Stephen Malkmus @ Manchester Gorilla

Stephen Malkmus and The JicksManchester Gorilla, Jan 2014

90s indie icon back in Manc.

Was chuffed to bits when the NME asked me to cover this one – I’ve been really getting into early 90s grunge/lo-fi rock of late, and it’s a sound thats making a bit of a resurgence at the minute. Pavement and Sonic Youth have been two particular highlights of this era for me, so the opportunity to photograph the former’s iconic frontman’s current outfit was not to be sniffed at.

This was my first time shooting at Gorilla in Manchester. It’d played host to a few gigs over the past 12 months that I fancied shooting, but for whatever reason it hadn’t happened. I’d not heard great things, though (from a photographers point of view). In a few ways, it’s quite similar to The Cockpit in Leeds – It’s under a train station for one, has no photopit, has a similar capacity, and has a very similar arched ceiling. The one at Gorilla, however, is predominantly painted black. This was going to be a tough night.

Given the lack of photo pit I had to get their early to stand if I was to stand any chance of getting near the front. Thankfully, the crowds hadn’t amassed too much during support Joanna Gruesome (who were amazing) and I tactfully made my way though the onlookers to collar a decent spot. During the changeover it became clear that Mr. Malkmus wasn’t going to be stood centre stage, so further manoeuvring was required to get stage right. So, my first challenge was addressed fairly quickly and hassle free. My next issue was going to be the lighting. The house setup at Gorilla isn’t fantastic, but stage right in particular was dark. I was packing a flashgun, so could fill in to a degree, but with nothing to bounce a flash off this proved quite tricky. I persevered, trying a few different options whilst constantly doing my best to remain courteous/not p*ss off onlookers around me. It was tough.

When I was confident I had enough material for the mag, I decided to go for a wander to see what else I could find – I’d been given AAA, and in the past I’d been guilty of not making the most of it. I’d spotted a hatch at the back of the stage that looked promising, so I set off trying to find it. A few security guards pointed me in the right direction, before I was presented with a door with a combination lock on it. At this point I thought my luck had run out, until a member of staff spied my wristband and kindly popped the code in for me. Success! I had access to the hatch I’d been scouting for! I spent the remainder of the set waiting for Malkmus to turn and face the drummer or the bassist (Gary ‘Crib’ Jarman’s wife) so I could get a decent shot of him and the crowd, of which there were a couple of nice opportunities.

The guy finished their set and prepared for the encore, so I decided it was time to make a move. However, upon leaving the secret hatch room I (literally) bumped into the band discussing what tracks to play. I interupted – bit rude, in hindsight – to tell Mr. Malkmus they’d played a great set, and also managed to grab this sweet reportage-style portrait:

All in all the night was a success, considering so much could have gone wrong. I shaln’t lie, Gorilla certainly isn’t my favourite venue to shoot but wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected, and it was a fantastic gig!