Just looking at the date alone, makes this one difficult to type. Two hours can make a world of difference, and on this night it did, but I will get to that in a bit. I had missed my chance to catch Stiff Little Fingers when they had played here last year (through no fault of my own, I might add, I was available for the shoot). So I swore to myself that I'd ensure that I wouldn't miss them this time around. It felt like the longest year and a half too as the press releases for the Dublin date went out shortly after they had played here in May last year. But as the Subumans once said, "Time flies but aeroplanes crash".
And speaking of time flying, it had been two months since I had been in the main room at The Academy in Dublin which feels strange just reading that back seeing as I spend so much time there on a yearly basis. I even walk past the venue to get to most music venues that I work in night after night. So it was good to be back after such a long absence. I arrived at the venue early enough to set up my cameras, which will have 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses attached. Support came from Blood Or Whiskey, whom I've caught before supporting The All Time Low and Dropkick Murphy's in the past.
Just as Stiff Little Fingers are about to take to the stage, I have a quick word with security if it's ok to stand on the inside step of the barrier to get a crowd shot. One thing I've learned over the last few years of doing this, is that if you don't ask, you don't get. I wasn't expecting them to let me go ahead with it. I really should have packed a proper flash with me, but given that I generally don't use them in the pit, I'm normally not that bothered. The pitfall of using an onboard flash with certain lenses is the shadow that is often left in the bottom centre of the photo. Despite this, I'm still happy with the shot that I got above, but I'll make sure I'm better prepared for next time.
The show starts, and needless to say, trying to keep up with bassist, Ali McMordie is enough to save me a trip to the gym. He's not someone who likes to stay still for very long. Was also nice to see that Steve Grantley hasn't changed all that much since his performance with The Alarm in 2009 either! The Academy, as a venue suits this band down to the ground, with the lights being significantly lower than most of the gigs held there and the absence of the smoke machine of death (seriously, the smoke machine at The Academy is usually on constantly!) is more than welcome.
The Academy being The Academy, I went for low exposure on these, film speed at ISO1600, with most of the images at an aperture of f/2.8 and the shutter speed of 1/160sec. It did get dark in places so the shutter speed was dropped occasionally to 1/100sec, but reverted once the spotlights went everywhere to prevent them from being blown out. A year ago, I probably would have made the mistake of shooting bright and then bringing them down in post, but I've found the results in shooting low exposure much more accurate to what was on the stage at the time, because what most people don't know (or understand) is that the camera never gets an accurate representation of the image it takes by itself.
I left the venue, happy with what I had got, and then got a harsh dose of reality upon hearing the news of the tragedy that happened at Le Bataclan in Paris. While I was taking photos, others were held hostage and others were gunned down and killed. This really isn't something you expect to happen at a music venue, the one place that we are usually guaranteed a safe haven, somewhere to escape this kind of thing for a few hours occasionally. It's certainly not anything that I've ever had to imagine happen as someone who walks into music venues on a day by day basis because quite simply, I never had to. It took hours for me to get my head around what had happened, and then I went numb out of shock.
This act of terrorism forced a few artists to cancel their Paris dates over the course of the following week, and others to cancel their tours entirely, which is completely understandable. Stiff Little Fingers, to their credit returned to Paris only a few days after this show and played. They grew up in Belfast where there were threats of violence night in and night out in the 1970s, they saw the impact it had on them as performers, as well as bands they saw back then and they weren't going to allow history to repeat itself. I can only hope that the survivors of Le Bataclan can find the strength to carry on and rebuild.