Saturday, April 21, 2018

Red Sun Rising: Thread, a review


I took Red Sun Rising's new album, Thread, for a drive to Norwich and back the other day. I've been looking forwards to this release for a while; expecting them to build on Polyester Zeal and hoping for more of the beauty of their cover of Alanis Morissette's Uninvited.

Thread is a collection of eleven hard rock songs, topped with Mike Protich's winning vocals. I hear a lot of influences in here... from the opening notes of the first song, Fascination, which I thought was going to morph into Zombie, but didn't, to Deathwish, which at one minute in sounds more like a Blind Guardian song than any song I've heard while not listening to Blind Guardian, but then segues to an Avatar-esque stomp and ends as a stadium-rock, emotional singalong.


Stealing Life is a rather beautiful rock ballad. Clarity, on the other hand, is a huge, heavy, rock blast. Benny Two Dogs? A story...

Thread, in its entirety, is a grower... an album to listen to over and again. Red Sun Rising sometimes feel as if they are trying to be rock stars, rather than just being the musicians that they already are. At some point, the music will take over, and we'll look back at this album and at Polyester Zeal and Uninvited and say, wow, this is where it all began. (They've also started a thread of pretty-cool videos, directed by Brad Golowin... see the connection between Deathwish, and Uninvited yet?)

Mike Protich, vocals, Red Sun Rising
Red Sun Rising, Sacramento\s Ace of Spades
Find Red Sun Rising on Facebook here, and tour dates here... including Northern Invasion and Aftershock festivals in the USA. I hope to see them tour the UK/Europe soon!

Red Sun Rising are Mike Protich, Ryan Williams, Dave McGarry, Ricky Miller, and Pat Gerasia.

P.S. Comparison to Blind Guardian can only be a good thing. Now I have an appointment with Hansi Kürsch for a walk on the beach...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Marillion tour: Gateshead and Cambridge, England

Marillion
Marillion at The Sage, Gateshead, England UK
Sometimes, people ask: why see the same band, over and again, whenever you have the opportunity? (Maybe they ask, because they haven't seen Marillion, yet?)

Well... because. Because we all have one or two performers who we want to see, again and again, because every time is a new experience. Marillion do that for me, without fail. Even with a similar set list and even with (some of) the same audience, a different town, a different venue, another evening, a new day, a new twist... every show is new. Every show has its own character, its own personality, its own being, and the two Marillion shows I saw this week were no exception.

They are a joy to listen to, and a dream to photograph.

Marillion
Marillion at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, England UK
The tour continued last night in Birmingham, and then on to Brighton, Bristol, Reading, Liverpool and York, with many dates long sold out. The set list, a strong mix of the latest Marillion album, F.E.A.R., and songs from other albums from the past thirty or so years. (Not revealing the setlists here... go to setlist.fm if you want to know.)

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion, Cambridge
The expressive, dynamic frontman Steve Hogarth in full voice; Steve Rothery's hypnotic guitar, Pete Trewavas' wonderful bass, Mark Kelly's masterful keys and Ian Mosley driving it all along on drums, together with a wonderful light show, entrancing video, and a beautiful sound production... what's not to love.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion, Gateshead
The Sage, Gateshead: a venue built for symphonies, with acoustics that orchestras dream of; soft seats, no standing, two ringed balconies; a place for sitting and dreaming away with the music. The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, a historic and lively building that once saw the weekly trading of farmers, reminiscent of Thomas Hardy; (I was wandering around Cambridge all afternoon thinking of Oxford and Hardy... another place I need to visit.)

Steve Hogarthy, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion, Cambridge
There are people who travel the world to see, and hear, their best bands; Marillion fans, more than any band I know. There's a reason for that.

Mark Kelly, keyboards, Marillion
Mark Kelly, keyboards, Marillion, Gateshead
If you haven't seen them live yet, make sure you do.

Ian Mosely, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosely, drums, Marillion, Gateshead
All Marillion tour and festival dates can be found here: http://marillion.com/tour/ 

Marillion
Marillion, The Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Many more pictures in the photo galleries, and you can buy pictures too:

- Marillion at The Sage, Gateshead, 11th April 2018
- Marillion at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 13th April 2018

Marillion
Marillion, The Sage, Gateshead

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Some Guys Have All The Luck... The Rod Stewart Story at Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Paul Metcalfe as Rod Stewart, Some Guys Have All The Luck
Easter Bank Holiday weekend in England, the seaside town of Cromer is bustling with visitors, despite the rain and the cold weather. And the Pavilion Theatre at the end of Cromer Pier, full at 8 p.m. for an evening of Rod Stewart's music, presented by Paul Metcalfe and his band: Some Guys Have All The Luck.

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Some Guys Have All The Luck, Cromer, 2018
There's a huge difference between tribute bands and covers. The tribute band takes on the personality, the voice, the charisma of the personality they are emulating, throughout the entire show. Some Guys Have All The Luck does this, very, very well.  Mr. Metcalfe sounds, and moves, like Rod, for the entire evening. And the first half of the show is an interesting and educational mix of music and anecdotes from Rod's life story, with some wonderful archive photography on the big screen. The second half (yes, there's an intermission, it's theatre after all) is a rocking Rod Stewart concert, plain and simple.

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Some Guys Have All The Luck, Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre, 2018
Beginning with songs from early in Rod Stewart's career--Handbags and Gladrags, and the wonderful contribution to Python Lee Jackson, In a Broken Dream--a snippet of Maggie May, and on through the years... You Wear It Well, First Cut Is The Deepest, Tonight's The Night... all of Rod's biggest hits. The poignant Killing of Georgie. The amusing Do You Think I'm Sexy? All the goodies, not forgetting Baby Jane... finishing off with the inevitable Sailing, and then the full version of Maggie May.

(Maggie May was "my first" Rod song--and my first Top of the Pops! A schoolteacher set us some statistics homework: go home,  watch Top of the Pops and then report on how statistics are used in the music charts. That night, Maggie May was number one--with Slade's Coz I Luv You soon to follow. Go ahead, do the sums, I don't care one bit.)

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Some Guys Have All The Luck, Cromer Pier, 2018
The most important part of a tribute show is that it be fun, and Some Guys Have All The Luck was definitely that; there was dancing in the aisles, the band were very obviously enjoying themselves, and we were all singing along. A very enjoyable and entertaining evening!

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Some Guys Have All The Luck, Cromer, 2018
Catch the show at another of their tour dates: full schedule is on the band's website. Many shows all around the UK this year! If you can't get to Vegas to see Mr Stewart himself... go see Some Guys Have All The Luck instead. Or do both...

See the full photogallery from the show at the Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier, here!

Some Guys Have All The Luck: Rod Stewart Tribute
Paul Metcalfe as Rod Stewart, Cromer, 2018
(I'm really happy the show closed with Maggie May. Sailing is, for me, Rod Stewart's equivalent of Chris de Burgh's Lady in Red. A beautiful song... and yet so played-to-death that I don't want to hear them again. Maggie May I will never, ever tire of.)

Walking the beach with Chris Rea


After listening to a lot of Rod Stewart, while working on the photos from the show on Saturday night (coming soon... tribute band, not realRod), I took another old favourite for my walk on the beach; Auberge, with all the slide guitar and orchestration on the way to Overstrand, and The Road To Hell on the way back. Not that the beach is the road to hell, very much the opposite.

This guy deserved/deserves to be so much better known than he ever has been.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Looking for wall art? How about a seascape?

Seascape; dramatic, overcast
Seascape, North Norfolk, England
I have added a load of seascapes to the photography portfolio and website, http://alisontoon.com: if you are looking for some wall art, please take a look! While they can be purchased as high-resolution files for personal printing, the professional print option will provide top-quality, delivered to you directly.

Playing around with the different options and print sizes will show various price options, ranging from lower-cost, high-quality professional prints, right through to an investment in a print on a large block or ready framed for mounting on your wall.

My personal favourite is the beautiful print quality of a Hahnemühle Fine Art Print on Photo Rag Paper. To find this option:
  1. Click the Buy button
  2. Select "Buy from UK Printer"
  3. Select "Fine Art Print"
  4. Select "Hahnemühle Fine Art Print"
  5. Select the size that you'd like
  6. Select "Photo Rag Paper"
  7. Click Add To Cart. 
If you are in Cromer this week and would like to see some examples of these various print qualities, pop in to the Cromer Art Week exhibition at the Parish Hall--it continues until Thursday. My portrait of a gentleman on the street is printed on the Hahnemühle photo rag paper... the two band photos are on coloured blocks.

Seascape; dramatic, overcast
Seascape, North Norfolk, England

Friday, March 16, 2018

New album: Ministry, AmeriKKKant

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Al Jourgensen, Ministry
Ministry's AmeriKKKant was released like the mother-of-all-bombs onto an unsuspecting world just a week ago. I had to battle with corporate America to obtain my digital copy--turntable isn't installed in new home yet--and I had to take this on a beach-walk too, on this cloudy, rainy, bitterly-grey-windy day on England's east coast, totally in-synch with this album, heavy waves thumping the shore.

AmeriKKKant is an album for listening to very, very loud. A genius mix of sound-bites, deep bass and insistent drums, industrial orchestration: repetitive like the drums of war, this is AmeriKKKa.

If the name of the album doesn't give it away, the artwork on the vinyl will; the back is Lady Liberty, middle finger raised, striding away from her pedestal, not a backward glance; a grey land of smoky destruction and searchlights behind her.

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Al Jourgensen, Ministry
Don't expect to come away from a listening feeling all goody-goody, self-righteous and justified in belief. It's like being thrown into a huge washing machine full of dirty water and pebbles, being accosted by presidential stupidity, racist mantras, war-proud sentiment, white-supremecist hatred; filthy mud that needs to sink to the bottom and stay there. Instead, we have to ask, how did we let it come to this, AmeriKKKa? (Or anywhere else, for that matter, anywhere else.)


I came to the church of Ministry very late: a full convert, I am very happy to have been able to photograph and experience them at both Houston Open Air and Chicago Open Air in recent years (click there to see more photos).  Those of you in Sacramento, don't forget: Ministry will be at the Ace of Spades on Monday, 26th March and as of now, there are a few tickets left.  (I won't be there, because I've done my own version of that Lady Liberty thing for exactly the reasons embodied in this album, and am now on the other side of the Atlantic, middle finger raised.)

More info on how to obtain your own copy of AmeriKKKant, tour dates and more, here on Ministry\s website. Sheer genius.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New album: Myles Kennedy, Year of the Tiger

Myles Kennedy, vocals and guitar, Alter Bridge
Myles Kennedy, Houston Open Air, Alter Bridge
I took Miles Kennedy for a walk along the beach, from Cromer to Sheringham, earlier today. No not literally, though I'm sure he would have been good company; rather, I took myself for a walk, with Myles Kennedy's new album, Year of the Tiger, as the soundtrack. The album was released late last week: after listening to it several times at home, it deserved to be accompanied by the beauty of the beach.

Myles Kennedy, vocals and guitar, Alter Bridge
Myles Kennedy, Alter Bridge
When you're walking on pebbles, trying not to twist an ankle or wrench a knee or drop the camera: stopping every so often to photograph the clouds, the sky reflected on damp sand, then clambering over sea-worn wood and rusty metal steps that end way too high above the sand... skirting the newest earth-slips from the rain-soaked cliffs, then you're not studying the music, note-by-note, but rather absorbing the essence of the album.

These are the thoughts Year of the Tiger gave me, this morning: family, love, loss... a father, gone: a a mother, struggling: a child... longing to understand. How you manage to carry on.

Myles' guitar, plus a touch of bluesy-grassy-roots-hearted Americana in the banjo and steel guitar, serene slide, and a vocal range that compares with both Buckleys, father and son. If you've listened to Alter Bridge, this isn't Alter Bridge. If you've heard Myles Kennedy with Slash, this isn't Slash. This is personal. It tells a story. Myles Kennedy lost his father at an early age, and this story, sometimes though his eyes, sometimes his mother's--has been a long time coming. There's an explanation here.

Each song is a gem. "Through our tragedies we find out who we are." Year Of The Tiger sets the pace; The Great Beyond is huge... but the song that I keep replaying is song 10, "Love Can Only Heal".

Clouds and beach at low tide
The beach. A walk from Cromer to Sheringham.
Myles Kennedy is currently on tour in Europe and the UK, with dates in Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, London, followed by shows in the USA. Full tour info and tickets here on his website (scroll down on the home page).

I listened to the album several times on my walk.

I didn't write Myles' name in the sand. Though I freely admit: the thought did cross my mind.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Roving Crows last night at Cromer Pier -- and mark your calendars for more music!


If you have never been, Cromer Pier has a beautiful theatre, right at the end, just before the RNLI lifeboat station. Like all good theatres, it has a lovely bar where you can buy refreshments before the show, and during the day when you want to just sit on the pier and watch the waves. It's also the only place where you can still see an end-of-pier variety show!

With seating for about 500 people, the cosy, red-inside theatre has really good stage lighting and is a wonderful place for an intimate music experience. Last night brought the return of the Roving Crows to Cromer. I very much enjoyed their sometimes-surprising blend of traditional Irish folk music with rock and other styles. Here's an example, from their latest album, Bury Me Naked:


The last time Roving Crows were in Cromer was for the Folk on the Pier festival, which happens again this year. Mark your calendars and diaries: 11th - 13th May 2018. And also, the night before the festival, Kinder Shores, in support of the Rees Foundation, a really important cause--helping people who have been in care. Check their website.

For more info on what's happening on Cromer Pier, see the website: http://www.cromerpier.co.uk/

And Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre... wouldn't it be a wonderful venue for an H Natural show. Just thinking out loud...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Photo gallery: Esplanade, a procession for women, on the prom, on International Women's Day, Cromer, Norfolk

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Red parasols on International Women's Day, 2018
Such a cool way to celebrate unity on International Women's Day! A procession of women, from tiny to tall, carrying red parasols, winding their way down to Cromer's promenade and onto the pier this evening, to mark 8th May, to commemorate the centenary of British women being able to vote, and also inspired by Sisi, one-time Empress of Austria. The event was organized by Dr. Sarah Lowndes, writer, curator and lecturer--you can find the whole story here, in the North Norfolk News.

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Young participant in the parade
Click here to see full photogallery from Alison Toon Photographer!

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Red parasols on the pier

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On photography... continous learning. And a new look at the pier.

Abstract
Abstract art?
Last week, snowbound, still exploring all the new, British TV, I discovered Sky Art's Master of Photography competition. (For those outside the UK, I think it's available on YouTube--here's an example, where the contestants were challenged with photographing Michael Madsen) And yes, I binge-watched the two series. It's a competition similar to others: begins with twelve contestants, ends with one supreme winner, 150,000 euros richer.

As a photographer, I found it intriguing. Not so much by the photography itself--it's all subjective, after all--and not even by the comments of the judges and mentors, though it was very interesting to hear, and see, their insights. (Most important comment? "It's your photo. Do whatever the hell you want with it.") But both inspiring and intriguing because of the challenges that were set, each episode, for the photographers. Seeing and understanding how each photographer had their own comfort zone, and places where they would much rather not be. Seeing how they learned and improved by being forced to take up a challenge at very short notice, with little time to prepare.

Abstract
Colour and structure
Some found situations like backstage, or sports, overwhelming--places where I feel very much at home. Some excelled in posed, studio-lit environments... somewhere I am very, very reluctant to go.

What was clear? We all need to keep challenging ourselves, each and every day, with the camera. Pushing the boundaries of our own experiences. Yes, there will be our preferred subjects... but we can learn every time we try something new. Even if it's only, "I don't like that".

Abstract
Know where, and what, this is?
Looking at other people's work is important; whether it's photography or painting, architecture or music or bizarre fashion statements. Only by observing do we know what works for us. Only by trial and error do we understand how the camera works best in our own hands. It's only a tool that captures a snapshot of imagination: there is no right, or wrong, way to use it.

The photos in this post are just a new look at the picture postcard that is Cromer Pier. Yes, all of them. Can you figure out where they were taken?

Beneath Cromer Pier
Low tide

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Settling in... how long does it take? Are we nearly there, yet?

Cromer Pier on a snowy winter's day, Cromer, Norfolk
Cromer Pier, during The Beast From The East, 2018
As you have probably seen, Alison Toon Photographer has moved back to England, UK, from Sacramento, California. There have been a few gaps in publishing here... it will soon be back to normal!

Cromer is a wonderful, traditional British seaside town, with sandy beaches washed by the tides twice each day, a beautiful pier with a theatre, and lifeboat house, at the end; great fish-and-chip shops, old-fashioned, tempting sweet shops, lots and lots of local, family-run small businesses, an so many community events that I know it's going to be a wonderful place to live, and to photograph.

I'll be posting a lot more very soon, but here are just a few of the venues, events and festivals that will be within reach:

Cromer Pier: concerts, shows, and festivals throughout the year
Cromer Hall: open-air concerts
Norfolk's many festivals
The Waterfront in Norwich
University of East Anglia, Norwich
Cambridge Corn Exchange... Marillion will be there soon!
... and many, many more.

It's starting to become real... after far-too-many weeks of organised chaos. I have moved many times, locally, cross-country, cross-continent and internationally. International moves are, by far, the most complicated and stressful--even when you are moving back to a country that you know and love, even when you speak the same (almost) language. It's a mass of large and small things to be organized, managed, dealt with, endured and enjoyed. From huge steps like securing a new home, to silly little things like having no pepper (or salt, or sugar) in the pantry. From replacing each and every electronic device that ran on another country's 110 v system with new devices and appliances that run safely on 240 v, to dealing with the insane, huge amount of packaging material that comes along with every darn purchase.

From having to nip out and buy a new bread knife to cut the amazing gluten-free bread that you were so excited to find, to wondering if your old bread knife and all the rest of the stupid stuff that you thought was so important to ship in that little international shipping pod will arrive before you've begged, borrowed or bought replacements while waiting. (Said pod is currently on a container ship that will dock in Hong Kong within the next few days. Why was it sent the long way around the world? Don't ask me. I have no clue. It's having its own adventure.)

From laughing with joy seeing a huge double-rainbow across the sea, to wondering when you'll see your overseas family again.

And preparing to launch an exciting new photo service here... just as soon as the snow has melted, the roads have been cleared, and the delayed shipment of brand-new business cards arrives. What will it be?

You'll have to watch this space for news!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Musicians are artists. No really... artists with paint: Bob Dylan and Ronnie Wood


Window display, Castle Fine Art, Norwich
If you are nearby, take a few minutes to nip into Castle Fine Art in Norwich, (or maybe one of their other branches?) They have exhibitions of limited-editions by not one, but two, major musicians: Bob Dylan, and Ronnie Wood!

Part of the Ronnie Wood collection on display this week at Castle Fine Art in Norwich
I'd seen examples of Bob Dylan's work before, but I quite-shamefully had no clue about Ronnie Wood. His work is stunning... would love one of these pictures on my wall.

At the intersection -- yes, there is one -- between rock music, art, and wild horses, his work has an immediate appeal. Find out more here on his website and find out about the possibility of ordering your own copies here.

And then, there's only one song to play:



Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vikings!!! Sheringham, Norfolk, England

Sheringham Viking Festival 2018
Battle reenactment, Sheringham Viking Festival
What more appropriate for the first proper post from my new home in Norfolk, England, than a Viking invasion? It happened yesterday, in Sheringham; the seaside town's fifth annual Viking festival, ending a week of activities with battles on the beach, a torchlight procession, and the ceremonial burning of a boat at the edge of the tide. It was a beautiful, sunny, calm and clear February day. Perfect weather for an invasion. Perfect weather for a fight on the beach.

Sheringham Viking Festival 2018
Vikings and Anglo-Saxons like ice-cream too!
I learned that Vikings love to eat chips. And ice cream. And that the leaders of today's Sheringham are happy to walk down the street with the mauraders. And that people come from all over the country to see the festival... and that it's growing bigger and better every year.

The Wuffa and Dragon Shields, Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons battled it out on the beach at low tide, clad in heavy chain-mail, wielding huge wooden shields, battle-axes and swords. Cut down in their prime--or weighted-over by the weaponry--they fell into the cold, wet sand, only to spring back to life, time and again, when the the crowd summonsed the help of Vallhala and cried, "Rise, Rise!" (or as one youngster in the crowd called, "Rice!") This generated some interesting, overheard conversations, children asking their parents about death and dying, which I'm sure were answered in creative British style.

Sheringham Viking Festival 2018
Fire eater, Sheringham Viking Festival

There was a fire-eater, and a fire dancer, and a witch, and dog-lion who came along to watch the show and sat patiently waiting for the parade to pass.

And then, the boat burned, fueled by heaps of not-so-Viking wooden pallets, warming the cockles of our hearts, young and old. And yes, that's a human shape you see... Vikings buried their dead by burning them with their boats. Don't worry, this was as human as the Guy that goes on the bonfire in November. At least, I think it was...

Sheringham Viking Festival 2018
Boat burning, Sheringham Viking Festival
More photos here in the Alison Toon Photographer photo gallery: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/life/vikings/sheringham-viking-festival-2018

Organized by the Sheringham Carnival team, you can find out more about it here, and another set of photos and a writeup in the North Norfolk News today.

Sheringham Viking Festival 2018
Battle on the beach, Sheringham Viking Festival 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Avatar at Sacramento's Ace of Spades tonight!

Avatar

I am jealous. I would love to be at this show. Avatar is in town!!!

You'll have a wonderful time... did you get a ticket? Here's where to check in case there are any left on the Ace of Spades' website.

I want to hear all about it...

(Photo gallery from Avatar's show at Aftershock, Sacramento, 2016 is here.)

Monday, January 1, 2018

New music coming in 2018 from Sacramento's Zeroclient


One of my favourite Sacramento bands--and there is a lot of excellent music in this town--Zeroclient, will be releasing a new album, their second, in 2018. Here's a preview... with a very cool video:


Find out more on their Facebook page!

2018: look at the lineup already!!! And but... and but...

Avatar
Avatar, coming to the Ace of Spades this month
It's been pretty quiet around town since Aftershock in late October, metal/hard rock-wise, which left me time to sort out "other stuff" (see later), take a little time away from the camera (sometimes we have to do that), apart from family photo sessions and non-concert photography... but heck, look at what the new year has lined up for Sacramento! Hard rock, metal, and some big names in pop.

At the Ace of Spades:
  • Avatar on 25th January
  • Meshuggah on 26th January
  • Motionless In White, February 20th
  • Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity, February 21st
  • Theory of a Deadman, 22 February
  • Pop Evil, 28th February
  • Starset, 2nd March
  • Nothing More, 3rd March
  • Stone Temple Pilots, 13th March
  • Flogging Molly, 21 March
  • Ministry, 26th March
  • and many, many more: see https://www.aceofspadessac.com/ for all shows and tickets.

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Ministry, coming to the Ace of Spades
  • Katy Perry, January 31
  • Lorde, March 12th
  • Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, 30th January
  • Tyler The Creator, 31st January.

Leigh Kakaty, vocals, Pop Evil
Pop Evil, coming to the Ace of Spades
I'd love to see all of these shows!!! If you haven't already, buy tickets ASAP because many of these will be sold-out shows.

Avatar, Pop Evil, Nothing More and Ministry would be right at the top of my DO NOT MISS list.

Nothing More
Nothing More, coming to the Ace of Spades
But... and this is the "but" from the title of this post... Most likely, I won't be here in Sacramento for these shows! (Though it's SO VERY TEMPTING.)

It's time for my next adventure. I sold my house here the day after Christmas. I even sold my lovely, red truck, which made me shed a tear, last week. Everything is sorted: I'm headed back to Europe, at least for a while; not sure to exactly where yet--that's part of the adventure--but I have a need to go back to my roots, and to leave the USA for a while.

If you follow my social media posts, you'll know my opinions on the way this country is heading, politically and socially, and... it's just time to go explore somewhere else and to take a break from what's happening here. (It won't make me silent--probably the opposite, when the comparisons start settling in.)

I'm not leaving because of Trump; I'm leaving because Trump is not the problem, he is simply and quite terribly the most-visible symptom of a chronic and dangerous disease. Like a meningitis rash. Like a nasty and unrelenting cough.

I'm very lucky and I know it; I have the right, and the privilege, that enables me to do this, to decide to up and leave, and still have the option to return at whim. With both a USA and a UK passport in my pocket, and a little money in my bank account, I can do this. I don't this lightly, nor do I expect the grass to be magically greener on the other side of the pond. But... I have to find out. And so, the bags and the cameras are all packed and ready to go.

I will be back; I have precious family and friends here in Sacramento and around the country. It might be sooner, it might be later. It will certainly be for regular visits, for tours, shows and festivals. 

Just expect the next posts to be written and photographed from somewhere other than Sacramento, USA!

Download Festival? Don't mind if I do...

See you at the next show!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye, 2017... what a lot you contained. The good, the bad and the ugly... and the hope.

Marillion plus In Priase of Folly string quartet, Leicester
Marillion plus string quartet, Leicester DeMontfort Hall, UK
So.. the final day of 2017 is here, today, and on the far side of the earth people are already celebrating the dawn of a new year; fireworks in Australia and Hong Kong already dazzling the skies. Before that happens here in California, here's a look back at 2017 from the perspective of Alison Toon Photographer. It's been a good year, it's been a bad year, and it's been, from my view of American politics, an ugly year too.

Yes, it has been an "interesting" year, in all spirits of the word, interesting. Politically painful; living in a country which, more and more, I see heading in a direction diametrically opposite to the direction in which I was raised, and in which I believe. I see people living on the streets and along the rivers of Sacramento, with nothing but canvas or cardboard to keep them, and their few belongings, safe overnight. At the beginning of 2017 there was a lot of rain--much needed after several years of drought--but terrible for anyone who is sleeping rough. Shocking statistics: there are more people homeless in Sacramento than in all of the UK. The homeless population of California, according to this article from the New York Times, is approximately 554,000 people. That's more than the population of some entire countries; Iceland, for example, has a total population of approximately 336,400 people and while the climate for sleeping outdoors is definitely preferable in California to Iceland, it's totally shameful that such a huge, rich state has so many people living in dire conditions.

Driving through Sacramento in the rain last winter, seeing people without shelter, was one of the triggers to writing my first novel, Jo and the Old Man of the Sea, which was published in February 2017 and is available through Amazon and other booksellers around the world. (Find more details here.) The other inspiration for Jo? My favourite place in the whole wide world... North Norfolk, in England, where I was happily able to spend a few weeks this year.

I also launched another website, telling the stories within my family history research. The family tree has for too long been a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle hidden inside my brain and within Ancestry.com's databases; this is the time to make the data human again. It's not just a linking of statistics and DNA; it's a whole encyclopedia of human lives, struggles, loves and achievements.

Jason Hook, guitar, Five Finger Death Punch
Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2017
Photography... the year has been super-full of amazing experiences.

I covered three of the four Marillion Weekends this year: in Port Zelande, The Netherlands; in Lodz, Poland; in my hometown of Leicester, England, UK! De Montfort Hall, Leicester, still one of the best and most beautiful concert venues. Perfect acoustics... These weekends were amazing experiences, attended by people from all around the world, some travelling huge distances. The next weekends are planned for 2019, but Marillion have a USA tour coming soon in 2018; not to be missed!

Corey Taylor, vocals, Stone Sour
Corey Taylor, Stone Sour, Aftershock 2017
Festivals: this year's included Louder Than Life, in Louisville, Kentucky, City of Trees in Sacramento, Aftershock, also in Sacramento, to name just a few. (Incidentally, my step tracker tells me that my most active weekend this year was the Aftershock weekend... if I took that number of steps every day I would never, ever have to be concerned about how many times a day I eat chips.)

Chevelle
Chevelle, Ace of Spades Sacramento, 2017
Concerts: a few major highlights: Paul Weller!!! Wow... Paul Weller. I photographed a Paul Weller show. Still smiling about that one. Midge Ure, too: that was in January, at Harlows. Hellyeah were awesome at the Ace of Spades. Chevelle taught me how much I love their "indoor" show, bringing some superb lighting on the road. Trace Adkins, at California State Fair. Dropkick Murphys and The Selecter at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium.

So many shows, so much excellent music. New and rising bands such as Greta Van Fleet and Joyous Wolf. Old(er) favourites, including some wonderful shows from Five Finger Death Punch, Nothing More and Stone Sour. Rob Zombie getting high (it's a pun, check the photo, my most-shared image of 2017). Halestorm and In This Moment. New twists including Mike Patton's Dead Cross and Davey Havoc and Dreamcar.

For all the photos, go to http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music; the galleries are in date order, latest are at the top!

Musically, a wonderful year... a little short on shows since Aftershock, but I've been really really bust with plotting for the new year (info coming soon), and there's been a big gap in decent shows here in Sacramento, but that is all going to change next month. More on that in the next post, looking forwards to 2018... plus more (personal) news! See you at a show and/or festival or a hundred, next year!!!

In the crowd
Festivals, festivals.. Louder Than Life, 2017