Witchskull @ The Basement

Supported by B.C. and The Pilots of Baalbek

For years live music and photography have been two of my favourite pastimes, but for some reason I never quite had the guts to try to combine them. With another wave of lock-downs seemingly immanent, I decided that it was about time to so something about that while I still could. I asked my favourite local venue if I could bring my camera gear along to the Witchskull gig - they said yes. This is the result.

I turned up a little way into the B.C. set. I’m not sure if it was because I there with more purpose than usual, or because they’re just plain better than a lot of the opening supports I’ve seen over the years, but these guys were great fun and got a good response from the slowly building crowd.

Talking of the crowd, this was the first gig I’d been to since 2019. There was something simultaneously disturbing and comforting about sharing a small venue with more people than I’ve seen in total over the previous 18 months.

The idea of a 3 piece with 2 bass players is, well, let’s be honest - it’s weird. But it works for these guys and they delivered an energetic, driving, grungy set.

Pilots of Baalbek were a last minute replacement as the main support. Leaning heavily into 70s rock, they were, in the best way, a bit of a palette cleanser between the grungier B.C and the doomy headliners. Sometimes you just want your rock to be fun, you know?

Bringing tons of stage presence and enthusiasm, they won at least one new fan. Actually two, as my AC/DC obsessed 15 year old has been really getting into their album, too.

In hindsight, one of the things I appreciated most about Pilots was the light show - this concert photography thing is technically difficult and (as we’ll get to with Witchskull) the lights make or break it.

By the time Witchskull took to the stage, the venue must have been at it’s covid-mandated capacity. It certainly wasn’t old-school-mosh-pit packed, but it felt like a sea of people to me.

In keeping with their aggression-laced doom styling, the lighting for Witchskull was dark and extremely challenging. My plan had been to dial in my exposure on the supports and be ready to rock for the headliner. A fine plan, except when the headliner is playing in mono-colour lighting 2 stops darker than the supports.

Add in some fog and you have visually moody and interesting show, and a serious challenge for a first-time concert photographer.

The were a contingent of dedicated fans in the crowd and the band interaction with them was top notch.

One of the highlights was a young guy who either had a tie to the band or was just a superfan with back stage access. They let him come on stage for a while and it was about as heart-warming as an oppressive doom set can get.

Despite the lighting challenges, this was the most fun I’d had in long time. While I can, I’m going to keep this up. The Basement have given me rough approval to turn up with my camera gear whenever I like. Hopefully I can make that happen every month or so.