In the Pit Festive Special: 2019’s best music and culture photographs of the year

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In The Pit 2019

It’s that time of year when we ask our happy band of photographers to review their back catalogues and share their favourite shots of 2019, Getintothis’ Chris Flack is on introduction duties.

The first time I picked up a camera I was on a school trip to a coastal town called Ballycastle on the North coast of Ireland, it was an away day where it took so long to drive there and back on a rattly department of education bus that we had about 45 minutes to photograph anything.

It was the year of our Lord Nineteen Eighty-Eight.

I fell in love with the place, though not as much as our art teacher John, who apparently had time to drop into The House of McDonnell for a pint wherein he found himself a commission for an oil painting.

His job was to create an image of the bar, last I heard he had packed everything up and moved to the coast, clearly more committed than I, his work adorns one of the walls and is pretty spectacular, not unlike their Guinness, which is also pretty spectacular if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

The House of McDonnell was built in 1766 and is the very definition of a traditional Irish pub, it is Grade A listed, though I believe the good people of Ballycastle have yet to forgive the owners for the refurbishment of 1870, it is too modern for some though graciously easy to fall in love with, as John highlighted so keenly.

It was on that fateful trip that I fell in love with the idea of having a camera to point at things.

I didn’t have the money to buy one at the time or in the years since, and the whole finishing school, getting a job, getting a wage, getting a life, getting drunk and going to gigs took the impetus out of creative endeavours.

The only creative endeavours I actually engaged in were related to the attempts I made to make myself less geeky, less buck-toothed, a little less awkward and ill-looking and therefore more attractive to members of the opposite sex. Reader, I was mostly unsuccessful.

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It took a while to get to a camera again, probably the better part of about 15 years, I ended up helping out at a newly opened music venue, bought a camera, bought a slightly better one, kept buying them until I found one that kind of worked for me, then bought a couple more. Added some lenses, flashes, mobile studio kit, that kind of thing. Bingo.

If only John could see me now.

I’m not sure he would ever know the impact that trip had on me, how that afternoon with a borrowed black and white film camera would give me an itch I would be scratching (Removed – Ed) years later.

We all have moments where this thing we do, this thing we spend huge amounts of money on, makes sense, where it clicks, where the energy and passion do something that sends a shiver up your spine.

Take as an example the esteemed Mr Peter Goodbody of this parish, he talks of his experiences at Supersonic Festival. He describes it as a proper, serious, beard tugging, festival of noise and the weird and wonderful. He talks about time in old record shops, about gigs in weird places, he talks about the energy, the buzz, the joy of shows that intrigue and inspire.

And a band called the Dead Finks, of whom you have never heard, but who played a magnificent Saturday lunchtime gig, before the main action happened, in an old school record shop called The Diskery. It’s always out there if you go search for it.

The Dead Finks

And that’s the thing about this game, it’s all about how you tackle gigs and challenge yourself. I always tell the new photographers on the team that when the list arrives in your inbox, print it off, pin it to the wall and throw some darts at it, tackle everything and anything, challenge yourself with the best of lighting and the worst.

You’ll never know where you’ll end up, it could be trying to sneak portraits on the Tube, it could be a ship in the middle of a forest, a boat in a harbour, an abandoned church on a windy Sunday night, a dark basement in a building with no bar and no name, it could be elegant town halls and exquisite balls, marquees, teepees, Humvees and TVs.  You just never know what you’ll see, hear or smell.

Photography is a hobby or way of life for most of the Getintothis photography crew, it’s something that has guided their decisions, their holidays, days out and been a measurement of how much sleep they really need.

Below, we have a selection of our togs finest offerings from the past year, they aren’t all to our standard 4×6, nor are they all colour, nor are they all of rock and roll bands, but it is what they want to show the world, it’s about passion, it’s not always about light, or pixel count or image clarity.

It’s about a feeling.

Have a look, if you want to join us drop us a line, you can find us on Facebook.  Enjoy.

Chris Flack – Getintothis photographer and sub-editor.

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Malcolm Burke

Bang Bang Romeo

Malcolm says: “I was shooting Bang Bang Romeo at Retro Bar in Manchester earlier this year. I was finding it a very difficult gig with such a small stage and there was very little room to move and cameras popping up in my shots. I had shot the band before so I was aware that Anastasia likes to have a wander into the crowd so I left everyone to it, headed to the back of the room and patiently waited. This was my reward.”

The 99 Degree

Malcolm says: “I was shooting Ist Ist this year at Bury Met I had been asked to get some shots of the opening band The 99 Degree before their set for the band’s promo. It was something a bit different for me but you don’t often get to document this part of a gig and it’s something a lot of people don’t see.”

Warren Millar

Idles

Warren says: “Idles guitarist Mark Bowen on stage at Olympia during BBC 6 Music Festival in March this year. I choose this image because it was so difficult to get, even though I had press accreditation only official BBC photographers were allowed in the pit so I had to get there very early to make sure I was right at the front. I stood there protecting my place for what seemed like days and for anyone who has seen Idles live you know that their fans don’t just stand and listen to the band!!. It took a lot of pushing and shoving around just to keep my place and get some half-decent shots!

Neighbourhood Festival

Warren says: “My other image was taken during a break at Neighbourhood Weekender Festival Warrington in May this year. We were lucky to have access to the V.I.P. area where they had hammocks set up and I noticed this girls legs sticking out wearing sparkly flared pants. To me, it sums up the summer festival season.

Courtney Hughes

Tom Walker

Courtney says: “This gig was my favourite of 2019. It was the biggest gig I’ve shot so far and the most fun experience. The space in the pit allowed my imagination to soar and get some of the shots I’ve only dreamed of taking. Like the one above. The bigger venue allowed me to take shots from every angle and really test my skills with my camera.”

The Pearl Harts

Courtney says: “Before this event, I had never heard of The Pearl Harts. I went into the gig optimistic but even then I was still pleasantly surprised. These two girls were filled with so much energy which made for the perfect action shots. My favourite gigs are the ones filled with life and atmosphere.  

2019 was my first year shooting for Getintothis and I can’t be more thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve experienced different genres of music, as well as pushing and developing my camera and editing skills. I’m looking forward to more gigs in the future”

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Kevin Barrett

The Cheap Thrills

Kevin says: “This photo was from The Cheap Thrills set at LIMF’s Liverpool stage. I’ve got to be honest, I would normally throw this shot away as the mic is covering part of the face here. But I just loved the mysticism the shot has thrown up with the heavy shadows drawing the viewer to the clarity Lewis Pike’s eyes.

Luke Jerram – Gaia

Kevin says: “Having loved seeing Luke Jerram’s The Moon the previous year I was looking forwarding to seeing what his new exhibition Gaia would offer at Liverpool Cathedral.

As equally as spectacular as The Moon, it was also so good to see so many young and old families wanting to take in art exhibitions in the city. When we arrived the queue was out the door, and the 20-minute wait didn’t disappoint once we were inside. The building is an architectural masterpiece in its own right, but when you add this inside it brings a whole new magic to the place.”

Peter Goodbody

dragSTER

Peter says: “Rebellion Festival is such a gift to shoot. It’s difficult to come away without hundreds of keepers, whether of bands or the audience. I’ve chosen this shot of Fi from dragSTER just because they’re such a good band and she was giving it everything.

Snarling and jumping onto the pit fence right from the off, even though it was a fairly early afternoon slot. Watch out for them, and catch them live if you can.

Moonlight Benjamin

Peter says: “This one makes the cut because she absolutely and unequivocally took hold of Africa Oyé and produced the best set we have seen at this most excellent of festivals. In my review of the weekend I said:

‘The Haitian voodoo princess burst onto the stage with her blues/punk thing. And was amazing with her band’s Gang of Four style grasp of rhythm and scratchy guitars.

This was a masterclass and a definite highlight of the weekend. Dressed all in black, with a black veil over her head, she was the real deal, spitting out her lyrics with a force that quite frankly left us numb. It was that good. It couldn’t get any better. Follow that’.”

Mark Holt

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Mark says: “This is from the Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at the O2 Academy. I’ve been trying to see these guys for some years and the gig itself was absolutely superb. It was quite awe-inspiring being so close to two people at the top of their musical game. Just pure class!!

Lucy McLachlan

Los Bitchos

Lucy says: “Los Bitchos supporting Mac DeMarco here at Mountford Hall are always great to photograph, they put on a fun show and bring all the tequila on stage for good times. This gig was a little on the smokey side which can be tough to shoot if you’re looking for shine and sharpness but I think it adds to the atmosphere.”

Kings of Leon

Lucy says: “I have film photos of Kings Of Leon gigs dating back to 2005 so getting to shoot them this year at Fusion Presents in Sefton Park was a bit of a highlight of the year (even though I only stayed for Molly’s Chambers and left).

I love all the drama in this shot of bass player Jared Followill. It was tough to capture because we had to pick a side of the pit and stick to it so this was taken from the far opposite side. It’s probably one of my favourite images from this year. I think my theme from this year is if the photo was captured under more testing conditions and came out decent it’s worth so much more than an easy shot in perfect bright lighting. These are the ones that make me feel proud.”

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Jenn Cliff Wilcock

EasyLife

Jenn says: “Easy Life at the O2 Academy was honestly one of my favourites this year. It was Easy Life’s first gig here in Liverpool on their Spaceships tour, and it was awesome!

From the moment they walked on stage the tunes were flowing and each one is getting the crowd singing and dancing; the whole place is packed, I did worry for my camera slightly. I took loads of photos at this gig but I chose this one as I feel as if the grain, smoke and posing silhouettes resonates with the themes of youth, fame and love, as well as the ambience, and dreamy synths, which Easy Life aim to embody in their work.”

Paint Me In Colour

Jenn says: This was also another first in this year’s book as we welcome a brilliant new band Paint Me In Colour onto the music/gigging scene here in Liverpool with their first gig being in Jimmy’s as support for The Kairos. I shot these guys on commission after being asked by the drummer whom I have known since my days in the air cadets band, so it was a gig I felt was quite special and honestly made me feel quite proud.

These guys really smashed it, I felt as if their artsy/concept perspective towards their music and performance really made it interesting, fun and refreshing to watch and listen to. I chose this photo in particular because I feel like it captures the power, good vibes and energies that Paint Me In Colour just constantly radiates. Side notes – as a photographer, the lighting for this gig was one of my favourites and I’m incredibly grateful for that!”

Billy Vitch

Rats

Billy says: “The first image of RATS playing at the Arts Club in September, there isn’t much to add except that sheer luck and occasional perfect timing when everything comes together, lights, camera, action, it can work out”.

Billy says: “The second image is of MONKS when they supported Spinn at Liverpool O2, it was taken in November this year. I was left thinking that I should never underestimate kids, their presence and expertise would have to lead you to believe they were a lot older!”

Chris Flack

Little Simz

Chris says: “I had intended to get to Fontaines DC but had other commitments the night they played, I figured I wanted to get sight of the 6 Music Festival so put my name down for one of the nights without really looking at what was on. 

It was Jon Hopkins, not entirely my thing, there was no pit, the place was packed and I was trying to squeeze through a couple of thousand people with a couple of grand’s worth of camera gear and a laptop in my bag hoping I didn’t end up wearing a pint.  It was a challenge, but when Little Simz came on stage it was a revelation, a remarkable, fun, energetic and joyful thing. Little SImz is an amazing talent.”

Viagra Boys

Chris says:  “Sometimes after you’ve listed three months full of gigs in advance, you get to one of them and you have had a shit week, there hasn’t been much sleep, there has been stress and you are genuinely thinking of ways to get out of it.  Try as you might you can’t, or the guilt does a number on you and you head for the 86.

Viagra Boys was one of those nights, the show was in Phase One so there were only the three blue LEDs, I was carrying a brand new camera that I hadn’t actually switched on and lenses I hadn’t taken out of the plastic and the room was absolutely packed, I had the scratch and crawl my way through to the front, I lasted about two songs and fired off about 50 shots, 30 were just a blur and some were just a blue.  This one, for me, gives you an idea of what happens when the energy is about to blow the windows out.  One hell of a night.”

Conor Baxter

Idles

Conor says:  “I’d just got back from a visit with work to Toronto and randomly a good friend was in the city with a spare ticket to Idles. I believe I caught something special that night. IDLES didn’t want to finish their set, the crowd were so into them.

Just a week or so later I am shooting them at Bingley Festival and manage to make eye contact. I’m pretty happy with the final image, it always brings back great memories of the festival, and of course the gig in Toronto.”

Sports Team

Conor says:  “One of my favourite discoveries of 2019 was Sports Team. I love everything about them, and they have a unique live presence. Alex is a proper frontman and gives it his all at live shows. I caught them at the Arts Club and managed to get some great shots, but behind the camera was me singing every word to every song. I may not have got the best pictures due to me being so into their show, but it was probably my favourite gig of the year”.

 

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