On tour with the Samsung Galaxy S5

Last Saturday I got to try out the new Samsung Galaxy S5 courtesy of mobile network operator Three who laid on a street art tour of East London with established guides Alternative London. In just a few years mobile phone cameras have made the jump from fuzzy, blurry pics to real sharpshooters often beating many compact cameras along the way. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is right up there with the leaders of the pack and being so much more pocketable than my normal camera (a hefty digital SLR) I was curious to see if it would take decent enough pictures to consider leaving that lump of weight at home in future. As well as portability a mobile phone with a decent camera has security benefits too as it’s not obvious you’re carrying it until you take it out to use it. Anyway…let’s have a look at some photos from the day….

We started off in Bethnal Green and this little paste up immediately caught my eye – no idea who its by though – but the pencil barrel is a neat touch.

We set off heading West towards the City at a pretty leisurely place stopping to look at this chiselled face (in more ways than one) by Portugese artist Vhils:

Now the next piece may not be everybody’s cup of tea but I liked the fact that someone had been pedantic enough to correct the grammar of some existing graffiti by using pink spray paint to add an apostrophe and and E!

Going up a fair few notches in scale we were then led around a corner to see this huge work by Roa in his trademark style. So big in fact the only way to capture it all was to use the S5′s panorama mode. I’d met Roa on a previous trip to London but never quite got to see this particular piece of work so this was a real highlight of the tour for me.

Always my favourite detail in a Roa piece are the eyes, deceptively simple but so effective.

Easily missed, this piece by Dark Cloud was situated right next to much larger works.

This umbrella is such a simple idea utilising a bit of already existing pipework, no idea who its by though!

Heading towards Brick Lane the lamp posts are covered in stickers. This one by I Am Someart stood out nicely. Using the selective focus option on the S5′s camera threw the background out of focus nicely.

Nearby Dscreet (the owl) and Malarky appeared to have teamed up to create a joint work – with a nice little strap line at the bottom.

Another nearby paste up, again artist unknown

Wall of the day had to go to this truly collosal combination piece produced during the recent Meeting Of Styles graffiti jam.

Chu’s clever optical illusion piece which has to be viewed from a particular angle had been part painted out the the day after it went up but by the time we arrived it had been largely restored to its original format.

Nearby were a couple of stencil paste ups from .FRA:

From here we moved on to Sclater Street – a pretty essential stop on any street art tour with some large scale pieces.

Lovepusher who writes ‘Jesus’ in amazingly lit letters is one of my favourite artists so it was good to see this recent work untouched (at the base of this picture) unlike so much of his work in Leake Street.

Round the corner was a little bit more from .FRA

And a real survivor from My Dog Sighs

Overall impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S5 were that it did a great job in capturing the art. In fact it could have been put to better use by myself had I realised early on the impressive array of controls that are available in the settings menu of the camera. The ISO can be changed as can the picture size (up to 12M). There’s face detection, stabilisation, selective focus and burst modes as well HDR and timers. Video wise it will shoot full HD (1920 x 1080). Quite a capable device. The screen itself is crisp and bright, switching back to my existing iPhone 5 after using the S5 for a day seemed a real step backwards. Everything looks bigger and brighter on the S5. As for the network coverage from Three, it was faultless – I managed to post to instagram and Twitter throughout the tour without any problems. Regrettably the S5 has to go back but before it does I’ll add a couple of hi-res shots to the blog over the next couple of days so you can see it’s full potential. In the meantime check out shots from some of the other bloggers, tweeters who went on the tour as they post them up:

Hooked Blog UK Street Art

Marcus Maschwitz Photographer

Selena The Places Food, photography and smiles

The Usual Shutter Specs Photography news and views

With thanks to Becca and Three, Samsung, Alternative London and Farandrockaway.

The Stranglers – Reading Sub89

So last night I got to see The Stranglers. A bit late to the party admittedly – this is their Ruby Anniversary tour (40 years) but oddly I’ve been a fan since the 70′s but never really liked the direction they went from the age I started going to gigs. You know – stuff like Golden Brown and all that stuff. But I’d heard the guy who’s now doing what Hugh Cornwell used to do in singing and playing guitar is decent and that they were playing relatively small venues on the tour so I got myself a ticket for the Reading leg of the tour.

Sub89 is a decent venue. It’s got a capacity of a just few hundred meaning you’re not far from the band but it’s big enough to have a jolly decent PA and lighting rig too. Once settled into their set The Stranglers mentioned it was like playing in a front room and that sums it up nicely compared to other gigs they’ve played in the past. Perfect.

The Stranglers romped through a set list which was pretty damn near the one I would have chosen if I’d written it myself. I like to hear some more recent songs in amongst a heavy smattering of old classics – and there were plenty of those. “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” does it every time. “Peaches’, their version of “Walk On By’ and ‘No More Heroes’ are stone cold standards and were all delivered in with amazing clarity. It’s interesting what you can take out of a band and still keep it’s essence. Drummer Jet Black is absent but the guy behind the kit delivered a very solid and punchy performance. What I would really miss is Jean Jacques Burnel’s bass lines and presence and Dave Greenfield’s unique keyboard playing but thankfully they are still very present. It just wouldn’t be The Stranglers without these two. In Baz Warne they have a great front man and guitarist who’s not trying to be Hugh Cornwell but fits in just fine. Excellent.

In a virtually straight through performance lasting for an hour and three quarters they pile through ‘Tank’, ‘Hanging Around’ and a host of others only interrupting the flow for JJB to hold up a sign showing that Germany were beating Brazil 5-0 – by half time! Elsewhere the crowd got the chance to vote to hear ‘Golden Brown’ or ‘La Folie’. A simple choice really and we got to hear the latter in full, in French for it’s entire six minutes. The crowd are really up for it tonight and songs like ’5 Minutes’ leave the floor literally jumping beneath my feet as people in front of me go just a little bit crazy with some energetic 40 something pogoing. Crowd surfing, crutches being waved in the air and the odd shower of beer show that this bunch of fans still want to enjoy it all just as they did many years ago. And yes, I did too. Absolutely bloody brilliant.

And for your enjoyment here’s my punters eye view of the aforementioned ’5 Minutes’

 

 

 

Whose Generation?

“I kind of think somethings over by the time you’ve read about it”. So says Tommy of the Stupids fame as he opens a new documentary about the whirlwind ride that was UK hardcore in the mid to late 80′s. It’s a telling quote applicable to so many scenes that start off life underground, rapidly gain an expanding and increasingly mainstream audience before burning out in the space of a few short years. It’s true of the spasms in punk rock that preceded it such as the leather and studs UK82 bands and the activist Anarcho punk movement and also of those that followed in its wake such as the colossal waves of grunge and melodic pop punk.

UK hardcore started off life as a truly underground scene and this short film captures that spirit well. In 23 minutes it tells a story of music sharing via C90 cassette trading long before Napster and Spotify made it all so easy. It reveals cheap international communication networks using reusable ‘soaped’ stamps years prior to broadband and social media coming into existence. An entire subculture of bands and venues existed without the involvement of the mainstream music press. It relied on word of mouth, flyers stuffed into letters, photocopied zines and a trust in a handful of record  labels to carry on putting out  bands that had a similar appeal. For a while it couldn’t be heard on the radio but all that changed when John Peel of Radio 1 championed many of the bands on his late night show. That brought new fans and even the music papers belatedly and grudgingly took note calling it Britcore for a while before claiming it had gone into a cul-de-sac and returning to ignoring it.

It’s only possible to give a feel of those times in such a short programme. Punk chronicler Ian Glasper gives an overview of life’s bleak outlook for many young people growing up in the eighties, music writer James Sherry explains how tape trading worked, Beddis from Cowboy Killers tells of scaring a very young Green Day with a Samurai sword on their first UK tour. Band wise the Stupids, Heresy, Extreme Noise Terror, Chaos UK, Ripcord amongst others all feature. You can argue that this band or that label should have been featured but c’mon, this is the first nationally aired documentary on this scene since the late eighties. Enjoy it for what is is – an amazing snapshot of an incredible analog music network.

Watch it here: Soap The Stamps

 

 

 

Now on Facebook – more punk rock pictures

So does anybody look at actual websites any more? Useful but too damned static and tedious to update. I’ve got a new Facebook page for all the punk rock pictures I take. Like it if you like. Here’s a few from recent gigs for starters, more over on Facebook.

Maid of Ace, Camden Unicorn – photo: Steve Cotton

Charlie Harper on his 70th Birthday tour – UK Subs, Sub 89, Reading - photo: Steve Cotton

Brains All Gone from Krakow  - photo: Steve Cotton

Captain Sensible – Happy 60th Captain - photo: Steve Cotton

 

Feltham Circles

Took a walk down to Feltham Circles today. It’s now weirdly posh with a proper path leading up to it, it doesn’t seem the remote spot it once was. Recent hitters include the mighty Lovepusher and an excellent piece from Roo. So good to see Lovepusher painting in a spot like this, hope he comes back some time.

Lovepusher, Feltham Circles (Photo: Steve Cotton)

Roo, Feltham Circles (photo: Steve Cotton)

Ten reasons why 2014 will rock

Skipping the customary review of last year here’s some bands that I saw / heard for the first time during the past 12 months that I’m looking forward to seeing more of in 2014. It’s not a list of ‘favourites’ – just a bunch of great bands that really caught my attention….

Corby punks Cretin 77‘s ‘Cretin City Terminal’ was a really confident debut album full of hooks and strong mid paced tunes. With a nod to Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedy’s and even a bit of GBH too they are part of what is putting Corby on the punk map of 2014. Most videos on youtube don’t do them full justice so try Sleep In Your Car and Satellite Smile from their live demo on Soundcloud.

Cretin 77 at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

The Ramonas are an all girl Ramones cover band. I never really got the idea of a covers band until I saw the Ramonas – they were more than sufficiently like the Ramones but also sufficiently different too. Excellent live, you’re guaranteed of a great night out – see this footage from the Wickerman festival if you need convincing.

The Ramonas – Reading Sub 89 (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Maid of Ace - I nearly saw this lot so many times in 2013 but finally managed to catch them live on the 28th December at the New Cross Inn. Their excellent ‘Spittin Blood‘ promo video sums up their style very nicely. They haven’t got any releases yet that I know of – expect that to change in 2014.

Maid of Ace in New Cross (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

I caught the The Computers for the first time when they were supporting the Damned and was immediately won over by their infectious good times attitude  and their full on interaction with the crowd. It’s rare enough to see a band that fires on all four cylinders but when there’s five going off all at once it’s quite something special. Favourite single? Disco Sucks of course.

The Computers – Reading Sub89 (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Barb Wire Dolls. They may be taking the beginning of the year off to work on their new album and get down new songs such as Heart Attack and Take Me Home but I expect them to be back to the UK with more of their ridiculously full on performances in 2014 – even hospitalisations on their recent tour failed to stop them .

Barb Wire Dolls, Wolverton (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Louise Distras made plenty of waves in 2013 and with her recently released and critically acclaimed album ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’ out now 2014 seems like things will only go from strength to strength for the solo singer. Have a look at Shades Of Hate here.

Louise Distras, 100 Club (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Acidez – Mexico’s UK82 punk metal thrashers come to Europe early in 2014 – and I can’t wait. Their Don’t Ask For Permission LP is constantly on my turntable and their videos are some of the most eye catching in recent times. Check out Don’t Ask For Permission.

Acidez (photo from Acidez)

Thirty Six Strategies – I saw them twice in 2013 and they went from an initial decent rating to excellent in the space of two weeks – so god knows how good they are now having packed a fair few more gigs under their belts as well as releasing their debut CD EP.

Thirty Six Strategies at Water Rats (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

It’s no accident that I’ve seen Blatoidea more than any other band in the past 12 months, either as a support band or a headliner. Yes, they’re London based and play all the time but that’s not the reason. Their debut abum ‘Infected’ is all killer no filler from beginning to end and built solidly on the promise of their Alive EP.

Blatoidea in Stockwell (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Finally I’m looking forward to seeing Brains All Gone. The Polish trio play ridiculously catchy punky songs. Standout for me is ‘Education’ off their ‘Outcasts Of Society’ EP, see it here in a video recorded and directed by Piotr Zaorski. They play Hell Hath No Fury with Maid Of Ace in April.

Brains All Gone (photo from Brains All Gone)

 

A little bit of fun with a Nokia Lumia 1020

Over the past month I’ve been trying out the new 41 Megapixel Lumia 1020 smartphone from Nokia. As part of the trial Nokia supplied two miniature figures similar to the type Slinkachu uses in his pictures and suggested using these to have some fun with the Lumia’s camera. So I’ve had them in my pocket when I’ve been out and about and here’s the results to date:

First go with the camera and a discarded Sushi roll on a City Of London street is a decent find for the photographer figure.

Down in Brick Lane I added the second figure for the first time – an old lady in a hat and scarf. The centre of a a disused fountain provided the desolate backdrop.

A bit further on and I incorporated the lady into the remains of another miniature street art piece whilst behind was a much larger wall work featuring a lady wearing a great deal less.

Slinkachu style figures are more typically at home on a model railway so knowing exactly where to go to get this photo helped. To give the shot a street art kick I added a Dface D-Dog figure as if it had crash landed there (a nod to this Dface installation).

Out in the early evening alongside the river in Staines a statue base gave the impression that we were more likely to be in ancient Egypt (if you ignore the trees in the background)!

Looking the other way in the same location our lady wanted her image taken against the backdrop of a setting sun. Ah, nice.

Back in Shoreditch – graffiti at the end of Willow Street provided another photo opportunity for the couple. If she looks cold it’s because it was!

Heading indoors this was taken in One New Change, a recently built shopping centre in the City near St Paul’s that looks more like something out of Bladerunner in this picture.

Waterloo Station now with the train departure boards in the background. It’s nice to see the effective blur the camera produces but I was looking for something that would show off the camera’s bokeh capabilities.

 And this was it…a Christmas tree on the concourse provided some beautiful circles of light in the background of the picture and really show off the 1020′s ability to produce a ‘bokeh’ effect.

Finally here’s another shot taken on a model railway with a London Police ‘Lads’ figure causing a commotion in the centre of the village square. The battery grip that can be attached to the Lumia 1020 has a tripod socket which proved very useful in setting up this shot.

The 1020 will be off back to Nokia in just a few days. It’s been just great to have all this capability in my pocket for the past month and I’m going to miss it….