My top festivals..
As a music photographer, one of the most rewarding and demanding assignments you can find yourself covering is the music festival. It’s a pretty demanding event but with little reprise or comforts for the discerning photog.
The bigger the festival the more opportunity there is to create some amazing photographs of prestigious and exhilarating performances – acts seem to pull out an extra 20 percent when on stage to the delight of an exuberant and excitable crowd. Such is the nature of music festivals. Maybe because nobody is driving.
But with larger events comes more constraints, more security, more photographers, more rules and less toilets. Depending on the promoters and who you are shooting for, you might be able to make use of the PR tent and tea and coffee facilities. But you still have to sleep in a wet tent. With all your gear. And you still have to pay inflated prices for food and warm beer. Which might get chucked over you whilst you are negotiating with security to give you one more song.. or 30 more seconds..
Still as I said, it can be most rewarding. A lot of my portfolio is comprised of festival shots simply because the band out performed themselves and provided such a spectacle to shoot. With a large and willing crowd and fantastic stage lighting its all or nothing for your 3 song limit. Adrenaline stuff.
I used to shoot a lot of festivals each year. For myself, promoters, reviewers, the BBC, on-line magazines you name it. But Im thankful now to say I really only shoot for the festival itself, as house photographer.
If you can put the hours in, establish a constant reliable stream of work, sort your workflow for fast turn around and MOST importantly establish and maintain good working relationships with the organisers you stand in good stead to move forward from the rest and get your work published and recognised. Hell you might also get a nice CB radio to stroll around with as you make use of your backstage privileges…
So with that in mind and the start of 2015’s music festivals round the corner, I wanted to give a little review and write up of my three favourite festivals im booked to shoot this year and why I love em.
From Now On Festival – 13 and 14th Feb 2015. http://fromnowonfestival.co.uk/
From Now On is produced and curated by Mark Daman Thomas of Shape and Islet. Shape Records was set up in Cardiff in 2006 by the brothers Lee, Mark and John (JT) Thomas. Their first release was a 7” by their own band, Attack+Defend. Since then, Shape has released records by Welsh and international artists including: H. Hawkline, Sweet Baboo, Flamingods, Mowbird, Wakes. Shape also produces events, manages musicians and is a music publisher.
From Now On is a celebration of music and sound, curated by Shape and hosted by Chapter.
“I’m very excited to be bringing back From Now On, it’s a joy to curate a festival where people can explore music and sound outside of the mainstream. This year I’ve put together a line up of Welsh and international artists who take risks, creating and performing music that is individual and thought-provoking.
As a musician in Islet I’ve been inspired and challenged by many of these acts during my travels, and it’s a joy to bring them to Cardiff. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my fellow Islet members give a rare performance in their progadelic project, Them Squirrels too.”
Mark Daman Thomas, January 2015.
From Now on is only in its second year, but I was so impressed by the sheer quality, integrity and diversity of the acts from 2014 I am thrilled to be invited back this year to cover the event. It all takes place at http://www.chapter.org/ which means no trouble form any discerning February weather. Similar to ATP (holiday camp festivals – my FAVORUITE -now over foreverL) , the festival feels like a show for musicians by musicians. There is much appreciation and respect for the artistry on show. The stages range from small to medium, but they are well lit with plenty of access and no time constraints. Although many of acts are not running round stage and surfing the crowd, the atmosphere and charge in the room is very vibrant. Check the site for the listings. So many from last year have gone on to have a successful 12 months.( Trwbador, Lucky Dragons, Richard Dawson, The Jelas, R Seiliog..) From Now On is the one to watch for upcoming quality acts.
2000 Trees Festival – 9th – 11th July 2015. http://www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk/
2000 trees is in its 9th year, has a 5,000 capacity cap and is a 2013 grass roots winner (amongst other awards). It’s a recipe for awesomeness and that’s pretty much what you get.
In my opinion the size is perfect. Sound pollution between stages is low, camping is spacious but not a 4 mile trek from your favourite act and amenities clean and good food plentiful! Glastonbury is humongous and you have to plan carefully to capture even a small handful of the acts you want see. At 2000 tress, everything (technically, on paper) is grabable all due to very nicely staggered stage times with minimum cross over. 4 stages, ones secret garden stage and an insane amount of quality underground British music (ok with some overseas acts flying in). I mean Mono headlined last year !
Its my bag, all the types of acts I choose to listen to and love to shoot.
Andy Rea (from Alice Made This interview)
“2000trees really is the best place in the UK to discover your new favourite bands, because we scour the land for emerging talent at gigs, listen to recommendations from friends, music lovers and industry contacts, and go the extra mile to hear great new music. Outside of the pop music factories, British music is healthily diverse, painfully fresh and exciting – there are so many acts trying to make it – so it’s really important we all support local music venues, where new artists cut their teeth, because some have started to disappear”
Director James Scarlet and friends (a journalist, accountant, lawyer, designer and two salesmen). Decided they were done with the same mainstream music, bad food, overcrowded sites and bad corporate sponsorship and set out to create something they would personally love to attend and address the wishes in the hearts of some many young UK music fans.
Ive played at 2000 trees with my old band The Cape Of Good Hope. They festival championed us and the crowd loved us. It was a really rewarding and exhilarating experience in part because of the setting and exceptions from this type of festival. With few weekenders like this running so successfully there is always such a great fan base for this type of music providng a massively warm reception.
Arc Tangent Festival 20th – 22nd August 2015. http://www.arctangent.co.uk/
“The award winning ArcTanGent is the world’s ultimate music festival for connoisseurs of Math-rock, Post-rock, Noise-rock, Alt-rock and everything in between. Previous acts include Russian Circles, This Will Destroy You, Fuck Buttons, MONO, And So I Watch You From Afar and 65daysofstatic”.
I guess this sums up the festival in a nutshell really. In partnership with 2000 trees it is only three years young this year but attracts punters and media from all over Europe.
I was amazed to meet and speak to so many people from the industry who had flown in to document or enjoy the three days of incredible music. “This festival has just an amazing line up, its one of the best of its type” exclaimed the director of overseas art rocking Dunk Festival.
In size, it is comparative with 2000 trees festival but ATG offers a harder mix of post punk and rock acts. There’s plenty of odd time signatures and beards on offer all bleeding out of 4 stages with close camping and a great selection of food options. Again it’s a 5,000 capacity cap so getting to your next stage on time AND having a good vantage point is always achievable. Its an important factor in considering those points that makes a festival a success. Its one thing to make it to bands stage time, but another to be able to see what is unfolding up front..
With a free silent disco on a Friday and Saturday night curated by two band DJ’s from the main stage and third option provided by the silent disco company, it is always a guaranteed giggle. After hours of distorted riffs in your face, its amazing to witness 5000 people all singing Smells like Teen Spirit, or the theme tune to Jurassic Park. Yep that happened.
Im excited to be working for Director Goc Kaboodle on Arc Tangent. It has already won awards and is gaining in scope and possibilities after a mere 2 years. Personally I am interested to see if it is able remain at its current size with obvious opportunity to expand and evolve. Despite the pretty unfortunate weather the festival has experienced so far its fan base is undeterred in ensuring this festival will grow to be a continuous and impressive success.
Im also excited to be able to work with ATG bands backstage to create another gallery of portraits. This was an idea Goc and I conceived for last years event and we hope to develop it again in 2015. You can check out the 2014 gallery and read a little up on how this went here