We’re introducing you to some of the freelancers we work with regularly as we raise money to get them through Covid-19! First up, photographer Simon Ayre takes us through some of his favourite Clwb shows he’s photographed. You can donate here.
Jim Jones Revue
8th October 2012
I first heard of Jim Jones Revue after a few friends went to see them at Latitude in 2010, despite their reviews I wasn’t ready for the onslaught when I finally saw them a year or two later. I’ve photographed them at Clwb twice and the mixture of a dark stage and so much energy makes it incredibly challenging to get a decent photo. I’m not a person that likes to get out of his comfort zone, and I’ve photographed plenty of loud bands who play up to the camera, but photographing Jim Jones Revue almost filled me with fear. An amazing band.
Frankie and the Heartstrings
25th February 2011
Frankie and the Heartstrings had a fantastic buzz about them when they played Clwb in February 2011 and it was easy to see why as soon as they started playing. They’ve got some really catchy songs and Frankie Francis was an absolute joy to photograph. There was one particularly harsh spotlight aimed towards the front of the stage that night- incredibly bright compared to the rest of the stage- but he’s so expressive and he looked amazing in nearly every photo.
7th May 2011
I’m an incredibly boring person (you should absolutely not see my record collection) and I like to know my boundaries and feel safe in the predictability of watching bands sometimes, so I was a bit nervous when I got asked to photograph Fucked Up for the second time because the only thing I knew is that I didn’t know what was going to happen. This time it was a matinee show on a Saturday in May, and it was absolutely brilliant. Damian has practically lived in the crowd whenever I’ve seen them, which has brought mixed results photographically, but I’ve always loved this photo. I’m not normally one to fire away continuously but this was the third in a sequence of four over a couple of seconds and it’s the only one with the perfect amount of drink pouring with Damian’s arms stretched out and head leaning back, with no arms in the way! I was there with local legends Justin Evans and Nadine Ballantyne and we briefly spoke to Damian after the show and he was absolutely bloody lovely.
Peter Hook and the Light
16th January 2013
Peter Hook playing Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies? Hell yes. I think this was a warm up show for some bigger gigs they were playing a few days later and I just remember the feeling of anticipation I had before they came on was immense. I don’t tend to photograph musical heroes often so I was really excited. And then… where are the lights? … I knew I just had to accept my photos were going to be terrible and try to enjoy it. I got one photo I liked, which was this one.
Ibibio Sound Machine
15th October 2019
After speaking to friends who’d been to previous Ibibio Sound Machine gigs in Cardiff it sounded like I’d been really missing out. Luckily that changed when they played at Clwb in October 2019. What an electric experience… one of those nights where the crowd and band both seemed really in tune with each other, but I imagine every night watching Ibibio Sound Machine would be like that. They’re an amazing bunch of musicians who combine so flawlessly and with such energy, and they’re incredibly enjoyable to photograph. Definitely one of my highlights of recent years.
8th December 2018
I remember about 20 years ago lots of my friends were big fans of Deserter’s Songs and the follow up, All Is Dream. My friends were all a bit more into music than I was so when I saw Mercury Rev at Reading Festival and I didn’t really get them I was a bit disappointed to come to the conclusion that they weren’t for me. When they celebrated Deserter’s Songs with a 20th anniversary tour that all changed. It was a spellbinding experience. Jonathan Donohue was a warm, funny and fragile mix that just had everyone transfixed.
The support was a great performance from Nicole Atkins (who did a lovely cover of the Roy Orbison song, Crying, which I can still hear, but had to stifle my giggles because it’s been forever tainted by an episode of Only Fools and Horses) which gave me a bit of time to scope out the best position for me to take during Mercury Rev, knowing I’d pretty much be stuck in one place. I generally try not to be too side on to a performer, but it did offer up this moment with Jonathan Donohue chuckling as he told a story. It was full of intimate, light moments like this and I feel like there’s something about this photo that reflects that.
3rd May 2019
Stealing Sheep was without a doubt one of my favourite gigs of the last few years. I’d seen them supporting Ladytron at the Roundhouse in Camden about six months earlier and was pretty excited about them playing Clwb. From the moment they came on I just had the greatest time, and it seemed like everyone else did too. It’s also really nice to see bands that make an effort with their image and stage show. Their album Big Wows may as well have been fixed to my car CD player last year.
30th August 2019
At every gig, particularly if it’s sold out, I’ll try to explain to the people around me that I’ll be there for the first two or three songs then I’ll get out of their way. I’d never seen Basement before, but with hindsight two or three songs was a bit optimistic. I didn’t really know much about them so I did my usual bit of youtube research to see what to expect and it all seemed perfectly fine. It didn’t warn me there would be bodies flying over me in the first 30 seconds. I definitely managed two songs, maybe three, but it gets to a point where you have to admit defeat because all your photos are of the floor or the ceiling. I also need to make sure my gear doesn’t get broken, so I watched the rest from the side of the stage and there was barely any let up in action for the rest of the set. I love this photo because it looks like they’ve just thrown themselves about for an hour. Which they had.
30th July 2019
Davey Newington is one of the nicest people you could meet, so seeing the rise of Boy Azooga in the last couple of years has been really lovely. I’ve probably taken a good few hundred photos of Davey the last ten years or so, and I really like this one because I think it really captures what it’s like to see him playing… whenever he’s on stage he looks like he’s having a lovely time.
22nd February 2019
Threatmantics have been fairly central to my wider group of friends for probably close to 15 years now, and honestly, the first few times I saw them they really weren’t my cup of tea. I don’t know what happened… but they changed a bit, I changed a bit and now I love them. They played an absolutely thumping album launch last February where I managed to get one of my favourite photos of Graf, (one of my favourite people and easily the person I’ve photographed the most in his various musical forms, whether playing in Threatmantics, Gindrinker, Oh Peas! She’s Got Spies, Little My or any of the countless projects he’s been involved in) just before he flicked his cup at me. Typically for Graf he apologised profusely to me after.
23rd April 2019
As is so often the case, the first time I was asked to photograph Stella Donnelly back in 2018 I didn’t know anything about her, it was just a name I recognised. She blew me away. It’s rare I get goosebumps at gigs but it’s happened both times I’ve seen her. Stella Donnelly is a wonderful storyteller with a rare ability to absolutely captivate her entire audience. And she has an amazing voice. Absolutely one of my favourite performers.