Rockshot Magazine’s Photographer Favourites 2023

2023 has been an immense year for live music and the Rockshot Magazine team have had a tonne of fun getting down to headline shows and festivals throughout the year to capture the raw energy of today’s finest live music acts giving it their all on stages large and small. Below is a selection of some of our team’s photographer’s favourite images captured for the magazine!

DYLAN @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

DYLAN @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Dnieper Cruz

It’s been an eventful year – from picking up a camera for the first time to shoot live music, to joining incredible photographers and writers at Rockshot Magazine. It began with The Courettes at Hackney’s Oslo, who provided one of my favourite photos of the year. Pure energy from the explosive Danish/Brazilian duo who tore up the place.

At Koko, we saw Philly’s very own Kurt Vile deliver an intimate and enigmatic show. There was hair – a lot of it. Luxurious locks that took centre stage that evening and shielded Kurt’s face from view 99% of the time. Who cares?!

All Points East was intense. Thunder and lightning on a humid late-summer day almost derailed the entire experience. Main stage had been blocked off, no one wants to be near a huge metal structure in a lightning storm, and there were talks of cancelling multiple acts. Erykah Badu was not to be deterred. A late arrival increased the anticipation of her performance for fans and photographers alike. “Brace yourself”, I was warned, “Erykah is not an artist you’d want to miss”. And damn was she worth the wait. Just stunning!

The top spot must go to the black and white portrait of Tinariwen’s Ibrahim Ag Alhabib. One of my favourite bands of all time, I felt privileged to experience their desert blues in the flesh. A beautiful evening that felt like it ended too soon.

Dnieper’s Top 4 of 2023

Ibrahim Ag Alhabib of Tinariwen (Dnieper Cruz)
Ibrahim Ag Alhabib of Tinariwen (Dnieper Cruz)

 

Simon Reed

2023 has been another amazing year of music photography, in fact I’d say it’s been my best yet; and as ever, I’m extremely grateful for the wonderful opportunities afforded through being a contributor to Rockshot Magazine. I’ve seen some supremely talented artists up close this year and enjoyed many brilliant performances, so narrowing the choices down wasn’t easy, but I’ve found myself a Fantastic Four.

Wunderhorse are a band experiencing exponential growth and I was fortunate to experience them on three occasions in 2023. By the end of the year, they had played The Forum, Kentish Town. I left my camera at home for this one, but was lucky enough to snap them at The Electric Ballroom in April, and before that, at legendary Southampton venue, The Joiners in March. All three were a sell-out. All three were brilliant; but that first show in a tiny pub was by far the best. Knowing you’re in an intimate venue wedged in with a bunch of fans that have ‘got it’ before the band inevitably blow the doors off is just the best feeling.

In May, I took the train to Bradford to attend a one-day festival; Bradstock. In truth, I primarily went to see Buck & Evans, a band I’d not seen since before Covid hit. Unfortunately, they extended that run by cancelling due to ill health; but when one door closed… another opened in the form of The Virginmarys. There were nine bands in a packed bill, but Ally Dickaty (vocals and guitar) and drummer Danny Dolan completely blew me away with their performance of angst-ridden punk growls and some of the most violent drumming I’ve ever witnessed. I was told they’d be photogenic, and Dolan in particular was a man crying out to be snapped up. I did my best to capture the craziness of it all.

Hard-Fi are a band I’ve loved for years, so it was an enormous privilege to be offered the opportunity to share some dates with them on their October reunion tour and being with the band afforded ‘access all areas’. I got a number of photos I’m going to enjoy looking back on in years to come, but my favourite is this fisheye shot of a sold-out Troxy, taken from behind drummer Steve Kemp. My sincere thanks go out to Hard-Fi and their management for having me along.

The Hard-Fi experience would ordinarily eclipse anything else in a ‘regular’ 365 days, but in this year of highlights, there was always going to be one that stood out above all others. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t visit these shores that often, so when he played Hyde Park this summer, managing to be there with the camera was the stuff of dreams. My favourite image was this one; The Boss backlit, whilst rocking out with his trademark Telecaster.

So that’s a wrap for 2023 and all that’s left to do is to thank the Rockshot editorial team for having me along; without you there would be no photos – and to thank our excellent team of writers; without you there would be no narrative to bring the photos to life. Roll on 2024!

Bruce Springsteen BST 2023-025

Bruce Springsteen, Hyde Park, London: July 2023 (Simon Reed)
Bruce Springsteen, Hyde Park, London: July 2023 (Simon Reed)

 

Kalpesh Patel

2023 was a return to form following live music events picking up again properly in 2022 after the drought that was the COVID-19 pandemic and there was no end to the incredible opportunities offered to me for capturing some of my favourite acts or those I’d never caught before. It’s taken me an absolutely age to whittle down my selection of favourite live music images from the year to just four, especially given the breadth and depth of genres, ages, ethnicities and genders of the acts I’ve been fortunate enough to capture on (digital) film.

One of the acts I caught earlier in the year was Natasha Woods – AKA DYLAN. The Suffolk-hailing 24-year-old, who is yet to to put out an LP, was touring her The Greatest Thing I’ll Never Learn “mixtape” following a rousing appearance the 2023 BAFTA Awards ceremony and brought it all (and then some) to London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Her flavour of guitar-driven pop was the perfect antidote to a cold February as she brought the band, lights and flame-highlighted guitar along for a show to remember.

The year continued to provide numerous opportunities for capturing fabulous acts in their element. Self Esteem, Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett, Black Honey, Dave Okumu, Duran Duran, James Bay, Simply Red and Peter Gabriel, among others, all kept me busy in London until my annual pilgrimage in June to Somerset’s Worthy Farm, the home of Glastonbury Festival. The festival attracts diverse acts from all over the world, each year delivering unforgettable performances for the audience and acts alike, and 2023 was no exception.

The first of my selection from the festival is of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl at the first of three live appearances over the course of Glastonbury weekend. “The Churnups” had been announced to be playing the Pyramid Stage at 6:15pm on Friday with rumours aplenty as to exactly who might be appearing. But as the moment arrived and the current line-up of Foo Fighters emerged, it was clear this was going to be one of those truly special Glastonbury moments.

Photographing Foo Fighters play a live show is always such an incredible opportunity. Catching them tear through a 9-song, sub 1 hour set in broad daylight is something else entirely and it offered the opportunity to capture some truly epic live images. The one that made my shortlist is my favourite of many favourites from that set.

Glastonbury Festival 2023 also offers the next of my four favourite images of the year. The first act to be announced for this year’s edition was Sir Elton John, the appearance also slated to be John’s final full UK show (not barring him from appearing in some capacity in the future here or there). And while Josh Homme’s Queens Of The Stone Age played against him on Glastonbury’s Other Stage, the largest crowd ever to attend a Pyramid Stage headline slot, some 120,000 by all accounts, descended on the Pyramid field. My 500mm lens came in super hand that day to capture a series of photos I struggled to pull just a single favourite frame from.

And while the remainder of the year provided me opportunities I had never imagined, the likes of KISS, Hollywood Vampires (Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp), HAIM, Arlo Parks, Royal Blood, Fall Out Boy, Muse and Bruce Springsteen to name just a few, it was another Glastonbury Pyramid stage headline act, who also topped the bill on one night of BST Hyde Park’s series of events, that provided me with my favourite image of the year. Guns N’ Roses are legends in their own right. Their Glastonbury headline set this year was possibly as divisive as Arctic Monkeys’ Friday night effort, but playing to a captive audience at BST Hyde Park for some 3 hours, Axel Rose, Duff McKagan and Saul Hudson – AKA Slash – brought their A-game.

Guns N' Roses @ BST Hyde Park 2023

Slash of Guns N' Roses  (Kalpesh Patel)
Slash of Guns N' Roses (Kalpesh Patel)

 

Pauline Di Silvestro

2023 was full of surprises and the best one yet was getting a photo pass to photograph two of my punk idols: Blondie and Iggy Pop. At 34 years-old, I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see the Godfather of Punk on stage, and yet there he was, standing and when I pressed the shutter, I actually had photos of him! As part of Dog Day Afternoon at London’s Crystal Palace Park, he gave an impeccable performance, going through the classics (Raw Power, TV Eye, Gimme Danger, The Passenger, I’m Sick of You, Search & Destroy…) with the same energy as all those videos from the 70s and 80s I grew up watching. 6 months later, I am still pinching myself.

Touring to celebrate the release of their new album Darkadelic, The Damned played two sold-out shows at London’s Alexandra Palace and we got the chance to review the first one! I got plenty of great photo opportunities, with Dave Vanian dressed impeccably, reminiscent of the Invisible Man (but I was born in the 80s, so he looked like Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to me) and Captain Sensible marching around the stage. A definite highlight, and it made photographing some of my heroes even more special.

Another highlight this year was The Urban Voodoo Machine at Signature Brew in Blackhorse Road (my local brewery). The jazzy bourbon-soaked blues ensemble brought the crowd in as a New Orleans-style marching band, gearing us up for a joyful and chaotic night. Celebrating Paul-Roney Angel’s birthday, the band welcomed many guests and friends on stage (Suri Sumatra, Jim Jones, Tomi Rae Brown) and I did manage to get both drummers Gary Voodoo and J Roni Moe in one photo and they’re my favourite drummer to watch.

Undoubtedly my favourite photo this year, not only because it’s a close up of my favourite band in one of the coolest venues in the UK, but also because it took me to the final of the British Photography Awards in the Event category was of The Hives taking a turn at The Fleece in Bristol. It was a difficult gig to shootm, the venue was jam packed and there was no photo pit. I had to negotiate a tiny bit of space with the fans in the first row, promising I’d be gone after the first three songs. Of course, The Hives are always excellent on stage, but this show topped it all and is one of my best gigs of 2023.

The Hives @ The Fleece, Bristol 30.05.2023

The Hives @ The Fleece
The Hives @ The Fleece

Thanks so much to all of our contributors in 2023 for your incredible images that tell the story of live music today in glorious technicolour … and textured greyscale! We can’t wait to see your images of next years must-see shows on the pages of Rockshot Magazine.

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