Friday November 24 – Sunday November 26, 2017 :
What a massive weekend Newcastle experienced when the Supercars rolled into town. For myself, I managed to score some media access to shoot the cars, then topped it off with catching Shihad Friday night, and a pit shoot of Chisel Saturday. Three days of fast cars, loud music, beers and burgers never sounded so good.
So let’s start at the beginning. I get dropped off at Civic Park at 8.30am Friday and make my way towards the foreshore with 20 kilos of camera gear on my back. To be honest, when I head off to shoot a show with all the camera gear, I sometimes feel like the drummer in a band, and the reviewer with their notepad and pen in their back pocket, let’s just call them the singer with their microphone.
Anyway, in the scorching morning heat I finally find Gate 1 and the accreditation tent, and get my pretty Media lanyard. It even have my name on it so this one goes straight to the pool room. Over the next three hours, I walked the track flashing this lanyard at all the entry gates to see where this baby will get me. I was able to get into any of the grandstands, behind the pits, and into the concert grounds. Sweeeet
What I soon realise is that my access does not give me anything special in order to shoot the cars. I am behind two sets of fencing with lots of motorsport nuts in front of me, so the Supercar shoot has become a bit more challenging than what I was expecting. By lunch on the Friday, I was exhausted. I had managed to find a few spots where I could get some half decent photos, with a few that I would revisit once the supercars hit the track in anger later in the weekend.
For now, I need food and beer so I decide to make 48 Watt St my basecamp for the weekend. I have to thank Graham for making my partner and I welcome for the three days. I was able to store my camera gear in the venue’s office, eat Ray Ray’s burgers, drink Six String beers, and watch the racing on the big screen in air conditioning. It might sound like a cop-out – why go to the race to watch it on the TV – but I really do feel that I have found the best place to experience the Newcastle 500. Right at this moment though, at 1pm on the Friday, I just needed to get out of the heat and for the next five hours, I made myself comfortable with a beer in hand listening to the cars roar by.
Tonight, 48 Watt St lights up with Shihad, and I’m more than happy to have a big Friday at the start of an even bigger weekend. Opening with ‘You Again’, a track that is over 20 years old and still carries one of the must brutal guitar riffs, the band are on a mission. I plant myself front and centre with a wide angle lens, with plenty of room to move. The crowd is taking its time to warm up which surprises me. There is literally no space between me and vocalist Jon Toogood.
No need for me to rattle off the songs played, just check out the setlist above. There’s a nice helping from The General Electric and their latest FVEY, a dive back to the industrial ‘Factory’, the restrained ‘Deb’s Night Out’, and a couple of choice cuts from Pacifier.
On stage the band don’t let up. Jon climbs to the top of the speak stacks, twice, and by midway through the set, the crowd has pushed forward to the knee-high stage, dodging guitar heads and becoming quite manic, which brings me to the only issue I had with the night – fuckwit punters.
Here’s the dilemma, you and your mate go to a festival along with 10 thousand others, and you have a great time. You go hard in the mosh along with 500 others, sweaty, bruised and beer-soaked, and it’s all you talk about during the week. The next weekend, you and your mate go to a club show with 100 people, and you go just as hard as you did at the festival. This night though, you have become a fuckwit.
At the festival, everyone knows what will happen if you venture too close to the mosh, and we have the choice to get involved if we wish to. Also, as a photographer, we will have a pit in front of you so we are quite protected. In a small club though, with no pit to shoot from, and I was push onto the stage numerous time, received a head butt to the back of my head, and had beer spilt on me. Imagine my thoughts when while shooting, I see a beer venture into my sight being held above me. Imagine my thoughts of having a beer spilled over $6000 worth of camera gear, and what sort of damage that “5 kilos of steel” camera gear can do. Fuckwit.
And before you say “if you don’t like it then get out of the way”, I was the one that was at the front of the stage before Shihad came on, before anyone else decided to join me. It all comes down to respecting the space you are in and the people around you. Fuckwit.
Anyway, Shihad killed it at 48 Watt St tonight, and even though it was a big day to start my weekend, I drove back to the Central Coast looking forward to more motor racing and Cold Chisel tomorrow.
Saturday was a late start, as was Sunday to be honest. My partner and I spent the early afternoon back at 48 Watt St, having burgers and beers, waiting to make our way to the concert stage in the middle of the track. After negotiating some last minute accreditation to get me into the pit, it was all sorted before The Owls hit the stage. The crowd was already large as many had found their spots early in preparation for Chisel. The Owls looked comfortable in front of what was the largest crowd they had played to. A short, sharp set that was well deserved for these locals.
Following a quick gear change, Spiderbait arrived to an enthusiastic reaction from the crowd. I found myself the only photographer in a rather crowded pit – the pit was deep but was filled with stage gear and security, plus the stage was extremely high making it difficult to get clean images. ‘Calypso’, ‘Buy Me A Pony’ with Janet on drums, and ‘Fuckin’ Awesome’ were all…. fuckin’ awesome. The obligatory ‘Black Betty’ as the closer set the crowd up perfectly for Chisel.
As we approached 8pm and the arrival of Cold Chisel, I found myself discussing with my partner what we were going to do with this media lanyard. You see, this lanyard now gets me into the pit in order to photograph, and my partner just happens to have the same media lanyard. For Spiderbait, we were both able to stay in the pit for the entire set. For Chisel, would it be the same deal? On entering the pit, I quickly get told it is the usual “three songs, no flash” rule, so no luck with shooting the entire set. What I did manage to do was set my partner up in the pit right under Jimmy with the instructions to “just stay here and keep an eye out for security and photographer.” She had an amazing experience, and for me that was enough reward from this big weekend.
As for the show itself, it was big, it was long, and it focused quite squarely on Breakfast at Sweethearts, East and Circus Animals. Cold Chisel, the Supercars and Newcastle is the perfect cocktail, and I am sure if it was not 4am while I am writing these words, I could come up with a witty name for said cocktail. ‘Letter To Alan’ began the set before moving onto the driving ‘Standing On The Outside’. With ‘Choirgirl’, ‘Rising Sun’ and ‘My Baby’ to follow, we have received a third of East as the opening salvo.
More recent tracks, songs from No Plans, The Perfect Crime and The Last Wave of Summer, appeared clumped together in the middle of the main set, and did unfortunately quieten the crowd a touch. You could definitely feel the rise and fall from the punters as ‘Cheap Wine’ and ‘Pretty Little Thing’ were delivered, and again with ‘Shipping Steel’ and ‘The Perfect Crime’. To be honest, I feel sorry for these tracks as the legacy of the early ’80s Chisel hangs heavy over the later releases.
On stage, and this was one seriously big stage, the band looked and felt comfortable with smiles exchanged between Barnes and Moss throughout the night. The main set concluded on a wave of ‘Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Flame Trees’, Khe Sanh’, and what I consider the band’s finest moment, ‘Bow River’, sending the crowd into a chant for more. Two encores followed with a quiet, introspective tone – ‘Saturday Night’, ‘Four Walls’ and ‘Breakfast at Sweethearts’ held back the reins, controlling the pace, only to let the beast loose with ‘Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)’ and the night’s closer, a deep cut from East, ‘Tomorrow’. It was a wonderful couple of hours that the 20,000 crowd lapped up with the only opportunity that I feel the band missed was not including ‘Star Hotel’ into the mix. The Star Hotel and the riot surrounding it is etched into Newcastle folklore, and if this song had appeared at a significant point in the night, it would have sent the crown into a frenzy.
Sunday afternoon and I arrive back at 48 Watt St a few hours before Race Two begins. I do not venture much past the front brickwork of the venue, taking in the racing on the big screen or standing on the venue’s fence to watch the cars scream up Watt St. I did wander up to turn two, as Watt St turns left into Shortland Esplanade, to take a few images hoping to catch someone get cleaned up by the outside concrete wall. This is one nasty corner and one that many an experienced driver came unstuck on over the weekend.
With the inaugural Newcastle 500 done and dusted, I would have to declare it a resounding success. There were definitely teething problems that should be ironed out for next year, but all involved, including the local businesses, will take away with them a plan on how to make next year bigger and better. For me, I will be back at 48 Watt St, with the Supercars at my doorstep, and a beer and burger in hand.
Photographer & Reviewer : Kevin Bull