Category Archives: Music

Washtock photos and new flash doodads

This weekend was Washtock 2007. Last year, Washtock was the event which introduced me to so many of Sheffield’s bands and really helped me to connect with the Sheffield scene. So I wanted to try and be there for the whole weekend this year, and catch as many new acts as possible. I failed rather – got there for the last 5 minutes on Friday, caught most of last night, but tonight felt too ill to go at all. All the same, I did manage to take some great photos on Saturday night at Washtock, and I also got to see Kid Acne for the first time which was well worth the wait.

I was trialling new equipment too – a few weeks ago, I splashed out on a very expensive Canon Speedlite 580EX II (I bought it because I was photographing a wedding – bloody typical, the Speedlite didn’t arrive until after the wedding) and a Lumiquest 80/20. I’ve also ordered an off-camera E-TTL flash cable which hasn’t arrived yet, but Andy lent me his. So, last night was the first time I fired this lot in anger. I started off feeling my way, pretty experimental and pretty crap, but once I sellotaped a piece of white paper over the top of the 80/20 and dialled the shutter speed right down to 1/5th to get some background fill-in, things really started cooking. I got some lovely photos, and I’m really looking forward to going out again with this set-up.

Band Photoshoots

I’ve finally got over one of my biggest photographic hurdles, and started doing “posed” photos. This last week, I’ve done photoshoots of one sort of another for four bands/musicians. None has been perfect, or anything even approaching, but all have made me realise how much I have to learn, and have pointed me in the right direction. I still have great difficulty with posed shots, because I am useless at directing people, too nervous myself (never a good vibe in a photographer) and never have any kind of mental image of what the finished photos might look like – I only really discover that once they’re on the computer. In fact, I think these are the two most important things for me to work on: confidence and visualisation, but in the meantime I also need to work a lot on lighting technique – my current approach of using remote flash units on ebay triggers, pointed in semi-random directions, yields some interesting but very inconsistent results. I could do with a proper lighting kit, and I certainly need a reflector. But with every random shot I take, I learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of The Cherokees:

The Cherokees at Volstead

Dan Shot Me dot com Sheffield party photographer

A day at the Leadmill, a night at the… Leadmill

A bit different from my usual photoset: on Saturday I was asked to tail Sheffield band Durban for the entire day, photographing them as they prepared for an played a gig at the Leadmill. From practice rooms to soundcheck to backstage debauchery, plus the band’s performance in full and highlights from headliners Air Traffic and support acts Jacob Golden, Dark Sparks, Sonic Hearts and The Stations.

Here are the photos.

Smegma, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock et al – gig review

Here’s an old review of a Freenoise gig which I wrote for Sandman, published about a year ago.
Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock

Smegma / Chora / The Hototogisu / Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock
Freenoise @ D’nR Live

Freenoise have showcased some fascinating line-ups in Sheffield over the last six months. Tonight they’d coaxed veteran “kings’n’queen of Freenoise” Smegma all the way from the USA. It’s a great shame that so few people ventured out on a Wednesday evening to witness the bizarre goings on.

The evening kicked off with local boys (and Freenoise regulars) Chora. Two men scrabbled on the floor, fiddling with guitars, percussion, effects boxes and other sundry noise toys. It didn’t make for great viewing but the sounds they conjured up were awe-inspiring. Actually, the whole 15-minute performance was made up of just one sound: an ever-advancing wall of noise which masked unexpected subtleties, dancing symphonies of tinnitus.

Hototogisu offered more of the same but different. Again, two people tinkered with guitars and toys, making loud-yet-subtle sound sculptures. Their performance had rather more dynamic range than Chora’s, stretches of quiet among the deafening tumult. But they also proved the maxim that less is more: 15 minutes is about the right length for this sort of set, 45 minutes somewhat exhausting and counter-productive.

Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock (from Switzerland via Japan and London) were very different, different in fact from anything I’ve ever seen before. Runzelstirn, looking like a bedraggled S&M gimp, sat in a chair wearing a skirt, rubber gloves and a long black wig. He hardly moved, except to open and close his eyes, but two microphones hanging from the corners of his mouth broadcast heavy breathing to the audience. In each hand was a switch connected to a wire, and as he caressed them the room filled with sounds of children and chaos. Meanwhile his partner Gurgelstock stalked the venue in a goblin mask, unsettling the audience by singling people out and standing next to them, while the tiny Roland amplifier on his shoulder beeped intermittently.

Finally Smegma took the stage. The band have been together since 1972, and had more than a few grey hairs to show for it, but their performance was full of energy. The set was entirely improvised, but their long experience playing as a unit made it incredibly coherent, frequently coagulating into swampy jazz-rock rhythms and funky beats which would hover for a minute or so before gradually reforming into something different.

Shame you missed it, next time, try harder! And keep an eye on for more of the same, but oh so very different.

Dan Sumption

Hal Wilner at the RFH

When I heard that Jarvis Cocker was curating this year’s Meltdown festival at the South Bank Centre, I got a little excited. Meltdown always throws up some interesting performances and collaborations, and although I usually manage to miss the entire caboodle, when I have made it along to the South Bank, it’s always been worth it: The Legendary Stardust Cowboy (performing as part of David Bowie’s Meltdown) was mindblowing (although Daniel Johnston, on the same bill, was much less so); Patti Smith’s Songs of Innocence was an extravaganze.

There are a few bands on Jarvis’s bill I would like to see – Motörhead would be nice (last saw them in 1989), Iggy and the Stooges even nicer (never seem ’em), and although I’ve already seen Forced Entertainment’s Bloody Mess, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again (although I imagine Gill would).

But generally speaking, it’s the collaborations and one-offs which make Meltdown special. And this year, the most special of these is without a doubt Hal Wilner’s Forest of No Return – an interpretation of the vintage Disney songbook. For a long time, Wilner’s Weird Nightmare, Meditations on Mingus was among my favourite albums, and I also love his work with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and his tribute to Kurt Weill. Wilner always manages to put together incredibly disparate and interesting groups of musicians, along with downright bizarre arrangements, and to coax something interesting out of them. So his take on Disney is surely not to be missed.

Unfortunately, I am completely skint (no. Completely.), I won’t be in London at the time and certainly can’t afford the £22.50+ ticket price. But if you are in London and you can afford it, you should go.

Take a Bad Song, and Make Things Better…

Stuart Faulkner, of The Barnacles/Pink Grease, has temporarily taken over the Barnacles Myspace page with some of his half-baked bedroom strummings. I love this kind of naïve music, and I love this first sentence of his accompanying blog post:

Here’s some songs up i wrote, they aren’t very good, but if you listen to them it will lower your expectations of how good music’s supposed to be and make the rest a far more pleasant experience in comparison!

Playing Bass with Damo Suzuki

There’s a short clip up on Google Video of my band, The Tajalli Vortex, playing with Damo Suzuki and Eric Arn. I’m at the back playing bass. This is the last two-minutes of our 45-minute set, which started off very subtly and gradually built up to this intensity.

There is also a longer audio clip on The Tajalli Vortex Myspace page.

S’funny, I don’t remember actually “playing” anything on the bass during the entire set, I was feeling so nervous and unsure that it felt to me as though I was just feeling around, very tentatively but quietly adding small noises but nothing very musical. Listening back, there’s a lot more to my tentative noises than I realised at the time.