Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Aftershock photos and review, coming very soon!

The Fever 333
The Fever 333 at Aftershock, Sacramento, California
A few photos from this weekend's Monster Energy Aftershock festival in Sacramento, California, can be found here: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/aftershock-2018  Many more photos and review coming very soon... flying back to the UK today! Thank you to Danny Wimmer Presents for another fantastic weekend!

Bookmark http://camerasandcargos.com for updates, and see http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music for all the photo galleries!

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Struts, Thunderpussy--at the Ace of Spades, Sacramento, November 11th

Luke Spiller, vocals, The Struts
Luke Spiller, The Struts, at City of Trees
Not only are the fabulous Struts returning to Sacramento, California, and playing at the Ace of Spades early next month (November 11th), but they are supported by Thunderpussy--it's going to be a wonderful show! It's already sold out so... if you don't have a ticket for the Sacramento show, check out other nearby shows here (e.g., Napa and San Francisco) and keep looking out for any available tickets.

The Struts--British rock at its outrageous, glamourous best. I first saw them, not in the UK but at Sacramento's City of Trees festival in 2016. If you haven't discovered them yet, listen to Could Have Been Me, Bulletproof Baby (brand new), Kiss This--for a great idea of their live show and this, Body Talks (featuring Kesha):

The Struts' new album, Young&Dangerous, will be released on 26th October and is available to pre-order here. Plenty of time to learn the newest songs before the show!

On tour with The Struts are four wonderfully-wild women of the west-- i.e., Seattle--called Thunderpussy. Here is Velvet Noose (produced by Pearl Jam's Mike McCready) from Thunderpussy's self-titled album, available now.

Torpedo Love is something different... and check out Badlands!

I hope you bag yourselves some tickets for this tour... not to be missed!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Aftershock preview... are you ready for this weekend?

First things first: make sure you have downloaded the Aftershock App. Use it to check performance times and lots more--build your own schedule, check the map, and much more!

And then, be there early! We know it's going to be insane for the headliners, but don't miss out on the bands earlier in the day--the entire weekend is going to be fantastic.

Several of the Aftershock bands were previewed here, for the weather-cancelled Louder Than Life, and as they are going to be playing this weekend I encourage you to check out this post for The Dose and Red Sun Rising. Also, check out this review of Jonathan Davis' show earlier this summer in London, UK... don't miss his appearance at Aftershock! And also, the Vinnie Paul Tribute with lots of artists participating!

And here are a few more of the earlier-in-the-day bands--check them out! :

The Fever 333, scheduled to play Aftershock at 4.45 Sunday on the Capital Stage. This is one of the difficult choices--The Fever 333 or Slash with Myles Kennedy, they will be playing at the same time, on the Discovery Stage... choices, choices!

Amigo The Devil: performing on Sunday at 12.40 on the Monster Energy stage, and then also at the afterparty in midtown at Goldfields, late on Sunday. Amigo The Devil has premiered a new video for the song, Cocaine and Abel, through Aftershock and you can see it here (just click!). His album Everything Is Fine will be released on October 19th and he kicks off the tour with these two Sacramento Aftershock shows. Here's another song:

Dirty Honey (the one from L.A.) will be the first band on the Monster Energy stage on Saturday, scheduled for 1 p.m. Should be a great start to the weekend!

Later on Saturday there's another decision to be made... GWAR, or Godsmack? I can't help you choose... but if you're looking for buckets-of-blood in a surreal, other-world, head for GWAR... check out the photos from a previous show in Sacramento here! (If you have forgotten your waterproof poncho, you might want to hang out with Sully Erna, instead.)

I know the hometown crowd is going to go insane for Deftones. Can't wait to see that, again.

Chino Moreno, vocals, Deftones
Chino Moreno, Deftones, Aftershock 2015
Can't wait for the entire weekend. Be there early.Be hungry and eat well (there will be loads to choose from!)  Amazing lineup, and so much to see and do!

See you Saturday!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A few months, a few changes: Sacramento's downtown, improvements and challenges

I'm back in Sacramento, California, for a few days--because family, and because Aftershock festival--and after only a few months away, I see changes. More beautiful murals have been added, thanks to Wide Open Walls (one example: Shepard Fairey's mural of Johnny Cash on 16th and L street is absolutely stunning). DOCO -- the weird name an abbreviation of  "downtown commons", better known as the area of town which now houses the Golden State arena, home to the Sacramento Kings and host to many big-name concerts, is really coming alive. Shops, cafes and restaurants are opening. There is a play area next to the arena doors where you can play large-scale draughts (checkers) and other games. The pedestrian area allows you to walk across several blocks, and all the way from Old Sacramento to 7th Street without encountering any traffic. The light rail (tramway) has stops close to the arena, so in theory, you don't need to even drive downtown. Today, a Sunday, with an event at the arena, DOCO was buzzing, with people walking all over the downtown grid--very different to the dead-after-5pm-and-at-weekends scene when I lived on 3rd street, a couple of years ago. The DOCO development may seem to be taking a long time (it is), but as several signs say--it's worth waiting for.

On the other hand... nothing changes. If anything, the downtown scene has deteriorated even further. This "other hand" is the one that pushes the kids in a stroller, holds onto a toddler, carries a shopping bag from the pharmacy on K street or grabs a coffee from a cafe on J, walks to the farmers' markets around the city, or to one of a tasty variety of food trucks at lunchtime. The view of a pedestrian in a town where the majority drive, park, and leave at the end of their working day. The hand attached to the person who sees and encounters all the many people who live on the streets--literally, on the hard concrete of the streets--of this city. In common with so many USA cities, Sacramento's population of street people is something that would totally horrify people in the UK, who are worried when a provincial town's number of humans "sleeping rough" reaches double digits.

When I first arrived in Sacramento during the summer of 2000, people used to joke about "downtown crazies". I naively thought that the tale of a guy waking up in his home, and finding a random stranger sitting on his couch, watching his TV and drinking his beer, and then just getting up and leaving was just that... a tale. American friends soon told me how so many people with mental health challenges (and in particular, military veterans, and on a huge scale in Los Angeles) had been turned out of care homes and, with nowhere to go for help, had ended up on the streets. It's hard to know where the drink and drugs problems end, and where the mental health issues begin, or which came first. There are used syringes on the sidewalk when you walk from downtown to Broadway; there are used syringes in Capitol Park. There are people sleeping on the grass in Capitol Park, Southside Park, Cesar Chavez Plaza. There are people who rely on public toilets being open, so that they can wash and use the loo and have a little dignity.

Spend any more than a few minutes walking the streets of Sacramento, and I guarantee that you will have an encounter that will make you smile, and another that will make you want to run for the hills.

In the space of a few days, I witnessed two women yelling insults at beings that only they could see. One of these women was disheveled, unwashed, and having a very loud and angry conversation all the way down 15th street from R towards the freeway (I encountered this same lady twice, while walking to the nearest Dimple Records to downtown,). The second was a well-dressed lady who had just spent a while washing and changing in the public toilets in the Capitol grounds, and then, for no reason that I could see, suddenly started yelling and cursing and making random death threats, while a young mother waited with her child locked in a cubicle, until the shouting woman had quietened down and then proudly walked out of the toilets and away.

I do not think either of these women are simply using drugs. They are dealing with challenges that most of us cannot imagine.

Both of these women seemed to be experiencing severe mental illness. I had no clue whatsoever what to do to help them. Calling the cops seemed ridiculous, and more threatening than helpful--while the toilet incident was, for a moment at least, scary, no harm was done--but neither of these women should not have to deal with these issues, alone, on the streets, with most people turning their eyes, and then their backs. I have taken first aid training many times, I know how to administer CPR, I have helped people having epileptic seizures, even coped with drug overdoses... but I have not an inking of what to do when faced with a stranger in the middle of a violent delusion.

(The next day, the woman from the public loos, she was asleep, fully and beautifully dressed, in the middle of the lawn in the Capitol.)

Capitol, Sacramento
The Capitol building sits in the middle of beatiful parkland in the center of downtown Sacramento
I have no magic answer for this side of the city of Sacramento. From my family history research, I know that only a century or so ago, people in the UK, (and with a much larger proportion of women than men) were locked up in the "Lunatic Asylum", sometimes for life, for crimes as simple as breaking a shop window. (That happened to a distant relative of mine: the judge said, "she is obviously a lunatic", and sent her off to Leicester asylum, where, several decades later, she died. A little more research showed that within a few short years prior to the shop window incident, my relative had given birth to three children, none of whom survived infancy. Today she might have been treated for post-natal depression and for bereavement-related depression, possibly cured, and for sure not locked away for life.)

The human race, worldwide, has made huge progress in dealing with mental health, and yet, the USA has cities with more and more people living outdoors and who desperately need, but are not receiving, one iota of the help that they could use. No matter how many 'homeless shelters' are provided, no matter how many care packages are handed out by well-meaning volunteers, nothing is going to help as much as proper mental health care, whether for addiction or schizophrenia or depression. Health care for all. Not for profit, but for the health of the city, the people, the nation. And then the pedestrians who are now starting to enjoy DOCO may expand their wanderings, and really enjoy visiting each and every public space that this beautiful city has to offer.

I said earlier that you'll see something that will make you happy, too. My example for today: this morning, as I started my walk along R street, I smiled at a street gentleman who was standing on a street corner. He smiled back, and told me I was beautiful. That made my morning: it's easy not to make eye contact downtown, but a smile costs nothing, and can be returned tenfold.

I will no doubt be travelling back-and-forth to Sacramento for many years to come. I expect to see the downtown continue to grow and flourish as the investment continues. I am looking forwards to seeing the vibrant art and music scene thrive. And I greatly, hugely and desperately hope to see that somehow, some way is found to give the street people the help, the care and the hope that every human being deserves.

Man on bench with statue, State Capitol
A visitor to one of the beautiful memorials in the Capitol grounds

Friday, October 5, 2018

Suicide prevention, mental health... we all play a part

Red Sun Rising recently released this video for their song, Stealing Life, and it would have been a good soundtrack for earlier this week, when we participated in the Sacramento Out of the Darkness walk: a walk to raise funds for suicide prevention. This walk around Sacramento, California, was organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Greater Sacramento Chapter, More walks are organized around California, and around the USA: find more information, support and help here: https://afsp.org/

Red Sun Rising are partnering with MusicCares in the USA, and Music Minds Matter in the UK, to promote mental health awareness. They say: "This song is about the aftermath of someone taking their own life. A topic that unfortunately hits very close to home with the band. That is why are excited to be able to raise money for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Being able to affect actual change with our music side by side with the charity that changed our lives personally is a dream come true." (Something that is important to recognise; mental health problems affect us all. Not only the people who very sadly end their own lives, or who struggle every day, but also the loved ones they leave behind, who struggle to help. And it can take a lifetime to learn to live with the loss.)

It's a subject that hurts. Reading the hand-written signs that floated on the gentle breeze, in front of the State Capitol, brought tears to my eyes. Reading the sign written in my daughter's hand, and by the hands of so many other people. Even the words I wrote myself, to the man who was once my husband. So many struggles, so much loss, and so much love still to give. So many people living on forever, in the hearts and minds of their friends and families: parents, spouses, partners, ex's, children, friends, colleagues, carers. I counted up my personal missing hearts, and there were way too many. Just one loss to a suicide is one too many. And seeing all the folks on this walk? It made me realise, perhaps for the very first time, just how many people on this planet, from all across our communities, regardless of age, status and income, cannot find a way to continue, and just how many other people wish they could find, or could have found, the key to help them carry on.

People wore beads, the colours indicating who they were walking for. Some carried photos of their lost loved ones, some carried signs: all carried a great desire to help prevent anyone else having to go through this sorrow.

What can we all do? We can reach out a hand. We can listen. We can talk about mental health, get rid of the stigma. We can talk about preventing suicide, make sure our loved ones know that no matter how bad things are today, one day in the future will be better... as long as you are here to see it. Because life on this earth matters, and hope is in every single breath. Helping someone who is visibly struggling is not always easy: a close encounter today, with someone with severe issues, a total stranger, reminded me just how very scary another person's problems can be. (Here's an important article which talks about this.) That's why there are people and organizations who are there to help. 

Here are a couple more organizations who can help:

Mental Health America (USA) but with lots of good info on their global website, including this page on helping someone else.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Louder Than Life preview... why you should be there early!

Everyone always turns up at festivals in time to see the headliners. There's no doubt that you'll be in time to see the big names at Louder Than Life: Friday's Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Limp Bizkit, Alice in Chains; Saturday's Pop Evil, Bush, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Godsmack, and Sunday's Billy Idol, Priums, Deftones, and Nine Inch Nails. But don't just focus on getting there for the headliners: there are amazing bands starting really early each day, throughout the three days of the weekend festival, worth shaking off the sleeping bag and grabbing coffee for.

Here are a few!

Stone Broken: hard rock from Walsall in the UK, opening the day on Saturday on the Zorn stage. You might want to check out their latest album, It Ain't Always Easy, before next weekend... including the song Heartbeat Away, which is hard to watch but has a very important message leading into October (Domestic Violence Awareness month) (Don't just 'be aware'... stop it happening). They rock and they will be finding new fans in the USA for certain. And they have the first of the day's female drummers, Robyn Haycock... later on Saturday you'll see Hayley Cramer with Pop Evil and that set too is going to be awesome. Is it a coincidence that both Ms Haycock and Ms Cramer are from the UK?

The Dose: indie-rock duo Indio Downey (vocals, guitar) and Ralph Alexander (drums) will be performing on the Zorn stage at 1.50 p.m. on Sunday. Below is their latest video, Saline... also check out their website for more info. Check them out!

From Ashes To New: We've covered this band for a long time, and it's wonderful to see them receiving so much more airplay--and the recognition they have worked so hard for. From Ashes To New will be on the Loudmouth stage at 3.10 pm on Saturday. Don't miss!!!

Red Sun Rising: If you haven't heard them yet, this video should be enough to get you to the barrier in front of the Loudmouth stage at 2.35 p.m. on Friday: (yes, this is a brilliant cover... also check out their other music on their official YouTube channel)

Anemic Royalty: Louisville, Kentucky's very own will be on stage on Sunday, at 12.50 pm on the Zorn stage. Check up on them before the festival here. Don't miss!

Blacktop Mojo: been waiting to see Blacktop Mojo live since early last year, when I first heard their music. Here's the review... they'll be on the Zorn stage, on Saturday, at 1.45 pm. Here's something to start your journey with them (and more music here on their official YouTube channel):

All times listed here are subject to change. For updates, see the Louder Than Life website, Facebook, or better still--install the app!

And please... stop doing the rain dance!

(I was writing this post when the news came in that the second day of Bourbon And Beyond, also held at Louisville's Champions Park on the bank of the huge Ohio River, has been cancelled due to weather concerns. While UK festival-goers are used to mud--we've all seen videos and photos of the mudbaths--extreme USA weather is not something to be jested with. The festival organizers, Danny Wimmer Presents, do everything to make sure that festival-goers, performers, workers and volunteers alike, are all safe. If you are looking for info on Bourbon And Beyond refunds, go here. Fingers crossed that the site dries up in time for next weekend.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vinnie Paul All-Star tributes: Louder Than Life and Aftershock festivals

Vinnie Paul of HELLYEAH, Aftershock 2014
Vinnie Paul, HELLYEAH, Aftershock

We lost one of the greats, this summer.

HELLYEAH were due to play at both Louder Than Life (Louisville, Kentucky) and Aftershock (Sacramento, California) this fall/autumn. Now, an all-star tribute to Vinnie is planned at both festivals, organized by the festivals' Danny Wimmer Presents together with Sirius XM's Jose Mangin. 

The tribute will feature members of Five Finger Death Punch, Korn, Godsmack, Deftones, HELLYEAH, Shinedown, Sevendust, GWAR, Bullet For My Valentine, Body Count, KYNG, Cane Hill, Emmure and more and will include songs from Pantera and Damageplan.

Vinnie Paul Tribute
The tributes will happen on Saturday, September 29 at Louder Than Life, and on Saturday, October 13 at Monster Energy Aftershock.

Jose Mangin says, “Vinnie is an idol turned big time friend, and he left a massive void on this earth. When Danny (Wimmer) and Gary (Spivack) asked me to put together something special for Vin, I knew the best way to pay tribute to him would be to throw a Texas-sized jam session belting out Pan-mutha-fukkin-tera songs loud & proud! Everyone involved is doing this because they love Vinnie, and together we can all carry on his name, music and spirit forever!”

Chad Gray of HELLYEAH, Aftershock 2014
Vinnie Paul and Chad Gray, HELLYEAH, Aftershock
Louder Than Life this year is three days! Friday, September 28 to Sunday, September 30 at Champions Park in Louisville, KY. Aftershock is the weekend of October 13 and 14 with local heros Deftones headlining. Both festivals have huge, huge lineups... check out Louder Than Life here, and Aftershock here. Be there!!!

(And if you are in the UK or Europe and want to know who Jose Mangin is, check out Sirius XM Octane through their website. My favourite radio station, which unfortunately is only available in the USA. You can (sometimes, occasionally... it's quirky) listen on line for a limited time--click the Listen Now button--and hear some of the USA's best hard rock and melodic metal. If that doesn't work today, there are always recordings, top 20 and other articles on the website. I really, really wish they would make Sirius XM available worldwide!)

Vinnie Paul and Chad Gray, HELLYEAH, Ace of Spades, Sacramento

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Hozier, EP: Nina Cried Power

Hozier sold out Sacramento's Ace of Spades in February, 2015
Hozier. You remember. That dude who burst into our ears, and hearts, back in 2014. Take Me To Church, and the beautiful, self-titled album, Hozier... a Grammy nomination and performance with Annie Lennox, a sold-out USA tour... one new song for the movie, Legend Of Tarzan.. and since then, nothing. Crickets. Silence...

Nearly four years, and that's a long time for a young artist. It's a long time for any performer who doesn't already have a long-established fan base and back catalog. It's a time during which other new stars can appear, appeal, burn bright and fade away. Young fans become grown-ups-with-kids in that time. Where had he gone?

Just the occasional tweet promising new music... and then, a tour announcement (already sold out?), several festivals, a few rehearsal dates... and a new EP. Only four songs... but it is new Hozier music.

He's back. He never went away.

From the first notes of Nina Cried Power, you know it has been worth waiting for...  Featuring R&B, gospel and hall-of-fame singer-songwriter Mavis Staples, the song is so full of soul it's bursting. And that bass line...

Leaning more to soul, more soul, and folk than blues, the EP is a tantalizing tease, a reminder that we are still waiting for a new album; it's a promise of more to come, and it's a hope that there will not be three more years to wait.

Take a listen to Nina Cried Power here. Not only soul... it's protest, and activism, and human power, and the legacy of so many great singers who stood up for what they believed in.

Every artist has their own creative cycle, some longer than others. And just because someone is a musician, a performer, it doesn't mean that the rest of their life stops.Whatever the reason for long times between releases, it's all worthwhile. Just ask any Tool fan.

For more information, check Hozier's website or Facebook. Tour dates--if you can manage to get hold of a ticket--are here.  I assure you, you're in for a treat.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Album preview: New studio album from Finnish band, Korpiklaani: Kulkija

Saying you like music that's sung in a language that you cannot understand is a bit like deciding to have a tattoo done in a character set that you can't read or write: it's a huge leap of faith that they are not singing about how much they enjoy abusing women and children, or inking you with insults and stupidity and grammatical errors. However...

I like this band. I like the sound of the songs, the feel of the music. I like the vocals. A mix of rock, metal and folk... but I haven't the faintest idea what they are singing about.

Korpiklaani's new studio album, Kulkija (it translates to 'The Wanderer' or 'Wayfarer') is coming soon on September 7th... you can pre-order it here. It will launch the band on a huge, and I mean ginormous, tour, taking in many cities and towns in Russia, the USA, and then all over Europe. (There's a date in Sacramento, California at Holy Diver, and in London, UK, Islington Assembly Hall, among all the others--see them all here.)

Here's their latest single, Aallon alla (sorry but Google doesn't seem able to translate that... there are times when machine/automatic translation just doesn't work):

Find out more on Korpiklaani's Facebook and website: http://www.korpiklaani.com.

(And please... if you speak Finnish and English, let me know if I have anything to worry about! I'm as comfortable with Finnish as I am with Hungarian, i.e., there are zero clues in the words that someone who speaks English, French, and a smattering of Polish and German can understand... yet it's a tease, because we share the same character sets!)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Nothing More... new album??? But this is a lot less than Nothing. More inside!

Nothing More
Nothing More, Aftershock 2017
I woke up this morning, picked up the phone and started drifting through Facebook, looking for something interesting on a Saturday morning. What???? Nothing More released a new album??? How the heck did I miss that? (Muttering about not being easily able to find Sirius Octane radio... muttering at self for not being totally on-the-ball...) Jumped out of bed, straight to the PC (I search better with a real keyboard)... and nothing. Nothing on Nothing More's website, nothing on iTunes, nothing on Amazon.

Did I dream it? Was I really still asleep when I thought I was looking at the phone? (I have dreamed stranger things. I once dreamed about someone's height, and had to go Google it to find out that it was a figment of my imagination.)

Jonny Hawkins, vocals and drums, Nothing More
Jonny Hawkins, Nothing More, Louder Than Life 2017
Went back to Facebook, and sure enough, as usual... the stoopid algorithm had magicked away whatever I thought I had seen... or hadn't.

Dismissed it as wishful-thinking (that's better than senility or hallucinations, anyway). Carried on with the day. Pretended I wasn't going mad...

Ten hours later, my daughter pings me: "Nothing More have a new album????" She saw it too. It's wasn't a dream or too-little-sleep. It was a real announcement.

But wait...

We tracked it down. There is a band in France, also called Nothing More, who have been around for a few years, but who are nothing, and I mean nothing, like the Nothing More who were nominated for two Grammys last year.. Click here to find out about them and to sample their music. I'll let you come to your own opinion. The French Nothing More have, indeed, just  released an album, called Game of Truth, and from the rather negative comments now appearing on the "teaser" for the album on YouTube, it looks like they have also managed to have the music mixed into the USA Nothing More's Spotify channel.

If you want to see the French band's album teaser, it's here. and you can buy their album, Game of Truth, for ten Euros here. I guess they are getting more listens, if nothing else...

Jonny Hawkins, vocals and additional drums, Nothing More
Grammy-nominated Nothing More
I'm off for a walk with the Nothing More that I know and love. iPod and beach and Jonny Hawkins.

(The USA-based and worldwide stars Nothing More are on tour in the USA, dates with Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin and Bad Wolves, and then have several dates over here in Europe. Find all the dates here on their website. And I am sure that at some point in the not so very distant future, there will be a new Nothing More album. It's just not called a Game of Truth. Or maybe it will be... now that would confuse me even more!)

For many, many more photos of Nothing More, see the Alison Toon Photographer Nothing More photo galleries!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Album review: The Magpie Salute, High Water I (and they are on tour)

I've been looking forwards to The Magpie Salute's debut studio album, High Water I, since hearing a song a while ago: first attracted by the band's name (such an evocative image, a salute to magpies, those cheeky, beautiful, noisy and thieving birds... while there are black-and-white-and-sometimes-blue magpies around the world, did you know that the there is a special species of magpies with bright-yellow beaks unique to the Sacramento valley, California?), and then hearing the mix of finger-picking folk, southern rock, country, bluegrass, blues and hard rock... it all results in a unique, beautiful and timeless sound.

This is Send Me An Omen from High Water I:

The album is a beautiful and varied collection of songs, ranging from the modern-British-folky sound of Send Me An Omen, through the almost-pure bluegrass of Hand In Hand to the west-coast-USA sounds of the closing song, Open Up, whose harmonies would not sound out-of-place on a Jefferson Starship or Fleetwood Mac album.

One of my favourite tracks is this one, Sister Moon:

If you're a fan of the Black Crowes, you'll recognise several of The Magpie Salute's bandmembers: the band was formed in 2016 by former Black Crowes guitarist, Rich Robinson, and also includes Marc Ford and Sven Pipien together with Rich Robinson band members Matt Slocum and Joe Magistro.

The Magpie Salute are currently touring and will be appearing around the USA over the next couple of months, including a festival date at Louisville, Kentucky's Bourbon and Beyond... and this morning I was notified of a show here in the UK, at the Waterfront in Norwich, on December 9th (tickets go on sale this coming Friday). To see all the tour dates, including many newly-announced dates in Europe and the UK, check out the band's Facebook tour page. You won't want to miss this!

("Good morning, Mr. Magpie. Give my regards to your wife and children", I learned to say, as a child growing up in England. I still think the greeting in my head, when I see a magpie today. Sometimes you might catch me saying it out loud. That's a magpie salute!)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Album review and tour news: The Future, From Ashes To New

A few days ago, a car, stuck in traffic on the main street through town, windows down, and blasting, seriously blasting, From Ashes To New's song from a while back, Through It All. That was a first, I thought, a first for this town. May there be many more...

What's so special, you may well ask. We've been hearing From Ashes To New for a while, and they deserve blasting. They deserve being heard, and loud, from cars, at festivals, in concert halls, on our music systems.

What's so very special about hearing From Ashes To New blasting from a car here, is that this is not a town in the USA where they have toured, nor is it where they grew up in Pennsylvania, nor anywhere people have heard them on USA satellite radio, Sirius XM Octane. This is Cromer, a little seaside town on the beautiful, quiet and gentle North Norfolk coast in England, far from any venue or festival where hard rock and metal is played. The closest you get to hearing anything heavy is bleeding from my earbuds when I remove one, walking on the beach, so that I can hear if a cliff is going to drop on my head... or if the wonderful Bloodshake Chorus have a gig in town. You might hear a whisper of 70's punk when you wander past the community hall on Garden Street, if the record fair is in town. Other than that, it's tribute bands at the pier theatre and Cromer Hall... so yes, it was a big deal, and it made me smile.

I first heard From Ashes To New in 2015, when they were on tour and opening for Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach and In This Moment in Reno, and I saw them again at The Boardwalk in Orangevale in 2016. Since then, there have been some changes to the lineup, and a couple of weeks ago, the bands new album, The Future, was released on Better Noise. (Find it here.)

Matt Brandyberry, vocals, From Ashes To New
Matt Brandyberry, From Ashes To New
It's an excellent album, and well worth adding to your collection. Powerful lyrics, sung and rapped vocals intertwining, hooks to hang onto and several earworms... From Ashes To New expertly blend hip-hop, rock, metal, spoken word, pop... mixing it all with their own unique magic to create something that will appeal to wide audience.

Take a listen to Broken here:

And I particularly enjoy:

I expect to hear the entire album blasting from many more cars, both in the USA and over here in Europe, for very much of The Future. Because the Future is Now. (Couldn't resist...)

From Ashes To New are on tour and will make stops at San Antonio's River City Rockfest, Louisville, Kentucky's Louder Than Life, and at New Jersey's Rock Allegiance festivals, together with other dates around the USA. Find all tour details here on the band's website or the From Ashes To New Facebook. Not at Aftershock in Sacramento this year, but wait... they'll be at the Golden 1 Center on 13th November, supporting Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin!

From Ashes To New are Matt Brandyberry (vocals/guitar/keys/programming), Danny Case (vocals), Lance Dowdle (guitar), and Mat Madiro (drums). Find out more! (And I really must catch up with them soon... time for new photos! All the 2015/16 gigs are here.)

Lance Dowdle, guitar, From Ashes To New
Lance Dowdle, From Ashes To New

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday, and the music

Lzzy Hale, vocals and guitar, Halestorm
This is NOT Alestorm. This is Halestorm, Aftershock 2017
See below for the real Alestorm info! (any excuse to include
one of my photos... any excuse. Pirates make a good excuse.)
Before anybody asks: I do not have photos from Bloodstock Open Air this year. I was there to enjoy the music as a festival-goer, not as a photographer... but that didn't stop me wanting to grab a camera each and every time I saw a picture... next time!

Saturday's lineup at Bloodstock Open Air: spread across four stages, from early until very-very late. These are the performances that most drew me in to their musical being. If you were there, you may have different favourites: that's part of the joy, we all find something to celebrate.

Orphaned Land  (Sophie Lancaster Stage)
I'll start with these guys because of all the Saturday bands, they were who I had travelled to see.

Would the show be as inspiring live, as Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs? on record? You bet it would... from the opening notes of The Cave, through songs from earlier albums including Mabool, to the very-last, post-midnight notes, they kept the audienced entranced, clapping, cheering. Such a presence. So very happy I heard Orphaned Land's music. And so very glad I made it to Bloodstock Open Air.

Performing on the S.O.P.H.I.E. stage, Orphaned Land performed immediately after main stage headliner Gojira's set on the main stage; unusual timing at the end of the night, but it allowed everyone to return from Gojira and hear the entirety of Orphaned Land's set. Brilliant move!

Next year in Jerusalem. It's a date. If you know what I mean.

Power Trip (Ronnie James Dio Stage)
Huge energy from Texas, Power Trip were on the main stage, early in the day. Inspired the first Wall of Death on Saturday at 12.13 p.m. You know, where the crowd splits in two, like the biblical Red Sea... and then rushes at each other. Never seen one? Google it and see. Ignore the motorbikes. There are no motobikes involved. Not one. Just a million crazy metal-heads having fun.

Septicflesh (Ronnie James Dio Stage)
Melodic-symphonic-death-doom-metal from Greece, with a wonderful, booming vocal. And cool artwork. Very, very cool artwork. Giger-esque but more organic. If that makes any sense as a description. I'm doing this without photos... mind pictures. Check out Septicflesh here.

Vola (Sophie Lancaster Stage)
Very interesting sound inspired by everything from 70's progressive through industrial to extreme metal; the band hails from Denmark. Take a listen here.

I totally fell in love with their set: the industrial, get-up-and-dance beat that went on, and on, and on. The two drummers, pounding, pushing the music. The makeup, the thrown and caught drumsticks, the runaway bass, the vocals. Not always the most-eloquent lyrics of all times, but hell who cares when you have that beat. We were dancing. Great set. I want more Combichrist.

Well-deserved main-stage headliner, Gojira brought not only their huge music from France (it's so beautifully heavy, it must take a mountain to hold), but also an enormous light show, best of the Bloodstock day. I have seen Gojira many times in the USA, and they always put on a wonderful show. Gorgeous... and if you went into the Bloodstock art exhibition, there were a set of paintings by Gojira drummer, Mario Duplantier. I wanted to take them all home...

Exhibition of paintings by Mario Duplantier

Cannibal Corpse
As well as pirates (see below), there were a huge number of people wearing Hawaiian shirts. In amongst all the usual black T's with band logos and inspiring messages: Hawaiian shirts.

Just blame it all on Ace Ventura.

(Cannibal Corpse was my teen daughter's musical weapon, just as Black Sabbath was mine. I can't say that I ever learned to love their entire repertoire, but over the years, I have learned to appreciate the skill and the complexity, the vocals and the following. And my mum loves Ozzy. It all works out in the end. It's all music.)

This was my very first encounter with Alestorm. You are hearing that right: Alestorm. I'm not dropping the H. Ale (as in beer) Storm (as in thunder). Not Halestorm, who I last saw at Aftershock late last year, and who have recently released a new album, Vicious... Alestorm are nothing like Lzzy and crew! Nothing. At. All.

This is where the pirates come in. Just before Alestorm's set, when I had no clue what was about to go down, another pirate--this time a young woman in full pirate gear, from tricorn hat to swashbuckling sword, topped off by a not-so-pirate clear, plastic rain-poncho, almost barrelled into me yelling, "Where's the boat gone? Where's the Effing Boat gone?" swiftly followed by three other (male) pirates, and then disappeared back into the crowd. I looked up onto the stage, and there wasn't a boat, but there was a giant rubber duck. The crowd was excited, roiling, like a tide on the turn. The band came on stage.. perhaps the only member of the Pirate Metal genre, they are certainly unique, and we might want it to stay that way! Originally from Perth in Scotland, the band's music is a metal twist on the seashanty and other folk-inspired delights... it's rollicking good fun, and while they are singing and making the music, a whole ocean of beings swims across the surf of the crowd.

The Effing Boat reappeared on top of the audience, carrying the young piratess across the hands and heads of the crowd, right into the pit, over and again, many times with different yoyagers. Then there were at least three species of (inflatable) whale, a few sharks, and several dolphins. A swan, a flamingo, a huge, yellow duck, a few rubber rings, and a banana. There is always a banana somewhere. A large parrot put in a reappearance, looking a little deflated, hanging out on the shore up against the barrier. And the audience was full, full of pirates (somewhere in the middle, I hope, the revitalized and regenerated Comatose Pirate from the Sophie tent!

Alestorm have toured the world and have a huge following here; they've been to the USA on Warped and many other tours, but I somehow seem to have managed to miss them until yesterday at Bloodstock!

There were many, many more excellent bands; I've just highlighted those that grabbed me by the heart, eyes, ears and soul, or who are (still) holding my brain ransom for sixteen pieces of eight and a wooden leg. Full Bloodstock Open Air 2018 lineup here. Making your plans for next year yet? You bet!

See also: Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday... the story, the experience, a near-miss, and a few comparisons with my USA experiences

If you are visiting Toon's Tunes/Cameras and Cargos for the first time, you can bookmark the site here. Photo galleries from many festivals and concerts worldwide, including Aftershock (California), Chicago Open Air, Louder Than Life (Louisville, Kentucky), Houston Open Air, TBD and City of Trees  (Sacramento, California), Cropredy and Cromer Folk (UK) and Marillion (Poland, Netherlands, UK and USA) can be found here. Follow @alisontoonphotographer on IG, @alisontoon on Twitter, and @therealtoonstunes on Facebook.

Review: Bloodstock Open Air, Saturday... the story, the experience, a near-miss, and a few comparisons with my USA experiences

(Note: where this article reads "USA festivals", insert, "USA festivals that members of the Toon's Tunes team have personally experienced during the past 18 years"--we don't presume to know the nuances of each and every festival held on USA soil since 2000!)

I just arrived home after driving back to Norfolk, England, from Bloodstock Open Air, at Catton Hall in Derbyshire. I was very happy to be able to attend the Saturday of the four-day festival this year: hopefully all the festival, next year. It was my first rock festival on UK soil since moving away from the country in 1988, apart from Cropredy Folk in 2014, (which includes some rock and progressive performers but is rooted firmly in folk). The first true rock festival homecoming (after thirty years... I wish I hadn't counted that!) I was expecting excellent, varied and very-heavy music, I was expecting the possibility of (a little) mud, and I was not at all disappointed!

People having fun at Aftershock
Happy festival attendees, Aftershock 2017
Festival one-day tickets are wonderful things. Even if you have other commitments or constraints that don't allow you to make a weekend of it, a one-day ticket allows you to see a favourite performer and experience all that the festival has to offer. Yes, being able to experience the entire weekend is huge, but don't ever let that put you off going for just a part of a festival. Take advantage of what the one-day ticket provides: go early, see all the bands, hear and see something new, taste the food (and drink) offerings... and see your stars. Festivals on both sides of the Atlantic offer both weekend and one-day options.

I'll get to the music soon, but let's begin with a few of the differences that I noticed between Bloodstock Open Air and the USA festivals.

Families: I saw more families at Bloodstock than at any USA rock and metal festival. While children are definitely allowed and are present at all ages at USA festivals, there are fewer families than at Bloodstock. There are two things that I believe contribute to this, which USA festival organizers might like to think about if they are aiming to become more family-friendly (and I hope they are): the pricing structure, and the ability to take strollers/pushchairs into the event. Bloodstock Open Air has significantly reduced prices for children, and those under four years old go free. That's huge. It's enormous. Taking a family of four or five to a USA festival can be a budget-breaker--and if the only alternative is paid child care, it usually means that the parents won't be there at all. If you have ever carried a couple of tired or sleeping children, and their stuff, around for hours, you'll understand how sensible it is to allow parents to take pushchairs/strollers along with the children. There's something magical about introducing children to live music at an early age (with the necessary ear-protection, of course), whether metal and rock or classical or jazz: removing or reducing the practical barriers, such as price and accessibility, is a huge stride in the right direction.

Belongings: There are fewer restrictions on what can be taken into Bloodstock than into most USA festivals. As well as the strollers/pushchairs: what stood out was the folding chairs. You can take chairs in, and you can buy them inside the festival (about 8 pounds/11 dollars US). People were sensible about where they put their chairs; around the periphery of the crowd for the main stage, towards the back inside the tents for the secondary stages. If you don't want to, or can't stand all day, it sure as heck beats sitting on a blanket on the UK soil when it's been raining (and I'm guessing the Bloodstock folks are really pleased to have brought their chairs today, after an evening and night of rain). I also saw people bring in various other things that they couldn't attend the festival without... a horse's head on a stick (which was, I believe, searched), various inflatables of all shapes and sizes, a giant pull-along rubber duck... (all will be explained in the music review, see the next post).

Comings and goings: I was surprised by the action of the audience after each show on the Ronnie James Dio main stage. While many people moved on to see performances on the Sophie Lancaster stage, the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, and the little Jaegermeister stage, there was also an exodus, back towards the main gates. After it happened three times early in the day, I just had to follow and find out what was going on: was there another stage that I had missed? Nope... people were going back to their tents, or cars. In-and-out is managed differently at Bloodstock to USA festivals. (What this also meant was that nobody was glued to the barrier from 11 in the morning until the headliners took the stage, which is often seen in the USA. At least during the first half of the day, the barrier crowd changed with each band at Bloodstock. I don't know if this is good, bad, nothing special or just-because a lot of people were still nursing their heads from the night before. It was simply different and surprised me enough to comment on.) (NOTE: If you don't know about S.O.P.H.I.E and why the stage is named after Sophie Lancaster, click here.)

Sophie Lancaster stage
Food and drink: They let you keep the top on your water bottle at Bloodstock. You have no idea how happy that makes me, unless you are used to running from one end of a festival to another in 100 degrees F with 15lb+ of equipment and a topless water bottle. THEY LET YOU KEEP THE TOP ON YOUR WATER BOTTLE! The variety of food on offer was yummy and included quite a few vegetarian and gluten-free options (I sampled loads), while there was plenty for the carnivores too. I was a little surprised that more people were not queuing to buy food: the service was good and fast and that's part of it, but maybe this is the downside (to the festival and vendor accounts) of people returning to their tents and campers so often?

New friends and old: I went on my own. Don't ever be afraid to go to a festival on your own. (Don't be afraid to go anywhere on your own, for that matter, unless your spidey senses say it's not safe.) There are new friends there, just waiting to meet you. We all meet up in music! And you always, always bump into an old friend. Mine? How random is this. I was directed to park in the overflow parking, as the main lot was full. I pulled in two cars away from my pal Thomas, who I know from my coverage of USA festivals and who runs AntiHero Magazine. He was over from the USA to cover Bloodstock. I'd driven from Cromer, Norfolk, by way of a family event and a funeral; he'd flown in a few days earlier from the USA, and we end up one car apart in the distant parking field. Check out and bookmark AntiHero because they will have photos, interviews and reviews from the entire Bloodstock Open Air weekend, very soon!

Tented stages: While Bloodstock's main stage is out in the open, the three other stages are inside tents, and by "tent" I mean "circus big top" size and construction tents. Of course, this is practically a requirement given the changeability of the British weather, but what it also meant was that early in the day, the Sophie Lancaster stage had the best light show. The drawback was that because of the change from the bright sunlight outside to the darkness of the tent, you had to be careful to avoid falling over the dead pirate who was lying behind the sound desk. Yes, a dead pirate. He might have been a Comatose Pirate. I hope he was Comatose Pirate. What-shall-we-do-with-the-drunken sailor type comatose, or just-having-a-nap comatose? There were pirates everywhere. More about them later, when we get to the music.

A near-miss. I nearly washed my hands.  OK, everyone's favourite question: "what were the toilets like?" At Bloodstock, as at USA festivals, there were lines of portapotties, and they were all kept very clean, stocked with loo paper and with hand sanitizer. The first time I checked them out, as you do, I saw that the sinks, for washing your hands were all at the end of the line of portapotties. But as there was hand sanitizer aplenty, I used that instead. As I left the loo, out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw a dude peeing in the sink. Too much beer too early in the day, I thought, but goodness... a couple of hours later there was a whole line of men, peeing in the sinks. Then the penny dropped... they were not sinks, they were urinals. The urinals at Bloodstock looked just like the hand sinks at USA festivals, I am so glad I realised before I barged in to wash my hands!

Conclusion: Wonderful festival! Bloodstock is not so enormous as to be overwhelming, but it's a serious-festival-goer's event with a big attendence and long history. The music is on the heavier side of the metal/rock spectrum, with something for everyone's ears and with performers from around the world. It takes place within beautiful settings in the middle of England, not far from the birthplace of heavy metal in the West Midlands. There are lots of camping and ticket options, the pricing is family-friendly, and if it rains, which you know it will at some point, there's a big top or two complete with music. Put Bloodstock on your calendar, in your diary, for next year. If you are bringing your own tent? Bring a waterproof one, not a beach shelter! (My gem of wisdom for today, based on a couple of conversations after the rain began. Yes, people do that.)

Anyone who has been to one or more of the USA metal and rock festivals would feel at home at Bloodstock Open Air, and vice-versa: if you love Bloodstock, why not experience a festival on the other side of the pond, too? There are several happening soon over there: Louder Than Life (September 28-30),   Rock Allegience (October 6th), Aftershock (October 13-14) to name but a few. Just... guys please don't be confused by the sinks by the portapotties, OK? The ones at USA festivals are for washing your hands.

A few thoughts on the Saturday music at Bloodstock Open Air are here.

If you are visiting Toon's Tunes/Cameras and Cargos for the first time, you can bookmark the site here. Photo galleries from many festivals and concerts worldwide, including Aftershock (California), Chicago Open Air, Louder Than Life (Louisville, Kentucky), Houston Open Air, TBD and City of Trees  (Sacramento, California), Cropredy and Cromer Folk (UK) and Marillion (Poland, Netherlands, UK and USA) can be found here. Follow @alisontoonphotographer on IG, @alisontoon on Twitter, and @therealtoonstunes on Facebook.

Friday, August 3, 2018

On micro-stock photography... earnings, getting rich, and finding-out where your photos are used

Sea glass and cockle shells, for licensing through Adobe
There has been a story making the rounds this week, about a woman discovering where her photograph has been used. She signed a release allowing the photographer to sell her photo, the photographer put the image up for sale, and it has been used around the world. There's another story in the news, too: about a political campaign is using Shutterstock images to suggest that people are changing their political views. Shutterstock, along with other micro-stock agencies including Fotolia (now part of Adobe Stock), are agencies that I have been approved to submit images to, and I have had a (very) small subset of my portfolio available through those channels for a while. The photographer has zero control over who buys the images. The only way you can find out where an image has been used is to search for the image (hint: right click on the image, then choose Search Google for Image.)

You wouldn't believe how much I have earned!!! No. Seriously. You wouldn't believe it.

Receiving a cheerful email that says, Congratulations! You just sold an image! and announcing that you have just earned $0.29 is a little disheartening. (Example of what the buyer pays? Adobe charges $29 a month for bloggers and other buyers to download three images. Shutterstock charges are here. The prices are not enormous, but they are huge in comparison to what the photographer earns.)

Yes, I hear you, all the $0.29 sales add up. Full disclosure: all those $0.29's (and an occasional $2 for an extended license) have, so far in 2018, earned me less than $300. Pre-tax.

It's my own fault and I am not complaining... much. While big-scale business marketers are paying lip-service to "authenticity" in images, what they still buy, more than anything else, is the ubiquitous posed, multi-racial-and-mixed-gender-group-with-toothpaste-ad-teeth-and-at-least-one-person-wearing-designer-glasses group shot of people, and I don't do those. I don't do posed people, I'm not into "lifestyle" family images-for-hire, and I just won't sell photos of children through micro-stock sites. So I'm not really expecting to make the top-stock-seller list anytime soon. Much as I would like to earn a fair price from the photos that I do sell there, my focus (sic) is on other types of photography.

The picture at the top of this post is one of my best-sellers, as it appears today on Adobe/Fotolia. I shot it in a fit of pique one day, after studying micro-stock sites, seeing all the (what I felt were) contrived images, and trying to work out what sells. I took a dollar-store jar of sea-glass and cockle-shells, dumped them on a table, and took the shot, indoors, no studio lighting, nothing. And yeah... it sold then and it still sells. Usually for $0.29 a pop.

Baby raccoon ventures from nest
Rocky (or Rochelle) Raccoon, born under my home in New York in 2008
My other top seller? This dude! I call him Rocky, but she might be Rochelle. He (or she) has appeared on many pest-control websites, including this one, badly distorted, and on this one, and accused of being smelly and destructive and nasty. He is part of an Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo in Arkansas (see the video at the top of the page), a character in a tale about wild birds, he's apparently been to Hawaii, he (or she) is the best-looking raccoon on this rather suspect 'naval' website and many other "cute animal" sites that you probably don't want to visit. He's present on many stock and photo sites that I, the photographer, didn't directly license him to BUT those sites just buy an extended license from another site and lo... Rocky's picture is for resale, everywhere. And I promise you, he didn't sign a release form, I just pimped him out for pennies. Don't be surprised if he sets up his own Twitter feed to complain. If he does, I'll expose the story of how his ancestors Ate My Goldfish.

Baby raccoon ventures from nest
But seriously... most of my photos will never end up on micro-stock sites. None of my photography of performers, for example--they are for editorial use only (talk to me directly about those). But I am very happy to have discovered a new stock photography site, PicFair.com, which strives to be fair to photographers. If you buy photos for a blog, or for your company, please consider photos found there, because... they are fair to the photographers. Think of it like Fair Trade coffee. I'm waiting to see if it works.

(You can find Rocky/Rochelle here now on PicFair and on my own website for prints here, where the licensing costs for editorial or commercial use are extremely low in comparison to rights-managed Getty Images, but way higher than any micro-stock site. Confused, yet? Me too!)

All of my photos for print, and for editorial and/or commercial licensing can always be found here: http://alisontoon.com  It may be easy and inexpensive to buy images from a micro-stock site; if you are concerned, at all, about fair trade, maybe it's time to consider another way of finding the images that you need.