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.