Martin Waters picks his highlights from the past year and asked the Getintothis’ photographers to raid their back catalogue for their best shot.
For many, 2016 was an absolute bitch of a year. The deaths of Bowie, Alan Rickman and Victoria Wood to name a few of the celebrities who left us this year and the mind-boggling stupidity of Brexit (nailing my colours to the mast there haters) and the dumbest decision by our American cousins since the dawn of time meant 2016 is best forgotten for some.
For the Getintothis photographers, 2016 started in the worst possible way with the January 1 closure of the Kazimier. If you’ve paid attention you’ll notice that pretty much every single photographer who take part in our In the Pit feature laments the loss of the iconic venue. It wasn’t just the numerous bands who took the Kaz to their hearts and performed some blinding gigs, nor was it the lovely people behind the whole thing or the unique atmosphere. It was the Kaz was a joy to shoot.
When you had a gig at the Kaz you knew that 95% of the time you were going to come away with decent shots – decent(ish) lighting, great atmosphere and the ability to run around the balcony all contributed to making it a firm favourite with us snappers.
But at the start of 2016 we were already wondering whether it could be replaced and what the future was with more and more venues losing out in Liverpool’s never-ending battle to be student accommodation capital of the world. We needn’t have worried.
The brilliance behind the Kazimier went and upped the anti with the Invisible Wind Factory that saw the likes of Peaches show just what this venue could do and it is quickly establishing itself as the place to be.
Arts Club continued to raise its game with gigs from Sundara Karma, Walking on Cars, Bill Ryder-Jones and Wolf Alice and their move into the O2 Academy ranks is sure to see them step up even further. The Olympia began to put on the kind of shows that had us photographers climbing over themselves to shoot and of course the city’s most unique venue, the Anglican Cathedral, put on the never to be forgotten Cream Classics event.
All in all, there was no shortage of great gigs and great venues for us to shoot, and that’s not forgetting the likes of Sound City, Liverpool International Music Festival, the Threshold Festival, FestEVOL , Liverpool Music Week and Psych Fest which all put the team through the mill but resulted in some amazing pictures. The Echo Arena even threw in a number of decent gigs for us to shoot.
While all of the team will pretty much shoot anything, and they have, including gigs where there were the same amount of Getintothis staff as punters, and while we enjoy shooting the unknown and starting out bands as much as anyone, we can’t deny that buzz of excitement when you get the call to shoot one the must-see gigs Liverpool is throwing around at the moment.
The year saw the standard mumblings and grumblings from the team with that old favourite’ shocking lighting’ right up there at the top of the list. But be honest, when have you known a photographer not to moan about the lighting. Some bands and venues got it spot on, but others made the life of the snapper pretty impossible and there was more than one gig where getting any usable shots was a real chore.
There were the standard highs and lows but we’re all aware that venues and bands aren’t thinking of the photographers when they’re putting together these shows, they’re thinking of the paying punters and that’s just as it should be. So while we may moan occasionally and why we still compare examples of bad lighting, we know we’re lucky to do what we do and 2016 presented us with some great opportunities.
So what can we expect from 2017? Well more gigs, more complaints about the lighting and more outstanding photos gracing the Getintothis website. One thing we can all agree on is that if you’re interested in music photography and don’t mind where or what you shoot, Liverpool is the perfect place to be.
2017 already has Squeeze, Paul Weller and The Who heading our way, not to mention Cream returning to the Anglican so there’s already a lot of gigs getting our camera fingers itchy. Until then though, I’ve nominated my own highlights of 2016. This is simply my own selection of the best (and worst) places to shoot in 2016.
Now this is a close run thing. The Invisible Wind Factory is clearly high up there on the list simply for the sheer enjoyment of the place but I settled on it being a straight fight between Mountford Hall and the Olympia. Both venues served up a visual delight in terms of the performances and led to some of our most memorable shots of 2016. Primal Scream and John Carpenter at the Olympia were two of the must shoot shows for our photographers, but it is Mountford Hall that takes the award, not just for the return of the Zutons but for simply looking amazing and nailing the light from day one, especially when the likes of Jack Garratt rolled into town. Honourable mention goes to the Arts Club, or possibly their crowds which made it the most fun place to shoot in 2016.
You either love or hate the Liverpool International Music Festival. From a photographer’s point of view, it can be a bit hit and miss and most of the Festival is spent running between stages trying to catch all of your assigned bands (not as hard work as Sound City but still not for the faint-hearted.) Yes we can all do without the teenagers who gather mob handed in groups and make the whole event a bit of a nightmare, and yes we still don’t understand the attraction of bringing a dog to a place with thousands of people and letting it run wild, but we can generally overlook that for the enjoyment of shooting the Friday night light show. Friday night is usually the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra belting out a range of classics all culminating in an enormous firework show. But not this year. This year they took the decision to move the event to the end of July, a good month earlier than usual. What this obviously meant was that it was much lighter than usual, too light in fact for the long anticipate firework display. Instead, we had to make do with streamers. Streamers. All very nice and that, but not even our best photographers could make that look too exciting. As the saying goes – no pyro, no party.
The tightest run of all of these randomly made up awards with Sound City, Liverpool International Music Festival, the Threshold Festival, Liverpool Music Week, FestEVOL and Psych Fest all pushing for top honours. The quality of the performers isn’t up for debate here, FestEVOL bringing us Juliette Lewis and Blossoms and probably the strongest undercard of the year, while LMW provided GoGo Penguin and John Carpenter and Sound City gave us the Coral and Dandy Warhol (and about a gazillion other bands). No, this award solely relates to the best festival to shoot. FestEvol unfortunately, lost points for the nightmare that was the layout in the Blade Factory, entry to Camp and Furnace sending crowds right across the front of the stage, which was a shame as this stage saw some of the most fun acts. Ironically, it is a festival held in the same venue that takes the crown and remains, for the third year running, easily the best, most visual festival according to our photographers – Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.
Well, perhaps a bit controversially there isn’t one. Yes sure, there are some venues that you don’t particularly like shooting at but more often than not the experience is governed by the crowd. I love shooting at the O2 Academy, for example, but it is still the only venue where this year I’ve had my hair pulled, my cameras grabbed and God knows what thrown over me on its way to the stage. But again, that’s down to the crowd and not the venue itself, so this particular award gets shelved for 12 months.
Highlight of 2016
Like most photographers I have a wishlist of bands to shoot, right at the top is Fleetwood Mac. It’s never going to happen (after they cancelled the concert I was scheduled to do last year, dammit) but for local bands, The Zutons have always been one of those groups I failed to catch first time around. That is until they played a one-off, and probably their last, gig together in memory of Kris Ealey. It was worth the wait. You never would have thought that the band had been away and it was one of those gigs where you did your job and then melted into the back so you could enjoy the rest of the show. A controversial choice but for me, it was gig of the year. The 2000+ singing along to Confusion had to be one of the highlights of a great 2016. As a special Christmas present here’s that very same performance of Confusion I shot from the back of the venue while just enjoying the show.
I’m going to say it and I know that the majority of stills photographers will agree with me, but the biggest annoyance is those filming gigs in the pit. Whether they are there for the venue or a local TV station or a vlog, they remain up there on our thing to avoid. The reason is simple, they get in the way. As a photographer, you generally get three songs and you quickly learn to shoot and move to get as many shots as possible. Videographers don’t. They camp. They stand in a prime spot and they stay there for a whole song oblivious to what is going on around them. They then make it worse by lifting their camera up into your well-framed shot. OK so they have a job to do just like the rest of us, but photo pits are crowded at the best of time so being aware of what’s going on around you will make things a lot easier for all of us.
Tip for 2017
There are already a number of big gigs hitting Liverpool in 2017 and all of the above festivals are clearly marked in our photographer’s calendars as ‘must shoot shows’ but following on from its success in 2016, our tip will be the return of Cream Classics to the Anglican Cathedral. Ask anyone who was there and watch that smile spread across their face, it was that special. From a photographer’s point of view, anytime a safety briefing involves the words ‘hundreds of lazers’, ‘will burn your face off’ and ‘DON”T STAND THERE’ you know you are in for a treat. Frankly, it was impossible to not to shoot it well and I can’t wait to see what they throw at us in 2017.
The Best of the Rest
We asked the photo team to put forward some of their favourite shots of 2016 and they happily obliged with a range of images that highlight not the diverse range of bands we cover for Getintothis.
I’d never seen Echo and the Bunnymen live but was into their vibe and had great memories of growing up through the 80’s (ahem and 70’s).
So it was something of a moment to finally get to the gig, camera in hand. I’d been warned by fellow ‘togs that particularly Ian McCulloch was difficult to capture as he evaded the spotlight, one calling him “Prince of Darkness” which seemed to have a nice ring to it. Anyway, into the gig and on with the show I had great fun singing along and snapping away, I went to both nights and took hundreds of pics trying to improve on the “first one out of the camera”, so here it is.
This was one of my highlight gigs of the year – Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – at Psych Fest in September. It’s always a great event and an opportunity to see bands you may not be familiar with. About half way through her first song Josefin started shaking her head, creating patterns with her hair. I knew at the time the effect would make for a decent shot just as long as I could manage to get one with her hair in the right place. It’s not super sharp, but it has a psych vibe that fits perfectly with the music.
I’m new to the Getintothis team but I’ve already got a fair few gigs under my belt. What I enjoy is the sheer variety of it.
Highlights so far would have to include the Voodoo Ball at the Invisible Wind Factory, the atmosphere was just amazing but for my pic of the year, I’ve gone from this one from the Liverpool Music Week closing party. Cavalry were giving it the full works on stage and decided to get a little bit of audience participation going and I love the look on the guy’s face as if he’s giving it his all.
My fave photo of the year is of Gary Numan at the Olympia. To me, he’s transformed in recent years into a full-on rock god. I like this photo for the great pose and the fact there’s a bit of cheekiness about it and the tattoos on his arm add a bit of extra interest. The splash of colour the guitar gives off against Numan’s traditional man in black sets the whole thing off nicely.
This is no way the best picture I’ve shot this year, but it is something a little bit different and that what appeals to me. As a photographer, you can spend a lot of time cursing your luck over lighting or where they ask you to shoot from, but I’m all for just playing the hand you’re dealt. At the Liverpool Phil, it’s standard practice to have to shoot from the back of the hall so that means you pack your long lens to get anything like close to the action. I could have gone for the standard close up of Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot, but by choosing to pull to the back I think I managed to grab some sense of just how special that night was. It also has a different look to most of the other gig pics in that the contrasting shadows and light give it an almost painted appearance.
I know… there isn’t actually a band in this photo. In fact, it’s pointing almost completely the opposite direction to the stage. I’ve taken better photos of incredible artists this year (I almost picked a snap of Grace Jones at Way Out West) but this is my favourite photo of 2016, from my favourite night of 2016.
To me this photo sums up the night better than any shot from the pit, the crowd were immense all night and as equally as engaging and entertaining as the acts on stage (The Parrots, King Gizzard, The Wytches to name a few). I’d never seen a crowd so up for a gig, they were stars of the night and deserve their spotlight.
The photo was taken during Liverpool Music Week in Arts Club. Young band Abbatoir Blues from Brighton was one of the most interesting acts during the whole week. The frontman was very emotional and you knew that he was feeling every word he was singing. Hopefully, I managed to catch it with this shot.
This was a great show to shoot. And I’m sure any photographer that’s covered a Garratt gig would agree with me when I say that I really can’t take much credit for this one. Every element of his stage set up was a visual spectacle. All I had to do was stand right there in the middle and click the shutter. Anyway, I do love this shot, and I’m fairly certain it was taken during his cover of the Fresh Prince theme tune which makes me enjoy it even more.
This gig was a great one to photograph. My first time in the photo pit of Liverpool’s infamous O2 Academy. I love this photo because I feel it captured the atmosphere of that night, a beautiful escape from the cold icy weather into a warm room of blue lights, chilled vibes, and an electric crowd.
Here’s my image for the year, I joined the team late in the year so only covered three gigs so far. I’m looking forward to covering a lot more in 2017. Anyway, this was taken at Leaf Bold Street and is Wallis Bird. It was a nice little intimate gig but really full on, in fact, Wallis broke strings on her guitars about 5 times during her set !!
Barberos at the Invisible Wind Factory, apart from them being great live that night what I like about the shot is two things, the framing of the shot in relation to the beam of light but also the anonymity of the drummer, not only is he a simple silhouette but he was wearing a balaclava so couldn’t be identified anyway!