves you unsatisfied and thinking about all the good things that you’re missing out on.

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