The moment Birmingham based music promoters, Surprise You’re Dead, announced that one of the pioneers of the New York hardcore scene, Agnostic Front, would be playing at Mama Roux’s in Birmingham, it immediately became one of the most anticipated gigs of the year within the West Midlands punk scene.
It was no surprise to see Mama Roux’s so busy, but it was surprising just how dark the venue was. I had to use the torch on my mobile phone to help me set up my camera, and find my earplugs in my bag. Good thing I brought my flash with me. I was planning on using it for shots of the crowd only, but with the stage only being lit up by just four red lights, I was going to need the flash for the whole show.
Having spent the day in Bolton with my family, I miss the first two bands, Face Up and Splintered, but make it in time to see the main support, Grove Street Families from Southampton. The singer tells people to move closer to the stage to fill the floor, but nobody moves. Guess they’re happy enough where they are. Especially if it’s by the bar. Instead, the floor is used for some guys to slam dance, US hardcore style. Pretty sure this didn’t happen in England before, but I’m seeing it happen a lot lately. A few scuffles break out, with the guitarist telling people to take their fights outside, as it’s not welcome inside. It’s a little hard to tell what the limits are when you’re spin kicking and windmill punching the air with people nearby.
With the lighting conditions being tough in the room, I use Grove Street Families time on stage to figure out my camera and flash settings, ready for when Agnostic Front come on stage. Grove Street Families did play a good set, and had a great sound about them. I’ll be sure to check them out some more.
Normally, when I’m doing photography at Mama Roux’s, I just have my name at the door and go in, shooting from the main floor itself. This time, I had a photo pass. I wasn’t sure if it was going to serve any purpose in an intimate venue, but with the floor soon filling up with people, I decide to find out how useful the photo pass. As it turns out, it was extremely useful, as I was allowed to do my photography from the side of the stage. No need for me to worry about how I was going to get decent photos with an onslaught of stage divers in a heavy mosh pit.
Celebrating 35 years together as a band, Agnostic Front kick off the beginning of their UK tour to a ferocious entrance on stage, with guitarist Vinnie Stigma working up the crowd. There were a few troubles with the microphone at the beginning as vocalist, Roger Miret, couldn’t be heard, but this doesn’t deter the band nor the audience. Everyone is having a great time, enjoying this night to the fullest.
Stage left is very much my only vantage point for the night. As tempting as it was to stage dive, to get myself across to another point in the room, I didn’t want to risk breaking my lens in a brutal mosh pit, especially as it was my Sigma 17-50mm lens. It would pretty much mean no more photography for me for a long time, as that it the lens I use for all events and concerts. Still, from being at just a single point throughout the whole night, I try my best to make the photos as interesting as possible, without trying to end up with way too many similar photos. Still, I could count on the action from the audience for that not to happen.
In the long career they’ve had, Agnostic Front have played a range of different venues across the world. But it’s intimate venues like Mama Roux’s where a hardcore punk band of their stature really thrives. No barriers between fans and bands. This is a night that belongs to everyone in the room, and no doubt, one that all who were there will never forget.