First Time Jitters - Starting in the New Zealand Music Scene

My start in the New Zealand music scene was shooting for smokefreerockquest in 2012. 

It’s New Zealand’s largest song writing competition, It aims to motivate young musicians & encourage their peers to support kiwi music. First founded in 1989, in the 28 years its been around many successful artists of today had their start here. 

You can view the dates & regions for this year’s heat’s & finals here under their event tab.

I covered three event finals. Manakau, North Shore & Waikato. I had graduated from high school at the end of the previous year. 
The shift in dynamics from being a student to an adult out of the school bubble put me in a position were the staff running the show where considered my peers, instead of the contestants even though I was closer in age to them. I even had many of them back stage call me miss.
 Which instantaneously made me feel old.

Harry Ray Jones

SFRQ North Shore Regional Finals

Red Nite Sky

Back then I never made note’s or kept information about who I was photographing. In hindsight this was very stupid as I now can’t see how these bands and artists progressed with their music careers. No doubt some of them have gone on to do great things. 

One artist that I did have information on is Harry Jones (photographed above). At the time a solo singer song-writer. Three year’s on (November 2015) we crossed paths at a gig played at Lucha Lounge. At the time he was preforming with the band BOYCVLT. Since then he has taken a break from playing serious gigs & spends his time regulaly playing for the locals of a Papatoetoe supermarket. He’s now looking to create new content and possibly form/join a band.

You can view his latest video here & if you want to contact him about future music endeavours click here.

As well as students preforming in the competition, each regional final has a special guest act. For the Waikato performance my friends from Rival State preformed. It was great to photograph some familiar faces. We also spent around an hour after the show trying to jump start Rivals car (but thats a story for another time).

Luke Van Hoof - Rival State

Luke Van Hoof & Vladimar Einarsson - Rival State

Nimal Fernando - Rival State

About a month after SFRQ I joined a music publication & attended my first gig for them on the 30th July 2012. At the Kings Arms to a sold out crowd. The line up was Clap Clap Riot, Villainy & Luger Boa. It was a shock to the system. Unlike the organised seated (parent & teen) crowd of SFRQ; this show was packed with adults.

For those that have met me (& no doubt needed to look down), I’m 5’ 3” on a good day. I am short. So suddenly being thrown into an environment where there is no photographer pit (or stage wings) a Tetris floor of bodies and no clue where to place myself. I panicked, all I wanted to do was take the best photographs possible but the crowd was overwhelming. It was so tightly packed. I survived & the photographs came out alright (many shows later I would redeem myself with each of these bands, want to see those images? Leave a comment on my Facebook page). It was a crash course in what to expect for future events.

It was in these days where my good shots where lucky shots. When I look though the archives from theses shows I cringe; this early stuff was experimental. Trying to find my way through venues; learning how to use my gear to its fullest & finding the rhythm of my subject.

Stephen Heard - Clap Clap Riot

Clap Clap Riot

Clap Clap Riot


Neill Fraser - Villainy

James Dylan - Villainy

Luger Boa

Luger Boa

Luger Boa

Luger Loa

I immediately fell in love with the challenges of photographing this genre. From low lit settings, strobes and the dreaded red gel. I had to not only get a handle on how each stage and performance was lit. I had to try and keep out of the way of audience members; avoid hindering their experience.

When allowed to use a flash, to not blind or annoy the performers. When other photographers where on the scene, trying to avoid setting up the same shots & not tread on any toes; literally (Sorry!). 

Above all, once all these things are in place the best thing is capturing the raw nature of each show. Musician’s in their element. There is something amazing about documenting a moment, freezing it time, cementing its essence.


Clap Clap Riot have just released their third album ‘Dull Life” & are on tour! Preforming in Auckland May 12th & Wellington May 13th click here to view details.

For other gigs in your area check out Under The Radars Gig Guide Here

Read last weeks article here

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