Gig Photography

Ever since I first went to see live bands I’ve wanted to capture the moment on film. I’d grown up reading Sounds, NME and Melody Maker and I loved the black and white photographs of musicians that graced their pages. In th early days I soon learned that the Instamatic type cameras with magicube flashes weren’t going to work because the flash didn’t travel anywhere far enough and usually lit up the crowd in front of you. If you did get close enough the fixed shutter speed meant that whatever you were photographing just became a blur like the picture of Michael Schenker rocking his flying V at the Newcastle Mayfair in June 1978 above.

I think it was my Dad who mentioned the concept of “fast film’ to me so I went off to the photoshop and nervously asked if they had any – to my surprise they answered “Colour or Black and White?” and as the photos I was used to were usually monochrome then I ended up purchasing a roll of 400asa Ilford film. My Dad then loaned me his trusty old Halin and I tried it out at a Rory Gallagher concert at Newcastle City Hall in April 78 (NB the UFO picture was probably because I didn’t want to take my Dad’s camera to the Mayfair!)

The next attempt with the Halina was when I went to see Eric Clapton in November 78 – this time I went with colour film and also got to photograph the late great Muddy Waters. I soon realised that my Dad’s old rangefinder camera wasn’t going to cut it so for my birthday I got a Zenith E and then later bought a 125mm lens to go with it! I took it to gigs for the next couple of years and had some success with it!

It was very hit and miss and depended on getting a good seat down the front! The bouncers at the City Hall were quite lenient and sometimes would let me go right to the front to take a couple of shots! The processing was also hit and miss and sometimes the prints would come back with weird colours (it was only much later that I discovered these could be corrected and when I scanned them in I saw them in their correct colours for the first time almost 30 years later).

When I went to University in Salford in 1980 I rightly or wrongly assumed that I wouldn’t be able to get my camera into gigs so I kind of stopped taking it! Looking back it was a shame because I saw some great acts during that time like U2, The Beat, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen etc and for the vast part of my university days I was on the guest list for every event at the university! The only two times I remember taking photographs was at Aztec Camera (below) and for one of my mates bands. Looking back I seem to recall only agreeing to take the photographs of his band if they paid for the film and processing so maybe money was a factor too!

After University I went to live in London and the South East where I discovered that it was a lot harder to get decent tickets for gigs! I lived there for nearly 30 years and despite going to lots of gigs I didn’t really get back into taking photos with a proper camera again. Shame really as I saw lots of great gigs I could have photographed featuring the likes of The Grateful Dead, Gil Scott Heron, Billy Bragg, Lynyrd Skynyrd (the reformed version obviously), Roy Harper, Pink Floyd. the best I did was take the odd shot with a point and shoot camera.

It wasn’t till around 2003 when former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir brought his band over for two tours that I started to get interested again! He had bought a semi-decent digital camera and had taken some good shots and frankly I was envious! I had a point and shoot digital camera but as you can see above it wasn’t much good! As soon as I was able I bought myself a similar camera second hand off eBay! I mostly took photos of local bands in and around Medway where I was living.

It also helped when in 2007 I had my own festival to take pictures at!

Then in 2008 I discovered something else – I could use my mobile phone to take semi-decent pictures too!

So ever since then I’ve got the bug again and these days my mobile takes almost as good pictures as the Nikon DSLR I’m using! It has also helped that I have now moved back to the North East and I’ve been enjoying the ability to get good seats at venues again (at least the sort of music I want to go and see anyway!)

What I’m finding is that rather than when I first started back in the 70s where I was lucky if I got one or two good shots out of 24 exposures I’m now ending up with more pictures that I know what to do with once I’ve put a few on Instagram, Flickr or Facebook! So as well as the reviews in the music section i thought I’d start a gig photography section where I will be adding the photos on their own. Obviously it’s all going to take time to sort out but I’ll keep adding them as I go along! Select the pages from the drop down menu at the top of the page!

All photos ©Kevin Geraghty-Shewan (deadheaduk)

From Top:

UFO, Newcastle Mayfair 23rd June 1978

Rory Gallagher, Newcastle City Hall 11th April 1978

Muddy Waters, Newcastle City Hall 25th November 1978

Thin Lizzy, Newcastle City Hall  12th April 1979

Genesis, Newcastle City Hall 29th April 1980

Rush, Newcastle City Hall 24th April 1979

Aztec Camera, Salford University SU, 16th MArch 1983

Ratdog, The Stables, Milton Keynes 25th August 2003

The Fatal Fools, Rochester Castle 21st July 2008

Didi Bergman, Command House Chatham 24th April 2011

Difford & Tilbrook (Squeeze), SoL Party 7th July 2007

Gong, The Forum London 15th June 2008

Terry Riley, The Sage Gateshead 14th October 2018

Aguilar Blumenfeld Project, SoL Party 4th August 2018

Misty in roots, The Cluny 2 Newcastle 11th May 2018