Things may be changing in a positive way, but……..

Well here we are in March 2021, one full year since things locked down in most places, certainly here in Ireland, and from my perspective I was just about to test the water so to speak with regards to going back to the Live Music scene. Being 100% honest, even now a year on I do not know if physically and mentally I’ll be able to do Gigs and more worryingly for me, Festivals anymore. Time will tell, but I really hope I can, it’s something I love doing.

The effort required to shoot 3 consecutive Days of any Festival is probably a lot more than people appreciate, it’s not just a case of sitting around for 10 hours and going to stand for 10 minutes of every set, that’s for sure. Take my normal situation for a Festival in the UK, lets take something in the Midlands, 2 or 3 Day Festival,

  • I would fly into either Birmingham or East Midlands on the first flight, arriving between 7-9am.
  • Make my way to the City where the venue is by Bus or Train.
  • Check into my Accommodation
  • Organise my Camera bag and Festival accreditation
  • Double check camera batteries are charged, memory cards are cleared
  • Depending on the start time for that day either lay down and rest for an hour or make my way to the venue, grabbing a sandwich on the way.
  • Check in, catch up with friends and colleagues.
  • Get ready for shooting, test the camera/s for basic lighting etc.
  • Then we begin the process, queue for the Photo Pit to open, first 3 songs to shoot, pray that there is some decent lighting for the early bands.
  • Depending on the Festival, get some shots from the back of the venue or the balcony if that’s permitted.
  • Then get back in the queue for the next band or move to the 2nd stage to try and catch the band there for coverage. REPEAT 🙂
  • Oh and try and remember to get some foot and maybe find somewhere to sit down for 30 minutes at some point.
  • Last band will either be 11:15pm or 2:15am when the shooting stops, but as I am normally reviewing as well it means I have to watch the last band of the day until they finish, so maybe 2:40am
  • Back to the accommodation, dump the photos from the memory card/s to a laptop & back up Hard Drive.
  • Edit a selection of photos picked somewhat at random and post a couple of Social Media.
  • Try and get some sleep before you get up for a shower, Breakfast and begin again for a busier day on Day 2 and REPEAT :-). You get a lot of steps in, but it’s tiring and hard work.

So we will see first of all if we do get any Festivals running this year, and whether or not I can get to one. As it stands now early March we have already had major Festivals in June postponed again to next year with Download pushed back recently, only today Bloodstock started the difficult decisions of having to announce changes to the lineup, with a number of US bands pulling out of the 2021 event due to the current situation, they are still hoping to go ahead and put the Festival on in June. Other Festivals in September are already preparing people for the possibility that they can’t proceed, as with everything in Covid times, we will wait and see 🙂

The main problem for smaller Festivals I think is that is you add in restrictions on the size of the crowd, and other stuff it makes it neither Financially viable to continue nor would it be the event they had planned it to be. From my reading of things right now, it looks like a lot of US bands will not be travelling to Europe this year, as things currently stand anyway, everything of course is fluid but for Festivals they have to make decisions a little earlier than one off shows, so as you head towards April/May you can add 3-4 months onto the events that will be effected. Another UK Festival due to take place in July is now looking like UK bands only, and there’s nothing wrong with the bands in the lineup, it’s just that some of the bands no longer there would have been a big draw for most patrons, and it does effect the vibe if it were to take place. Ryanair Flights in June are currently being cancelled so that will affect other plans.

I do think that we will get some shows happening later in the year, and that’s something to look forward to for sure. Smaller local events might be good for me to test my stamina and get back to using the camera again in a live setting, so fingers crossed. Certainly my walking schedule will help, just have to make sure I’m taking rest days the odd time. I can be either doing nothing for too long a period like happened at the end of last year, or probably doing too much as I am at the moment, almost up to 500KM done in 2021 already so a day ever now and then, or my body will get overtired. I was going to do some charity stuff this month like “50 Miles in March” but i’ve already don’t 50 miles 🙂 might just do another 5KM walk on St. Patricks Day. Am adjusting my year end Target from 2,000KM to 2,500KM so that will keep me pushing forward through the months. Right I’m now signed up for a 5KM on Patricks Day now in aid of Aware, a Mental Health Support organisation here in Ireland, and in the last couple of days I’ve passed the 500KM mark since the start of the year, so will just keep going and think when the weather is a bit nicer I might increase the distances again. To be honest I’ve been a little bit mentally exhausted the last few weeks, so just glad to be doing stuff, sometimes I need to overdo things just to reboot the head and get things back on track, but hey, but listen if that’s what it takes it’s a small price to pay as long as I’m sensible enough to get a little more rest around this time to balance things out a bit, the fickle way of things. Of course the diet always takes a bad turn at these times, the exercise helps to somewhat cancel it out along with the extra rest of course, so will move on re-align and hopefully click back into place again, so many things to do as we approach more challenges coming into middle age.

The little monster finally went back to Preschool last week, and we noticed the happy change in him almost straight away, which is awesome, much happier in himself and loving being back in his school routine. So much happier to be doing his thing, which is just great to see, makes us all smile 🙂 and lifts your spirits as we look like we may be staying in Lockdown for another 6 weeks or so. There is a definite feeling at this stage that we have been doing out bit for a long time, but I guess a little more is needed, perhaps this is all due to delays with the promised supply of Vaccine, would like to be scheduled for mine so at least I know then where I stand, but as with everyone else we are just in the dark, hopefully soon.

So what else has been going on, well, work has been busy, I haven’t been able to get back into writing reviews, been busy with everything else that’s going on in life at the moment alongside work and exercise. I really would like to get back into it though, there are a lot of good albums being released at the moment and scheduled for the coming months. As strange as this sounds, as time goes on and the fact that it has been so long since I had my last fit, I almost forget about the Epilepsy at times, yes I know I said it sounds strange, after all I take tablets every morning and night to keep it under control, it hasn’t just disappeared. Well recently we’ve had a lot of great information, lots of wonderful stories from people about when they got Epilepsy and what their stories have been, through Epilepsy Ireland (really some wonderful, heartfelt stories and certainly some that I know from personal experience are not always that easy to tell other people about, brave to do it and so very informative for people that have been recently diagnosed. When I first was (well I was kind of diagnosed) some 31 years ago I had no idea where to go to in order to get information, who I could tell or talk to, but as I became a more confident person I decided to own it and I have been very open about my condition ever since. Touch wood I will stay incident free for another year and will continue to never let it dictate my life. This weekend marks the 6th anniversary of the first time I officially shot a Music Festival, HRH AOR 3 (or HRH United as it was, which also combined Hammerfest and Sleaze, was a really great weekend in North Wales and kicked off many trips to the same venue at the Haven Holiday Camp in Hafan Y Mor, Pwllheli. The main hall there is just something they don’t make for venues anymore, lots of thought in the attendees being able to see from wherever they are, 3 tiers leading from the back to the stage large bar and an exit directly into a couple of food venues, with a cpacity of over 2,000 just a great space, and ideal for small Festivals. The black & white image at the top of this post is of Swedish Hard Rock band The Poodles from that very weekend.

We did jump this week and book our family holiday for later in the year, will be staying in Ireland, so that eliminates a number of extra complexities with foreign travel, a beautiful cottage nestled in what looks like some lovely local views in Donegal, I took the below photo of Mukish Mountain from the wonderful Glanveagh National Park, the cottage for this year is just a few minutes drive from the mountain so hopefully will be able to get some nice shots, and we do love the area, so we have no problem with staying close enough to home when the scenery is stunning and we know our way around, slightly new place to stay so good to have some change. We already have some day trips sorted out in our minds and hopefully the little guy will be a little more involved it things this time around, the fresh air is always good for him. Plenty of new explorations and interesting new things to see and learn about. Having a nice break to look forward to is always a good thing for the mental health, just as much as getting out in that beautiful air and exercising helps, having a nice trip to look forward to is definitely another thing that helps.

Mukish Mountain shot from Glanveagh National Park, Co. Donegal in 2019

So what’s in the plan for 2021…. your guess is as good as mine

Apart from personal hopes and aspirations for this new year it would appear that everyone is staking their house on the recently available Covid Vaccines getting us out of this horror scenario, and they well might do just that. But something in me just makes me scratch my head. Look let’s all hope that we are on the road back to some form of normality, it’s what we need. What I have found bizarre over the course of the last month or so is how Governments have decided to give the information out to their nations subjects.

Lets take the countries close to me here in Ireland. The UK was the first country to start the rollout of the Vaccine, and that’s great, doesn’t require the amount of bluster that has been made of that, but the more worrying thing for me was that once they started telling people they made them thing they’d have it in a couple of days, and that it’s all sorted. Now, sure lifting peoples spirits and helping with mental health is great, it’s important, but there like here in Ireland it looks like that was the trigger to people no longer taking the precautions seriously, it coincides so closely with onslaught of the new strain it’s a massive problem. The numbers for new cases and deaths have now approached 10 times the daily totals back in March at the 1st lockdown, with the problem being the amount of people that are going to get sick before the vaccination rollout catches up with the numbers….. capacity can’t be there for healthcare and a massive vaccination program alongside taking care of the increasing hospitalisations, it’s the same staff doing both. Hospitals in this region are either at or close to capacity should their be any spikes from here we are all in trouble, so lets just hope it comes back under control.

I’m sure that after a bit of time they will get on top of the problems, but it does take time, so people, please continue to follow the restrictions, keep safe and keep others safe.

For me my mother will be vaccinated soon, which will be another weight off my head, but there have been more cases and deaths in nursing homes….. let’s hope that’s the last of the Covid related deaths, touch wood. We face into a new week with the uncertain and unknown of starting virtual learning with a 5 year old autistic child, the main uncertainty of course being how he will take to it, if at all. We”ve already put together some ideas if hw won’t interact with it, but we are hoping his abilities with a tablet with help immensely. But aside from that we would love to be able to take him to visit his grandmother, it would certainly be great for her.

Me, well I had a really bad December, no beating around the bush, no pretending I didn’t, I fell back into bad habits, the exercise regime almost ground to a halt for a few weeks and Chrismas saw a lot more overindulgence than it should or than it will next year. It’s one thing to have a treat or to loosen up a bit over the holiday period, but it’s another to be stupid about things. pulling a muscle somewhere certainly wasn’t helping, made it easier to just not get out and that then increases the Devil on your shoulder. But we live and learn (hopefully) have managed to get things back under control diet wise and back out walking again, just have to build up again bit by bit, so should be back to normal this coming week weather permitting, and if not it’s time to make use of the treadmill. and I will make use of it. I’m trying to get back into reviewing some music again, so headphones on, music or audio book and an hour on the treadmill should do it, will help focus the mind too. If it turns out to be too much to take on right now I’ll have to stop away again, time will tell.

There are definitely somethings in life I’m going to have to sit down and thing more about for the long term and the good of my health, or what’s left of it ;-). things that at the age of 50 I didn’t think I would have to, or should have to. But whether stress of perceived, or brought on by myself or it’s just actually brought on by what I do, maybe it’s time for something with a little less strain, I already know there are certain things I can’t do, so perhaps it’s time to put a little more focus on what I want to do in parallel with what I should be aiming for. That’s a very difficult thing to contemplate, but though calls could also make things a lot easier. With some more health issues in the family and the loss of another friend over Christmas it all gets put back into perspective again.

We’re already pretty sure that our trip to Kerry in March is out of the question, I’ve ruled out Festivals until at least July, so will be another quet 6 months. We are trying to tie down some days for Donegal around then, because hopefully we’ll at least be able to get around this country more easily. Weather should be good then too, so will get the camera setup sorted for that. (The pic is from our Donegal 2019 Trip)

Speaking of music, the vaccine programs have gotten people pretty excited about the restarting of live shows, and I really can’t wait to go to a Gig, but realistically, summer time at the earliest. There are so many things that need to be falling in place before it can happen, I’m positive, but not thinking too short term about it, when it happens so many of us will be back in a happy place, it will be amazing. But one step at a time, one bridge at a time to cross.

So to everyone, stay safe

The bizarre to the ridiculous, 2020 just fades out in a damp fizzle….

There have definitely been some worrying trends of late, here in Dublin, like many other places around Europes ( and indeed the World ) we are in the midst of another Lockdown related to Covid-19. For me that’s not a hugely different place to Level 3 restrictions here ( essebtual retail only open, stay within 5 km of home and no mixing, no pubs restaurants etc open ), with of course the exception of the 5km travel restriction. But will continue to work from home, my son is still in preschool, but that may change and my wife continues to work, but that’s well within the 5km cordon.

We have rolled rapidly through December and finally the end of a very grim year and a scary one for me personally, so going to bed at 9pm last night and just letting it just slide by seemed like the only logical thing to do. I started 2020 with a real bang, but honestly a heart attack wasn’t what I had planned for the year, and almost 12 months later I’m still not 100%. I had thought I was back to normal, but the last few days have brought some discomfort again. Think I’m just overtired and overdid things over Christmas. Back to my usual diet now, so hoping everything settles down over the weekend. Touch wood.

Hope everyone’s had as a good a Christmas as possible, and lets just hope 2021 can be a better year for us all.

We had a nice family trip to Dublin Zoo the other day, thankfully we managed to get it in before the lockdown kicked in. They had done a lot of work to get a route that reduced the chances of big build ups of people and could cause distancing problems. Most of the animals were out and about and it was nice to get out there . Here are some photos from the visit. Was a very bright winters morning.

No Resolutions this year, it’s pretty pointless at the moment lets be honest, but I do intend to continue with exercise, from very meagre beginnings in 2020 where after the operation walking 1 or 2KM was a big struggle ( I started exercising too quickly after the Op ) and caused definite pains in my chest, to eventually walking well over 1,400 KM in the year. So might set some little targets for this year and see where we get. I always walked quite a bit as I don’t drive, and haven’t cycled since I got Epilepsy ( that’s an insurance thing ). But reality is I used to walk around the City to different venues for Gigs but quite often was stopping off at a fast food place along the way, or a pub when I was still drinking.

I have a lot of issues with the way information is being disseminated from the leaders of many Govt’s, Almost telling all that the vaccine will have everyone immunised in a couple of months and ignoring the face that physically they just don’t have the capacity to do it that quickly. I have no doubt it will get there, but realism is much better than just being hopefull. Lets hope a lot will have changed by the time we hit the Summer. Still hoping that come September I will be able to make a planned trip from last year, so will keep that in the back of my mind as something to look forward to. August/September/October there is lots planned Gig/Festival wise, but what happens is anyone’s guess.

Somethings will change in the next few weeks, can remove one of the tablets from my daily intake once I hit the 1 year anniversary of the Operation, will be nice. Also it’s been great that throughout all of the ups and downs I remain another year Fit Free, the Epilepsy never reared it’s head no matter how tired I became, or whatever the effects on my body illness has made me. Another bonus was being able to visit my mother last weekend, may be the last time again for a little while but we will see if the last set of changes stay in effect and I can see her next week again. She’s done amazingly well to beat Covid, pass the 90 mark and still push on.

The last few weeks have been very difficult, I’m sure that led to losing control of the diet, so next year will be very careful with that, I know the saying “ah sure it’s Christmas, it won’t kill you”, well maybe it will, no point in working hard through the year and then letting it slip so badly when a bit of depression and a festive season hit. It’s not like I don’t understand the consequences of not following the plan. I do think that the way things have been going in and out of Lockdowns has not helped with anyone’s Mental Health, at some points it certainly looks like there is no end in sight, and that’s where you get dragged into a bit of a mental battle with yourself. Just got to try and dust yourself down and move on with things, and if you can’t perhaps it’s time to talk to a friend or a professional that can help, we all need a helping hand sometimes so never be afraid or ashamed to take it.

Still ticking along…. as the World slowly rolls too

Strange, I never got around to posting this one back in June, have been a bit remiss with updates in recent months, but he in reality there hasn’t been all that much going on, in and out of lockdown……..  so here’s  what I was thinking then and I’ll follow up with a new update…..


Well here we are in June 2020, and it’s a very strange, different and often quite confusing World to the one I stepped away from temporarily on the 10th of Jan……

The weirdest thing is probably that as time has gone on and different countries have eased restrictions to varying degrees the confusion has actually grown, the types of activities you can take part in mean that when travel does start to open up more next week it’s going to be confusing as hell for people travelling, expecting that they can do the same things as they can in their home country, there certainly won’t be any foreign travel for me this year, but just take it at a very basic level, if I travel to any other country, will I be expected to self quarantine for a period of time either when I get there or when I return home, well I don’t really know, most countries have been desperate to create these Travel Bridges, to allow economies to get going again, especially in countries dependent on Tourism as a main industry. The quarantine question has changed massively, initially the plan was people would have to self isolate for 2 weeks when arriving in a different country, have their stay there and then come back and do the same on the return end, so reality is a one week holiday would take 5 weeks. This currently isn’t the case  anymore,  But should things reverse like they have in parts of China, Germany and now perhaps South Korea it very quickly becomes unworkable. Then of course there is the problem of what will you be able to do when you arrive in another country, what is open, are masks compulsory, what is public transport like now can I get from A to B without too many problems. It really is a bit of a lottery and to me would be a pointless exercise right now.

 

As you may get from this Site Live Music is a massive part of my life, listening, being a part of, photographing, I miss it massively, was reminded by some people on a Festival Forum yesterday just how long it’s been since I actually attended a Gig, 185 Days, damn there have been times when I haven’t gone more than a day or two without going to something, or have gone to more than one in a day. Right now what the future holds is anyone’s guess, all we know is that for the foreseeable future there certainly won’t be any live shows in any kind of way that we will recognise, Venues/Promoters can’t make it financially viable with 20-30% capacity at a show, travel restrictions for artists & bands will more than likely make planning any Tour a nightmare, and there’s no saying that people will have any appetite to return to small sweaty venues until some form of vaccine or treatment is available. In an industry that generally works a year in advance from a planning perspective the damage, and continuing damage could be catastrophic. Hopefully Governments will finally step up and start to provide packages that will help save live venues and help to safeguard the industry as a whole. For me I’ll continue to support Artists/Promoters/Venues as much as possible, and even though I have purchased Tickets for gigs late in 2020 and moving into early 2021 I honestly doubt we will be getting back into venues this side of Christmas, that’s for sure. What does this mean, well assuming they can kick off 2021, and the situation has improved for us all, well then we can look forward to an absolutely bumper year for gigs next year, everyone will be on the Road then, trying to earn some money, and hopefully just to get out and do what they and we all love. With a bunch of postponements  already announced I have a calendar next year that’s been filled rapidly. It’s bizarre and crazy, but yeah, gigs in the list for next November.

 

As the days go on the ups and downs perhaps become more severe, having been at home now for 6 months, pandemic, lockdown, recovery thrown in it gets a bit more difficult and depressing, It’s great to have home life and all that goes with it, but really missing gigs and friends. Nothing more to do but hope for a vaccine, remedy or working treatment. Hoping people will just do as they are asked I think is a lost cause. The people that have been following the rules to date will continue to do so, but sadly there’s always going to be a core of people that either don’t believe the problem is real or continue to believe that it just won’t affect them so the cases will go back up at some point.

Lets hope for a break in this and a change for the better.