How it all started!
I’ve always loved live music, especially the small local gigs with local artists and or tribute bands particularly Classic Rock or the great artists whose music is often unmistakable. So you could probably imagine my surprise when having just returned from networking at The UK Photography show in the NEC and I receive a call from an unrecognised mobile number and the call is actually from a guy who had picked up my business card from a local café!!!
After a moment of probing questions from the caller about my age and knowledge of music, the caller figured out I probably had no idea who he was but I would have probably heard of the band he was once in; if not the band but almost certainly the song they were most famous for. He wasn’t wrong, his name, Bobby Harrison, never heard of him, the band, Procol Harum, vaguely familiar, the song Whiter Shade of Pale. This is where I had a ‘moment’ of clarity and surprise, I was stunned, a phenomenally recognisable song of which I knew what he was talking about in an instant. The penny had dropped. A song that was recently listed in The Times as one of the all-time best songs.
It was soon apparent that Bobby, now in his 70’s and heading up his own band, SNAFU, didn’t use the internet much, I asked him if he had looked at my website, because there is very little in the way of music photography or even people for that matter. To cut a long story short, we came to an agreement and I was looking forward to Sat 01 July. Ironic though it may seem, the song was on the radio within the hour.
Like a duck out of water I went ahead with the inevitable research of how to shoot music events. Alien is one way of describing what I discovered, polar opposites is another! Now I know the exposure triangle is the same in whatever genre you find yourself shooting, but you try telling a landscape photographer to crank up his ISO to 1600 (minimum) and open his aperture as far as he can go and I’m guessing you would get a similar look to the expression on my face as I was reading such info. It all made sense of course and I wasn’t really surprised by what I was reading; it was just an entirely new area of photography to that which I was used to.
The venue was the Mersea Island Community Association (MICA) Centre and I set about contacting the events manager, Holly, who was very helpful indeed answering my barrage of questions. I had planned on a very early recce of the centre and a meet up with Holly, but work and life in general got in the way. I didn’t actually get to see the venue until just one week before the event; luckily there was another music event on and it was set up very similar to how Bobby and SNAFU had requested it. I was a little surprised at this event; it was a fundraiser for a local charity, Steph’s Wishes, you can find out more about Steph’s Story and the amazing work of this charity in these links. In a nutshell they help to provide memorable experiences for 18-25 year olds and their families who find themselves with recurring or terminal cancer. So if you know someone who could use their support or if you would like to help then click the links here or at the very least give them a share on social media.
The night was brilliant and it was clear that everyone was having a great time; there were even a few familiar faces from my favourite island café, Sea View, which ironically is where Bobby picked up my card. The band on hire were The UK Bee Gees Tribute band and they were brilliant, the lead guitarist knew just how to play up to the camera which was an added bonus and the stage lighting was just as I expected, good, but very ‘changing!!!’ I learnt a lot in a very short space of time but the most important thing for me was gaining the confidence to shoot this style of event and I got plenty of it. I had an early start the next day but I stayed up late looking through the images because I was still buzzing from the experience.
It felt like an age waiting for the 01 July to come but it eventually did and I got to meet the rest of the band prior to them starting who were all very welcoming. I took a few test shots as Holly and a number of local musicians started off with some old classics to entertain the audience, which was still growing by the minute. As soon as SNAFU got themselves into position I didn’t waste any time at all, snapping away with as many frames per second as I could get out of my ageing body (camera body of course). Bobby introduced himself and the band before they cracked on with some amazing Rock & Blues. Throughout his years’ Bobby has been very well connected in the music industry and A Whiter Shade of Pale was played in honour of late friends. I didn’t shoot much during this song because I just wanted to listen to it live, it was fantastic!
A personal favourite of mine from SNAFU was also played, I hadn’t heard it until I started the inevitable googling after Bobby’s initial call, and it had me tuned in instantly. It’s called ‘Lock & Key’ you can hear an early version of it here on YouTube. A few hours later and the inevitable chants of ‘MORE’ could be heard for a while as the end drew near.
The lighting on the night wasn’t quite as favourable as the week previous with the Bee Gees, I’m sure this was down to more people on the stage, I struggled to capture the band members at the rear whilst those on the front of the stage were lit fine. But overall I was more than happy with the images and even happier with the experience. I had a great time and I’m sure the audience did too.