Thursday, December 31, 2015

My favourite shots of 2015: Prog, metal, reggae, and you, the crowd. Smiles and passion and... the music!

I've noticed that the shots that the photographer loves best, are not always those that the fans, or people in general, like the most. So I'm picking out a few of my favourites here, and why, and then you can click on the photo, go and look at the full galleries, and see if you agree or not.

Steve Rothery, guitarist, Marbles evening, Marillion Weekend, PZ 2015
Steve Rothery, Marillion, PZ, 
Steve Rothery of Marillion and of the Steve Rothery band, at the Port Zelande weekend, The Netherlands, March 2015. Happy picture; great reception from the fans. And Ghosts of Pripyat is a beautiful musical work... and this weekend in March was the first time many people heard the band live for the first time.

(I already picked my favourites from all three Marillion weekends--click here to see them in an earlier post. Not duplicating those here, but yes, they are very special favourites of this photog.)

Ivan Moody, vocals, Five Finger Death Punch
Ivan Moody, Five Finger Death Punch, Reno

By no means a perfect shot... but it's Mr Moody's cheeky smile. Not the hard man that everyone wants to see, and that's why it's in my list for 2015.

Chino Moreno, vocals, Deftones
Chino Moreno, Deftones, Elverta
Deftones put on a huge performance at Aftershock festival in Elverta, near Sacramento... and this is my favourite shot of Chino Moreno, putting his all into the show for a massive hometown crowd.

Oliver Sykes, vocals, Bring Me The Horizon
Oliver Sykes, Bring Me The Horizon, Elverta
This one of Oliver Sykes... because I think BMTH were the hardest of all the shows I shot this year, backlit with strobes... and because I had wanted to photograph this band for so long... and because it seems to capture both the energy of Bring Me The Horizon, and the innocence that's somehow also inherent to Oliver's stage persona.

Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley, Sacramento
Ky-Mani Marley, his beautiful, shy smile, at the State Fair, and his song Keepers of the Light, which will now forever remind me of summer 2015.

Jacoby Shaddix, vocals, Papa Roach
Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach, Reno
Yes, he was having that much fun: Jacoby Shaddix, and so many fans had travelled up from Sacramento to make the evening complete.

People of Aftershock 2015
People of Aftershock 2015
And I can't end this without a favourite shot of the people who matter most: you guys, the audience, without whom the show won't happen, and without whose support the musicians cannot continue their work.

This is just a short set of my faves from 2015... scroll through the posts on this blog for more, or just go browse the galleries on

And may 2016 bring many more!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Wishlist for 2016 (you can hear it here!) Share yours! Happy New Year! :-)

2015 has been a year full of music, from January to December, non-stop. While preparing a full photo retrospective, I'm listening to a playlist that covers just some of my wishlist for 2016. Take a listen, read why below!

Gemini Syndrome: a new album is on the cards for 2016, with the first track already released (and in the playlist above). Not only am I ready to hear the entire album, I'm also hoping that the guys will make it back to Sacramento in the new year. Wouldn't that be cool?

My Jerusalem: about time for a new album, and a new tour. I think both will happen in the new year, too. Check out Preachers if you haven't heard it yet. It's one of those that you listen to over, and over, again.

Heat of Damage: local Sacramento metal band, who have their first Bay Area date on January 3rd at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. You like metal and any form of rock, you need to hear these guys. Check out their first album. Go see them play live. Wiggle your fingers. Magic.

Hozier: possibly the best lit, best sounding, best protected and managed show at the Ace of Spades this year. I'm looking forwards to the next step from Hozier. Really hoping that he's allowed to develop that incredible voice, presence and those songwriting skills in the direction that he wants to go musically, rather than having to play Take Me To Church a million times because it's such a moneymaker. It's a wonderful song, and it's worth hearing a million times. It's the beginning of a great career--it's not everything Hozier has to offer. So I'm looking forwards to what he produces next year... and what already might be on its way.

The Temperance Movement: new album coming soon, and this is another British band that folks in the USA need to take a listen to. Check them out. I'm hoping that a trip to the UK coincides with a concert... or that maybe they take a trip across the big pond? Who knows! It's a whole new year tonight!

Blind Guardian: a band that I now wish I had grown up listening to. How did I miss so many years? Gloriously over-the-top. In 2016, I'll be listening to them, a lot. Join me.

Five Finger Death Punch: it's never enough. We need more Five Finger Death Punch, always. Will they be back at Aftershock next year? And/or performing at a venue close enough for a roadtrip? One way or another, we'll see them again in 2016.

The Soft White Sixties: I'm hoping for a new album, the follow-up to Get Right, their 2014 debut album... and I'm really hoping to catch a show and not be out-of-town that day (that happened, twice, in 2015). Have you listened to them yet??? You might catch a show in San Francisco early in the year!

Marillion: of course. Not only is Marillion 18 being prepared (that's the working name for the new album, expected to be released in 2016, and there's a presale campaign), there's a whole lot of touring being planned too. See you at (at least) one of the shows. Did you buy your tickets yet?

Festivals, like Aftershock (which is always, always awesome!!!) plus hopefully a few more. TBD Fest? Who knows what will happen there... am keeping an eye on the news, and hoping that all the issues are sorted, and sorted well, in time for a 2016 festival, because it's brought a lot of new music and art to this city. BUT there is also an art to organizing festivals, and that's why the majority of successful and repeatable festivals are organized by folks such as Danny Wimmer and team, or have the involvement of people like Corey Taylor of Slipknot, etc. etc.  Another example: Download, at Donnington Park in England, UK, has been happening in one form or another for around 25 years. Festivals can be, and should be, successful. And by successful, I mean not only a fun event, but one where all performers and workers are paid on time, and where local people and businesses benefit too.

And I'm looking forwards to discovering even more new music. (And refinding more older music too, in the form of vinyl treasures. Exploring the record shops in Old Sac and on Broadway and elsewhere.) Going to the Ace of Spades and the Boardwalk and Harlows and other venues, just to hear something new. You go only when it's someone you know, you're missing out.

Explore the music. Find the soundtrack to your life.

I wish you love, life, laughter, health and music for 2016. For you, your families, and for everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Marillion: Unconventional, on tour, new music... and a Merry Christmas!

Marillion weekend, Port Zelande, 2015
So today this gem pops up in my Facebook feed, reminding me that there is a lot to share this week from Marillion.

First, here's the band's Christmas message:

(Anyone else want to hit Mark???)

Second, there's the North American tour next year, plus loads of other dates around the world. Dates and venues have been announced and tickets are already on sale. If you haven't seen them live yet, don't miss this opportunity, don't think about it, just get yourself and your nearest and dearest a ticket or ten... it's a wonderful, wonderful experience. The tour begins at the Regency ballroom in San Francisco on October 21st, makes stops in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Northfield (Ohio), Toronto, Montreal and Quebec in Canada, then back to the USA for dates in Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, with a final stop in New York, Check out all the dates for the North American tour (and where you can purchase your tickets), plus South America and European dates too, and a few festivals on the band's tour page.

And then... and then...

The new Marillion documentary video, "Unconventional", is out, and this week I received my copy direct from the UK. Produced by the exceptional Toward Infinity team, it tells the story of the biennial Marillion weekends, focusing on this year's event in Port Zeland, the Netherlands. It tells the story of the huge amount of work preparing for the three days of concerts, and the fans who travel from all around the globe to experience the event. There are interviews with the band, and glimpses of the wonderful live shows, the band's interaction with the fans, and what makes the entirety so very special. If you've wondered why fans travel so far to experience the music of one band, why they often make an international trip their annual vacation and save for it for two years, and then again two years later, it's your opportunity to find out.

(Marillon won the Prog mag award for the "Best Live Event" for the weekends of 2015, over and above stiff competition. Having had the chance to experience all three of these events, I totally agree!)

And this is not only for Marillion fans: there are some deep insights into the music industry from the band who created crowd-funding many years ago, who don't have to rely on a major label's whim to be able to create the music that they (and their fans) want to hear. If you're in a band yourself and wondering how to survive in today's streaming, no-money-for-music business environment, you really should get yourself a copy of this DVD, take look at how this band grows and keeps such a dedicated, global fan base, enabling them to continue touring and producing new music.

It's also as stunning piece of musical documentary as you'll ever see.

The pre-order campaign for the next Marillion album is going strong: if you want to see your name in the materials, act fast! Lots of different packages are available. This is a real example of the Marillion way of life, in action.

And I cannot wait to hear the new music...

Articles and photos on this publication that may also be of interest:

- Photos from the Port Zelande weekend
- Photos from all three 2015 Marillion weekends (Netherlands, UK, Canada)
- A review of Bring Me The Horizon's Live at Wembley DVD, also by Toward Infinity

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Atreyu/Falling In Reverse Christmas Vacation tour: Sacramento

Ronnie Radke, vocals, Falling In Reverse
Ronnie Radke, vocals, Falling In Reverse
Whoever thought of putting these four bands on the same bill--Atreyu, Falling In Reverse, From Ashes To New, and Assuming We Survive--deserves a commendation. With Atreyu and Falling In Reverse sharing top billing, both the supporting bands were on fire on Friday at the sold-out show at the Ace of Spades. (Not only was it sold out, but the doors were open at 6 pm, and by 6.30 it was already full to the brim, hardly space to wriggle between fans to the bar, the bathroom, or to check out the merch stands.) The place was buzzing, all night.

Tonight--20th December 2015--is the final show of this tour, so if you don't want to miss it, you'd better head to Fresno. Quick. And be prepared to have to hunt down tickets.

Alex Varkatzas, vocals, Atreyu
Alex Varkatzas, vocals, Atreyu
Both Atreyu and Falling In Reverse brought along impressive light and fog, with Atreyu at times disappearing in the clouds. Best viewed from the rear of the room, across the raised hands of the crowd, it made for a beautiful sound-and-visual.

Atreyu, Ace of Spades, Sacramento
If it was the first time you'd seen Atreyu live, you might be forgiven for thinking that lead vocalist, Alex Varkatzas, was lip-synching, but no, not at all: drummer Brandon Saller sings all the "clean" vocals, shrouded in the stage-fog on Friday, but heard loud and clear. (There's just one, grainy photo of Saller in the photo gallery.)

Alex Varkatzas, vocals, Atreyu

Varkatzas made several (many!) escapes from the stage into the crowd, at one time singing to the merch stand team, another time up on the balcony, many other times from within the mosh pit and cheering crowd. Great reception from the Sacramento fans for Atreyu: remember that it was at Aftershock 2014 that the band reformed after a hiatus.

Falling In Reverse
Falling In Reverse, Ace of Spades, Sacramento

Falling In Reverse took the final slot of the night, drawing lots of young women to the front row of the audiences. Ronnie Radke, the unbreakable bad boy that all the good girls fall in love with; his at-times-self-deprecating lyrics, a rock-metal that is heavy enough to appeal to most metal fans, yet accessible for the pop market too... what is there not to like?  Great show, really fun, and I totally understand why this show sold all tickets.

Ronnie Radke, vocals, Falling In Reverse
Ronnie Radke, Falling In Reverse
I last saw Falling In Reverse at Aftershock in 2013. I love the way they have developed in sound and presence over that time. Really, really worth seeing and hearing.

Falling In Reverse
Falling In Reverse, Sacramento, 2015
From Ashes To New: once again, a stellar performance. First time in Sacramento? It won't be the last. I really like this band. Check them out, if you have not already... well worth a listen.

Matt Brandyberry and Chris Musser, vocals, From Ashes To New
Matt Brandyberry and Chris Musser, vocals, From Ashes To New
Both From Ashes To New, and equally-professional, music, heavy, metal and entertaining Assuming We Survive will have left town late Friday knowing that they have a whole crew of new fans in Sacramento, California.

Adrian Estrella, vocals, Assuming We Survive
Adrian Estrella, Assuming We Survive
Come back soon, all of you!

Photo galleries (or just click on one of the photos above):

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Crazy Dave's Music Experience: Corey Taylor of Slipknot, making fans happy at #Aftershock!

Corey Taylor signing
Line at Crazy Dave's, waiting for Corey of Slipknot
Sitting here tonight, looking out of the window at the dark street, headlamps of cars passing as workers head home for the evening, knowing that it's winter and about the furthest point from any outdoor-and-summer-hot music festivals, I'm thinking about some of the great stuff that goes on, away from the stages, at many of the rock festivals around the USA.

In particular, I'm thinking about Crazy Dave's Music Experience, and what they bring to the people of Aftershock and to many other festivals around the country. (If you want to know the full Crazy Dave's story, click here.)

Crazy Dave's is a place where you can go to try out all sorts of musical instruments, from guitars to drum kits to everything in-between. You can see, hear, and try-out all the technology and equipment needed by rock stars--both established, and future-rock-star-in-the-making. And not only is Crazy Dave's an equipment tent--it's also the place to go for the opportunity of meeting one of your musical heros.

Corey Taylor signing
Corey Taylor of Slipnot, signing, Crazy Dave's, Aftershock 2015
This year, at Aftershock festival in Elverta, near Sacramento, there were meet-and-greets with one or more members of Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin, Snot, Shinedown, All That Remains, P.O.D., Suicidal Tendancies, Black Veil Brides, September Mourning, Deftones, Dance Gavin Dance and Sevendust. There was pizza, and there was a shredding contest. And in collaboration with organizations like FXCK CANCER, Crazy Dave's made some dreams come true (click this link for one example).

Corey Taylor signing
Corey Taylor and happy fans, Crazy Dave's Music Experience, Aftershock, 2015
I was very happy to be asked to help document one of the artist signings: Corey Taylor of Slipknot made so many people so very, very happy! There's a full photo gallery here--just click--with lots of smiling faces! Corey Taylor is a signing machine... he signed shirts, he signed arms and chests and legs and other body parts; he signed photos and albums and hats and just-about everything that his fans presented, and he didn't stop until the very, very long line of people had all had the chance to say hello. (And then he zipped off to do some wrestling, and then to perform in the phenomenal stage experience that is Slipknot, and then zoomed off to Southern California and Knotfest, another Corey project, the very next day. And that's only part of what Corey Taylor has going on. Don't forget Stone Sour, too!) If you find yourself in one of the photos in the Corey Taylor signing photo gallery, there's a "share" button under the photo--feel free to use it! Click here to see the full gallery! (Or click on one of the pictures in this post.)

Corey Taylor signing
Fans at Corey Taylor's signing session at Crazy Dave's, Aftershock, 2015
As music festivals begin announcing their dates and lineups for 2016, and you buy your tickets and plan your time, don't forget to make a space in your weekends to visit Crazy Dave's Music Experience. You may play something, see or hear something, or meet someone... and it just might change your life. For the better.

Talking about next year's festivals,... check out Fort Rock and Rockville today! Lineups are already announced, early-bird tickets are on sale today. Time to book a trip to Florida?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Epic Death release "Witchcraft" on December 11th. Don't miss it!

Texas band Epic Death's first full-length album, Witchcraft, will be released this week, December 11th, and if you want to hear a brilliant cover of Alice Cooper's "Poison", you'll really want to hear this album. But... you'll also want to hear the rest of the album too, if you like heavy, metal, prog, rock and/or any combination of the heavier, darker side of rock.

I have to admit... I wanted to review it for the Poison cover alone, and ended up listening to the entire album, over and again.

Put it on your Christmas list! You've been good, right? Naughty? So what. That's even better. Go get yourself a copy. Click here to go to the band's store..

Complex metal, with growling vocals that are woven completely and compellingly into the fabric of the music. Intriguing, Zappa-esque time changes, thundering and driving drums, the band lives up to it's name, bringing epic melodies and riffs to and underscoring of death metal and classic rock.

Imagine a tribe of orcs stomping through a muddy, dark, vast and threatening cavern... and hilltop warriors preparing for battle. Add makeup and black nail polish, and then remember they come from Texas, so it's going to be much bigger and badder than you ever imagined...

Here's a preview: this is "Hide" from Witchcraft.

Epic Death are Dennis Dorsett (guitar and vocals), Becky Dorsett (keyboards), Nathan Chance (guitars), Justin Riddler (bass) and Reece Stanley (drums). Find out more about them on their website and Facebook.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Amaranthe, Butcher Babies, and Lullwater: review and photos

Elize, vocals, Amaranthe
Elize, vocals, Amaranthe
Friday's show at the Ace of Spades, almost at the end of Amaranthe's Massive Collision USA tour, at first seemed an unusual set of bands: Amaranthe, Sweden's "modern melodic metal" band with three vocalists, teamed with support from screamo-metal Butcher Babies, and rock/alternative Lullwater. Very varied vocal styles, different music, and potentially different audiences. On the night, it definitely worked as a show, especially when Lullwater's John Strickland came on stage with Amaranthe to add his vocals (Jake E. Lundberg was not with the band on Friday).

Click on any of these photos to see the full photo gallery for each band.

Amaranthe, Sacramento
Amaranthe, headliners, coming to the end of their long USA tour... last date was last night, in San Jose. Next appearances are in Sweden: keep an eye on their website for new show announcements.

Butcher Babies
Butcher Babies, Sacramento
Butcher Babies, high energy as usual, no blood this time (is that a trend?), and I swear I heard a more melodic voice, now and then. Fronted by vocal duo Heidi and Carla, they are always visually engaging and very entertaining. Their latest album, Take It Like A Man, was released in August of this year, they've been touring ever since, and they have already been named to support Cradle of Filth during their 2016 tour, so we'll see them back in Sacramento on February 20th, again at the Ace of Spades.

Butcher Babies
Butcher Babies, Sacramento
And Lullwater to have a new album, self-titled "Lullwater", definitely worth a listen. They have a couple more USA dates before the end of this year: keep an eye on their Facebook page for 2016!

John Strickland, vocals and guitar, Lullwater
John Strickland, Lullwater

Lullwater, Sacramento
All the photos from the Sacramento show:

- Amaranthe photo gallery
- Butcher babies photo gallery
- Lullwater photo gallery.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Let's rock Thanksgiving... thank you for the music!

A short playlist for a sunny-in-Sacramento, Thanksgiving day. Enjoying the day, but not forgetting. (And if you haven't already, think about buying a copy of the first song in this rock-and-metal playlist, because the proceeds are going to people who need help.)

Thank you for the music.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Blind Guardian, opening my eyes (and ears) to German metal; concert review and photos

Hansi Kürsch,, vocals, Blind Guardian
Hansi Kürsch, Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Stepping into the Ace of Spades on Friday evening, I had little clue what to expect from Blind Guardian or from the support, Grave Digger. After seeing the show was planned, I did a little YouTube listening, they seemed interesting, so there I was...  It was their first-ever visit to Sacramento, and there were many people in the audience who knew a lot more about the band than I did. I really hadn't listened to a huge amount prior to the show...

Blind Guardian
Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Oh but now I will. There's a huge back-catalog of music to hear now.

Blind Guardian
Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Imagine: Middle Earth, choirs, Tolkien, double-bass drum, heaven and hell, the Ring Cycle, Asgard, myth and legend, metal, soaring guitars, and a charismatic front-man... all on the small stage at the Ace at the start of the weekend, and all in the music. Yes, you should have been there; if you were not, you might hear it on an upcoming live album from Blind Guardian. Maybe.

Marcus Siepen, guitar, Blind Guardian
Marcus Siepen, Blind Guardian, Sacramento
Blind Guardian and Grave Digger have several more tour stops in the USA--see if they will be near you!

More photos in the Blind Guardian photo gallery:  <-- click on the link!

UPDATE: Grave Digger photos are online now too: see the Grave Digger photo gallery.  Great show from both of these bands!

Dreaming of Cathedral Walls: terror, or you could love

Woke this morning from an intensely-vivid dream; it started when I was surrounded by young men, boys, teens, threatening me with hammers then laughing, joking, and one, the one with gentle eyes, putting a bluetooth device in my ear and asking me to talk about love. I told them that love included acceptance of others with different beliefs, and they were shocked, but let me go wander. After a while, knowing they were listening, I started a monologue about love.

I was in a land with ancient rocks and ancient buildings, and beaches and water and tourists. One place was called Cathedral Walls, and we called, "Cathedral Walls" as we clambered and slid on the wet rock. The walls were beautiful, old, warm sandstone and stained glass.

My pocket was heavy. They had somehow returned my cell phone, yet it was doubled up, with two connected screens, and was no doubt transmitting everything I said or heard, or where I went. The young man followed me and I avoided people and places who I knew he considered his enemies and targets.

I tried to let my friends know not to say anything meaningful by pointing to the bluetooth device in my ear. I didn't think to remove it. I couldn't find a pen or paper to write on, nor did I ask for any.

Nor did I wonder, not until the alarm clock had me fully awake, if the boys had given me a bomb to carry, as well as the heavy phone.

I was trusting of the young man with Jesus eyes.

(I can easily understand why young people are enchanted by a message and a philosophy that paints a picture of a different world... but it has to be a better world. We have to teach them about love, and how it never includes the destruction of life.)

Or you could LOVE...

(Cathedral Wall is the song immediately before A Few Words For The Dead, on Marillion's Radiation album. Find all the lyrics here: especially meaningful right now, in the wake of the Paris, Lebanon, Mali and other attacks.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Eagles of Death Metal, Aftershock and Paris... and the world has gone mad

Jesse Hughes, guitar and vocals, Eagles of Death Metal
Jesse Hughes, guitar and vocals, Eagles of Death Metal
Yesterday evening, I was happily editing these photos from Aftershock, and remembering, with a smile, how much fun we had, how the Eagles of Death Metal are entertaining, how happy the audience was, what a great time we all had.

Josh Homme, drums, Eagles of Death Metal
Josh Homme, drums, Eagles of Death Metal
I'm sure that's what the hundreds of people at the Bataclan in Paris, France, were experiencing too. Happy people out for an evening of rock music (they are not death metal, it's a name, they are heavy and they are rock and they are so darn entertaining it hurts). And other people, out enjoying a Friday-evening meal at a restaurant. Or attending the France-Germany football (soccer) match. Or living in Paris in general, on Friday 13th November 2015.

David Catching, guitar, Eagles of Death Metal
David Catching, guitar, Eagles of Death Metal
And now, the world has gone mad... many attacks on people in Paris, including hostages taken in the venue where Eagles of Death Metal were playing... families are in mourning, or they will be, once we know who died, how many people. All those lives lost... for what??? There will be no answer. There IS no answer.

Matt McJunkins, bass, Eagles of Death Metal
Matt McJunkins, bass, Eagles of Death Metal
As I'm writing this, it appears that the Eagles of Death Metal are safe, but the stories are still fluid. People died at the venue. People were held hostage. Deftones were due to play at the Bataclan tomorrow evening, beginning a three-night stand in Paris.

What special hell must it be for a band to be caught up in a tragedy.

Thinking of you guys. And of everyone in Paris, France, the world, who is trying to make sense of yet-another senseless attack. There are no words. This just has to stop.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Fear None's new song, Driver, is right inside my ear

Some Fear None, launch of
Some Fear None, Sacramento, August 2015
Sacramento's Some Fear None released a new single this week, Driver. It's different, and it showcases Nathan Giguiere's voice perfectly. It's a bit like coming across Miracles when listening to Jefferson Starship... the song was still in my head when I woke up this morning, so here it is for you to enjoy too.

You can buy Driver on iTunes, together with To Live and To Die, Some Fear None's latest album.

Some Fear None are Nathan Giguiere (vocals/guitar), Chuck Carrasco (guitar), Jason Weisker (drums) and Gina Salatino (bass/guitar). Find out more on the band's website or Facebook.

Photos from a couple of Some Fear None shows in the photo gallery!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stone Temple Pilots, Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, split ups and covers, and Aftershock

Chester Bennington, vocals, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington, last show with Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015

Chester Bennington, vocals, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington with Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015
I think I put off posting my SDP (Stone Temple Pilots) photos from Aftershock late last month, because I couldn't think of anything to say in a review, other than "they sounded like Linkin Park singing STP songs"--and that statement failed to do justice to the show, which was really good. Chester Bennington is an excellent, strong and present front man. STP's music is great to hear. And implying that this was just a Linkin Park cover of classic 80's-90's rock just didn't do the show justice. And so I procrastinated, published other Aftershock photos and reviews, went on a trip to the UK, did other stuff.

Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots
Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, STP, Aftershock, 2015
Rumours of a split started circulating this weekend, and Rolling Stone published a report yesterday, stating that Chester Bennington and STP were no longer together: Chester to focus on Linkin Park.

Robert DeLeo, bass, Stone Temple Pilots
Robert DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots, Aftershock, 2015
As Aftershock was the last time STP and Chester performed together, we had the final chance to see them as a unit... even though it did sound very, very much like Linkin Park singing Stone Temple Pilots. And I seriously do not mean that in any negative way.

Eric Kretz, drums, Stone Temple Pilots
Eric Kretz, STP, Aftershock 2015
What next for STP? Will they invite Scott back? He was here too recently, playing a much smaller venue, Orangevale's Boardwalk, with the Wildabouts. There would be a lot of long-time STP fans who would be "wild about" seeing the band reunited... as long as there is sobriety involved!

Take a look at the full Stone Temple Pilots Aftershock photo gallery by clicking right here! 

Still more photos to come from Aftershock and other shows: if you want to be notified, follow @alisontoon on Twitter, or like the Toon's Tune/Cameras and Cargos Facebook page. 

Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots
Last show together: Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo, STP, Aftershock 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy, London

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Sold out show: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
A year ago--23rd October 2014, to be precise--I covered a new, young band from the UK who were on their first USA tour, and who happened to be performing at the Assembly, here in Sacramento. There were perhaps thirty people in the audience, maybe fifty if you include the staff; half of the paying crowd had driven up from San Francisco, where they had seen Catfish and the Bottlemen the night before. And yet, the band put on a performance worthy of a huge, full crowd... like a premonition, like a plan. They were so much fun to watch and listen to.

Since then, the Assembly has closed, Catfish and the Bottlemen have toured more of the USA, they've performed to a huge crowd at Reading Festival, and they've done another sold-out tour of the UK or two. And that's the sort of crowd they should be drawing: full-house, festival-happy, music-loving fans and followers.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
In London last week for work, checking out possible shows to see on Friday or Saturday night, and I saw that Catfish and the Bottlemen had not one, but two dates over the weekend, Friday and Saturday, both at the O2 Academy venue in Brixton, just south of the river Thames. But of course, both evenings were sold out months back.

Thanks to StubHub, where you can resell your show tickets if you can't make it (and hopefully not scalp buyers), I was able to find one ticket for Saturday's show at little more than double the face ticket value. To my mind, it was well worth it.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, London
Saturday morning and early afternoon, London was awash with heavy, torrential rain. Coming from four years' of California drought, I was enjoying meandering slowly through rainy England to my hotel near Heathrow, returning the rental car, generally getting ready for an early-Sunday-morning flight back to the USA. But when I arrived at the O2 Academy in Brixton late on Saturday afternoon, I found a long line of plastic-poncho'd people, who'd been waiting in line for at least six hours, in the rain, in the wet, with huge smiles on their faces! This is the kind of fan that Catfish and the Bottlemen are drawing in the UK. Inside the venue, I met young men who'd come down from the north of the country to see the show, who'd already travelled to Manchester and other gigs too. (If you look at a map of the UK and think, so what, those distances are tiny compared to the USA, believe me: it's as big a deal to travel from Cumbria to London for a show as it would be from Sacramento to New York. Think about it like this: how many bands will you travel outside your local area to see? That's what people from all over the UK are doing for a chance of seeing Catfish and the Bottlemen.)

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
The venue: classy, theatrical, art-deco; built in 1929 as a theatre-cinema, and retaining much of the original decor and character. The main floor is raked, meaning that the further away from the stage you are, the higher you are, in theory giving everyone a good view of the stage, in practice in a sold-out show, there's aways some tall dude who plonks himself right in front of the shorties. But stepping out of the crush and closer to the side and rear, you get a great view, and the sound is good, not deafening, just well-loud-enough and powerful. There's also a huge upstairs balcony, seated, too.

Everyone knew all the words, all the songs, all of The Balcony. Going with the band's preference for playing known songs live--rather than experimenting with the audience and new material--the setlist for Saturday's show didn't differ much from the show in Sacramento late last year, just after The Balcony was released--just the addition of Business and Hourglass, I think. And while this format works, and the audience absolutely loved the entire show, I and probably many others are now looking forwards to the next album, because these guys are going to keep on getting better and bigger and hopefully, over here again soon.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, main floor, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
Note: if you're in the UK and going to an event at a O2 venue, and you have an O2 phone, take it with you--you might be given an upgrade and/or early admission to the show!

Photos: I was too late to plan any kind of professional photo access for the event, as this was a last-minute trip. I checked with the venue press office, and was told that cell phone and compact cameras were allowed, just no "pro" cameras. These photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot compact, and my aim was to capture something of the atmosphere rather than the band in action... though I'm rather happy with this one shot of Ryan "Van" McCann, taken from way back at the side of the floor!

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Van, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, England UK
Follow Catfish and The Bottlemen on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website (USA visitors--it redirects you to a US-only landing page. Add /home to the URL to get to the full site.)

More crowd photos from Saturday's show at the O2 Academy, Brixton, in the Catfish and the Bottlemen photo gallery (both from this show, and the one in Sacramento last year).