Ty Segall + Tiny Migrants @ Woodland, 07.07.11

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Ty Segall @ Woodland

 by Justin Edwards

Another Thursday night gig, another Thursday night at Woodland, and another gig where I only know the headline act by reputation and recommendation rather than a real familiarity with the songs.

The times have been put up on Facebook, but based on previous form I’m not too worried to be running more than 20 minutes late for opening act Martyr Privates. However, for once the right times had been advertised and I arrive just in time to for the last 20 seconds of their set. I have time to get my camera out of my bag, take the lens cap off, turn it on, and line up my first shot, but not enough time to take a single photo before they finish and start putting their instruments down.

But then Woodland resumes normal service and there’s a massive gap before Tiny Migrants. From memory, it was going on for an hour between bands. Time goes really slowly in Woodland when there’s nothing to do, nothing to look at and when the DJ is playing tunes at the usual deafening volume. It’s the first time I’ve seen Tiny Migrants, having managed to miss them a few weeks before when they played with Undead Apes at X&Y. They’re another Velociraptor side-project, with three of the band plus Jacinta from Butcher Birds/Keep On Dancin’s on guitar and vocals. Although there’s no keyboards it really reminds me of the early B-52s; I think it might be the way the male and female vocals are used and interact with each other.

After another long wait, eventually Ty Segall starts. It’s a false start though as there are, despite the lengthy set up and soundcheck, instant problems with the bass, rectified by a change of lead.

Although this is being written up only a few weeks later, the details of the night and of Ty Segall’s set are lost on me. As I tweeted someone the next day who asked how it was, it was OK. (From memory the whole tweet went along the lines of “It was OK. The crowd was annoying. The drummer was hot.”) It was a bit grungey, a bit punk. It might have reminded me a bit of Dinosaur Jr, the guitar soloing perhaps (or that might just be a false memory in trying to recall something from the night). It probably did also remind me of Nirvana (but maybe that was the lumberjack shirt and blonde hair … ).

[Here’s a video from five nights earlier someone posted on YouTube]

Even with the night fresh in my memory, it hadn’t made much of an impression on me. Although I think this was a lot to do with trying to photograph it and get some photos that I could submit the next day for potential publication. Sometimes when it’s tough photographing, as it almost always is at Woodland, your efforts are so focused on photographing that the music just washes over you and even straight after the set you find it hard to recall much about the music, the songs or anything that happened that you didn’t see through the viewfinder. It is the real downside of photographing gigs as it goes a long way to destroying live music in your life. When you have a camera, it’s easy to miss the music. This is especially true when it’s a venue with poor lighting and no restrictions. And it’s why the three-song-rule can be a good thing, as it forces you to put the camera down. On the other side, when you go to see gigs without a camera, you get very fidgety, find it hard to relax and concentrate solely on the music, and are always looking at the performance in terms of the visuals and what would have made a good photo. Despite all that, everyone still wants to be a music photographer.

8 Responses to Ty Segall + Tiny Migrants @ Woodland, 07.07.11

  1. Victoria Birch August 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    So, in summary: you were late, spent a lot of the time arseing about with your camera and can’t actually remember too much about the bands you were there to see. The photos are great; the words are totally superfluous.

  2. Darragh August 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Victoria – you should read Justin’s other publications on Woodland. He arrived late presumably because Woodland frequently publish misleading set times but, in this case, for once started a gig on time. As for the words, I get the impression Justin is saying ‘the gig was difficult to remember because it was ultimately not a very exciting or interesting gig.’

  3. Victoria Birch August 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Darragh – Yep, I get why he was late, but it sounds like ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse to me. I also figured that 90% of the text is dedicated to stuff other than the bands because Justin was bored by what he was watching. I just think there are better ways of conveying that point – like making some attempt to explain why he was bored. Being tied up with taking photographs doesn’t cut it (why bother with the review at all?). Tweets about the ‘hot drummer’ didn’t help and neither did the step by step guide to rock photography in the last paragraph.

    I’m all for using the abstract to make your point but this just seemed totally irrelevant.

  4. ed August 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    “Being tied up with taking photographs doesn’t cut it”

    Yes it does, that was the whole point. When you photograph a gig sometimes it’s fairly straightforward and easy, sometimes it isn’t. Woodland isn’t the best place to photograph because the lighting is always terrible and there’s not great angles thanks to the DJ booth on the stage and that weird perspex set up on the other side unless you want to stand right at the front and middle of the stage (which given the mosh I didn’t really want to do). When the environment makes it harder to do and you have to focus on getting some photos that you feel happy to submit for publication the next morning you often find that the music just washes over you.

    It wasn’t not being able to remember and it wasn’t a case of it not being exciting or interesting; it might have been the best gig ever or it might have been the worst. It’s just that 10 seconds after that gig I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much than I did about it; it just didn’t register in the slightest. That’s what I was trying to explain (obviously poorly) in the “step by step guide to rock photography in the last paragraph”.

  5. Victoria Birch August 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Ed – nope, you explained it fine – I got the whole bit about how difficult it was to shoot (and the photos are great). My point is that a review about two bands ended up as a piece about why you couldn’t review two bands. I found it a frustrating read because I felt there was a total disconnect between you and the music (which clearly there was). And I really wanted to know about the music.

    I don’t really understand why the text was necessary. The photos would’ve perfectly okay on their own.

    Maybe it was a mistake to frame it as a ‘review’. A straight-up piece about photographing musicians would’ve been interesting – particularly how you feel when that disconnect happens. Assuming you love your music I can only imagine it’s bloody frustrating.

  6. Everett True August 11, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Maybe it was a mistake to frame it as a ‘review’.

    That might be a fault on my part, Victoria. Quite a while back, I encouraged Justin to run to ramp up his commentary alongside his photographs (on his own blog) because I found it fascinating to read a photographer’s perspective on live shows. I still find it fascinating. His ‘reviews’ aren’t intended to be such – well, certainly not in the traditional music criticism sense (but that’s something I’d like folk to move away from on Collapse Board anyway). More, they’re adjuncts to his photographs: imagine the website as a virtual art gallery, and imagine the various paragraphs of text under each photograph, increasing understanding and illuminating certain points. That’s how I see it, anyway. But obviously, Justin’s articles are flagged up under LIVE REVIEWS so I can understand why there might be confusion as to their purpose. I’m not quite sure how else to list them, though. Strictly speaking they are live reviews, just not written from a traditional music critic perspective, that’s all.

  7. Darragh August 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I like em like this. Reading about ‘music’ is boring. I like to find out why people get pissed off or feel a lack of engagement or feel elated. Whether some band I’ve never heard of played a certain song I’ve also never heard of has no value.

  8. Victoria Birch August 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Darragh – I definitely wasn’t hankering after a linear account, bands in chronological order and a full set-list run down. I just think that no matter how abstract the device and regardless of the perspective, shouldn’t music be at the heart of things?

    I actually liked Justin’s piece more when I thought he was using his preoccupation with the camera as a means of saying how bored he was. But I think he was actually just busy trying to get some good shots. Which is fine, I guess, but it seems a fairly prosaic reason for not engaging with the music.

    For me, the bit that was missing was an emotional connection – good or bad.

    You say that you want to know why people get pissed off or feel disengaged etc but surely you’re not interested if I’m (as a writer) disengaged from the music because it’s taken me half an hour to get a beer at the pub next door.

    That’s how this felt to me. I wanted Justin to bridge the gap between his technical work and the music. Why was he able to stay so focused? Why didn’t the music knock him off his stride? Did it bother him that he may have missed something incredible because he was so attentive to his camera? What does it feel like to have to manage the tension between wanting to listen but having to ‘work’ ? He hinted at this with the following:

    “It is the real downside of photographing gigs as it goes a long way to destroying live music in your life. When you have a camera, it’s easy to miss the music.”

    I found that line really confronting, very sad and wanted much more of it, because if you take music out of the equation (and your connection to it) isn’t it just a broad account of what it is to be a writer/photographer/lighting person etc?

    I love the idea of using text to expand on the imagery (although I’d have limited interest in a purely technical shot-by-shot commentary). And I think getting the perspective of photographers, sound-mixers, roadies or whoever an awesome idea. I suppose I was looking for a more emotional viewpoint from this particular review-that’s-not-a-review.

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