josh guitar
Exit stage left

For the past 10 years I’ve been shooting bands during soundcheck, capturing those moments long before the doors open and the venues fill with people. It’s a different side of music photography, I think. Most nights, by the time the band make it to the stage, I’m done.

Sometimes, however, it’s nice to capture the performances. I wrote recently about heading out on the road with Buffalo Tom, the Boston power trio who have been one of my favourite bands since the mid-1990s, and how nice it is to capture the whole touring experience – from the soundchecks and empty venues to the sweat-soaked encores. Another artist I’ve headed out on tour with, and shot several times at soundcheck, is US singer-songwriter Josh Rouse.

The above shot is not from a soundcheck but from a promotional gig Josh did around this time last year. It was a rainy night in London, and Josh, based now in the Spanish city of Valencia, was over doing press for his forthcoming album ‘The Happiness Waltz‘. To mark it, he held a free gig upstairs in Camden’s Lock Tavern, on a tiny stage in the corner of the room, playing to a packed room of those who’d heard about it on social media.

I had only enough time and elbow room to knock off one roll of film during this night. While my soundcheck stuff is shot on a pair of Nikons, I like making my performance shots look a little different – so instead of Fuji Neopan film it’s Kodak’s classic Tri-X, and instead of the Nikons I shoot on Pentax ES IIs. The ES II is my favourite 35mm camera – the last of Pentax’s classic 60s/70s cameras to use the famous Takumar screw-mount lenses.

There may be no clue to the fact this is in fact Mr Rouse, but this is one of my favourite of my recent music pics. The vignetting from the Takumar lens gives that beautiful tunnel vision impression around the corners, while the high-contrast Tri-X gives deep darkness to the shadows. The scuffs and marks on Josh’s guitar stand out under the lights, the brickwork a blur behind. It’s a scene that could come from any night-time bar anywhere in the world.

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Stephen Dowling
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