One of a small handful of (non-BBC) photographers granted access to the BBC 6Music Festival, I’m dropping off my bag in the Green Room area, just after lunch. There are a few phones charging so I take the opportunity to give mine a boost. A long day awaits.
One of the unattended phones starts to buzz and hum. “Somebody’s ringing,” I announce to the room, before realising there’s only a couple of other people here – 6Music DJ Matt Everitt being one of them.
“Is it anyone important or famous?” he asks, jokingly.
We look at the name on the display.
“Er, kinda both?” I suggest, as Matt lurches for the phone.
And so began a surreal couple of days photographing the inaugural 6Music Festival at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. Here are some of the highlights.
Based in the Green Room area, we had to share with the Stage One acts who had a small area cordoned off for their own use. This meant that at various points we were party to the different warm-ups and pre-gig rituals. You could tell Haim were well up for this one – all swagger and (well-placed) confidence. They’re on the crest of a massive 2013 and it looks like 2014 will be even bigger. A few vocal arpeggios with the keyboard and they were good to go.
Midlake had a more complex warm up and we were given the rare treat of an a cappella version of Antiphon from the current album of the same name. It was incredible – crunching close harmonies and bold chords. Some sound.
Bombay Bicycle Club used their most recent single Luna as their warm-up, with a delicate acoustic guitar accompaniment and a looser, slower ‘arrangement’ of the vocal sections. I could have listened to that all day (the band’s full set was sublime, jumpy feel-good wonderfulness, as was Franz Ferdinand’s gig, a superb set that got the whole warehouse bouncing).
As an indicator of the amount of space in this room (let’s call it limited), it doubled up as the interview space as well – so there was a constant influx of performers popping in and out to be questioned and photographed, with Mike Joyce, Jimi Goodwin, Kelis, The Horrors, Metronomy, Jake Bugg, Alex Kapranos and Peter Hook among the visitors.
It was surreal and fairly difficult to process at the time but the vibe was pretty lovely, as it was throughout the festival.
I took in a few hours each day at the accompanying Fringe Festival, where I managed to catch performances on the Talking Heads stage by John Cooper Clarke, Adam Buxton and I Am Kloot’s John Bramwell. Alan McGee chatted to John Robb, St Etienne’s Bob Stanley to Steve Lamacq, Shaun Keaveny to Tim Burgess. Performances on the Public Image Ltd stage included the sublime Radiophonic Workshop (Doctor Who theme a particular crowd favourite) and The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club Sun Ra Tribute. Seriously. A strong presence from local independent record shops was a nice touch.
Despite the whopping beer prices (I’ve no idea how some folk got half-cut at £4.50 a bottle) and the squash in Stage 2 (I tried to get in to photograph Metronomy – not a chance of even getting close), the atmosphere was electric. After my initial misgivings that the whole event might end up being a little ‘too cool for school’, I think there was a gradual realisation that something quite special was taking place. As I wandered around the Fringe area, it also became clear that all the people involved in 6Music, from the DJs to the technical staff, were close. Mates. More than that, the station has developed something of a family feel. And, at least for a couple of days, it felt pretty good to be part of that family.
Article and photographs by Chris Payne
(main image is Haim)
Where: Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
When: Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2014