A day of sunshine and live music

Stonedeaf, a new entry on the UK rock/metal festival calendar and 2019 was its second year. A one day experience, nine bands bringing together likeminded people who are looking for a good time, great music amongst fantastic company. It’s not your modern festival as this caters more toward the glory days of Monsters of Rock and is by definition of its current size more intimate. This year they had 3,000 in attendance.

Covering and reviewing the festival for Rock N Load Magazine I would be documenting the day with photographs, whilst my partner Taryn would be in charge of writing the review itself. (you can read the official review here)    

I’ve always been a lover of great music and my taste can be quiet eclectic at times, since starting on this path, I’ve had the chance to discover and rediscover so many great bands, so this was another great chance to do just that.

We arrived early at the Newark Showground; the site of the festival.  A cloudless blue sky, the sun was already beating down on what was promising to be a hot one. On arrival we checked in with the media tent and picked up our passes (they’d put together a really cool press pack which showed the love the organisers have for the event) before making our way to Stondeaf HQ, this was just a hangout tent for the organisers and photographers etc, a place to relax, though understandably there wasn’t much of that going on. Here we met and chatted with Jenny and Matt who were the head organisers amongst other key people, photographers including head photographer Mark Ellis who’ve I’ve shot with a few times before and since, it was a buzzing and creative vibe.

Taryn and I quickly took a quick walk around the main grounds exploring the stalls and chatting to a few of the folk that had ventured out to set up – many with a heavy head as they’d all partied together the night before. We were starting to see just how close nit the whole event was and how much fun everyone was having and that was before the show kicked off! It was the calm before the storm. Soon after the crowds started to flood the main arena, growing the excitement and anticipation, there were some interesting sights (you can see some from my pictures), this was going to be a glorious day.

I’d been tasked with not only capturing each band but also the atmosphere of the revellers so it was a double challenge to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

11:30 am the first band Samarkind performed their set, bringing the crowds in closer to the stage. This was my first time in the pit during an outdoor gig, whilst shooting in daylight too. I think in comparison these shoots are far less technical than most indoor gigs where you’re competing with both low and harsh lighting at the same time. This was more a case of just getting the right shutter speed to freeze the action and finding the shots.

Throughout the day the standard first three songs rule still applied, however as there were so many photographers there on the day, we had to take turns in the pit which is pretty unusual. We were given one and a half songs each, halfway the second song, one set of photographers were replaced with a new set. I was impressed actually by what was a pretty smooth organised flow, despite the overcrowding.

There was a 20 min break between each band performance, along with this and the time after exiting from the pit I had a perfect opportunity to mingle within the showground or the signing tent, to snap those candid and requested shots of people just enjoying the day and losing themselves in the music. 

Not once throughout the day did I ever feel tension or negativity within the crowd. Despite what some may describe as an intimidating sight, people with their devil horns, long hair and beards I felt relaxed and comfortable. Everyone I met and photographed was kind, polite and accommodating, they were just simply pleased to be there and flattered that I aimed my lens at them. I always find the rock crowd to be this way; some of the best people you’ll ever meet. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t your typical festival crowd, there were a lot of older rockers and people with families, so maybe this had something to do with the chilled vibe.

Next up were Aussie band Massive a brilliant performance along with stage invited crowd participation, this was a true party’ Oz style. 

It was now after midday, the sun was unrelenting, the temperature by now was in the high twenties and didn’t look to cool down anytime soon, oh how the beer did flow. There were people sunbathing in the lesser crowded areas, I remember wearing a permanent smile throughout, affected by so many other infectious smiles. It was quintessentially a perfect day for both a music fan and photographer.

All girl band The Amorettes were third in line to perform their set. A brilliant sound and energy, it was plain to see they had a large following as many people rocked along to their set. One of my favourite shots of the day was of lead; Gill Montgomery, flicking her hair whilst making direct eye contact (I think I’ve included it in the shots below). Was it a fluke maybe? I’m not sure, but I’m just glad that I was in the right place and the shutter speed was set to freeze it.

The sound changed with the arrival of veterans Diamond Head, I guess you can say this was one of the harder sounding bands of the day with singer Rasmus Bom Andersen. So many fans there which was apparent during their performance of ‘Am I Evil’; everyone seemed to know it and singing along at all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them, this band was new for me, even though they’d been around since 1976. Their very visual performance made for great shots.

By 3 pm, the combination of hot sunshine, concentration and adrenaline hadn’t made for a dry afternoon. I’m soaked. Taryn is my constant reminder to drink plenty of water and eat, which up to that point had mainly consisted of Haribo. Even though she had her own job to deal with, she was my right hand, which at an event of this size you really do need.

Into the pit once more as ex Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate and his band take to the stage. I remember guitarist, Keiran Robertson had a striking look; hat, sunglasses and full of tattoos, pure rock n roll. The set went down brilliantly especially when they performed the track “Silent Lucidity”.

Toby Jepson’s Wayward Sons followed. I’d recommend checking these guys out, I’ve been lucky to see them three times now and they’ve, nailed their performance every time, plus they’re a great band to shoot. 

Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons Ex Motorhead bassists Phil Campbell and his actual sons except for singer, Neil Starr performed their set during sunset. They were brilliant. They mixed the old and new seamlessly and their version of Ace of Spades was inspired. A truly awesome performance.

Another discovery for me on the day were Inglorious performing their slot after the sunset. With each band members distinctive look and style alongside the flamboyant Nathan James and a fantastic light show, made for a great set to shoot. The setting was more familiar, now having to take the low ambient light along with the bright spotlights, finding that balance within the camera as well as catching the action.

After the first three, any trace of daylight was now gone. This was the first time I found time to sit, breathe and refuel properly. I felt like I’d been running on phantom energy and it was catching up with me. Having shot each set, I was also circulating within the arena shooting and documenting the fans and atmosphere. Looking back now I don’t think I stopped that day at all, but time flies when you’re having fun.  

Finally, it’s coming up to, 9:30 pm it was time for the headline act Glenn Hughes, performing classic Deep Purple. The show was retro vibrant and energetic, also Glenn Hughes can still hit those high notes with ease. This was my first Glenn Hughes experience and only really knowing a few Deep Purple tracks at the time gave me a completely new appreciation, I enjoyed shooting this set so much, after my designated one and a half songs, I quickly ran around to the pit entrance to sneak in for the other half, I managed to get the complete first three.

StoneDeaf now rebranded as Stonedead was a day to remember, and a worthy event on the calendar. Yes, it’s still in its early years, but I think it will go from strength to strength for many years to come. I think  the organisers of Stonedeaf have created a Monster. 

Click here for more information on the Stonedead Festival