Barry Adamson

12998389_1016485181722042_6902795754917302443_o.jpgLampy and I always try and make it to Rough Trade East for the soundcheck when were about for an in-store event. The journey from the western margins of this fair city to Brick Lane is often a bit of an epic, involving as it does a bus, the outrageous vagaries of Southwest Trains and either the over or underground and potentially a brisk walk. An astrological alignment of some importance is required to guarantee that we escape the office at a decent time, Southwest Trains are on time and there’s a seat on the train… (That last point requires a lot of planets to do their thing!)

Why go to such effort you might ask? Why not just turn up for the gig, you’re only taking photos after all, right? From a practical standpoint, Lampy gets to make sure that the lights are actually pointing at the artists (and conversely that no-one’s got so many lights pointed at them they require sunscreen), and I get to work out where I’m going to stand and where the sight lines are through the mountains of kit some bands bring with them (all useful preparation!)

13064578_1016485578388669_5678577787433668822_oBut necessities aside, the reason I love watching the soundcheck is that it’s fascinating… It’s a special moment where, if you’re lucky, you get to see a glimpse of the real personalities of the performers before the act begins. 99% of the bands I’ve had the fortune to meet at Rough Trade have been really friendly, incredibly professional, and a great pleasure to talk to as they get set up. There are of course exceptions…

One of the most cringeworthy soundchecks I’ve seen was a certain psych-rock band that not only brought their own sound-man rather than using the venues engineer, but also several times their own body weight in effects-pedals… Setting up the band’s kit looked… “Complicated”. The drum kit was barely visible behind all the clamps, stands and wires required to support the myriad of microphones attached to it. As the lead guitarist and vocalist started to test the set-up it became apparent that neither the sound-man or the artist appeared to really understand the purpose of soundchecking or their individual roles in the process. The bass player got quite upset that his guitar didn’t appear to make any sounds and had to be reminded that not only does the wire need to be plugged in to the guitar, but the other end also needs to be plugged in to the amp.

The result? A set notable for it’s solid wall of fuzzy reverb which thickened with every strum of the guitar and pulsed with interference tracing the front line in the titanic battle between the warring pedals, each of which fired off salvos peppered with ever more exotic frequencies and waveforms with every stomp the guitarist applied to the pedal board. The resultant wall of solid, fuzzy, reverb cleverly masked any vocals and most of the beat and never really subsided between songs. Instead as each new track started, the warring pedals began their next sonic offensive…

Barry Adamson
Small Amp Syndrome?

Barry Adamson’s soundcheck was far more cringeworthy than this, but for different reasons.

A certain rather public lack of professional courtesy aside, Barry’s set and stage show was actually really good fun, exactly as you’d expect from an artist of his musical caliber. Barry delivered his often playful lyrics, with gravelly tones filled with character and his distinctive guitar playing was suitably dark, grungy and deeply infused with the blues (and an IPad attached to the microphone stand provided the backing track and effects…) There not being a whole heap of kit on the stage, Lampy was able to light the backdrop separately from the performer and made use of the warm amber light provided by new birdies to provide Barry a flattering light that was great to photograph.

Rough Trade East 12/04/2016

More photos here…

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