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
Wangan Sheep are a great band to see live, and if the crowd was anything to go by on December 20th, I’m not the only one who thinks so. As with their show back in January 2014, the tiny confines of Gamuso were packed full of fans enjoying Wangan Sheep’s brand of garage rock mixed up with a bit of rap and some beast-like drumming from CHARGEEEEEE.
Again, with this show I was messing around with rear-curtain flash, hence the light trails, my favourite of which is the one above, with Hiro’s glasses reflecting the dimmers over the stage.
Back before I left for the summer, Kentaro and Tama asked me to shoot a show in December. This being June, I agreed to it, ran off to Spain and promptly forgot about it for two and half months. When I returned to Japan, picked up a flier and found my name on it as official photographer, I was initially a little surprised: “Why is my name on a flier?…Oh, right, yeah, I agreed to that.”
Having turned up a little worse for wear for drink at their January show (no, I wasn’t supposed to be shooting that night) with Wangan Sheep in January last year I managed to catch the headliners in action, but not Vaiwatt, however I did catch them a few months later at a venue just down the road.
Kicking off their set was Nana, a “violence sexy” stripper who emerged from a cloud of tulle, stalked the 3rd floor of Gamuso, selected her prey from the audience and pulled him over to a chair where he seemed to be quite happy being in receipt of a face full of boob.
This being the dark confines of Gamuso, I brought my flash for the evening, and in a bid to make things a little more interesting was experimenting with the rear-curtain flash function…with some interesting results.
Check out more shots from the show in the gallery below.
Vaiwatt will be holding the next napaJ event on April 25th 2015, so be sure to come along and check the show out!
Last year was quite a busy one, and it was very difficult to narrow my favourites down to a Top 10. Although this year was busy, it wasn’t as busy on the gig-front, so it has been slightly easier to choose this time round with some stand-out moments from the year (though still not 10).
My favourite image from the year has the image above, taken during Hayseed Dixie’s set at Boomtown Fair in the UK in August. I haven’t shot anything in the UK for years, so it was great to get the chance to shoot a festival.
Although classic acts like The Wailers and NOFX were part of the line-up, my favourite band were probably Molotov Jukebox, who lit up the festival something wonderful with their onstage energy, and who have been providing me plenty of warm sounds to keep me cosy in the winter. In addition, my Molotov Jukebox report was the 2nd most popular post this year thanks to their promoting it on Twitter, which goes to show how important it is to have the bands support the work you do!
Not only were the live bands fantastic (including Russkaja, who I didn’t get to shoot owing to torrential rain and leaking stages), but the the night-time entertainment in the form of the Arcadia spider – a world-travelling structure equipped with flamethrowers, dry-ice, dancers and a DJ booth nestled in the belly of the beast – was the best time I’ve had in 3-inches of mud in the pouring rain ever.
Check out my live reports for Smashing Mag here:
Overall Report – http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/14881
Photo Report – http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/14892
The UK came to Japan in October when tech-metal band SikTh, credited with being part of the beginnings of Djent (a genre which may or may not exist depending on who you talk to), came over for a weekend double-header with Tokyo-based Cyclamen. It was a pretty intense two days with the crowd wedged into the uncomfortable depths of Shibuya’s sold-out Cyclone.
Cyclamen frontman Hayato thoroughly enjoyed himself during the weekend and SikTh were certainly glad to be back in Tokyo after an 8-year break.
Check out my Smashing Mag reports here:
Written report: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/15617
SikTh photo report: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/15697
Cyclamen photo report: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/15764
In the past year I got to branch out a little bit from the usual Visual Kei shows, with more jazz, metal, ska and not a fair few ukeleles. However, I did still shoot a fair number of VK gigs, which never fail to provide good lens candy. The 3 images below are some of may favourites from the year, though there are a couple of others which are not up on the web yet, so you’ll have to wait for those a bit longer.
Check out the Rokkyuu reports here:
The other shows I’ve shot include The Ska Flames’ final show of 2014, celebrating their 30th year making music with a fantastic show at duo Music Exchange in Shibuya. At the same venue a few months before, I had been invited down to shoot The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra. duo is a really good venue for large bands and with both The Ska Flames and WIUO featuring up to 13 members the stage is the perfect size, and has the best lighting I’ve been blessed with this year.
I also shot in some more intimate venues, including Batica in Ebisu – a tiny live house – and at Club Asia, a smaller live house with an interesting shooting set up which allows for some slightly more unusual perspectives.
Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra
Last and definitely not least, I need to give Ladybeard a special mention. Being the first show of the year in 2014, he’s had a lot longer to garner attention than my other posts, but it’s no surprise that he came out as the most popular post of 2014. Debuting in Japan back in January, Ladybeard has become quite the phenomenon over the past 12 months and if his live shows are anything to attest to, he’s only going on to bigger and better things next year,
That’s about it for 2014. Thanks to all the bands, venues, magazines and readers who have supported me and given me the chance to do what I love doing most. Lets hope there are even more fun times ahead in 2015.
Shooting the shows I do, and very often having full-show access to the bands I shoot, I’ve never had to fight for a place in a photo pit before. At Boomtown, back in the summer, having observed how many press pass lanyards I’d spotted over the preceding two days, I decided it would be probably be a good idea to ditch my festival buddies and go lurk around the Town Centre stage early. As it happened, I was the first photographer there, so I bopped about to punk in the photo pit while the roadies set up.
Gradually, to my left, a mass of camera lenses with humans attached congregated furtively and the security guard who’d let me in reminded me of the 3-song rule. Then 2 minutes before the show he updated that to a “one-song then get out” rule. That’s cool. I’ve done one-song shoots before, but those were longer numbers. Figuring that the average punk song clocks in at 2 minutes 30 seconds, that gave me around 70 photos if I shot one every two seconds. I got 62 and then tagged myself out for the next waiting photographer to come in.
Boomtown’s line up seemed to be catering to the slightly older crowd it attracts and so NOFX’s appearance was another welcome blast from the past after the Shaggy set the day before. The Californian punks brought a reprieve from the rain with them and played a 90 minute set of solid crowd-pleasing songs.
The Emerge from Silence show at Club Asia was a night spent celebrating the release of HeavensDust’s remix album “Re:BURN”. For those not familiar, HeavensDust are a Tokyo-based band formed around singer Shin, who has brought in a number of musicians over the 14 years of HeavensDust to aid in creating a very idiosyncratic mix of metal infused with traditional Japanese sounds brought in by wadaiko, koto and the shakuhachi (Japanese flute).
I’d actually photographed a few members of the band along a dark path round the back of Shibuya somewhere last summer after a JaMe interview, but had not and the chance to shoot them live. Club Asia is an interesting venue as there’s really not much space to manoeuvre around at the front, so I was shooting from the crowd, from the stairs leading up to the stage, and at one point from within the weird metal barriers in front of the stage. Sadly, none of the band or crowd shots were usable (thank you red light!) but I’m pretty happy with the ones you can see here and on
HeavensDust have gigs coming up in January. Check out their Facebook page for more details!
Another set of shots from the Club Asia show. I really enjoyed Another Story’s set – a great bunch of musicians who did a fantastic job of pleasing the audience, mostly because they jumped down and became part of it!
I was asked to shoot a HeavensDust show back in October for JaME Magazine. That itself was enough to make me happy, as I had previously shot them before on a darkened pathway on the back streets of Shibuya for an interview cover photo and quite fancied a bit of hard rock infused with taiko-drumming on a Friday night. Then I checked out the line-up, mailed back our writer and said: “Get me permission to shoot the other bands too!” See, on that line-up were The Twisted Harbor Town, a band I was going to shoot a while back for another mag, but for one reason or another it didn’t work out, so I thought it was about time that situation was corrected.
Check out the gallery below:
The Twisted Harbor Town will be playing with New Breed, Her Name In Blood and Make My Day on December 12th – go check ’em out!
I last saw SikTh around 10 years ago at their headline show at the London Astoria supported by Akercocke. I even have a vague memory reading about their trip to Japan in either Kerrang! or Metal Hammer that same year, with a photo of the band standing by under the giant screens at Shibuya crossing. That I would be shooting and writing a gig report for them a decade later in Tokyo would never have crossed my mind at back then, but I’m extremely glad I had the opportunity to catch them in action.
As it was their first show in Japan since re-forming at the end of 2013, I thought I should get myself down there to check the show out. You can check out my report from the weekend here: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/15617. Follow the links at the end of the article to see some more photos from the show.
You can check out some other photos below.
SikTh embark on their UK tour today. If you’ve got a ticket, you’re about to experience something amazing. Have a great show!
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra must be up there with one of the most fun bands I’ve ever shot. The 11-piece group mix wacky and individual costuming with quirky covers of classics songs – from traditional Maori love songs to modern pop. Combined with non-stop on-stage antics including Hawaiian dancing, flashing shoes, mobile disco balls and plenty of audience interaction, the music and performance made for a hilarious, charming, and thoroughly entertaining night in Shibuya last week.
The band will be performing in the US later this month, so go check out their website for locations and dates.