Monday, 30 September 2013

Life: Ice Hockey! University! Sweaty Trains!

One of my quickly flourishing interests consists of the sport of ice hockey. It's always been on my radar growing up in Bracknell Forest, home of The Bees - a team whose past definitely overshadows its present. However a few friends on the internet managed to convince me to watch the end of last season's NHL, where I took the New York Rangers as my own. On Saturday, however, I went to watch my home-town play in Peterborough. The Phantoms took a 4-1 lead heading into the final period before Bracknell scored two quick goals - one short handed - to set up a tense finale. Unfortunately they couldn't find a way through and the match finished 4-3. The bees did manage to rack up 28 PIMs though, which is really quite impressive. On Sunday they managed to win their first game of the season back at The Hive against Slough, so the weekend wasn't a total loss!

Heading back from Peterborough took an age. The two hour journey back being complemented with a half-hour wait in New Street, and an absolutely packed train back to Selly Oak. Train journeys aren't the most enjoyable things anyway, but I had to get back for the first day of uni today.

Which actually didn't go that bad, considering I was on campus from 9-5! Finding out that one of your lectures didn't actually have a room, and being e-mailed half way through you were being taught in a re-arranged room was interesting. Good to see everybody again, but selling bar crawl tickets on your own is a little depressing. Of course the best part of university is the student loan, which finally hit my bank. Everything I ever wanted. Excellent.

I also had some photographs of Night Verses featured in the new issue of Stencil Magazine. Check it out!

Now to try and get rid of this headache before cracking on with some Functional Programming. Concentrating is tough.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Life: The CSS and Peterborough

This year I'm part of the Computer Science Society (CSS), taking on the role as treasurer. Not a great role for me as personally I'm quite a long way overdrawn, but that's okay. Apparently I'm better with other people's money than my own - which should be getting a boost soon due to my student loan coming in.  Our official event of the year is to take the society, mainly new freshers, to discover the wonders of The Big Wok. It's not the nicest place in the world, it looks like a school canteen with probably lower hygiene standards. Anyway, we took over 100 people there and paid full price for every single one (c'mon lads, no group discount?). Unfortunately last year's committee took all the money + more and we're having to scrape some of that back before we can do anything big. So our planned trip to the Gadget Show got scrapped. Would've been great fun!

I'm thinking about getting involved in more societies this year. Photosoc is an obvious one, as is LUMSoc (Live and Unsigned Music Society). Tempted to get involved with the Redbrick - our student newspaper - photographers as well. All complimented by a healthy dose of squash. Although at this point I'm convinced any exercise may kill me.

Thursday I took a train over to Peterborough to see my girlfriend. She's just starting uni after taking a year out, and I did promise to come over at some point! Alas, she's gone for her induction so I'm stuck in her room unable to go outside on the nicest day of the year. Maybe I'll watch the Thorne DVD I got off lovefilm, something which I should probably stop now Netflix has a decent selection, is cheaper, and easier to split with someone. I've even, finally, started Arrested Development! This is progress.

I mean, something had to go wrong and unfortunately I missed out on Fall Out Boy tickets, again. If anybody wants to give me their spare please go right ahead. I thought I had one earlier but obviously we're talking about See, so I left empty handed. I chose to buy Reading Player instead - seeing as I can't listen to games without it at uni and it's very rare to be able to find a stream. I think whilst I was getting this more tickets went on sale - never stop checking until midday. Wish I'd remembered that. I did it for The Underworld gig...

Also! I am selling prints of a couple of photos, The 1975 and Maybeshewill, to try and get some money for food at uni. Please help me out if you at all can? Thanks!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

LIVE: Paramore

Five years ago I was lying on a sofa watching Kerrang! with a friend and on came the video for 'Misery Business', she already knew about Paramore and told me how amazing Hayley Williams was and since then I've been hooked on them. So, I feel that I should pre-face this review by saying that Paramore have affected my life more than any other band, mainly because of the friends I've made through them. Paramore are the reason I took a break with my ex-girlfriend, Paramore are the reason I'm into underground music, Paramore are the reason I can call people my friends, hell Paramore are the reason I'm into ice hockey - and they even helped decide which ice hockey team I'd call my own. Basically, a lot of aspects of myself trace back to when I was 14/15 and part of a Paramore forum that really did help shape me.

Tonight I journeyed to The LG Arena in Birmingham, not entirely sure of the emotions that I would have on the way out a couple of hours later. I'm not overly fond of the new S/T, and had bought a ticket mainly off nostalgia; The setlist, I knew, would be almost overwhelmingly from the band's new effort and I wasn't sure how that sat with me.

Bearing this in mind the fact that they opened with 'Grow Up', followed by 'Fast In My Car' meant that I wasn't overly thrilled. Then, 'That's What You Get' struck, and I remembered why I loved this band. She might have changed her hair (several times) but Hayley Williams is still one hell of a singer, and she's what makes them special. From then on in it was a hit fest. 'Decode', 'Ignorance' - a single which came out on my birthday in America, little fact for you there, and 'Now' - probably one of my favourite tracks off the new album - hit in quick succession.

Paramore made their name off big pop sing-a-longs, infested with catchy guitars, and lyrics about a - let's face it - young girl trying to find where she fits in. Sure, the style may have changed but the band's overall formula hasn't really altered. That said, 'Crushcrushcrush' is huge as always. The only thing that isn't so great is excitable Laura getting on stage to sing the final chorus of 'Misery Business', but it does give me a good chance to run to the loo before the encore brings 'Part II', an unnecessary Interlude, and 'Still Into You'; The single of the moment, even if it's still not caught on with me. Personally I don't understand why you wouldn't finish with 'Future', even if it's not a single it feels built to end a set. Even if that meant ending the 'main' set with it and bumping Miz Biz into the encore.

The first time I saw Paramore they played for an hour, and I left the venue with the sun still in the sky. There's no chance of that nowadays. Poster-girl Hayley Williams is the perfect show-woman. Prancing about the stage with so much energy it feels like she may explode.  Taylor York and Jeremy Davis compliment her perfectly, with their slightly mischievous-feeling stage antics. York is 23, and Williams is only a year older. Davis is the old-timer of the group at 28. This is a band that have a lot of legs in them if they want to keep going, but for a band that looked like self-destructing around the release of Brand New Eyes it's obvious that there's still growing that needs to happen. Hayley promised it wouldn't be three years until the next tour over this side of the Atlantic, and if they get any bigger in that time they'll be on the verge of outgrowing arenas and that's really something.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Life: Moving Back to Uni

So yesterday I packed up all my stuff at home, and my dad very kindly drove me up to Birmingham via my grandparents house. I'd gone down to my hometown to watch Reading play football, and snatch a dramatic, late 1-0 victory over Leeds, and former boss Brian McDermott.  As usual I'd made us late by not getting up in time, and unbeknownst to me my Nan had to leave to go to work at 1. Luckily we managed to get there and spend an hour chatting - and being force fed food - before we continued the trip up to the Midlands.

I've already lived in this house on and off for a month, as I've been paying for it since July so may as well use it! However some of the bigger items, my tv, record player, guitar I couldn't bring up on the train which is why my father was so gracious as to lend me his time. Alas I left the power cable for my turntable at home, so all the vinyl that was brought up is irrelevant until it can be posted - but hopefully that won't be too long!  I'd already needed to have my wallet sent up, something which I needed to trust my brother with - which was a bit of a difficult thing to do!

The problem is I already have a fair bit of tidying up to do. Keeping my room tidy has never been my forte, and because I brought up a load of still-dirty clothes I've got a good deal of washing to do too.  That said I've blocked off the chimney, and made it feel a little more like home so it's a good start - and the picture makes it look far worse than it actually is, I promise! Hopefully there's peace in this house this year, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Photography: 100,000 Views

Four years ago on August 24th 2009 I got my first photopass to photograph the beautiful Lights in Cardiff Barfly, and last night my flickr ticked over to the big 100,000. I admit, 25k of those views have come in the past month as views from my photos of ArcTanGent rocketed, and in July my set of 2000 Trees helped similarly. What tipped me over the edge were my photographs of The 1975. I feel it's fitting that one of the bands with the biggest hype has helped me reach this goal. It's completely mental to think about, and I still get the odd view on family photos and really, really awful pictures from when I went to gigs with a little compact camera.

I still use the same camera that I did from that first shoot, and yeah I'm looking to upgrade but it serves me well. I've bolstered that with f/1.8 50mm, f/2.5 17-55mm, and a f/4-5.6 70-300mm lenses - although the latter's mainly untouched, especially at indoor shows. I asked for my first photo pass just to shoot for myself, no publication or website attached and I've slowly got to know people from there, and I've even been considered one of the 'Rising Talent Photographers' over on, which is run by some fairly prestigious names in the Music Photography world - although unfortunately that never really fulfilled it's potential.

All I'm trying to say is that really corny, if I can do it you can do it too. If not music photography then pick up a camera and shoot what you love. It really is rather rewarding, and those views are just a way of reassuring myself that people like what I'm doing. So far they do!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

LIVE: The 1975

When I applied for a photo pass in December 2012 for The 1975 little did I know I'd be shooting one of the UK's hottest bands come September. Unfortunately in December there was a mix-up, and I wasn't on the list - nobody was - but this led me to get the chance to photograph the band in Birmingham Institute's main room, rather than the smallest that I originally applied for. The only downside being that I'd already organised a trip home - meaning having to come back up to Birmingham solely to shoot the show before heading back to Reading the next morning.

That said, it was well worth it to see the band that have spent years toiling away under different pseudonyms finally strike big. The room was absolutely packed to bursting point with people, waiting to hear tracks from the band's number one, self-titled album. Frontman Matthew Healy oozes charisma and bounds all over the stage, always returning the crowds affections when they should proffer them.

The crowd may have come mostly for the 'hits' but the band are gaining popularity all the time. A sold out show at Brixton and in Manchester have seen extra dates added for both, plus a show at the O2 Academy Birmingham - yet another step up from The Institute.  Whether they have the staying power might be something a little different, they've got a formula and they stick with it - I just hope it doesn't harm them in the long run.

At the very least though, The 1975 are such a nice band to photograph, their light show and backdrop make for something different than the monotonous black backgrounds that you so always end up with at these kind of shows. Click on the photo to redirect you to the set on flickr!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Television: Magician Impossible

There are few things in this world that scare me; roller coasters, heights, spiders, moths, flying, coaches, dying alone; you get the picture. However Steven Frayne, more commonly known as Dynamo, takes that to a whole new level. I'm honestly scared that the man could kill me with a playing card, or my own festival wristbands. The tricks that he manages to do are completely astounding, such as predicting future newspaper headlines, moving people's tan lines, and what about walking on water? The man is a freak.

That said, it's television. There must be some element of camera trickery there that other magicians, the poor street musicians lack. There must be. Tell me there is. My mother's started believing that Dynamo is actually magic, and I must say I'm starting to believe her.

Friday, 13 September 2013

LIVE: Keaton Henson

Keaton Henson is probably one of the most adorable people in the world of music at the moment. He suffers from fairly major anxiety, and so last night playing in front of 1,000 people at The Emmanuel Centre in London must be one of his worst nightmares. In his tradition of not playing mainstream venues, earlier in the year he did a tour of museums, tonight's venue is a gorgeous church with the most perfect tiered seating as so to offer a view to every member of this evening's crowd. Who are as diverse a bunch as you'll find. Many still have work attire and briefcases, whilst others look more suited to a One Direction concert. Either way, when there's more glasses of wine than any other beverage you know you're in classy company.

Starting off with his string quartet's slow build, Henson walked in to a huge round of applause - maybe not the best way to greet a man who sings that "the crowds unsettle me" but it set the tone for the evening nonetheless. Between songs you can tell the man's incredibly uncomfortable, taking sips of water, deep breaths and pushing his hair back into place, but the fact that when he starts playing everything that resonates from him is perfect is a testament to him. "Thank you all for coming... This is fucking terrifying" he exclaims a few songs in, as well as "Shh... You'll frighten the quartet". He's not a man without humour, and many of his words between songs bring some light relief to an intense hour of music.

Of course everybody came for the heartbreaking melodies, combined with anguish-fuelled lyrics - and they might wish they hadn't because it was absolutely perfect. Keaton's naturally soft voice, combined with the atmosphere within the room created something magical. Closing with 'You' before leaving to a standing ovation. Luckily he came back to play his cover of 'You Were Always On My Mind'.

There's no doubt that the sky's the limit for Mr Henson, it really just depends how high he wants to go.