Nikon L35-AF, Fujifilm 400
Murky Sunday mornings on mundane carpark rooves, for what was likely less than fifteen minutes. Digbeth stinks of stale creativity, pink tinted inspiration, 14 floors above the familiar. This roll of film took me to Derby, Catalonia and back to Birmingham; the place that all my photography finds its home. I don’t know if this lingering pink tinge is resultant of that journey, of just a happy accident of budget Fujifilm. These photos are nothing more than a few stumbling minutes in bleak carpark wasteland.
Modelled by Liv Jarman, art student and all round dream girl, check out her photography here
Minolta SRT-100x, Fujifilm 400
FUJIFILM 400 ISO, ON NIKON L35-AF
Photos on Nikon L35-AF, Fujifilm 400 ISO
Gigs mid-heatwave are never the most pleasant, and the end of June was sweltering. There was nothing on anyone’s lips but complaints of the sweaty humidity, and even the vaguely quiet walk down Digbeth Street was heavy with stagnant lethargy. Men leaning against brick walls smoking straights, as if Central Birmingham had become a side street in southern Spain for just one afternoon. I staggered to a bench outside Mama Roux’s, under the not yet lit sign in some art nouveau font announcing the venue’s presence. Linen shirt sticking to my back I took a moment to breathe.
Head spinning. I glided almost drunk into the dimly lit New Orleans bar. Those starry spots dancing under my eyelids from the gloom. Fairy lights can’t quite match unrivalled midsummer sun. I take a pint of water from the edge of the bar and down it down in three gulps. Hydration is no joke. As I wander upstairs to the balcony, I can’t help but think how much cooler it is inside than out. Surely that can’t be right? Venues are sweaty. That’s the rules. Not this somehow well circulated paradise that I’ve entered; I think, gazing at my reflection in stark bathroom mirrors. I think that I’ve missed the first support band, but I can hear the first few chords of something, so I amble back down catch the start of Girl Ray’s set. Leaning against a pillar in the centre of the room. I almost regret that I hadn’t listened to them more before, as the songs they play just glide through my ears and out the other side. I recognise Trouble, from a forgotten Spotify playlist, so I nod my head a little more, and clap a little louder at the end. They have a refreshing energy and diversity in their music. Girl bands are scarce in this weird faux rock ’n’ roll scene of ours, and this is a breath of fresh air (down my neck, between my shoulder blades).
I lean against the wall outside. Eyes swim with vague recognition. I don’t care enough for anyone I see to approach them. Residing in some calm place of loneliness. As I contemplate wandering back inside a man with an Irish accent drags me over to him and his friend. We talk about art and Dublin, and contemplate political situations. Only vaguely. They check their watches and appear to know more about stage times than I do. As they slowly turn inside, I wave them away. I refuse to burden anyone with my presence, “I’ll catch you later,” I lie with a smile. In a moment I’ve been called over to another bench, where a man tells me to get the best roast dinner of your life in some back alley of Hereford. I laugh that I don’t eat meat, and he frowns,
“Wait, you’re not a Tory are you?”
I laugh again. This city is my escape from small town rural politics. They wander inside and I stay, thinking how it’s too hot to be smoking in 35 degree heat.
This isn’t California.
Slightly hazy on my feet, I hear the first few notes of Dave’s Song. A boy next to me rushes to crush his cigarette but under the heel of his left converse. The black one. I recognise the riff, recognise Max’s hand movements as he plays it; just at a faster pace than me on my nylon string acoustic at 5am. This song is how I fell for the band. Fitting that it’s the first they play. Such a delicate start, which soars into a chorus that hits you right in the pit of the stomach. Although melancholy, I find an inking of hope in this song. Perhaps futile optimism, but the crescendoes and calming repetitive melody set me at ease. By the time the trumpet kicks in towards the end, interspersed with Julian’s “woo hoos”, the crowd is swaying with tranquil vibrations, cut short by the finality of the songs abrupt close. Almost reflective of the themes that the lyrics themselves deal with.
The band launch themselves straight into the next song: No Matter Where We Go, which seems immediately more upbeat than the first. I brush past people I know too well, and stand at the front camera in hand. I know that cheap daylight film will do me no favours, but still I push past strangers to the front. Where the real photographers stand, who had the energy to contact a promoter and get in for free. None of my photos are amazing, but I’m absorbing the music too much. Feeling too much noise, not enough vision. This song is more positive, but still retains that almost hopeless optimism that Dave’s Song brings. Either promising or begging it is hard to tell. The next song, Polly, clearly establishes Light Upon The Lake as the breakup album that it is. The almost out of tune vocals set the chords on edge, creating an unnerving sensation, which only seems to increase as the drums and wind section kick in, “No No no no no, if only…” presents a continued hopeless longing. Accepting yet futile.
The trumpet solo at the end flows effortlessly into Red Moon, a lack of vocals for which Julian seems apologetic. Call and response of piano and trumpet starts the almost jazzy tune turning around I half grin at how fitting it is to the faux New Orleans bar in which they play. Vibrato on trumpet was always hard, but more than ever I find myself wishing that I had never given up playing the trumpet myself. Trumpet solos are underrated, especially in the genres of music that I tend to listen to. I curse my thirteen year old self, for thinking her chapped lips and red face were uncool. Imagine the solos I could play now, if only I had cared less.
During You’ve Got A Woman, I stand further back. My flash can only be hurting people’s eyes, and I justify my obtrusion in the sea of Instagram cameras that I now see in front of me. Even the pretentious social media deniers can’t leave this undocumented. You’ve Got a Woman flows lucidly into Golden Days. It’s poignant and sets the crowd swaying. Inside is now hotter than out, and sweaty denim jackets bob with Julian’s almost hypnotic rhythm. Somewhere towards the end of a song, a man in his mid twenties throws a water bottle of gin on stage. Straight. The band laugh in ridicule,
“Like fuck am I drinking that, man”,
and the bottle is thrown back into the crowd.
As the first chords of On My Own kick in I feel myself laugh inwardly at the song’s vague irony. Solitude is the most comforting thing at gigs. You feel everything more acutely, and my loneliness isn’t melancholy. The set drift on through The Falls and Follow, to rest, swaying, on the theme from Golden Girls. The band had never watched the show, and neither had I, but it retained some kind of familiarity to it, flowed with their other material. Its hard to know which of their songs is a cover or an original. Magnet I mistook for another original. Wondering vaguely why the crowd seems to know most of the lyrics to an unreleased song. The man with the bottle of gin is still bouncing at this point. I think I saw him later, head in his hands, trying to break into the band’s tour bus. Futile.
I’m dragged back to a sense of focus by No Woman. Cohesion again. The opening trumpet part pulling everyone back into the calm solitude of Julien’s lyrics. Soft confusion in the minor key of his vocals, everything is uncertain again. Hazy and incoherent, yet still recognisable. But the set is sad again, and the overwhelming sense of loss that threads its way through the entirety of Whitney’s latest releases is incessantly visible. The weight of confusion. and too much alcohol, pressing above everybody’s browbones. No Woman’s final chord fade off into the indigo air, sending us spinning once again into the forgotten streets of Digbeth. Left startled on a sweaty summer night after sundown.
Whitney’s next LP, Demo’s from Light Upon The Lake, will be released on the 10th of November.