C Duncan. Islington Assembly Hall, London

Beautiful soundscapes with harmonies, a venue I’ve never heard of, let alone been to before.

This gig was on May 10th. My actual 40th birthday. In the City of my birth. I had enjoyed C Duncan when I saw them in February, and again supporting Elbow in March (40:1 and 40:6 respectively) and had cheekily asked Chris if I could have a photo pass for this gig as a birthday present. He is so lovely that he agreed! I had already made plans to be in London on my birthday, and I had a wonderful day, but this was to be the icing on the cake.

I missed the support act as I was busy catching up with old friends over dinner (in a gluten free restaurant – coeliac heaven) but was in time for Chris and the band. Not knowing the venue at all, and being so late, I was a touch nervous. The Assembly Hall is a pretty venue and had good acoustics but as its not exactly my local. The stage was very high (good for the audience, not the photographer) and there was something odd going on with the seating (I think the balcony was closed) and as it was a London gig the atmosphere was flat. I’m a Londoner (the Thames runs in my veins) and will defend it to the hilt over everything except gigs. Bristol crowds, well all other crowds, are so much better.

I got myself ready and into the press pit with plenty of time. I am always full of nervous energy before I photograph & so either have to sit quietly or pace the pit like a prowling panther. Chris noticed me and gave me a thumbs up & wished me happy birthday (I told you he’s lovely right). As soon as the band started playing all the nervous energy disappeared into finding the right angle/spot in the pit/shot/dodge of light to grab the one photo that will make being there worthwhile. Its symbiotic with the music (well it is for me) in that I’ve only ever been able to take good pictures of bands I like. I spent my 3 songs grappling with the blue lighting & high stage trying to get some decent images. I think I succeeded but I’ve barely had a chance to look.

Before you know where you are the 3 songs you are allowed to photograph are gone & you have to make your way back into the crowd and try to find a place to enjoy the music from. It is a real privilege to be allowed to photograph a gig, its an intimate space to share with a band & their music. There is no barrier between you and them. No filter. It is often very noisy! I love it and I am always grateful when I get given the chance to do it. I am there as a fan, and as a photographer. It is a great place to feel connected to the music, in the visceral way that I love, and its raw and unfiltered. There is a purity in my relationship to music photography that I hope comes through.

After a couple of tracks Chris very sweetly gave me a birthday shout out, which excited no-one but me (London crowds) but was such a kind thing of him to do. Sadly I had to leave not long after this to catch the coach back home to Bristol and so missed about half of the gig. Ironically the coach was delayed and so I didn’t get home until 2.30am!

Thank you Chris for topping off my birthday not only with a gig but the chance to photograph you. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to my birthday, which had been a pretty amazing day before the gig. I will, hopefully, see you on the road again one day.

16 down. 24 to go.


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