Christine and the Queens (photo: Ian Young)
I spent the majority of 2018 on the road and in the air, shooting shows and festivals in Iceland, Switzerland, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Netherlands and, of course, the Bay Area. It was a year filled with firsts (first time shooting Nine Inch Nails, Janelle Monae, Depeche Mode, Sonar, Pohoda, Openair St. Gallen) and plenty of favorites (Iceland Airwaves, Outside Lands, the return of Treasure Island Music Festival, Chvrches and — nerd alert — my 41st Pearl Jam show).
Here are a few photos and moments that stood out.
18. The Bloody Beetroots Live at Electric Castle Festival in Cluj Napoca, Romania
I’ll be honest: I do not like this band. I did not like this festival. But OMFG are these guys fun to shoot.
17. The Y Axes at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco
One of my favorite local bands to listen to and watch live, The Y Axes had a busy and productive year, playing dozens of shows in the Bay Area. With psychedelic visuals and enthusiastic performances by each band member, it’s always a treat to see this foursome perform.
16. The crowd at Openair St. Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland
I went into this festival not knowing anything about it (I couldn’t even point out where St. Gallen is on a map). But one thing that wasn’t lost in translation was the language of rocking the fuck out. This photo was taken as a band whose name I can’t pronounce was singing in a language I can’t understand while smoke bombs filled the tent with air I couldn’t breathe. Party on, Switzerland!
15. Aurora at Pohoda Festival in Trencin, Slovakia
Aurora’s stage presence and confidence has grown in leaps and bounds since I first saw her at Iceland Airwaves in 2015, and her growing popularity and rabid fans prove her hard work has all been worthwhile. Not that it looks like “work” at all to the Norwegian singer. On the contrary, she looks perfectly at home on stage and exudes so much warmth, charisma, and gratitude that you can’t help but beam back smiles.
14. Dream Wife at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco
This was the first show I had shot at Cafe du Nord since it was re-transformed back into a music venue, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite clubs in the city. Just the right size, just the right volume, just the right vibe. And Dream Wife was just the right band to tear the (low) roof off this place.
13. Mammut at a secret show in a former brothel in Reykjavik, Iceland
On the first day of Iceland Airwaves, I was invited to attend an “event” by Icelandic rockers Mammut. What I didn’t know was this event would be at an out-of-town strip mall in the basement of a former brothel and include human sex dolls and a private candlelit concert.
12. GoldLink at Secret Solstice Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland
This was the second summer I’ve spent in Iceland shivering in my soaked shoes, but Secret Solstice always brings a lineup that’s as unpredictable as Icelandic weather. While Slayer headlined on Sunday, GoldLink and Gucci Mane took the stage on Saturday. GoldLink’s set was punctuated with some enthusiastic water throwing, and while I wasn’t thrilled with getting even wetter, at least I walked out of the muddy pit with this photo.
11. Santigold at Music Tastes Good in Long Beach
Santigold doesn’t bring the party — she is the party. Her raucous set culminated in an on-stage dance party with the crowd (and myself) climbing barriers and speaker stacks to participate.
10. MuseLess at Sonar in Barcelona, Spain
My first Sonar festival did not disappoint. The good vibes, incredible weather, and beautiful location were the perfect backdrop for three days of music discovery. I showed up early to catch Laura Llopart, aka MuseLess, play a mind-bending set flanked by a foursome of gyrating dancers.
9. Kronos Quartet at Pohoda Festival in Trencin, Slovakia
San Francisco’s own Kronos Quartet made a triumphant appearance at a festival that billed traditional Slovakian bands and local indie artists alongside the Chemical Brothers, St. Vincent, Aurora, and more. The contemporary quartet tackled everything from classical mainstays to a track from its soundtrack for the Fountain.
8. Tame Impala at Treasure Island Music Festival in Oakland
Another confession: I’m not really a Tame Impala fan. But I had seen photos of their crazy confetti cyclone and I knew I wanted to capture it. So even though this photo doesn’t feature a single member of the band — or even the stage — I still think it encapsulates the feeling of being at a Tame Impala show.
7. Julien Baker at the Fox Theater in Oakland
A voice so powerful, screaming out into the void. Julien Baker has always had the ability to connect with her audience in a way that makes everyone feel like each song was written specifically for them. This is the type of show where I set my shutter to silent mode and soak in as much of each moment through my eyes and not just through my viewfinder.
6. Florence + the Machine at Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco
This set was a gift from the photo gods: Beautiful wraparound multi-level stage, atmospheric background lights and clear, and precise front lighting. And of course Florence Welch, who wore a flowing sheer dress that seemed to defy gravity as she glided barefoot around the stage like a graceful gazelle.
5. Orbital at the Midway in San Francisco
I first heard “The Box” on my local radio station, Seattle’s 107.7 The End, in 1996 and I’ve been hooked since. It took me 22 years to finally see the Hartnoll brothers perform and it was everything my 17-year-old self wanted: big beats, bright lights, and of course, their signature flashlight glasses.
4. Shame at Treasure Island Music Festival in Oakland
Nevermind the misnomer of a name — TIMF is back and the world is a better place for it (Side note: I think OMF has a nice ring to it). British band Shame may not be a household name, but anyone who saw — or, more appropriately, heard and felt — the band’s bonkers set won’t forget who they are. Frenzied dancing, leaping, and some epic crowdsurfing all made for a spectacle that left the audience busy Googling who it was they just saw.
3. Nine Inch Nails at Openair St. Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland
The most amazing part of shooting one of my favorite bands for the first time was I walked out of the pit with photos that belonged to me. NIN has a notoriously prohibitive, and some would say exploitative, photo release, but for this show I didn’t have to sign my life away. The shoot was as hectic, intense, and manic as their music, and I loved every strobe-filled second of it.
2. Hormonar at Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik, Iceland
If I’ve met you, you’ve probably had to suffer through me gushing about how Iceland Airwaves is the best music festival on Earth. And it’s bands like Hormonar that make the festival as special as it is. An Icelandic feminist punk band, Hormonar’s live show is unpredictable, wild, impassioned, and loud. This past November I saw the band twice. The first time, at a dark, dingy club called Gaukurinn, singer Brynhildur Karlsdóttir jumped into the crowd and gave my brother a kiss on his forehead. The second time, at an afternoon show in a hotel lobby bar, Brynhildur jumped into the crowd and smacked my brother in the face as she started a mosh pit. I’m still not sure which experience he loved the most.
1. Christine and the Queens at the Fox Theater in Oakland
No surprises here. This was the show to end all shows. Héloïse Letissier is a storyteller, and her narratives unfold through song, dance and stage design in a way unmatched by other bands or stage productions. Everything you see is part of a story she wants to tell, and you’re so mesmerized by the spectacle that you have no choice but to soak it all up using all your senses. I walked out of that show with some of the best photos I’ve ever taken, but it’s Chris that gets the credit for creating moment after moment after moment of frame-perfect performance.