It’s still 2016 in San Francisco, which means I can sneak this post in to 2016 despite it being 2017 here in sunny Tokyo.
This one is special because Con Brio are my band of the year. I had the pleasure of stumbling across these guys way back at the beginning of the year and then saw them 3 times in 4 months – twice at Fuji Rock in August and once in Shibuya in November. Consider me very blessed.
I’m slightly hungover and sleepy so forgive my lack of eloquence but… this band. THIS BAND! Being a guest at shows when I’m writing and shooting means that a lot of the time I have to maintain the 関係者建て前 (kankeisha tatemae), which I like to call “guesting bitch face” – you’re not allowed to look like you’re having any kind of fun because you’re working. Suffice to say, I can’t keep it together when these guys play – my feet get to tapping, my hips starts a-swinging and suddenly I’m off down in the crowd boogeying.
Con Brio’s shows are musical alchemy. (I don’t know what that means right now, but it just came into my head.) Everything comes together to create musical gold – the music, the singing, the on- (and off-) stage antics. The vibe is shiny and and sparkly and golden and I have got a bad case of gold fever.
You know what, that hangover is starting to throb, so just go and listen to them.
Here —-> Here’s a link. Then check out my photos from their show below.
Con Brio are playing in San Francisco tonight. I can’t think of a better way to bring in 2017. I’ll just be over here in Tokyo with my headphones on listening to “Paradise” down in the park with the ducks.
Happy New Year, everyone.
It being the end of the year, I’ve finally got a break from work so can get back on top of my photos from the year.
I didn’t get round to uploading my Boomtown ska photos from this summer. So here goes.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Madness were an almost daily listening experience for me with classics like “Our House” and “It Must Be Love” getting heavy radio play and chart-topping re-releases. Having the opportunity to photograph these legendary musicians was quite an experience, and not just because I nearly broke my ankle on a rock while doing so. Not only was the photo pit abyssal, so too was the lighting for much of the first three songs, but the contrast between light and dark made for some nice contrasts.
Watching around 20,000 people singing along to “Our House” after I finished my three-song shoot gave me goosebumps, and shows how much affection the audience had for these 2-tone ska legends.
Performing in what is their 40th year together, it wasn’t until I actually saw Bad Manners playing that I realized I actually already know most of their songs. I think it must be the same for anyone who grew up around the same time as me in the UK – you probably know most Beatles songs without having to actively pay attention to them. With Bad Manners it’s much the same, but with the addition of having heard much of their work covered by third-wave ska bands (like Skankin’ Pickle’s version of “Special Brew“).
London-based New School Ska band Chainska Brassika are a boatload of fun and prove that ska is still going strong despite what some might perceive as a lull in the genre.
There are 8 members in the band, but as you can, I am missing a couple of chaps who were a little too far away, or hidden behind myriad mic stands to get decent shots. Apologies to them!
I developed a taste for ska at rather a late stage in life. Despite listening to ska punk bands like Reel Big Fish when I was a teenager, I never got much more into it than that, instead choosing to waft off into my twenties in a cloud of black make-up, black PVC and crushed black velvet. In fact, I wasn’t REALLY into it until I saw Kemuri a few years back and found something that made me smile like a loon. So, you could say that most of my exposure to ska has been experienced through a Japanese filter. Having not had the same second-wave that hit the UK in the late 70s and 80s with Bad Manners and Madness (more of them both to come later), Japanese ska sounds a little different. I’m not going to get all that now, as I’ve got some photos to show you. Ask me about it over a beer sometime when my total lack of knowledge will become clear…
So anyway, when I was at Boomtown there were two bands who stood out on the line-up: Ska Vengers and Los De Abajo. Ska Vengers hail from New Delhi, while Los De Abajo came all the way over from Mexico to the UK. It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed, and I wanted to see how ska might sound coming from other countries.
I’m just going to quote myself here, because I think I did a fair job of it the first time round: “Ska Vengers fuse a more old-school reggae patois from male singer Delhi Sultanate with a soulful, powerful style from female singer Begum X, all to a musical backing which mixes up dub, jazz and even more Latin-laced numbers that had people dancing their way through the set. On Friday night, Mexican ska outfit Los De Abajo were also making their first foray into the UK music scene, playing in the hollowed-out hull of the Jolly Dodger stage. This band was of particularly note, not only for their fantastically catchy and danceable Latin-ska, but also their on-stage antics which included choreographed dancing, donning lucha wrestling masks, leaping around and the only bit of head-banging in the whole weekend.”
Yup. So, check out some photos below.
Los De Abajo
The Lion’s Den is possibly the stage with the largest capacity at Boomtown, easily fitting 20,000 people in a natural bowl which affords everyone there a view of the bands. Fat Freddy’s Drop played there in the early evening on Sunday night, opening up with “Midnight Marauders”. I enjoyed their show, partly because their tendency towards longer tracks means a 3-song limit on a shoot lasts half-an-hour; partly because it seemed like a perfectly trippy way to round off a weekend of glorious weather, music and performances; and partly because I missed them when they played in Tokyo last year, so it was the perfect opportunity to catch this New Zealand band in action.
A standout set from the Boomtown weekend was Asian Dub Foundation’s afternoon set on the Town Centre stage, not only for the music but also for the photos, thanks to the sheer amount of energy the band put into their performance.
I was back in the UK during August this year and made sure that while I was there I was able to get to Boomtown Fair near Winchester. Having spent much of my life at heavy metal festivals, I must say that Boomtown is one of my favourites – the setting, the atmosphere and the sheer amount of effort that goes into entertaining away from the stage makes it very special. I won’t go in to too much detail as I’d rather you read my report about it: Revolution Rules at Boomtown.
Being on the other side of the world means that I don’t often get to see Molotov Jukebox – in fact, this is only the second time I’ve seen them live, that last time being in 2014 – but I make sure to boogie around to them in Tokyo with my accordion-playing friend.
Photos from the show are below:
The band released their latest album “Tropical Gypsy” was released earlier this year. Be sure to check it out!
I first saw twenty one pilots live at Fuji Rock last year when I was covering their show for Fuji Rock Express (review here: http://fujirockexpress.net/15e/p_1526). Having previously been a little unsure about the duo, after witnessing their set at the White Stage on a boiling hot afternoon, I was completely and utterly won over to them and have been on something of an adoring attempt to convert others to the band ever since. This has, on occasion, involved sitting up until 2am in playing the band’s entire collection of YouTube videos with friends, or slyly dropping a song into a set when I DJ.
Needless to say, when I saw Tyler and Josh would be playing Tokyo’s Studio Coast earlier this year, I put my name down to shoot straight away. It was a 3-song shoot, and much of the first three songs veered between blinding back-lighting and dark-reds, but in between there were some great moments to capture. I’ll be looking forward to capturing the in action again soon!
You can see my photo report and the live report from James Mallion at this link: http://www.smashingmag.com/en/archives/19260.
Sometimes, you just can’t make the light work in places, and Gamuso is one of those spaces where three photographers all tripping over each other in the dark gets annoying pretty quickly. What I really love about this top photo is the fact that the other photographer is unashamedly up in the singer’s face with his little old film camera and a blinding flash. I’m not sure I’d have the lady-balls to do that, so I guess that’s why I didn’t quite get such a good selection of photos for this band.
The Super Sonic Soldier Boys are a grimy garage-rock outfit, who seem to be out and about a lot on the Tokyo rock circuit. Check out their page here: http://thesupersonicsoldierboys.com/.
With their infectiously bop-tastic brand of anarchic electro-punk, Vaiwatt are one of my favourite bands to see live. I caught up with them in the tiny confines of Gamuso’s 3rd floor when they played their NapaJ show in April.
Keep your eye out for the band’s forthcoming music video!