Nov 282013

In her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer, Julie Thompson takes in The Boomtown Rats gig at the Beach Ballroom, Hells Bells at The Lemon Tree and has a chat with Matt Jolly, in-house photographer at The Moorings.

_87A6911While Matt Jolly was mid-Atlantic, returning from his jaunt to the US with Fat Hippy Records, I was at the Beach Ballroom to see a band from my youth.
The Boomtown Rats formed when I was 9 or 10 years old.

Growing up, they weren’t my favourite band – just not in my genre at all.

Still, I figured there was no harm in seeing if I could get a photo pass for the event and as luck would have it, I could and did.

I’ve only seen The Boomtown Rats live once before, on one hot summer day in 1985. It was a memorable day where many other bands played, all around the world.  

Since then a new generation has emerged and musical taste has changed, so most of the folk at the Beach Ballroom were of the generation who grew up around the time I did.

There was no photo pit at this venue, so getting there at doors open time meant a chance to grab a spot up front but, once you have it, you stay. I was lucky and got a spot at the stage left.

Next to me was local tog, Andy Thorn. Dod Morrison was with us briefly before wriggling his way to centre stage front. I also spotted a couple of other togs on the far right – George Mackie & Craig Chisolm.

The support act was not what we were expecting – but from what I’ve since found out it wasn’t the support act they had previously and seems to have been playing just on this particular evening. Why the change, I don’t know, and it was unfortunate that it was for the last night of the tour and also the last appearance of The Boomtown Rats with Bob Geldof fronting.

_87A7014Still, all was forgiven when the reason for us all being there appeared. Laser beams created galloping rats on the speakers, there was a flash of a Pedigree Chum advert (which was an apparently an in-joke regarding one of their crew, who had been a ‘Top Breeder’ in the advert) and then the show began.

I had, of course, seen those photos showing Bob looking old, tired and sad – well, all I can say is it is easy to make someone look bad in a photo. The real trick is to make them look good.

There was plenty of energy that night – both on and off stage.

I’ve heard about, but not experienced, the sprung dance floor at the Beach Ballroom, but I thought I was going to be catapulted onto the stage a few times from the way it was reacting to the crowd jumping about.

One intrepid lady sneaked onto the stage for a quick cuddle & dance with, a clearly pleased, Bob before being chased by security and hustled away.

Between songs there was some chat – tales about how certain songs came about and how they’re still relevant today – nothing much has changed.

_87A8205BW‘Banana Republic’ written after a trip to the Republic of Ireland. Due to Geldofs ‘denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians’ during an interview, the band were blacklisted from playing anywhere in their home country. The loudest complaints apparently coming from a priest who had a lovechild in the US, as it turned out.

‘Someone’s Looking at You’ – eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, cameras on all streets. No privacy for anyone these days. And then there is ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’… ‘nuff said.

So, 2 encores later, some new tracks from their album along with many of the old favourites, much hand shaking along the stage front and it is all over. My biggest gig to shoot so far – it was great fun and good experience.

I’ve bumped into Matt Jolly a couple of times since his return from the California, where he travelled with Tom Simmons (Captain Tom of Fat Hippy Records), Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson. Usually busy when we meet, we finally managed to find time to have a chat.


Matt Jolly at work at The Moorings – Credit: Julie Thompson

Matt spent a year studying for a NC in Visual Communication and Photography at Aberdeen College, before entering a 2 year long HND course.

He’s now in his final year and is using his recent experiences covering the Fat Hippy Records trip to the USA as a course project.

He spent 10 years working as a chef before deciding it was time for a change.

He began started filming friends who were working in the local music scene, putting the videos up on youtube, and taking stills using his phone.

Unsatisfied with the results, he decided to revisit an old desire to study photography.

He bought himself a Nikon D3100 and took off on tour with Semperfi, covering their summer of 2010 tour before starting college that autumn.

He began working at The Moorings that Hogmanay – working the bar and practising his photography skills.

The most difficult part (or challenging, as he prefers to put it) of working the venues is shooting in low light – adapting by using slower shutter speeds (itself a challenge, as antics on stage can move fast leading to blurred action) or flash.

Part of his reason for moving on from his previous work was that he wanted to travel. He’s now travelled on various tours with Semperfi – most recently their 2012 European tour. He’s also travelled as far as California, to Molly Malones – who knows where they’ll go next!

I’ll continue my chat with Matt next time, when we take a look at the bands he’s had chance to shoot.


I’ve been to quite a few gigs over the last few weeks – I won’t bore you with them all but will just mention Hells Bells – an AC/DC tribute band – which played to a packed out Lemon Tree last weekend.

The place was jammed to the rafters and the crowd was there for two reasons – to have fun and to make as much noise as possible.

I had the pit to myself – a nice luxury – and the band had their parts down pat.

I’ll just mention a few set pieces: a striptease from ‘Angus’ went down a storm and also as far as what appeared to be a black thong (I was up the back of the venue and it was, unfortunately, hard to see); ‘Brian’ carrying ‘Angus’ around the audience on his shoulders for one long guitar solo; the two cannons blasting during the finale.

All the boys were sporting Movember facial hair – a comment on their Facebook page referred to them as looking like ‘70’s German porn stars’ – their words.

Some people are scathing about tribute bands, but it was an entertaining night, with well performed songs & lots of happy faces leaving at the end – which is surely the whole point.

Coming Up.

I have some gigs lined up for the end of November – Withered Hand, Pallas (which will be reviewed by Suzanne Kelly) and maybe another, which I have yet to hear back from (fingers crossed). Also, if I can fit it in after Withered Hand, a gig at the Malt Mill featuring our very own Fred Wilkinson and his band, Toxik Ephex.

More on how things went next week when I conclude my chat with Matt Jolly and I decide on which tog will be my next ‘victim’.

More Photos:

The Boomtown Rats
Hells Bells


Matt Jolly Photography on Facebook
Matt Jolly on Flickr

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Nov 212013

Julie Thompson takes in The Dillinger Escape Plan at The Garage in her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer.


The Dillinger Escape Plan – Image Credit: Julie Thompson

Do you ever wish you’d brought your sunglasses to a gig? Certainly someone on Twitter recommended that others do, regarding one gig I attended recently. I’ll come back to that.

After an unusually quiet, gig-free weekend, I headed back to The Garage on Monday 4 November for The Dillinger Escape Plan,  a five-piece American mathcore metal band with a reputation for crowd involvement, amongst other things.

I had been looking forward to this for some days.

The two supports were Maybeshewill, a lively Leicester quintet, and Three Trapped Tigers, a trio, as their names suggests, from London. Unusually, both bands were vocal-free.

Maybeshewill have gorgeous tunes underpinning their work. All their material is self-recorded and fantastic to listen to. I recall one of the later tracks had spoken words playing over it, as if a film was being heard in the background.

Andy Thorn, another local *tog , arrived between Maybeshewill and Three Trapped Tigers. We had a brief chat while he got his gear ready and he said he was looking forward to shooting Dillinger.

3trappedtigersThree Trapped Tigers are mostly instrumental too, using their voices as instruments rather than for delivering lyrics.

Trying to match names to faces, when labelling my photos, I came across a youtube video which stopped me dead.

It was beautiful – a simple piano version of one of their songs, Cramm, played by Tom Rogerson on piano on London’s Millennium Bridge.

The piano was part of the 2011 Play Me, I’m Yours art project, where pianos were installed in the streets, parks, bus shelters, markets and general public spaces of cities worldwide. What a fantastic idea.

Tom Rogerson of Three Trapped Tigers plays a version of ‘Cramm’ on a street piano at Millennium Bridge, London 2011.

What a treat – two support acts both really enjoyable to listen to and shoot.

So, back to the sunglasses question.

When The Dillinger Escape Plan came onstage my eyes started to blink madly – good grief, strobe-tastic or what?

No time to worry about that though, as total madness ensued. Frontman Greg Puciato, and his radio mic, were off over the pit wall and gone. OK, focus the camera elsewhere until he returned. Except for the blinding white lights of course. In between the strobes was darkness, occasionally some OK light but there was a lot of smoke.


Now you see see it, now you don’t. Two pictures from strobe sequence. Image credit: Julie Thompson

Hmm, strobes are a new experience for me – this was going to be tricky.

At points I remember sharing a look of amazement with Andy, and throwing my head back and laughing like a hyena; despite the difficulties it was awesome fun!

Up close and very personal at times, a guitarist over my head with  one leg on the stage, the other on the pit wall, and the pit wall shaking like there was an earthquake going on, due to a very energetic crowd.

dillinger2From the few images I managed to peep at on the back of my camera while in the pit, I wasn’t very confident I’d have many of use.

Still, I hope I’ll have a better idea of how to handle this sort of situation next time I come across it.

Once out of the pit, I picked a spot out of the way, on the stage side stairs to the cloakrooms, to watch the rest of the show. Andy stayed down by the pit exit, well-positioned for one unexpected event.

Ben Weinman, lead guitar and founder of the band, has a habit of hanging upside down from the ceiling to play. Unfortunately, when he tried it here he fell into the pit.

I’m not sure if he couldn’t get a good grip or if something in the ceiling gave way. It must have hurt. It certainly broke his guitar, but he picked himself up and carried on with another guitar. I watched, with interest, the regular guitar swaps, for fresh strings, or for charged radio transmitters.

The roadie working below me was certainly kept busy with gaffa tape and the like.

maybeshewillI remember little details, Ben Weinman kneeling down to grab a water bottle, and using it to knock his guitar strings to keep the rhythm going while he unscrewed the top. The Garage house photographer, climbed the speakers, like the frontman did, to try to get some good shots.

Greg Puciato headed off into the crowd again while they stampeded in a ring around him and security tried to herd him back onstage. It looked as if  the crowd launched him over the pit wall as there’s no way he could have managed that leap unaided.

A remarkable show that made me feel tired just watching it. By the time I got home my head was throbbing from a strobe-hangover.

So two Nurofen and off to bed, whilst the photos transferred to the laptop.

Next time, I talk to Matt Jolly, house tog at The Moorings, who has been recording the events of a US trip with Tom Simmons of Fat Hippy Records, Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson, who went over to support Terry McDermott.

*tog – short for photographer and much easier to spell.

More Photos:

Three Trapped Tigers
The Dillinger Escape Plan

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Nov 142013

Julie Thompson takes in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at The Moorings and Fatherson at The Garage in her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer.

Arthur Brown1

In the past nine days I’ve been to see and photograph three very different types of bands.

What can I say about Arthur Brown? If and when I get to 71 years of age, I hope I have the energy he does.

When I arrived at the venue, they were preparing the stage area.

There was a single chair carefully placed by the stage – not something normally left there.

The support act was Lifecycle, a three-piece band from London who were really very good. The lead singer played guitar and took live samples of his vocals and guitar, via a device attached to his guitar strap, to loop back over the song. Very interesting stuff and fascinating to watch.

Their set ended and the rush to prepare the stage for the main act began. The chair was moved to centre stage at the front, so I guessed it was to help Arthur get onstage. I was never very good at guessing, it seems.

lifecycleAt this point another tog*, Dod Morrison, moved forward and shortly afterwards George Mackie arrived. We all had a brief chat before resuming the wait.

Flash, The Moorings’ owner, hopped up onstage with a small cushion after everything was set. It amused me that he looked a bit embarrassed, and shoved the cushion under the keyboard before hopping back down.

Shortly afterwards, the side door opened and the band appeared. Some were robed and all were masked.

The show was about to start.

As it turned out, Arthur Brown was more than capable of getting onstage without help of a chair. However, the keyboard player was a little encumbered by a plaster cast on his left leg. The cushion, it turned out, was for his foot to rest on.

Eventually everyone was onstage and settled, the chair removed and the show began. It was a show, with some amusing, well-rehearsed elements, like the theft of a keyboard, which the keys-man continued to play with his crutch. You can see a three-photo sequence of this in the Flickr photos linked.

Arthur Brown2I was unaware at the time that there was a hidden band member, Angel Flame.

She popped out of a small room at the back, each time in a new costume. A golden-winged elemental for Fire, a Flamenco dancer, or as Temptation.

A truly excellent show; the queue to meet the band afterwards took a long time to disperse and everyone I saw was grinning. Even Flash.

Arthur Brown seems to visit Aberdeen quite frequently, so do try and catch his show next time.

I certainly will.

Three days later I found myself in The Garage photo pit for Fatherson. The Garage usually has two support acts and kicks off quite early compared to other places, as they re-open the doors at 2200 or so for the nightclub sessions. This means it’s a good venue to visit on a weeknight when you have an early start the next morning.

caramitchellBoth support acts were from Aberdeen, Cara Mitchell, a 17 year old who I’d caught playing in HMV a couple of weeks before, and Forest Fires, a five-piece alternative rock band formed in 2011.

Cara was first on as the place was only just starting to fill up. She seems a very confident and accomplished performer and I was pleased to be able to see her onstage at last. I got my three songs in the pit. Cara is a pretty lass and easy to shoot.

Then I got to hang out to watch and  grabbed a drink.

forestfires2Forest Fires are a lively bunch of lads, great fun to shoot and just as good to listen to. I enjoyed them very much and actually went online to buy their EP a few days later. I really hope to catch these guys again soon.

In the gap between Forest Fires and Fatherson, I spotted Cara Mitchell, guitar case in hand, heading through the crowd to meet up with a group of people. She passed her guitar to someone I can only assume was her mum, and gave her a big hug.  Mum left but Cara stopped on to enjoy the rest of the show.

Fatherson are officially a 4 piece band from Glasgow, seet at T in the Park in 2012 was aired on BBC2.

fatherson2However, on this tour there is a fifth person, Elaine Glass, playing cello and providing some vocals. They’ve been getting good reviews everywhere and I can understand why. Bouncy and energetic, the crowd loved them.

After my time in the pit, I went and hung out behind the sound desk, where I could see the band, watch the soundman dance and the lighting man have a ball with the spot controls.

All in all, it was a very good way to spend a Wednesday evening.

(*tog – short for photographer and much easier to spell.)

More Photos:

Arthur Brown
Cara Mitchell
Forest Fires

Next in Aberdeen Voice, Julie covers the eagerly anticipated American mathcore metal band The Dillinger Escape Plan at The Garage.

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Nov 082013
95177  - Oscar Marzoroli

One of many stunning pictures capturing Scotland’s past in ‘Waiting For The Magic: The Photography of Oscar Marzaroli’

In a world where every living moment seems to be captured on a smartphone camera, it is a delight to revisit the work of a true photographic artist, writes Graham Stephen.

Oscar’s black and white images of people and places, many now long gone, have a dignity and sense of humanity perfectly captured by his meticulous sense of balance and instinctive eye for telling detail.

As Robert Crawford explains in one of the three specially-commissioned essays which complement the photographs, it was all about geometry, the artist’s eye for shape and patterns.

Oscar found this in the real world, in the shipyards, tenement demolition sites and backyards. Then he would wait patiently for the light, the face, the magic. Where others may take a scattergun approach to shooting, hoping for one great picture in a hundred, he would rely on the moment, trusting the shot.

And the results deserve to be preserved and savoured. A panorama of faces from the 1963 Scottish Cup Final, remarkably detailed, each one caught in a split second of life, echoing through the years, link us to a disappeared time. Three young boys, in the middle of an empty street, innocently play in their mothers’ high heels, Oscar subtly uses the light to draw our eyes to two young men talking on the street corner, the picture offering more dramatic intrigue than a year of River City.

183-2177  - Oscar MarzoroliThe riches in the book are too many to count. As well as his signature shots of Glasgow buildings and people, we get friends and family, landscapes, workplaces and even a sunny-looking Fraserburgh beach.

As we have come to expect from Birlinn, the book is beautifully produced and designed, a fine companion to the great Shades of Grey and Shades of Scotland collections from the 1980s, if you can find them.

And if you’re listening, Santa, Waiting For The Magic will almost certainly be a more lasting gift than Jamie’s or Yotam’s or Hugh’s latest cook-tome.

Waiting For The Magic: The Photography of Oscar Marzaroli
Birlinn Ltd

The Marzaroli Collection on Facebook

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Nov 012013

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures taken at The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV between August and October 2013.

Leanne Smith at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Leanne Smith performs for The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV – Pic by Julie Thompson

Here’s a little quiz for you. What do Gerry Jablonski, Craig John Davidson, Amy Sawers, The Lorelei and Little Kicks have in common?

If you answered ‘Fat Hippy Records’, then you’d be right. But were you also aware that they, and several of their Fat Hippy siblings, have also played free gigs in HMV on Thursday nights for the last few months?

Let me present The Old Granite Whistle Test:

“The Old Granite Whistle Test is a weekly event at HMV in Aberdeen. It occurs weekly on a Thursday evening at 6:00. The band night was initially set up by HMV as a platform for new rising local acts to get some publicity, but quickly became a partnership between Captain Toms/Fat Hippy Records and HMV Aberdeen. As of the present moment, Steven Spencer and Tom Simmonds are dual organisers of the weekly event.”

The Old Granite Whistle Test sessions began on 1st August 2013 and were kicked off by Daniel Mutch, a young acoustic singer/songwriter.  The second week showcased Craig John Davidson, whom I have since had the privilege of seeing play, when he supported The Lorelei at Meldrum Town Hall.

Sadly, I was unaware of these sessions until the third one, when The Lorelei came down to entertain us.

Robbie Flanagan at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Despite complaints from a neighbouring vendor that they were too loud (just how is that possible?) they did their thing with that exuberant joy for their music which they seem to have, whenever I see them play; and, as a bonus, they got complimentary juices from the Juice Bar.

First Leanne Smith, a bonny girl with a sweet smile and voice to match, and then Amy Sawers, amazing voice, entertained us on the following Thursday evenings, bringing August to a close.

September’s line-up began with Robbie Flanagan and his guitar, and the following week, the twin rappers SHY & DRS, accompanied by Dave Brown on guitar.

Shy and DRS at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonThey also filled Sandi Thom’s vocals on their Top 40 hit, The Love Is Gone.

The non-acoustic part of their set was sadly cut short due to technical problems.

The third session, featuring Uniform, had a delayed start as their frontman was caught in traffic.

Unfortunately, I only caught the very start of their set as I had an appointment elsewhere.

The fourth week was a blast, with Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band bouncing around HMV, fresh from their new album launch at The Lemon Tree; which was, incidentally, my first official music shoot, providing images for the Aberdeen Voice.

The Little Kicks at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

What an excellent way to wind up September.

October opened with The Little Kicks, well, half of them, who are always a favourite. As they were playing later that evening at another venue, the drummer and bass player were not performing, although I did spot them lurking in the crowd.

I first encountered, and shot, this band at the Brewdog AGM in August. I was attending that event to provide images for an Aberdeen Voice article.

In fact they were, along with The Xcerts, the first live music I’d shot, apart from at the Belladrum Festival a couple of weeks earlier. Confession time: it gave me such a buzz that I wanted to do more.

Cara Mitchell at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonCara Mitchell played the second session of October. It was the first time I’d had the pleasure of hearing her.

The third week was supposed to be the Polish band, CETI, fresh from their Lemon Tree album launch.

However, due to illness they were replaced at short notice by Jon Davie.

I’d come across this singer/guitarist before when he played a solo acoustic set at The Lemon Tree.

He’s the frontman for GutterGodz, who I went down to Stonehaven Town Hall on Oct 25th to shoot, along with Deadfire and The Ruckus.

Colin Clyne at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonColin Clyne, back home from a long stint in California, played the fourth week.

He has a good voice, which he accompanies with his guitar and mouth organ.

Having built up a following in the United States, he is hoping to repeat his success back home.

Over the weeks, I’ve chatted with Captain Tom of Fat Hippy Records about these sessions.

I put a few questions to him:

Q:  Who came up with the idea of The Old Granite Whistle Test, and the name?

A:  It was Steve Spencer, who works at HMV, who came up with the name and made the effort to get everyone involved.

Q:  Has it been easy to persuade the acts to play?

A: Very. No one has needed to be persuaded, I think just about everyone we asked said yes, if they were available, and many more have asked to play.

Q:  Have the bands enjoyed the experience?

A: I believe so. Some nights have been busier than others, but I think most relished the opportunity to play HMV for the first time.

Q: So, was it a frustrating or fun experience for you?

A: A bit of both, I suppose, if I’m honest. It’s great to be involved in an exciting new outlet for Aberdeen’s burgeoning and talented live music scene, but it can be a frustrating business when bands cancel at short notice or there’s a lack of support for really talented artists. But that’s the same for all gigs everywhere.

Q:  Are there any amusing anecdotes you can relate?

A: Well, there have been a few interesting moments along the way. Without being specific I’ll confess that most of them involve the weekly running of the gauntlet with traffic wardens, to get parked anywhere near HMV to unload the PA. They’re very good at their job, so they are.

Q: Have HMV enjoyed giving up a bit of their floor space and time, do you think?

A: I think so. I get the impression they have probably wanted to do something like this with local music for some time, and it’s just taken a while for the opportunity to arise.

Q: Will you be doing more next year?

A: I hope so. This first 3 month stint from August to October was in some ways an experiment to see how it went, and what sort of response it got. So we’ll sit down with the powers that be at HMV over the next few weeks and see how we all feel it’s gone. Hopefully everyone’s happy and we can find a way to do another 3 month stint in early 2014.

Jon Davie of Guttergodz at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonSuburban Saints will complete the October line-up on the 31st, and, indeed, bring The Old Granite Whistle Test to a close for 2013. Whether it returns next year remains to be seen, but for me it has been a great way to see some of our local talent in action.

If The Old Granite Whistle Test returns next year, I shall certainly be there.

You’ve heard a little bit in this article about how and when I got started photographing live music.

In future weeks I plan on catching up with some of the local music photographers for a chat, to find out how they got started, their best and worst experiences, and maybe even garner some tips.

Click here to view more HMV Photos.

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Oct 232013

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Café Drummond, 11th October 2013, and Grzegorz Kupczyk’s CETI album launch, Lemon Tree, 12th October 2013.

bisongrass2Looking back over the last two nights of shooting, I find myself reflecting on the contrast between the venues.
I found Café Drummond, admittedly a small venue, to be frustrating in the extreme whereas The Lemon Tree was much more fun.

Why? It was all down to the lighting.

Lighting is a major factor in live music photography; dim lighting can mean you come away with nothing apart from noisy, poor resolution images. Picking through your images from the evening afterwards can be soul destroying.

If you do find any that look half ok, you zoom in to check focus and their eyes are so dilated they look like they’ve been taking something very interesting indeed. Welcome to Café Drummond – the home of ‘high ISO hell’ (as a fellow photographer put it).

catfish3The light in Drummonds was so dim that even lenses designed to work in low light were having trouble finding a focus. Orange backlights and few front spots meant that the backs of the band were brighter than their fronts; tricky to deal with because it’s the faces you’re interested in.

Café Drummond doesn’t have a photo pit or the 3 song limit. You’re in amongst the crowd, trying to keep out of the way of dancers & beer. You also have the hazard of people wanting you to take their photos as they mug for the camera.

Between sets I was approached by a girl who was interested in what camera I was using.

We chatted briefly, culminating in getting out my phone and showing her some of my more recent flickr images. She got excited over the Johnny Marr photos from last week, made a mental note of my flickr name and then went back to her friends.

redfoot2Two more frustrating sets later, I head home.

On later perusal, I have a few images that look ok, but they’re not images I will treasure and I mentally cross this venue off my list of places to shoot again.

On a plus note I seem to have acquired a new flickr follower.

How were the bands?

Well, because I was shooting the complete sets, I suffered from what I call ‘concentration deafness’. I certainly wasn’t standing there wishing my earplugs were stronger though. I do remember thinking that some of them didn’t look old enough to be in a pub, but I think that’s more an issue of my age than theirs.

velvet audio 2The support acts – Redfoot the Fence and Velvet Audio were well received and enjoyable to listen to. As for the headline act – Catfish & The Bottlemen  – they were pretty tight and well-rehearsed.

They did seem to be struggling with their sound at one point, as the lead singer kept asking for volume increase.

As it turned out, he was getting a hum through his floor monitor so he couldn’t actually hear what they were doing.

They were plenty loud enough for those of us in front of them and the crowd was rocking.

I would go to see them again and hope (on a purely selfish note) that if they return to Aberdeen, their next venue is better for shooting.

The following evening I was expecting a much better experience. I’ve shot at the Lemon Tree before and, though the lighting can be variable, it is usually an order of magnitude brighter than what I’d just experienced.

There is a good sized photo pit here, and they generally enforce the 3 song limit.

bisongrass3There were three of us in the pit for the first band – Bisongrassand we were treated to an energetic performance from their lead singer, who spent a lot of time hanging from the light fixtures at the front of the stage and clambering around in the pit.

Some bands can be fun to shoot and some can be so static that it is difficult to get an interesting shot of them. Metal bands are rarely boring to shoot, which means I’m in for a great evening.

Between sets, I discover a few acquaintances dotted around and kill some time chatting. Back at the pit, there is a small altercation going on; some more photographers have arrived unexpectedly and one of the first photographers is unhappy that the pit will contain more people for the next sets.

This issue is resolved by staggering the group into two sessions, although the pit is certainly big enough for 5 people in one go.

Thrashist RegimeNext up is Thrashist Regime.

Before we go into the pit, I chat to another photographer who has shot them before.
He warns me that the lead singer has a habit of disappearing into the crowd with his radio mic, sometimes even into the street outside.

Sure enough, he’s over the pit wall and off into the crowd. The band is a fun shoot with lots of crowd interaction.

At one point the singer jumps into the pit next to me, startling both of us as I don’t think he’d noticed me there.

I get given a microphone to yell into (I declined to comment) at which he laughed and moved on to a more willing participant.

Once more out of the pit and watching the rest of the set from behind the rail, I’m left roaring with laughter as a gentle ballad to an explosive event a few years back in Auchenblae is announced and then thrash metalled out.

CETI 1Finally the headline act arrives onstage.

Grzegorz Kupczyk’s CETI are a well-known Polish
old-school heavy rock band that have recently signed
with Fat Hippy Records and are tonight launching their
new album, ‘Ghost Of The Universe Behind The Black Curtain’.

With a fairly large Polish community in Aberdeen, they attract many tonight who are familiar with their work.

Unusually, the most flamboyant band member on stage
is the Bass guitarist. Later on he performed a fascinating solo, something not normally seen these days.

It is obvious from watching, that they are familiar with performing to a larger crowd than they had tonight; audience interaction is constantly sought.

CETI 2Indeed some of their gigs in Poland include festivals attracting 20,000 people. They are known as the ‘Polish Iron Maiden’; not a bad description.

They were a joy to shoot and fun to watch. Despite the language barrier I found them entertaining; some of the largest laughs on my part were purely from body language and one occasion where Grzegorz asked, ‘How are you doing Aberdeen?’ to which a lone Aberdonian voice replied ‘Not so bad’.

More photos:

Redfoot the Fence:
Velvet Audio:
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Oct 152013

Following on from Timothy Neat’s Edinburgh Festival appearance at Summerhall, profiling his collaborations with John Berger, Peacock Visual Arts are proud to be hosting a major Retrospective of Neat’s life’s work, STANDS SCOTLAND WHERE SHE DID? from 27 September – 9 November 2013.

Martha Mackenzie, Scots Traveller, Fortinghall, November 1976 © Timothy Neat sq

Martha Mackenzie, Scots Traveller, Fortinghall, November 1976 © Timothy Neat

A stunning collection of photographs capturing experiences and relationships over a long life will be on show. Neat is a champion of the marginalized – Scottish Travelling People, Gaelic bards, salmon-netters, crofters, bee-keepers, horse breeders, Andalucian villagers, poets and artists.

Neat has worked closely with many leading Scottish figures – MacDiarmid, Sorley MacLean, Hamish Henderson, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Margaret Gardiner (Pier Arts Centre, Orkney) and the Fife singer Jean Redpath.

Also, Robert Burns and Charles Rennie Mackintosh!

Six of Neat’s films will be screened at The Belmont Picturehouse including:

Play me Something (1988), winner of the Europa Prize, Barcelona 1989. This 35mm feature film shot on the Isle of Barra and Venice, features John Berger, Tilda Swinton, Hamish Henderson and Liz Lochhead;

Journey to a Kingdom – Hamish Henderson returns to the North East of Scotland’ (1992).

(Hamish Henderson [1919-2002] was with the 51st Highland Division in North Africa and Italy and became a legendary figure amongst the Gordon Highlanders. This film originally made for Grampian Television documents Henderson’s work as a folklorist in the North East. Neat’s highly prasied two-volume biography of Henderson will be available after the film screening).

STAND SCOTLAND WHERE SHE DID? will be a major exhibition, featuring a new suite of screen-prints by Neat, published by Peacock Visual Arts, and original works by many of the major artists with whom he has collaborated over 50 years; years during which Scottish culture and politics have changed dramatically.

Guests attending the opening and closing events will have the opportunity to enjoy performances by some of Scotland’s best traditional musicians.

Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre will sing Hamish Henderson ballads and political songs at the opening on 27 September. On 9 November Elizabeth Stewart will sing some of the great ballads of the north east and Alastair Roberts, rising star of the modern folk scene in Scotland, will sing some of Neat’s own songs.

Peacock Visual Arts is proud to be able to present this Retrospective in Aberdeen, before various parts of the exhibition embark on an international tour, which may prove seminal during the year of the Scottish National Referendum.

To coincide with this Retrospective, Polygon (Edinburgh) has published a major book, ‘These Faces; photographs and drawings by Timothy Neat’, with an important introduction by John Berger.



28 September – 9 November 2013

Exhibition Opening:

Friday 27 September, 6 – 8pm
With performances by Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre.

Film Screenings:

Sunday 29 September, from 6pm:

‘Journey to a Kingdom’ (52mins)
‘The Tree of Liberty’ (73mins)

Sunday 13 October, from 6pm:

‘Time is a Country’ (52mins)
‘Hallaig’ (64mins)

Sunday 27 October, from 6pm:

‘Rathad nan Ceard’ (30mins)
‘Play me Something’ (72mins)

Exhibition Closing Gig:

Friday 8 November, 7pm
Performances by Elizabeth Stewart and Alastair Roberts.

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Oct 112013

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures of Johnny Marr and support act, Meredith Sheldon at The Garage, Aberdeen on 9 October 2013.

Johnny Marr by Julie Thompson (2)

Sitting waiting patiently in the photo pit for former Smith Johnny Marr to come onstage, I thought back to the time when I wondered just how people got in here.

Now I know. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s who you know, sometimes who you shoot for. For those at the top of the game, it’s what they can do. Me, I’m just starting out.

Now I know, that having acquired that prized photo-pass, you get the first three songs in the pit and then you’re kicked out. If you don’t get what you need in that brief window of opportunity, tough.

Often, like today, you may not even find out if you have access until a few hours before. I got my pass confirmation e-mail only this morning, for a gig with doors open at seven this evening.

Sometimes you get to the venue only to find your name is not on the list after all. That was not my fate today; I collected my pass and headed into The Garage, formerly Moshulu, on Windmill Brae.

I arrived a little after 1900 and the place was almost deserted. As I’d not been here before it gave me a chance to find my bearings without fighting through crowds.

Meredith Sheldon2 by Julie ThompsonBe aware, if you need to find the bathroom here, DO NOT leave it until the last minute. It’s a fight to get there when the place is full and the only puddles we want to see on this floor are puddles of spilt beer.

I bumped into a fellow tog and we headed down for the support act.

We had the pit to ourselves to photograph a gorgeous young American lady, Meredith Sheldon. The camera loves this lassie and she was a pleasure to shoot.

Playing lead guitar accompanied by a bass guitarist, a floor-length skirt pointed out to us that she was a girl playing rock guitar who supported The Lemonheads on a previous tour.

Three songs later and we left. The odd thing about this game is that you don’t tend to hear the music while you’re shooting. It can be quite intense in the pit.

You don’t have long to warm up, figure out your camera settings and get the shots you want.

Meredith Sheldon by Julie ThompsonEver-changing lighting can be a challenge, very dim lighting a nightmare. No flashguns are allowed in the pit, after all.

Things outside had changed in that time; many more people had arrived, but the place wasn’t really busy yet. We grabbed a drink and listened to the rest of Meredith’s set.

Having finally got a chance to listen to her, I decided that she’s good. You can find samples of her music on her website and she’s worth a listen.

A photographer from a local newspaper arrives, so there will be three of us in the pit for Johnny Marr.

It’s a good-sized pit, not overly deep but with enough room for moving around. Sometimes the pits can be challenging, as the order you enter is the order you stay in, not ideal for getting different angles.

This venue has early start times for live music and quick turn-around between bands, mainly due to the fact that it’s used as a late-night clubbing venue after 2230, so we headed back to the pit to wait. We weighed up the new microphone layout on stage and picked a start point.

Johnny Marr by Julie ThompsonAs sitting on each other’s knees is a no-no, the prime position is usually grabbed by the first one into the pit. As the time progresses we will all take turns in the different spots, so it’s no biggie.

I did a final mental check on camera settings, grabbed a quick photo of the set list and shot some tests of the crew as they made last minute adjustments to the equipment on stage.

The tension was worse than waiting for your exams to start in school.

What went through my mind, when Johnny Marr and his band first came onstage?

‘Wow, it’s gone very dark. What’s that flash? Oh, it’s a strobe. I can’t focus on anything here… it’s going to be a disaster!’

Then the stage lights came on and we were away.

_87A9600The time flew by and all too soon we were being ushered out of the area. The place was packed by this point; it was a sell-out.

I grabbed a drink and then did some chimping* at the back of the venue.

I finally got a chance to listen to the rest of the set without seeing much. One of the hazards of getting pit access is that you usually get a crap view later on.

Between songs, Johnny was complimentary of Aberdeen as he’d apparently had a wander during the day and liked the place.

Johnny Marr by Julie Thompson (3)The crowd was jumping and as we reached the last few songs the place erupted as some old favourites rang out, including an excellent cover of I Fought The Law.

Out into the night, it was hissing down, I popped into Drummonds for a quick look at a new venue to me.

I’ll be shooting Catfish and the Bottlemen there on Friday.

*Chimping – looking at the pics on the back of your camera and going ‘oo oo’ when you see a good one.

More photos:

Johnny Marr:

Meredith Sheldon:

Johnny Marr Set List (for those who like that sort of thing)



Right Thing Right

Sun and Moon

Crack Up

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

New Town Velocity

The Messenger


Say Demesne

Bigmouth Strikes Again

Generate! Generate!

Word Starts Attack

I Want The Heartbeat

How Soon Is Now?


Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

The It Switch

I Fought The Law

Getting Away With It

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


Jun 102013

By Suzanne Kelly.

The life of the River Don corridor has been unveiled in a photography exhibition launched at St Machar Cathedral on Saturday 1 June.

It is the largest visual celebration of the area in recent times, the result of a group of Aberdeen photography enthusiasts who embarked on an exciting and dynamic community-led project to capture the past, present and future of the area.

Award-winning artist Alicia Bruce supported the group in selecting, editing and presenting the touring exhibition and the publication Surfing the Don.

Following the launch it will tour city venues, the Scottish Parliament and Europe.

Alicia said,

“I’m delighted to be working with talented photography enthusiasts a few footsteps from where I grew up. The River Don gets overshadowed by its sibling the Dee. It’s time the ‘Donny’ got a share of the spotlight. 

“This project caught my imagination as I lost many hours looking at photographs on the SURF Aberdeen Facebook group seeing the places I went on childhood adventures. I can’t wait to see everyone’s faces light up as they see their work printed large scale for the first time. There is so much talent within our group and I’m certain some of these photographers will go on to bigger things.”

Aberdeen-born Alicia collaborated with a project team comprising local people from all walks of life, including postman Andy Coventry, Archaeologist Abeeer Eladany, her six year daughter old Nadine Ralston and photography graduate Blazej Marczak.

The images presented were taken on everything from professional cameras to camera phones. Project activities have involved regular collaborator meetings across the city, photo workshops, exhibition visits and online discussions.

Alicia added,

“It’s an iconic project for the River Don and we wanted to ensure we had a variety of iconic venues to showcase the work. St Machar Cathedral is the ideal venue to launch the exhibition. Its proximity to the river means visitors will view the images and, we hope, feel inspired to walk along the river.”

The exhibition is a community-initiated product of the Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF) Aberdeen Project.

SURF Aberdeen is part of the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme, and is jointly funded by Aberdeen City Council and the European Regional Development Fund.

SURF brought people, organisations and ideas together to initiate a renewed focus to the River Don corridor.

Many of the community members met via the project’s Facebook page, where they had been posting their photographs and celebrating their enthusiasm for the river and surrounding areas.

Sinclair Laing, SURF Aberdeen project manager, said,

“The River Don corridor cuts a beautiful swathe of blue and green through north Aberdeen. This urban fringe plays an important role by providing urban breathing space for Aberdeen’s people and wildlife. It also hosts important cultural and built heritage and helps to support opportunities for sport, recreation, employment and education

“This community-led exhibition project will help raise the profile of this valuable, yet often overlooked, part of Aberdeen. This is a stunning exhibition and I offer my congratulations and thanks to Alicia and the rest of the exhibition participants for their initiative, hard work and creativity.”

 Photographer Vicky Mitchell said,

“The exhibition means the chance to show off the beauty of the river and its importance to those who live in communities nearby. It also is giving me the opportunity to show my work to the people of Aberdeen. The project has been a great experience and full of lots of highlights such as working with some great people, securing some fantastic venues and spending even more time on the Don.”

Regular project contributors have been: Abeer Eladany, Alicia Bruce, Andy Coventry, Blazej Marczak, David Davidson, Darren Wright, Gregor McAbery, Katherine MacLean, Kirsty McAbery, Lynne Digby, Nadine Ralston, Sinclair Laing and Vicky Mitchell.

With additional exhibition contributors: Anita Welsh, Carrie-ann Holland, Craig Douglas, David Brazendale, Glenn Cooper, George Crighton, Ian Cairns, John Rutherford, Ken Dobbie, Mike Stephen, Nicola Youngson, Ruth Bone, Countryside Ranger Service, Susan Thoms, Stephen Bly and Hugh Mullady.

Tour dates

2 June – 6 July                       St Machar Cathedral – The iconic launch venue in the River Don Corridor.

7 July – 4 Aug                        Seventeen, Belmont Street – Supporting Aberdeen’s bid as UK City of Culture.

13 – 28 July                              Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen – Drawing parallels with Victorian wet-plate images by George Washington Wilson.

21 – 29 September                Natural History Centre, University of Aberdeen – A touch and feel exhibition incorporating taxidermied examples of local wildlife.

September 2013                    Regensburg, Germany – A cultural exchange made possible by Aberdeen Twinning.

 Other venues to be confirmed include The Scottish Parliament and venues along the River Don corridor itself

Alicia Bruce is an award-winning Scottish photographer and educator. She studied photography at Aberdeen College and Edinburgh Napier University. Her work is a collaborative process with the communities she photographs, addressing social and political themes and issues. Alicia’s photographs are held in various private and public collections, including National Galleries of Scotland.

Her education work is rooted in participatory practice. She regularly teaches in communities, schools and further education settings teaching courses for Street Level Photoworks, City of Glasgow College, Stevenson College, eca, The Fruitmarket Gallery and The National Galleries of Scotland. She is Freelance Specialist Interest Rep on Engage Council.

Alicia is an experienced and established arts educator, lecturer, and community worker. Her recent Valleys Project about an ex-mining town in Wales is currently being exhibited at Diffusion, Cardiff International Photography Festival alongside the work of David Bailey, Philip Jones Griffiths and Jeremy Deller. Alicia’s photographs were recently celebrated by The Scottish Parliament in a Parliamentary Motion.

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May 312013

By Duncan Harley.

After the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last week, the media were swamped with images, news and comment about the

It was of course a tragedy, and there is no getting away from that.

The backlash against the Muslims of the UK is also a tragedy, and there is no getting away from that either.

The men who killed the poor soldier had seemingly seized on Anders Breivik’s concept of attempting to bring about change through the shock of terrorist acts against random victims. Breivik, who of course famously boasted of being an ultranationalist, murdered his victims in a very public spectacle and on a scale almost unheard of since the atrocities perpetrated by the fascists during the 1940s.

He calculated, wrongly as it turned out, that his actions would be the spark which would bring about a mass revolt against what he called multiculturalism in Norway. Breivik wanted to be seen as sane, so that his actions wouldn’t be dismissed as those of a lunatic. He said that he acted out of “necessity” to prevent the “Islamization” of his country.

He got that wrong, since his actions in murdering 77 men and women simply horrified the world and led to many in Europe questioning the apparent leniency of the 21-year sentence imposed on him by a Norwegian court.

Breivik continues to make headlines by disseminating his ideas from his prison cell and has recently tried to register a political association which lists amongst its aims the “democratic fascist seizure of power in Norway” and the establishment of an independent state.

An abiding and powerful image from his trial is of Breivik in the dock, with one arm raised in a neo-fascist salute reminiscent of those, hopefully long gone, days of National Socialism. The harnessing of the power of the image for propaganda value is of course nothing new.

In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte, who was at that time a mere general in the French army, invaded North Africa, landing near Alexandria in early July and entering Cairo on the 24th of that month.

He took with him a group of artists who had the task not only of recording the Egyptian artefacts and buildings which they came across, but also of portraying Napoleon’s victories and conquests in the Nile Delta and at the Battle of the Pyramids.

Ultimately, the campaign came to grief and some revisionist historians might even consider it a complete disaster.

The French fleet was utterly destroyed by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay, and a combination of local resistance from the Mamelukes plus the intervention by the British meant that the French adventure in Egypt was virtually over by September

Not one to boast about failure however, Bonaparte returned to France with his war paintings and diaries portraying great and heroic victories. These were very well received, and by 1804 he was able to crown himself Emperor of all France. The rest is history as they say.

The advent of the portable camera in the early part of the 19th Century enabled the propagandists of the world to use images in much more powerful ways. Instead of heroic paintings of charging soldiers or victorious generals on horseback, images could for the first time reflect reality. The American Civil War, the Crimean War and the Boer War were amongst the first photo-documented conflicts.

Although the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson is often credited as being the first photojournalist, this is almost certainly not the case. His images are sharp, his composition is tight: however, somewhat like Napoleon Bonaparte, his marketing skills may have led some folk to this rather dubious conclusion.

Roger Fenton photographed the Crimean battlefields in 1853 long before Cartier-Bresson was even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes. Balaclava, Lord Raglan and the Light Brigade were amongst Fenton’s subjects as he toured the battlefields with his horse drawn “photographic van”.

Mathew Brady photographed the American Civil War. At the beginning of that war, in 1861, Brady organised his employees into groups, in order to spread them across the war zones, and provided them with horse drawn carriages. These were in fact rolling darkrooms, needed to develop the photographic plates into pictures.

Almost killed by shell fire at the Battle of Bull Run, Brady through his many paid assistants took thousands of photos of American Civil War scenes. Much of the popular understanding of the Civil War comes from these photos.

The photojournalist is not quite dead, although many have indeed died getting that shot

The Boer Wars, known in Afrikaans as the Vryheidsoorloë, or literally “freedom wars”, were two wars fought during 1880–1881 and 1899–1902 by the British Empire against the Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic.

There are literally thousands of images taken during the wars by dozens of photographers, including a few of Winston Churchill in his pre-glory days.

Things have changed in recent years however. The boundaries between the professionals and the amateurs have become blurred. Anyone with a few dollars and a strong shutter finger can record events. Facebook, YouTube and Flickr will host most images and comments. Sky News, Al Jeezera and the BBC encourage the sending-in of anything remotely newsworthy in the hope of a scoop.

The photojournalist is not quite dead, although many have indeed died getting that shot. These days though, everyone is a taker of images. The mobile phone and social media allow news, comment and images to span the world in seconds. All of us are now citizen photojournalists and when the issues with smart phone image quality are solved, as indeed they will be, there will be little need for the professional.

However who today has made the connection between extreme events and the use of social media via the “smart” phone, which can make us all promoters of the extremist elements in our midst? The Woolwich terrorists, if that indeed is what they are, are indebted to folk like Steve Jobs and that man from Microsoft.

The images on the front of the tabloids and the footage streamed into our living rooms following the murder of Drummer Rigby were not taken by professional photographers. The news teams missed the event. In fact they were not even invited. The killers of Drummer Rigby made sure of that.

They knew only too well that passers-by and onlookers could and would record the event and broadcast footage and comment around the world within minutes of it happening.

The propaganda victory for the killers is of course that we saw it all as it happened. There were a few heroic folk who intervened, of course. But at the end of the day, the good citizen photojournalists of Woolwich played right into the plans of the terrorists and took some nice snaps of the event.


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