Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 retrospective... that was the year that we wish wasn't

Disturbed, Chicago Open Air, 2016
In many ways, 2016 has been a tough year. Whether for the seemingly never-ending list of music and celebrity obituaries, or political shocks, Brexit, Trump, and horrendous acts of terrorism, the end of 2016 can't come soon enough, and yet, it might be here far too soon, because who knows what 2017 will bring? At least we know now that 2017 won't bring us the death of David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince or George Michael, because 2016 already took them, and I can only hope that they are off cultivating and rendering more beautiful another land, far far away, probably on a black star, together.

But... there was a lot of good that happened in 2016 too, and a heck of a lot of good music, and some new photo venues and subjects for me, too. These are a few of my favourite moments.

Marillion, F.E.A.R., and a North American Tour

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion's 18th studio album, F.E.A.R., brought them some of the best reviews of their career to date, and the North America tour shows were stunning. I'm planning on seeing them again next year, at the Marillion weekends (they happen in the Netherlands, Poland, England and next year, for the first time, in Chile).

See more photos and reviews by clicking here  and here for the tour photos.

Chicago Open Air, the first time in Chicago, plus Houston Open Air and Aftershock

Danny Wimmer Presents brought three days of rock and metal to Chicago, with stunning headliners Rammstein and a huge lineup. I have no idea how many calories I burned running from stage-to-stage those days, but it was so very worth it. Seeing Disturbed live for the very first time. Being blown away by Nothing More, loving Five Finger Death Punch and Pop Evil more than ever, celebrating Gemini Syndrome's huge audience... it was a wonderful weekend.

Aaron Nordstrom, vocals, Gemini Syndrome

And there was Houston Open Air (what part of it was able to happen), and of course, Aftershock...  where Avatar completely stole my heart, and Ghost my festival soul... And on this cold, crisp, rapidly-fading-end-of-December day, I'm already longing for next year's open air festivals.

Pop Evil, Sacramento and Chicago: Alter Bridge, Chicago and Houston; Disturbed, Chicago and Sacramento; Korn, Ministry, Slayer!!!

I was lucky enough to see, hear and photograph several wonderful bands, multiple times this year. Pop Evil's show at the Ace of Spades in Sacramento in March and then at Chicago Open Air; Disturbed, at Chicago Open Air and then again at Aftershock in Sacramento;  Alter Bridge, again first at Chicago, and then Houston. Slayer, in Houston and in Sacramento. Ministry, in Chicago and Houston, Korn in Chicago and Sacramento!

Oh my goodness, I photographed Boy George!!! And Steve Vai!!!  And The Struts!!! Peter Murphy!!!

Steve Vai
Steve Vai, Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 2016
I saw Highly Suspect again, this time at the Boardwalk, and I have a strong suspicion that this will be the last time in a venue so intimate (and so darn dark), given the huge success of The Man Who Died Wolf. These guys rock!

Johnny Stevens, vocals, Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect, The Boardwalk, 2016

And apart from the music...

First ever airshow, and I loved it.  And the Horse Expo. And family photos and birthdays and more...

Mike Wiskus, Lucas Oil, Aerobatics
Mike Wiskus, Lucas Oil, Aerobatics at California Capitol Airshow, 2016
You know what??? 2016 was a pretty darn good year, despite all the stuff at the top of this post. I'll be trying to remember the best of the year, and the very best of who and what was lost, and making sure not to forget the good. Because we all have a responsibility to be part of the good. And not to stand idly by, because as in the words of one or more elders, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing".

2017, I'm ready for you.

To see all photos from this year, and more, go to

Friday, December 16, 2016

Face To Face tour: Hands Like Houses, Our Last Night, and more! Photo galleries!

Trenton Woodley, vocals, Hands Like Houses
Trenton Woodley, vocals, Hands Like Houses
This past Tuesday evening, Orangevale's Boardwalk was the location for the final date of the Face To Face tour: co-headlined by Our Last Night and Hands Like Houses, with touring bands The Color Morale and Out Came The Wolves, and young locals A Foreign Affair opening the show. Each band unique, different, yet connected: from the more hardcore of The Color Morales to the alternative rock of Hands Like Houses and A Local Affair's pop edge, the show flowed and there was a smooth transition between each band. I particularly enjoyed Out Came The Wolves.

Our Last Night
Our Last Night
Playing to a full house, from the moment the show began to the end of the night.

Garret Rapp, vocals, The Color Morale
The Color Morale
I had the pleasure of seeing Hands Like Houses for the first time at the Ace of Spades, earlier this year: so high energy, blended with Australian beach-boy fun. Bassist Joel also joined Our Last Night for their third song of the evening... and Our Last Night invited all of the touring musicians on-stage later in their set. And there was crowdsurfing from the stage to the bar and back (never seen that at the Boardwalk before), and this party was huge!

Cameron Burns, vocals, Out Came The Wolves
Cameron Burns, Out Came The Wolves
Click on any of the photos to go to each band's photo gallery.

A Foreign Affair
A Foreign Affair
Hands Like Houses latest album is Dissonants, and you can find more of their music and tour dates here on their website, on Facebook, on tour in Australia early in the new year with Bring Me The Horizon (now there's a show I'd love to see!), and then in Europe.
Our Last Night are off to South Africa early in the new year! Keep an eye on their website and Facebook for more tour dates! Check out their new single, Common Ground, too!
The Color Morale's new album, Desolate Divine, is out now. Find out more on their website and Facebook.
Out Came The Wolves new album is Strange Fate.  Find out more here on their website, and on Facebook.
A Foreign Affair are a local band to look out for! Check them out on Facebook and go see a show.

Full photo galleries:
- Hands Like Houses
- Our Last Night
- The Color Morale
- Out Came The Wolves
- A Foreign Affair

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Eyewitness sound track: check out Kaleo

While binge-watching USA Network's spooky crime series, Eyewitness, (which is based on a Norwegian series, Ã˜yevitne)and enjoying the really good soundtrack, I heard Kaleo for the first time. (You might have heard them on other TV shows, too.) Their debut album, A/B is out now and is well worth a listen. Lots of shows planned for the new year, both in Europe and North America.

From Iceland but with a southern, bluesy-rock feel, check them out on their website... here's a sample!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Women in Rock: Lee-La Baum, Love is Blindness

A gritty and beautiful cover of U2's Love is Blindness (from Achtung Baby), by Lee-La Baum, singer with The Damn Truth, from Montreal, Canada. Check out the bands' other works... Lee-La's gritty, bluesy voice is memorable.

The song is used as the soundtrack for an advertisement for Mon Paris by Yves Saint Laurent:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Peter Murphy, Stripped, at Sacramento's Harlow's

Peter Murphy, Stripped
Peter Murphy
Peter Murphy brought his Stripped show to Sacramento last night, as part of the Stripped tour, which has gone from the USA to Europe, and now back here again. The venue was J Street's Harlow's: dark, cosy, and packed with people.

Acoustic, semi-acoustic sets: some bands simply replace their usual instruments with unplugged versions, turn the volume down, play the same songs in almost-the-same-way-but-quieter. Not so, Peter Murphy and his band (Emilio China on violin and bass, and John Andrews on guitar). Instead, like a master chef, he reduces the songs to their very essence, and then builds them back up, enriching them with new flavours, bringing out the strength and character of the vocals over a delicate but strong and beautiful framework of violin, guitar, bass, backing tracks and Peter's occasional drums. This is an art form, and it makes for beautiful music. You know the songs, but you don't, and that's what keeps music alive.

Peter Murphy, Stripped
Peter Murphy, Stripped, Sacramento
The show began with Peter Murphy sitting on a stool at the back of the tiny stage, guitar to stage left, violin to stage right, little-to-no lighting but for the occasional bright spot that lit up Mr. Murphy's shock of now-white hair. He remained on the stool for the first three songs (Cascade, Secret, All Night Long), then came to the front of the stage, playing to, and with, the audience. He's a singer, a songwriter, a comedian, and he's still the Godfather of Goth in many fans' hearts.

The setlist comprised a wide variety of songs from solo Peter Murphy albums and from his Bauhaus days: Indigo Eyes, The Rose, King Volcano, a cover of Bowie's Hunky Dory Bewlay Brothers, all interspersed with quite a bit of humour and a one or two British swear words.

Peter Murphy, Stripped
Peter Murphy, Stripped, in Sacramento
An good-and-long, excellent, intense and musical, moving and much-appreciated-by-the-crowd show. The clapping, calls and shouts for more continued for ages after the band left the stage after the encore, as the audience tried to entice them back on stage, for one or two more songs pretty-please. But this time Bela really was dead, and they didn't come back again. So until next time...

The tour continues: check the dates here: tonight in San Francisco, then over to the USA east coast.

(I wish more rock bands would include a violin. (If you agree, also check out Ne Obliviscaris and The Red Paintings.)

And fo more photos from last night's show in Sacramento in the photo gallery, click here!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On travelling, travelling light... the what, why, and where

Breakwater at Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jamaica... let's go to the Reggae festival!
It's taken me many, many years, and more-than-many failures, but at last, I may have mastered the art of "travelling light and efficiently", meaning... equipped for the trip, clean and comfortable and relatively pain-free. Whether you are photographing a band on tour, being a superfan and following a tour or festival series around the country or continent or world, touring the world for fun, or travelling on business, some of these tricks and tips might be helpful. And they might save your back, knees, bank account and good temper.

Know Your Climate
The person I learned most from about travelling light--though it took many years to sink in--is my youngest sister. We were in the Sinai desert (a beautiful place if you haven't visited yet), staying with Bedouin and exploring the beaches of Nuweiba and Dahab. My sister had a beach bag with a change of clothes, her passport, and a large sarong. She knew that the desert air would dry the rinsed sarong in five minutes flat. It was her dress, her beach towel, and extra bedding at night, was incredibly light, and rather pretty. Me? I was struggling under the weight of a huge, framed packpack, full of heavyweight western towels, "what-if" clothing, about ten weeks more underwear than I had days on the trip, and random gadgets that I would never use in the Sinai--most of which could have been left somewhere-else for the duration of the desert adventure. The difference? My sister knew the climate and what to expect, and I didn't have a clue. And you don't need a business suit to swim with dolphins.
Landscape of the desert
Judean desert, Israel
Only Take What You Can Lift
No one else is carrying your stuff. If you can't lift it over your head into an airplane bin, or up the stairs into a train, or into the storage area under a bus, don't take it. Don't expect help. Everyone else is struggling with their own overstuffed bags, cases and kitchen sinks.

Check It
Airplanes have cargo areas specifically for your luggage. Use them. Check your bags in. Just keep what you'll need on the flight, and fragile/precious/electronics, in the cabin. Seriously. Don't be that person trying to stuff an expanded roll-on bag into a far-too-small overhead locker, holding everyone up from boarding and disembarking. Yes you might have to pay a fee for checked luggage, depending on the airline and your frequent flyer status. If you have a roll-on bag and it's a tiny plane, they'll often offer free ramp checking because the bag won't fit anyway.

LAX to BOS, southern route
Stuff Grows
I have no clue how this happens, but many years informal-but-regular experimentation shows that it happens, every time. The stuff you take on a trip expands and doubles in size before you return, even if it's identical to, or less-than, what you set out with. Dirt and sweat? Maybe. Poor folding? Perhaps. Whatever. It happens. TIP: if you are using a hard-shell suitcase with an expansion zipper, make sure that you can close the suitcase without opening the expansion zip when you leave. Then you have the extra room for the inevitable Grown Stuff on the way back. If you start out with an overstuffed case, you'll need to buy an extra bag or case for the return.

If you expect to buy things on the trip, pack an extra, light-weight, checkable bag so that when you go over the weight limit and don't find out until you're late at the airport, you have somewhere to put the extra... otherwise you'll be chucking stuff in the bin, or paying a ridiculous overweight fee, rather than an extra bag fee. #beentheredonethat

You Don't Need Clean Pyjamas Every Night
Seriously. You can wear them more than once. #ihadtolearnthis You don't even need pyjamas, unless you're sharing a hostel dormitory with unknown strangers or similar sleeping arrangements. But if you plan on sleeping au naturel, be sure to have some clothing easily findable in the dark, for that time that the hotel fire alarm goes off at 3 a.m., there's no power, you can't find your glasses, it's midwinter, and the fire brigade make you stand in the parking lot in the snow for an hour and a half until they determine that some prankster pressed the alarm button when returning from the pub. #beenthere #itwasseriouslyfreezingoutide

Bilingual road sign, Ireland
Many roads to travel
Everything is Disposable
It's cheaper to buy a tourist T-shirt or hoodie than it is to pay for hotel laundry. (If you don't believe me, check the price list next time you are in a hotel.) If you're travelling to tourist destinations, use the inexpensive tourist T-shirt shops as your wardrobe. So what if you arrive in Seattle wearing an I Love Paris T-shirt. People will just think you're cool. Or a dumb tourist. Whatever, You're clean, warm, and have enough cash for a coffee. Same with toiletries, accessories, shoes, handbags, books... the works. If you leave home with the idea that everything in the suitcase is throwaway, you'll make better choices about what, and how much, to pack.

Layers are your friend, especially if you are taking in more than one climate on the same trip. I once did Beijing (freezing, foggy-smoggy winter) and Singapore (sunny, equatorial-humid and hot) in the same week. That was tricky. My suitcase was ridiculous. I should have read this before taking that trip.

Of course, if you're a superfan following a band around the world, the merch stall is your best friend ever!!!

I have a huge, heavy, black I LOVE SACRAMENTO hoodie in my closet. It rescued me when I arrived at Sacramento airport with a few minutes to spare, and realised I'd left my ready-to-go winter coat on the chair, at home. It was spring: beautifully-warm in Northern California, but still a freezing-and-bitter midwinter at my destination. The inexpensive tourist hoodie allowed me to survive the trip, without breaking the bank or my schedule. Sometimes you have to improvise.

Know Your Size and Have a Backup Plan
Business travel: there will come a day when your suitcase, and the outfit you were expecting to wear for that very-important presentation, is stuck somewhere at Heathrow or Denver airport, and you're in Beijing or San Francisco, and who-knows if you'll ever meet up again. If you have a go-to outfit that can be replicated in any chain store, anywhere in the world, and you know your size in the country that you're in, it's easy to replace. Better an inexpensive-but-smart black-pants-black-shirt outfit from a Target or Tesco, than crumpled, travel-weary clothing with 24-hours on a plane and the excuse that your suit and tie is somewhere-else. (Just remember that if the airline finds your missing bag within 24 hours, you likely won't be reimbursed for the replacement purchase.) Don't forget the shoes: depending on the audience, business-casual sneakers might be fine, but in some places they will draw negative feedback from an audience member or seminar attendee. #yesthathappened  (Of course, buying a replacement outfit isn't an option when you arrive at 1 am and are the first to present at the next morning's conference. That's when you really wish you'd ignored the advice about checking luggage.)

Desert between Sacramento and Dallas
The world is a wonderful place... never stop exploring
(Don't) Feel the Burn
If you wear contact lenses and use peroxide lens cleaner, calculate how many hours you have to let them soak and neutralize. If you have to upload and edit photos before sleep, and then leave on an 8 am bus/train/plane, you likely don't have the needed six hours... take some other cleaning solution that doesn't need to neutralize, or daily lenses, for the short-sleep nights. Or have two sets of lenses and switch them every other day. And don't forget your spares...

Practice With That Backpack
If, like me, you're lugging a heavy set of camera, computing or video equipment around on your travels, make sure it's protected and safe, but also check the comfort of whatever you're carrying it in. Remember Only Take What You Can Lift: you are going to be carrying/moving this, no one else. If your backpack hurts after five minutes, find another. I recently bought a new pack with room for a 17" laptop, two camera bodies and multiple lenses. Everything fit, beautifully. However, the pack was designed for a person over six feet tall and with no boobs, and after lugging it onto and off of planes and trains it managed to break a small cyst I'd had for ages on my back. Which brings me to the next topic...

Deal With the Niggling Health Things Before You Leave
A niggling toothache can become a full-blown tooth abscess mid-flight, so get that toothache seen to. Now. Before you leave on the trip. Believe me... an abscessed tooth is agony, it wrecks your plans, and finding a good dentist isn't always easy in the middle of the desert! My middle-east-abscess wasn't preventable--it was under a crown that had been fitted just a few days earlier--but if you have experienced dental problems in the past, do get a checkup before you leave on that trek-around-the-world's-music-festivals. Your dentist might prescribe a course of antibiotics, just in case you need them. Oh and that little, ugly-but-harmless, cutaneous cyst on your back? It could be crushed by your heavy, uncomfortable backpack and wake you up the next morning, the size of an infected goose egg. #yesthathappened  Make sure you have all your medical insurance info with you. Know where to find emergency medical help on your travel route, whether it's local hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics provided by chain pharmacies/drugstores, or through information provided in your hotel. One day you might need it.

Chicago from above at night
Today is Wednesday... must be Chicago? Boston?
And May the Power be with you!!!
If you have a bunch of kit that needs to be charged during your trip--camera batteries, laptop, cell phone, etc. etc. etc., remember that not every lodging has the same number of power outlets as at home. Some hotels hide outlets behind furniture; some disguise them in lamp bases; some only have one outlet for the entire bedroom, and you'll have to disconnect the TV to use it. I always travel with a power strip--plug in one end, and you have five or six extra outlets. However... don't take the advice I once saw, to use a "home" power strip in a different country, together with a converter. It doesn't work. The hotel won't like you, not one bit! I have tested it, several times. I have fused the power in a single hotel room (twice, same night, Warsaw, Poland) and an entire hotel (can't remember where, pleading innocence, but it did happen). IT DOESN'T WORK. Better idea: pick up a local phone or battery charger or three. They are no longer expensive and you can often find them at those tourist shops, including for SLR camera batteries.

And talking of power... look at your itinerary and work out the worst-possible moment to be without a charge on your phone. 2 a.m. outside a remote concert venue, when you need to call an Uber or cab? The moment you arrive, over-tired and confused in a city half-way around the world, and can't remember the name or location of your hotel, and you didn't make a print out because you have it on your phone? Yep, that's when the phone will be dead as a doornail. Good thing you have a couple of fully-charged USB battery packs, right? You did put them in your pocket? With the right cable? And you remembered to charge them last night? Cool... you're all set!

Safe travels everyone. Have fun out there... and travel light! I'll see you on the road!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Saturday night, Sacramento: two shows, and guess who is, and who is not, welcome back to town?

Craig Mabbitt, vocals, Escape The Fate
Craig Mabbitt, Escape The Fate, at the Boardwalk
Saturday evening, the week before Thanksgiving, and there's a huge show planned at Sacramento's new Golden One Center: Kanye West is in town. People have spent a fortune on tickets; more than $100 for a lower-level seat, and if you have several family members together, that's a lot of hard-earned money. It's a really big event for the new downtown arena: a big-name star, appearing right in the heart of the rejuvenation of downtown! No doubt the show was impeccably staged, well produced, and beautifully lit--exactly what you'd expect from a major tour. However.

Elias Soriano, vocals, Nonpoint
Elias Soriano, Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
Across town, at a vintage, homely roadhouse, Orangevale's Boardwalk, an equally-excited crowd packs the venue. Whether they're waiting for teen-emo-metal-idols Escape The Fate, or mature, hardworking, dreadlocked rockers Nonpoint, they are all thrilled to be at the show. They are packing the venue to the doors, from 6 pm on, and guess what? They paid around $20 for the opportunity to see five bands, all of whom played their hearts out. The stage is tiny, the lighting almost non-existant, but the music was good and very entertaining, and lasted all evening long, beginning well before 7 pm and stretching towards midnight, with barely enough time to move equipment between each set.

Nonpoint, The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
It's the fourth time I've photographed Escape The Fate in as many years. On Saturday, they seemed really happy, enjoying the time on stage, and really having fun with the fans. (They are being helped out by drummer Trixx--Robert Ortiz is back home looking after family, new twins I think I heard!)

Escape The Fate
Escape The Fate, The Boardwalk
For sure, you all know what happened by now in downtown Sacramento. Kanye played two, or was it three, songs, had a long, meandering rant, and then walked offstage... after only about 30 minutes before his Sacramento-area fans. (Happily, tickets are being refunded. Sadly, he's cancelled the rest of the tour. No news on why. Maybe his fans, if any remain after this, deserve to understand why. Breaking news reports say the Kanye has been hospitalized. I hope he is getting the help he needs.)

BC Kochmit, guitars, Nonpoint
BC Kochmit, Nonpoint
The crowd who went to The Boardwalk, instead? They'll be happy to see Escape the Fate and Nonpoint back in town, any time they care to visit. Let's make it soon!!! (The moral of this story... it's not always the expensive shows that are the most enjoyable... and you don't have to spend a fortune to have a good night out, with excellent live music.)

The show was really tricky to photograph. Not quite as impossible as Echo and the Bunnymen, but close. Escape The Fate's set was bathed in pale, red light (hence most of the photos in the gallery being rendered in black-and-white). Nonpoint's set was lit by... just take a look at the gallery. It was not easy to capture in the camera, not at all, but hopefully the atmosphere comes across.

Nonpoint, The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
The Hate Poison tour continues: see here or here for dates around the USA. And check out Escape The Fate's new album, Hate Me, and Nonpoint's latest album, The Poison Red... yep, that's why this is the Hate Poison tour!!! (And note that Nonpoint will be joining Alter Bridge on tour in January... looks like a date in San Francisco in February... these guys never stop!)

Photo galleries:

- Nonpoint at the Boardwalk, Orangevale
- Escape The Fate at the Boardwalk, Orangevale
- other bands to be added here so come back!

P.S. The Boardwalk will be closing for a while in the New Year for renovation work. It will reopen as an 18+ venue.

Trixx, on drums with Escape The Fate
Trixx, on drums with Escape The Fate this week

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Photo gallery: John Wesley, Marillion North America tour 2016

John Wesley, Boston
Joh Wesley, on tour with Marillion, Boston, USA
Guitarist and singer John Wesley (Porcupine Tree, Sound of Contact) supported Marillion throughout the North America F.E.A.R. tour, and is also supporting them in upcoming European dates. This is a photogallery from the shows in San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

Check out the new album, a way you'll never be on John Wesley's website, and see the full photogallery here!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Marillion North America tour 2016: photos, review, an election, New Kings... and a few thoughts

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, The New Kings, Philadelphia USA
Late October-early November 2016, and I saw the opening show, and the final four shows, of Marillion's 2016 North America tour. It began at the Regency in San Francisco, and concluded on election night at Playstation Theater in New York's Times Square (more about that later), after Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. They've also been to Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec. Some members of the audience had been to each and every one of the shows, touring the two countries in parallel to the band; familiar faces in the front row, along with people just discovering the band for the very first time. Others of the audience had been to four or five shows, or just the one closest to home. (You can find all the Marillion North America 2016 tour photos by Alison Toon Photographer here, and you can obtain recordings of several of the shows right here.)

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, The Invisible Man, Marillion, New York 2016
Each of the venues, unique; Washington's was the 9:30 club, a venue that reminded me of Sacramento's Ace of Spades; Philadelphia, a dowager aunt of a genteel theatre, soft seats and no standing room; Boston, a beautiful venue that transformed not into a pumpkin, but a nightclub, at midnight; Playstation Theater, go-to venue for rock bands visiting the big apple. The size of the stage, the lighting rig, different in each. The videos playing behind the band, deepening the experience, flowing with the music, at each show of the tour.

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, Marillion, in New York, 2016
Touring with Marillion's latest album, F.E.A.R., (F*** Everyone And Run) which has received perhaps the best reviews of the bands 18-studio-album career, and the new music resonates in the live setting--and current world events. It's a protest album, but it's not Bob-Dylan-protest; it's progressive rock at its finest. Steve Hogarth is perhaps the most expressive vocalist you'll ever have the chance to see ("Man of a thousand faces"); Steve Rothery's soaring, serene guitar solos are a thing of tangible beauty; Pete Trewavas' bass, Mark Kelly's keys (wait, just wait for that solo in That Strange Engine), Ian Mosley on drums... this lineup has been together for closing in on thirty years, and it works so very, very well.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion in New York, 2016
It's also clear: Marillion fans are a little special. Not only do they follow a tour around a country or two, they travel around the world to see the band. I sat on the train from Philly to Manhattan talking to a guy and his wife who were over from England to catch the east coast Marillion shows, and it turns out we grew up and went to school in English villages, a couple of miles apart. Small world, when you listen to Marillion. Big family, when you listen to Marillion. This band does that.

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley, Marillion, in Boston, 2016
The new songs: the state of the world, the banks, the very rich (The New Kings); refugees, money, living in fear. The message is sad, but the message is enpowering, inspirational, beautiful. Take a listen. Listen again. Hear these words; feel the soul.

Final date of the tour: in New York, in Manhattan, in Times Square: November 8th, 2016. I will never forget that date, not ever. November 8th, 2016: they day America elected Donald Trump to the presidency. I spent all day walking the streets of Manhattan, up to Central Park, then down as far as Houston, along Bleeker Street, back up 6th Avenue and Broadway. Listening to music, watching the tourists and the residents and the street artists and performers; eating corn and cheese from a street vendor; hopeful for the election. Early evening, leaving my hotel for the venue, on foot, crossing 57th St., and a calvacade of black limos went by, a helicopter overhead, and I'd just seen these same cars on CNN: Hillary's crew heading for midtown. People on the street stopped, pointed, waved, smiled. And then the unforgettable show at the Playstation Theater: beautiful venue, hidden way underground, with areas for standing and comfortable, raked seats too, all with a good view, and a good lighting setup.

Fans watching Marillion, 2016, New York
Standing ovation: Marillion at the Playstation Theater, New York, 2016
Marillion opened the show with the charismatic, theatrical, emotional, Invisible Man. If you've never seen this live, find a recording. You will start to understand why Marillion's following is so very dedicated to the band, dedicated enough to have created crowdfunding to bring the band to the USA, way back, before it became a viable way for all bands to cover costs.  And then the heavy, ecstatic Power (from the previous album, Sounds that Can't be Made)... then the first new song of the night, Living in Fear, from F.E.A.R.  (Full set list here where you can obtain a download of the NY show, or here for other shows from the tour.) And so it went on... two hours or more. Beautiful. Moving. Inspiring. Happy, but the songs from F.E.A.R. especially poignant, telling, as we were starting to hear whispers of what was happening in the country upstairs and outside.

We are the new Kings 
We had the keys to Old Russia's locked doors 
We are the new Kings 
Here on the corporation's top floor

Mark Kelly, keys, Marillion
Mark Kelly, Marillion, in Philadelphia
November 8th, New York, Times Square. I had expected election night to be noisy, excited, rowdy, bustling, almost like New Year's, waiting for the ball to drop.

It wasn't.

Instead, Times Square was filled with people, all staring, wide-eyed, staring up, up at the news tickers; sombre, silent, stunned, like a spontaneous, unnatural, mannequin challenge. Even the cops, not moving, just looking up at the voting results scrolling across the face of a skyscraper, at one bleak result after another. New York, the most multicultural of multicultural cities: all those languages, all those people, all that diversity, and all that Trump in his top-floor citadel, wearing his New King crown.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
 Steve Hogarth, Marillion, New York, 2016
It was unnerving. It was bizarre. And quite honestly, scary. We, the people of the USA, all listened to the same election propaganda and speeches and presentations and proposals and announcements, and yet half of us heard change and a return to glory, and half of us (along with the rest of the world) heard hatred, racism, misogyny, bullying and wondered what was so glorious about an often-bankrupt, orange, reality TV personality. It's not about politics: this election was never about politics or policies and plans and taxes. It was about humanity, and how you see your fellow humans.

Well do you remember a time when you thought you belonged to something more than you? 
A country that cared for you 
A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed 
You poor sods have only yourselves to blame 
On your knees, peasant 
You're living for the New King

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, F.E.A.R., Philadelphia 2016
So... it was a wonderful Marillion tour, with a very memorable ending.

I'm so very happy to have been there to photograph the shows, and to experience, once again, Marillion show after show.  And I'll finish this with another quote from F.E.A.R., because I'm questioning my desire to be part of the society that this election portends (and because, in the words of the song, I'm a Leaver, too... you'll just have to listen to F.E.A.R. : you know me, you'll understand.):

And the hurt in your eyes, I know you know that I pray 
For the phone-call that takes me away

Photo galleries with many, many more photos:

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion, New York, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Photogallery: Marillion at the Royale, Boston, USA

Marillion tour 2016, Boston
Marillion tour 2016, Boston
Here's the photo gallery from the Boston stop of Marillion's 2016 North America tour. Tonight--USA Election Day--Marillion play New York city, at Playstation Theater in Times Square. Did you get your ticket???

Today... before the show, during the election stress... listen to F.E.A.R. It resonates.

Click on the image above to see all the photos, or click here on this link.

Galleries coming soon for the stops in Washington, Philadelphia, and today's show! (And here's a set from the opening night in San Francisco.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Aftershock: review and photos, Disturbed!!!

David Draiman, vocals, Disturbed
David Draiman, Disturbed, Aftershock festival
And Disturbed, at Aftershock in Sacramento, and ... so very very good. Always. (More photos here.)

John Moyer, bass, Disturbed
John Moyer, bass, Disturbed
Second chance to see them, and photograph them, this year. First was at Chicago Open Air, where they headlined the Saturday of the three-day festival, and brought heat and flames and pyro. And then again in late October at Aftershock in Sacramento, on the Sunday, just as night was falling: the backdrop gossamer-light squares of chainmail, the crowd enormous, reaching way, way back into the treeline at Discovery Park. Tens and tens of thousands of people.

David Draiman strides across the stage, from side to side, long black coat trailing in his wake, throughout the show. The set includes songs from throughout their career, and yes, it does include "that song": the one that so many people heard this year, and asked: "Is that really Disturbed???" (Yes, it is.)

David Draiman and Dan Donegan, Disturbed
Disturbed, Aftershock, Sacramento
There's definitely been an expansion of Disturbed's longstanding fan base since this summer's album, Immortalized, and it's stunning... yes, truly... cover of Simon And Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence.  If you want to know more about the choice and recording of this song, check out this interview on San Francisco's 107.7 The Bone radio station.
Dan Donegan, guitar, Disturbed
Dan Donegan, Disturbed
Mike Wengren, drums, Disturbed
Dan Wengren, Disturbed

David Draiman, vocals, Disturbed
David Draiman, Disturbed, Aftershock festival
If you are looking for other quieter, less-metal-more-melodic Disturbed songs, because before now, you thought that all they did was Down With The Sickness, then check out Darkness from Believe, Overburdened from Ten Thousand Fists, or their cover of Metallica's Fade To Black... David Draiman has one heck of a voice, whether it's rhythmic-staccato or whether it's powering to a crescendo of a Simon and Garfunkel classic. Genesis fans??? Check out Disturbed's cover of Land of Confusion. And then when you've checked all that, to listen to the rest of Disturbed's catalog... and add them to your collection.

On August 15th, Disturbed recorded a live concert at Colorado's stunning Red Rocks Amphitheater. The audio album is set for release on November 18th, and you can pre-order it here or at your usual online outlet--find out more on Disturbed's website.

Disturbed have a load of tour dates planned for Europe over the next few months: check the schedule here.

Many more photos from Disturbed's show at Aftershock are here in the photo gallery... and if you missed those from Chicago Open Air, click here!

Aftershock: photo gallery, The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen, vocals, The Pretty Reckless
Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless, at Aftershock
The Pretty Reckless, fronted by Taylor Momsen of Gossip Girl and The Grinch Stole Christmas fame from early in her career, this rock band from New York are seeing some heavy radio play for the song, Take Me Down--and had a huge, appreciative crowd at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. Strong, radio-friendly rock, with a pretty twist.

The Pretty Reckless are Taylor Momsen, Jamie Perkins, Ben Phillips and Mark Damon. Their album, Who You Selling For, is out now and available from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, and through the band's merch store for vinyl/merch.

Click here for all the photos!  The Pretty Reckless photo gallery

Taylor Momsen, vocals, The Pretty Reckless
The Pretty Reckless, Aftershock, Sacramento

Monday, October 31, 2016

Aftershock: photo gallery, Motionless In White... and how you can help them with the cover for their next album!~

Chris Motionless, vocals, Motionless In White
Chris "Motionless" Cerulli, Motionless In White

Ricky "Horror" Olson,  Motionless In White"
Faces pale and white, black, gothic clothes and at least one zombie-esque character on stage, Motionless In White bring hard, gritty, gothic-tinged-with-an-industrial-core metal from Scranton, Philadelphia. As well as touring this year, and several major festivals including Sacramento's Aftershock, the band is working on a new studio album, to be released in 2017 on Roadrunner Records, and entitled Graveyard Shift... and right now, they are asking for help creating the cover. You have until December 19th to enter the competition... go for it!!!

Ryan Sitkowski, guitar, Motionless In White
Ryan Sitkowski, Motionless In White

Devin "Ghost" Sola, Motionless In White

Josh Balz, keys, Motionless In White
Josh Balz, Motionless In White

Motionless In White
Vinny Mauro, Motionless In White
Here's 570... (which happens to be the area code for Scranton, in case you were wondering). Something to listen to while you look at the huge Motionless in White photo gallery from Aftershock!!!!