gig-shots blog – concert photography from mike gatiss
How To Make An Impact On Your First Gig

It’s not just the music that people go to gigs for but it’s a fair comment to say that a lot of up and coming bands (as well as some successful bands)  forget that.  I remember seeing the Verve on the main stage at the V festival a decade or so ago.  Musically they were fantastic, and you’d have been hard pushed to tell the difference between listening to their live performance and their CD, but that’s part of the problem…

When I go to a gig, it’s to see the band playing their music in the raw, without all of the production tweaks that are routinely added in the studio.  I want to see the band enjoying themselves on stage and giving the performance everything they’ve got.  I love the fact that you can often get a different take on a track once you’ve seen it live.  I’ve been a fan of the Flaming Lips for a long time and their track “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” was an instant favourite of mine.  I loved the quirkiness of some little Japanese kid defending her little brother against giant pink robots (who wouldn’t), but when I saw them at Lovebox last year I saw another side to the tune, much simpler and much more powerful – it’s also a song about faith and love, having someone that you just know won’t let you down no matter how much the odds are stacked against you.  That’s something I would never have picked up on if I’d just listened to the album, so don’t worry so much about putting on a flawless performance, let the audience hear your sound in it’s raw state without processing the life out of it.

How many support bands have you seen that come on stage and hide behind their mic’s like the kid who won’t let go of his mummy’s hand on his first day at school?  Does the music sound good? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.  One thing is certain, the audience won’t be telling all their friends about this “great new band” they’ve seen.  To succeed on stage you need more than good tunes.  You need to entertain, you need to look like you’re enjoying yourself on stage, like you belong there and that everything you do in life is a means to getting yourself in front of an audience because that’s what you love.  Remember when you were a kid and you used to pretend to be a rock god singing along to your favourite songs, hairbrush mic’ firmly in hand?  Did you used to stand still or did you bounce around, dancing and completely losing yourself in the music?  That’s the attitude most fans want to see, and the reason I mention it is because that’s what most photographers and picture editors prefer to see as well.

One of the most common mistakes new concert photographers make is to come away with hundreds of shots of the artist looking like they’ve got the mic’ stuck up their nose.  Just like this one:-

Scouting For Girls @ Cabaret Voltaire

Yeah I’ve done it too, it’s easier to focus and judge the exposure when they’re stood next to the mic’ and with some bands there’s nothing else you can do as they don’t move away from the mic’, but the photographs that are remembered and have the most impact rarely have a mic’ up the performers nose.  Compare the above shot to this more recent shot of Jon McClure from Reverend & The Makers. 

Reverend & the Makers live at Manchester Academy

Technically the Scouting For Girls shot is sharper and better exposed but it doesn’t get across the atmosphere and excitement of the gig anywhere near as well as the Jon McClure shot, and excitement and energy are part of what sells tickets and CD’s.

If you’re in a band and want too look good in your photo’s, just put yourself back in front of the mirror, hairbrush in hand and let yourself go!

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