2016. There will be a lot written about how it was a difficult, strange year full of loss I am sure. And it has been in a lot of ways. I watched the Victoria Wood special on BBC 2 last night with a mixture of laughter and tears. I can’t watch anything with Alan Rickman in it yet and I’m still not ready to hear Black Star.
The past few days I have felt more alive, more vital, more connected than in a long time. Thanks to the power of music. And the amazing, creative, wonderful people who make it and share their passion with others.
2016 has been the year I saw John Grant play live. Twice. The year I saw Richard Hawley in a tiny venue and got to fall in love with Sheffield. The year I saw and met Peggy Seeger and discovered folk music isn’t all about bumblebees. And the best I’ve seen Starsailor play for years.
3 gigs in 3 nights. London. Cardiff. Southampton. Old friends. The chance to pick up my camera again.
I hadn’t realised just how much I had missed the creativity, the electricity, the buzz of it all. The sheer recklessness of spending precious time and money away from home following a band I love. The late night trains, kipping in spare rooms, the lack of sleep, the making of new memories and the sharing of old ones.
London was first and now I live away from the City of my birth I can say how much I dislike London gigs, they always come with a sense of entitlement and aggression you just don’t get elsewhere. The aftershows are usually memorable though and being poured prosecco by the singer during a lock in at the O2 was pretty special. Even if I did get tipsy and fall asleep in the green room.
Cardiff the next night was the best of the 3 and the best I’ve heard them play in a long, long time. The music was tight, the improvised and improved bass (Stel is a master) complimenting Ben and Barry’s drums n keys to provide an aural backdrop that left ears ringing. The thing most other folk have always liked about the band is James’s voice, for me it has always been the music. Until Cardiff. He has never sounded better and it cut through me. Blood, a new track, hit somewhere in my heart and tears were rolling. Good Souls (a song that has always meant so much) became Tomorrow Never Knows and that was it. I was gone.
It was a special gig, with an amazing crowd. After I’d taken my 3 songs worth of photos and left the press pit I went towards the back, found some space and just cut loose. I was free, to dance, to sing, to express myself, to just be a fan. I fell in love with the music all over again. I felt alive.
I woke up the next day still smiling.
Southampton was to be my last stop of this tour and because Cardiff had been so special I was only hoping to get better pictures. Which I did. Quite possibly some of the best shots I’ve taken. I’ve not had the opportunity to photograph live music in over a year, and given that on those occasions I was swigging liquid morphine between songs, to have a chance to do it well has been even longer. So to get 3 nights in a row was a total gift. I am so grateful to the band for letting me have press passes and the opportunity to take pictures from the pit.
I must mention the excellent support band, Paves. They play a sort of heavy blues, Rolling Stones meets Deep Purple if you will. They are lovely guys who I hope go on to do well. They can certainly play. And pose. They are a photographers dream, movement and passion and interplay between them on stage, with rock god guitar poses and youthful energy that makes taking a good shot so much easier. I hope to get to see them again.
Starsailor pulled another blinder out of the bag and this was another great crowd who responded with energy despite the heat. From my privileged position at the side of the stage I could appreciate the energy from the band and the crowd and how they fed off of and into each other. If Cardiff had been about finding my freedom and my connection to the music again, Southampton was about the community of music and finding my creativity again. It meant so much because it was shared.
I’ve been in survival mode for so long, I’d forgotten how to live. Starsailor reminded me how. Thank you.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/emmafurious/albums for more photographs