Collectively, Rocktographers has been to and shot over a dozen music festivals, hundreds of shows, and thousands of artists this year. It’s hard for us to narrow down our favourite show from 2016 so here are some of our favourites.
Tyson’s Top Concerts of 2016
Spirit of The West at Commodore Ballroom
If you are a music fan, you can agree with me that 2016 sucked. Early in the year, Spirit of The West announced that lead singer, John Mann, had early onset dementia. This, coupled with drummer Vince Ditrich’s ongoing health concerns, meant the group would be disbanding.
This news devastated me. This was a band I’d grown up with, which kept me company on lonely train rides in Europe, and who I’d seen many times live. This was personal.
Luckily for me, my friend Michelle surprised me with tickets to their LAST SHOW EVER. It was an emotional night full of friends, good memories, and a celebration of a band everyone loved. I managed to smuggle my camera in an grabbed this shot from the crowd as the band walked off the stage for the last time. I still get teary eyed thinking about that show.
Seu Jorge at The Vogue Theatre
In late 2015, I had this thought that I might actually get to see David Bowie in my lifetime. He had a new album due out, and maybe that new album would mean a new tour. I don’t have to tell you what happened, but know there is a Aladdin Sane-sized lightning bolt hole in my heart to this day.
When Brazilian musician Seu Jorge announced that he was going to be doing a Life Aquatics Sessions tour, I knew that I had to get to one of his shows no matter what. During the filming of Wes Anderson’s movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Seu Jorge was hired to record Porteguese covers of David Bowie songs for the movie’s soundtrack. Most of the covers were learned quickly by Seu Jorge before the live takes used in the movie, but have captured the hearts of many.
I know this is the closest I’ll ever get to seeing Bowie live, and it was a great way to honour the legend. I’m glad this is how I’ll remember him.
Foals at Commodore Ballroom
The only show that I applied to shoot out of my top three concerts this year was Foals at the Commodore Ballroom. It was a life-changing night for me. I got to shoot one of my favourite bands, and I got the chance to shoot in the legendary Commodore Ballroom for the first time ever (well, officially. Spirit of the West was there earlier in the year). Getting to shoot a sweaty final three songs instead of first three was epic, but you can read all about it in my full review.
Kirsten’s Top Concerts of 2016
JPNSGRLS at Victoria Event Centre
Honestly, as a photographer at a music festival as vast as Rifflandia it’s sometimes hard to enjoy yourself. You’re always planning your next move before you’ve even managed to snap a few shots of the band you’re there to photograph. It hectic, it’s crazy, and a lot of the times I find I can’t actually stop and enjoy the music like I used to.
Saturday the 17th of September at Rifflandia was no different, it was a night that Rifflandians were spoiled with choice. Through the ebb and flow that is vibe of the nighttime stages I fortunately found myself at the Victoria Event Centre. The masses packed in to ensure the venue was at capacity well before headliners JPNSGRLS took the stage. From the moment lead singer Charlie Kerr took command of the stage I was entranced.
JPNSGRLS had the entire audience under their spell and it was impossible not to get swept up in the madness that ensued. Frantic, honest, raw, passionate emotive rock. The audience – purging the emotions of the last 9 months of a year that haden’t been going like we’d hoped it to – transformed into a dancing, moshing, singing collective of pure catharsis. Those that were there know what I’m talking about. I left this show on a high I hadn’t felt at a concert in years. This is the concert that reminded me why I love live music. I realized I could actually enjoy going to shows again. I have JPNSGRLS to thank for that.
Paul McCartney at Rogers Arena
Like Tyson I was extremely rattled by the passing of David Bowie. Really, I’m still not over it. I’ve pushed it out of my mind to a point that every time I see or hear something about the Thin White Duke I have to relive the fact that he’s no longer on this planet. I passed up the opportunity to see him in Vancouver in 2004; money, time, “I’ll catch him next time” – I don’t even remember my excuse. Now I will never have that chance. When he died in January I realised I needed to live in the moment and seize opportunities to see these legends when I could.
Like Ziggy himself heard my declaration, days later Sir Paul McCartney announced he’d be playing in Vancouver that April. Money, time off, travel be damned! I was going to go see Sir Paul McCartney — a living legend. God I’m so glad I went, 73 years-old and he played for 3 hours non stop. He smiled, danced, and was grateful to all the people who have helped him over the years. John, George, the “fifth Beatle” George Martin, and a touching tribute to his late wife Linda with “Maybe I’m Amazed”. A flawless performance of “Black Bird” after which McCartney quipped cheekily, “now raise your hands, how many of you tried to learn that on the guitar?” The audience laughed and thousands of us raised our hands in mutual appreciation.
There is a reason artists like David Bowie, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and more are still around and touring half centuries after they first hit it big — because they love what they do, they appreciate their fans, and they are professionals. This show was phenomenal and it was such an honour to see such a master at work.
This is a show that really surprises me to be in my top list. I think it’s landed itself here simply because of how much I enjoyed myself, and really isn’t that what going to concerts is all about. I wasn’t expecting much from Nick Carter other than it being a novelty cash grab for the former Backstreet boy. I fully intended to only stay for the photographer’s ‘first three’ songs. When I first got into the pit I glanced at the setlist taped to the floor and saw the last encore would be “Backstreet’s Back”. I turned to fellow photographer Leanne Green and told her “Oh man, he’s playing Backstreet’s Back! I totally want to hear that but I’m going to be long gone before then”. So count myself shocked when after the first three I wasn’t making a bee-line for the door. Nick Carter and his band were not only immensely entertaining, but extremely talented. I had a giant smile on my face the entire show, and yes – I was there for Backstreet’s Back (alright!).
webmeister Bud’s Top Concerts of 2016
Alice Cooper at The Q! Centre
The man, the myth, the Godfather of Shock Rock. Alice Cooper was everything I could’ve hoped for and more from a 68-year-old performance veteran.
His show at The Q! Centre was all parts rock, camp, theatrics, and talent, as Mr. Furnier’s backing band displayed all the technical and performance brilliance equal to a name like Alice Cooper.
The Wild Romantics at Sugar Nightclub
After a couple of failed attempts to see them, my first witnessing of the palpable passion and undeniable energy which is The Wild Romantics solidified them as a fun band to shoot and great people to know.
With completely-transparent sexual tension in their on-stage performance, this real-life couple work hard to win over the crowd with their raw attraction and effortless rapture while performing.
Rykka at Lucky Bar
Maybe it was the Rocktographers Sessions video shoot before the show. Maybe it was the fact that she remembered me from, like, three years ago. Maybe it was the fact that her mum hugged me. Or maybe it was the fact that I have an itsy-bitsy crush on Rykka.
NO, IT WAS DEFINITELY THE ON-STAGE TRAMPOLINE.
Rykka put on a tight, well-produced (well-audio’d and well-lit, while we’re at it) show at Lucky Bar, and it was all things happy and energetic and faithful to the album, with the small-but appreciative crowd very in to it.
Honorable mentions: Vox Humana + Vancouver Peace Choir at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Adam Bay at the Belfry Theatre, Shakey Graves at Otalith Music Festival.
Lindsey’s Top Concerts of 2016
Jimmy Eat World at Crystal Ballroom (Portland, OR)
Jimmy Eat World are a band who have been around for a very long time – since the mid-90s, in fact. Somehow, they keep getting better with age. I made a quick jaunt to Portland (seriously – real quick – arrived at 2am the night before the show, left at 2pm the next day to drive back to Canada) to catch them at the Crystal Ballroom in support of their latest album, Integrity Blues. The show was absolutely incredible, playing tunes from just about every album. Apart from playing two of my favourite tunes that I wasn’t expecting to hear (For Me This Is Heaven and A Praise Chorus, for all you Jimmy fans out there) the most heavily anticipated part of the evening for me was hearing Pass The Baby live, a killer of a song from their latest album. It starts off slow and sweet, and ends up an absolute monstrosity of a song, with one of the heaviest outros Jimmy Eat World have ever written. Don’t believe me? Check out the above video! There’s a reason this band has been #1 in my heart for over ten years.
Against Me! at Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, BC)
Touring in support of their latest effort, Shape Shift With Me, Florida punk rockers Against Me! made a stop at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. Fronted by Laura Jane Grace and backed by three insanely talented musicians (Atom Willard on drums, James Bowman on guitar and Inge Johansson on bass), they put on one hell of an energetic show. The Commodore Ballroom’s springboard floor was absolutely quaking as audience members jumped and sang along to every word. Being in a band for 20 years ain’t easy, and Laura Jane Grace still knows how to write a mean song. Playing a career-spanning setlist, the band’s newer and less heavy material blended effortlessly with older, more aggressive songs. It also doesn’t hurt that the band is a ton of fun to shoot, and I walked away with some of my favourite images of the year.
Brand New at Main Street Armoury (Rochester, NY)
I did some travelling this fall, and coincidentally found myself able to attend the opening date of Brand New’s 10 year anniversary tour for The Devil And God Are Raging Inside me in Rochester, NY. I picked up a ticket a week before the show, and somehow managed to secure a photo pass. Brand New is one of those bands that is so near and dear to many people, and they have some pretty crazy fans. Just about every fan pressed against the barricade looked like they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but the second the band opened with the first notes of Sowing Season, they were ready to sing their lungs out.
This is actually the second time I saw Brand New this year, and it’s hard to pick a favourite between the two… but the winning combination of the venue being a freakin’ CASTLE and my favourite album being played front to back gives this show the edge. Props to Brand New’s lighting designer for once again creating one of the most interesting shows I’ve ever photographed, but booooo to the mass amount of monitors and gear littering the front of the very tall stage and making the show very difficult to shoot.
Honorable mentions: JPNSGRLS at Victoria Event Center, PUP at Lucky Bar, The Kills at the Commodore Ballroom, FIDLAR at the Commodore Ballroom
Nick’s Favourite Concerts of 2016
Nahko and Medicine for the People at Tall Tree Music Festival
My first trek to Tall Tree Music Festival reached its spiritual peak during night one’s headlining performance by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Their eclectic brand of world music combined with frontman Nahko Bear’s lyrical Earth-centric message about environmental stewardship and bridging cultural gaps served to increase the consciousness of everyone in attendance. The group’s harmonious appeal was a perfect fit for the wild environs of Tall Tree.
Rifflandia 2016 headliners Jurassic 5 lived up to their billing, electrifying the capacity crowd at Royal Athletic Park with a full slate of classic J5 tunes. As a long-time fan of the LA-based alternative hip hop collective, I was stoked to catch a reunion of their full original lineup, including MCs Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir and Marc 7, backed by two world class turntablists, Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark. Their performance was easily my biggest highlight of this year’s Riff.
Eagles of Death Metal – Photo by Tyson Elder
Eagles of Death Metal at Rock the Shores
California rockers EODM (Eagles of Death Metal) really wowed me at this year’s Rock the Shores with a performance made particularly memorable thanks to the sheer charisma of frontman Jesse Hughes. Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Hughes sounded at times like he was delivering passages from a Southern Baptist sermon as a galvanizing method of bookending the band’s signature desert rock jams. Praise be!