I escaped the concrete and cold in December and ran off to New Zealand for an adventure or 3 and I, of course, took my camera with me. I was mostly working on landscape photos as that’s not something I get much of a chance to do in Tokyo, a place where horizons only exist 50 floors up. I bought a new lens for my NZ trip, and had been getting to grips with it and its little annoying habits (there’s a reason I managed to get it second-hand) during the trip, but I had yet to see how it dealt with a gig situation, so a show seeing in the new year provided the perfect no-pressure opportunity to test it out.
I met up with some friends for New Year at Mt Maunganui and they were stoked to be able to see Trinity Roots performing live and free of charge down on the pedestrianised beach-front. I’ll admit, my knowledge of music from New Zealand extends to Lorde, Crowded House, Flight of the Conchords and The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, so I had no idea who we were going to see but all I was told was “they’re a reggae band”. That’s something of a generalisation, for while they do have that chilled out reggae vibe there was more a jazz element at work, especially when 30 minutes into their set singer Warren Maxwell announced their third song of the evening. “We like to jam,” he quipped. If you’re into bits of prog and jazz like me, where songs go on for about 2 days, this was exactly the kind of thing I could get into.
I should add that these photos I took from the crowd, most of whom were obliging enough to shuffle aside for me to grab some quick shots. Thanks to the accommodating crowd and to Trinity Roots for a wonderful end to 2015.
Check out Trinity Roots’ Facebook page here.
At then end of 2014 I thought that I would try to make 2015 a much more successful year than the one before. In hindsight I feel like that was a wishy-washy target coupled with not much of a game plan for how I was going to get there. I had been working on a new portfolio site and Facebook page and launched them in February this year and I guess they added to some sense of enthusiasm, but whilst I’m quite happy with the portfolio site, there are still improvements to be made with the rest of that “plan”.
What I wanted in 2015 was a chance to shoot my favorite bands, and some other ones too, more frequently, in bigger venues and to try to grow my photography beyond the place it was currently in. So how did we get on?
I shot far fewer bands this year, partly because one of my outlets stopped publishing, partly because I seemed to be sick all the freaking time (colds, bronchitis, food poisoning, pneumonia…), and perhaps because I got turned down a few more times than I use to – the downside to approaching bigger bands, I guess. I did get to work with bands I’d been hoping to cover, and bands I’ve been working with for a while – sometimes shooting, sometimes writing, sometimes both at the same time. In terms of writing, I got to spend the weekend covering the Fuji Rock Festival in July, but didn’t write much after that as it all got a bit too much to take on.
My 3 big highlights of this year were working with Meaning at a couple of shows, covering Machine Head’s show in the summer, and working at Loud Park with GYZE. There were also 3 kickass albums this year from Crossfaith, Her Name in Blood and Crystal Lake, the latter of whom I shot at the Redline Riot show in January. My favourite album of the three is Crystal Lake’s “The Sign”, which has been on repeat pretty much since it arrived in the post – an amazing progression in sound and vibe from this band who have some of the most batshit crazy moshpits around.
I think my favorite shot of the year though, is one I took in January during a photo walk with Jess and Hai from Notes of Nomads and about 100 other people when we descended on Meiji Jingu to photograph the “Coming of Age” ceremony and the amazing kimono on display. This was a one-shot image (as in I took only one photo) of a wedding procession that came through the central quad of the temple. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with a zoom lens. It’s also an image which has received minimal processing – a slight crop, some selective de-saturation and a bit of vignette to add some pop. It was published on the Metropolis Photo of the Week page, where you can see it in 2000px glory.
Overall, it was another splendid year of shows, but one which seemed too busy to share with you all. Many thanks to all the bands, managers, writers and photographers I worked with this year.
There are some greats shows lined up for 2016 already, so expect more to come and I will do my best not to get sick so much. Until then, rock out the last few days of 2015.
Love from New Zealand,
The highlight of my year was shooting Machine Head when they brought their “An Evening With..” tour to Tokyo. I will admit that I was a wee bit nervous about the evening, mostly as I was shooting a band I was a big fan of as a teenager – I have fond memories of my friend losing his front tooth in a Machine Head mosh pit, amongst other injuries inflicted or received.
The evening in question was a slightly more sedate affair than the shows I remember, mostly because the fanbase is significantly more creaky and wizened than 20 years ago, but that didn’t stop a few die hard fans giving a circle pit a go.
These are some of my favorite shots of the year – O-East always has good lighting, and my subjects were most obliging to boot.
This year, The Ska Flames celebrated their 30th year together and they threw a packed out party at Shibuya’s Club Quattro to celebrate, joined by a myriad well-known faces. The stage was jam-packed with musicians so there was no room to shoot at the front, but I found myself a spot on the side and shot from there past some very irritating hats. What is it with people in the audience wearing obnoxiously large hats at shows?
I have these memories from my teenage years of being at house parties, drinking Two Dogs and munching pistachios in gardens while boys were setting up skate ramps on the grass and awkward teenage fumblings were taking place in rooms upstairs. The soundtrack to this is always the same – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, NOFX, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake. I don’t recall every hearing anything else at these parties. So when Kemuri invited Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Skankin’ Pickle over to play in September, my dormant teenager woke up and got excited and drunk all over again.
I’m going to admit it – I had to google Skankin’ Pickle before the show because other than the name, I knew little about them. It turns out they had disbanded by the time I we hit “peak” ska-punk back in the 1990s. The band can be said to be one of the originators of the new wave of ska-punk we were all into back then. One of things I really enjoyed about their show was that they still kept much more of the traditional “ska” vibe running through their sound and an irrepressible energy still evident after nearly 30 years since the band began.
Less Than Jake
As you can see from the photo above, Less Than Jake got themselves a circle-pit going. I saw LTJ a few years back and it was just as bonkers then as it was this time.
Reel Big Fish
Ahh, Reel Big Fish. What a pleasure it was to see them live. I have this memory of having seen them during one of those naively debauched festival weekends, but the memory is (unsurprisingly) hazy, if possibly not real at all. I guess alcoholic lemonade will do that to you. I wasn’t the only one who was pleased to see them. The Kemuri crowd are generally of a certain age, and they were all systems go for them.
Stay tuned for the grand-daddies of Japanese ska, The Ska Flames, in a few days!
You may have noticed that I tend to shot rock bands, metal bands – anything a bit screamy and clad in black, basically. This year I got to branch out a bit and shoot something else.
Although ska-punk seems to have faded out of mainstream press in recent years to be replaced with pop-punk, the genre is still going strong in Japan, and that is partly down to bands like Kemuri. This year, the Japanese ska-punk band with the mission of spreading “Positive Mental Attitude” celebrated their 20th anniversary by inviting over Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Skankin’ Pickle (see the next post…) to play with them on a brief tour around Japan. The bands all got together at the end of the show and grouped up according to instrument and had the chance to rock out together.
I love a good Kemuri show – they should definitely be prescribed for bad days, for there’s nothing else that will get you smiling again so quickly that a couple of upbeat songs and venue full of fans going bonkers for them. I actually got to see them twice this year, at the Fuji Rock Festival and at Studio Coast – check out the reports at the links:
Fuji Rock 2015: http://fujirockexpress.net/15e/p_1456
Studio Coast: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/17978
It being the 2nd day of December, I thought it would be nice to highlight a band I worked with twice this year as I begin a sifting through photos to try and pull together my Top 10 of 2015.
I first saw Meaning a couple of years ago when they supported Killswitch Engage at Akasaka Blitz and they impressed me so much that I went out and bought their album the very next day. Their shows are always pretty crazy, partly down to the fans being mental and partly down to vocalist Hayato, who loves risking life and limb amongst the crowd, so much so that he’s the only singer I’ve seen with a microphone cord deliberately lengthy enough to stretch to the back of a venue. Luckily, the pink hair makes him easy to spot in a crowd.
The first show I covered was their “150 Tour” final at Ebisu’s Liquidroom, supported by post-rockers Envy, who are a band you need to check out right now. Why not start with a review I wrote of their show for Smashing Mag: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/17304.
This was followed up by a gig a few months later when Meaning played a show in a skate park out in the nether regions of Tokyo. If you thought a regular show was a bit nuts, try seeing Meaning when there’s no barrier between fans and stage save for the curve of a half-pipe.
You can read reports from both shows at the following links:
Itabashi Trinity B3 Skatepark
Meaning have an English website here: http://meaning-japan.tumblr.com. You can also find them in the usual places online.
Keep posted for more walks back through 2015.
The last time I resorted to editing live photos into black and white was a few years ago when I shot a gig during a typhoon at which the only available light sources were red and shades on the theme of red. It was not a good show to shoot, which is why I was initially rather resistant to the idea of converting photos from Vorchaos’ recent gig into black and white, because the lighting was OK, but just a little too dark and wishy-washy to get the crisp shots I wanted. It felt a little bit like admitting defeat. Luckily, I had just picked up some rather handy Lightroom Presets specifically for black and white concert photography from Matthias Hombauer (go check out his website) so I figured if he can do it, so can I.
Something about black and white lends itself to candidness, so I figured a few shots from behind the band would put a different angle on things, especially as sold out shows in Crescendo don’t really allow for a multitude of vantage points from which to shoot.
Vorchaos are a band I’ve covered a lot here on this blog and they’ve been up to quite a lot this year. Back in July, they released their second album “Singularity” with a gig at Shibuya Cyclone, which I covered for Smashing Magazine. They also played a show at O-West in April, which I was itching to shoot as it was a good chance to get the band in some front-lighting for a change.You can check out more photos here: http://gig-photographer.com/vorchaos-2/
At the beginning of this month, I was under the impression that I probably wasn’t going to be able to go to Loudpark. It was a toss-up between affording to go to the wedding of two very wonderful people, or a weekend of throwing the horns and getting sore feet. I chose the former, obviously (and not in part because it involved wearing a nice dress). So I was very pleased when GYZE asked me to shoot them on the second day of the festival, which they would be opening up at the unholy hour of 10am.
I’ve shot in big venues before, but nothing on the scale of Saitama Super Arena, so I was looking forward to the experience of a massive music festival, especially one where I had permission to get on stage and shoot. I shook down a few people for shooting tips at big events (thanks Matthias Hombauer), made sure all my gear was in order and steeled my nerves.
GYZE played a short 4-song set – which isn’t actually that short when you’re talking melodic death metal songs – and it was great to see that a large number of people had shown up to support them so early in the day – they even got circle pits going.
Check out the gallery below for a little taste of the show, and click through to GYZE’s Facebook page for the full set in the coming days.
I also shot GYZE back in June when they played a “Name Your Price” show at Shibuya’s O-East to promote their latest album “Black Bride”. You can check out the links below for coverage of that.
Smashing Mag: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/17486
If you are (or were) a regular reader of this blog, you may have wondered if I had fallen off the face of the Earth these last…9 months. First off, apologies for the absence – life seems to have rather got away with me. I’d fill you in a what I’ve been up to, but I’m saving that for a much longer read elsewhere, so stay tuned for that. Suffice to say that at 2 o’clock this morning I was having a drunken ramble with a good friend and we were talking about this blog where I was making excuses about not having time to update it and blah blah blah. So, after listening to myself being rubbish last night, I decided it’s time to get back on the dashboard and publish some goddamn photos. And I have an almighty hangover. Rock n roll…or something.
Let’s start with the most recent gig and work our way back from there, because it has been an awesome year for shows and I’ve not shared any of it with you.
Broken Life are a hardcore band based in Tokyo, two of whom just happen to be lovely folks that I know (the scariest-looking ones are most often the nicest). I shot them at Koenji’s 二万電圧, a small live house at the bottom of a set of precariously sloped stairs. I’d rather forgotten just how small and dark the venue was when I came down to shoot. I’d also forgotten that with hardcore comes windmilling and lots of pushing and shoving, and that’s just from vocalist Ikoma, who likes to get out into the audience to cause some chaos!
Please check out the gallery below!
You can check out more information about Broken Life on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brokenlifejapan