Andrea Belfi. The Old Church, St Pancras, London.
Amazing drummer/composer in a venue I hadn’t known to exist.
Mary Anne Hobbs had introduced me to Andrea’s music on her 6 Recommends show (goes down midnight to 1am every Wednesday – iplayer it). He is an amazingly talented drummer and when this album launch show was announced I thought I have to go, I’ll only regret it if I don’t. Which is why I sat on a coach, after work, for 3 hours. The venue is beautiful. Intimate with fabulous acoustics. If I lived in London still I would go there a lot.
I was feeling super nervous as I approached the venue. Probably because I was on my own, knew no-one who was going, had never been to the venue and had no clue what to expect in terms of photo set up. I dislike crowds and environments I don’t know and can’t control, which frankly makes the fact that I go to any gigs at all a huge achievement! It also tells you everything about how much the music means to me, that I will put myself through stress, anxiety and sometimes panic to be there. Music live is just everything.
Once in and secure in a front row seat I could relax a little. Meeting Sofia, who founded the Float label that Andrea’s album was the launch of, also made me feel at ease. I’ve been feeling a bit wobbly about my photography of late, so to know she was happy for me to shoot made all the difference.
The lighting was challenging in that there wasn’t much of it, but it was cleverly put together so once I’d taken a few test shots and adjusted I sort of knew things would be ok. The setting and lighting almost made it feel like we were in a Caravaggio painting, this single shaft of light illuminating the musician only.
Valiska provided excellent support. I’m not at all sure how I’d describe what he played, but with the smoke machine going and the atmospheric lighting, I can describe the way it felt, which was haunting.
There were people crammed in, standing along the sides and sitting on the floor, so moving between people to get photos was tricky. I’ve also never stood on a gravestone to shoot before! It was a unique and beautiful venue and I really hope that I’ve managed to do justice to Andrea with my photography.
Andrea is amazing. There really is no other way to describe him. He drums and plays/programs electronic soundscapes which in words sounds like an awful chaotic mess, but live is sublime. The drum beats are matched, married and contrasted with electronic melodies to produce the most amazing sounds. That he plays both live is fairly extraordinary. He partially improvised some of what he played, lifting the album even higher. Some of his music is hypnotic. Some of it jarring. All of it beautiful in its own way. When he got up to end at the end of the set I thought, no hang on, you’ve only been playing for 15 minutes. Turns out was 45. The time melted and flew and simply disappeared with his magical music. I had been completely lost in time and space thanks to him.
Mary Anne had come down from Manchester to introduce Andrea and recognised me, so came over to say hello. This in itself was amazing. My hero. My Peel. Standing chatting to me about music. She is such an incredible DJ and her weekend breakfast show on 6 works because of her, and the production team of Helen and Phoebe. They make it an inclusive and loving programme.
To have been able to get to this gig, to photograph it, to meet Mary Anne again, to be introduced to Andrea and Sofia, well, this was a special night indeed. 40 gigs itself may be over, but my musical journeying keeps apace.
It was worth the 5 and half hours I spent sat on coaches, it was worth getting home at 2.45am, knowing I would have to get up 5 hours later.
When you get the chance to see such talented musicians play, you take it. Grab opportunities to do the things you love with open arms. Meet your heroes.
Thank you Andrea for making such amazing music. Thank you Sofia for founding Float and bringing Andrea’s music to us. Thank you Mary Anne for introducing me to such amazing artists and for being you.
40 gigs lives on.