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'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, 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; 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

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