Topping Liverpool's year as European Capital Of Culture in 2008 was never going to be easy and with a recession to deal with too, it was always going to be a bit of a worrier. However, in hindsight it actually turned out quite well indeed. We never got Superlambananas but we did get Penguins which people took to their hearts 'nearly' as much. We also got a Beach Boy instead of a Beatle, and we got the Fonz instead of Cilla as a panto star which although not as big a name in panto circles is actually way cooler. Fact. Henry Winkler also caused a storm just wandering around town and he became the one to watch out for, dubbed Winkler Watch by The Echo's Catherine Jones. In fact he was spotted everywhere from a newsagents on Hardman Street (buying tin foil!) to Ma Edgertons next to The Empire and I haven't seen so many people getting excited about a visiting celebrity since Samuel L Jackson was here in 2001 to film 51st State. However, though I do know someone who bumped into Samuel L Jackson in a chemist in Litherland he was generally easy to spot as he spent most of his spare time in Magnet on Hardman Street with Robert Carlysle. So although some of the bigger names were missing and it was never going to be as big as last year, it was still pretty special and some things just got bigger and better. We got bigger ships and the Queen Mary 2's visit in October was no doubt the Mersey's highlight, we got a finished off waterfront and whilst we moaned a bit in 2008 saying nothing was finished, it at least gave us something to look forward to in 2009 like finding a present under the tree on the 2nd of January. And to mark this new waterfront we got a great new summer festival, On The Waterfront, which I hope returns bigger and better this summer though fingers crossed for better weather if it does come back in 2010! Liverpool Sound City also got bigger and better this year after making it's debut in 2008 and next year's getting bigger again with the recently announced news that MUSEXPO, a major international music business conference and convention has announced that it will be coming to town as part of Liverpool Sound City time for the next three years, instead of hosting their event in London. Anyway, enough of me trying to review the year, I'll post some links to other end of year reviews at the end, and onto some randonly chosen personal favourites from 2010.
Starting in the new year is always a worry and with the potential post capital of culture blues hovering around, it was nice to get the call that my first job was to photograph the Prime Minister and so on a very very very cold morning I not only got to photograph the PM (again) being guided around the new museum by Phil Redmond but I also got to check out the museum itself for the first time.
In March I got the chance to go out to SXSW in Austin, Texas as a guest of Liverpool Sound City and it turned into a bit of a road trip that started out with a night on my own, Saint Patricks night to be precise, in the Hoot Country Saloon in Houston and along the way took in bat watching missions, boat trips with nice Irish people, lots of BBQ, afternoon Southern Comfort sessions in the sun and of course silly amounts af amazing live music with my personal highlights being Black Lips, Wave Machines, Howard Eliott Payne, The Sonics and Camera Obscura! The full Lone Star State of mind story is here
Whilst 95% of my work is done in and around Liverpool, I did get to do a great job in Manchester in 2009 which was a massive 3 day event promoting Spanish Balearic culture in the centre of the city. In fact they renamed Albert Square to Albert Square for the weekend. Featuring dancing horses, cabaret, food, street carnivals and mad human firework displays, I spent two days over there and had a great time.
As mentioned already, Liverpool Sound City hit it's second year by getting bigger and way way better with more venues, more bands and on a personal level much better gigs. But itt was also hard work. Myself and Peter Guy, equal parts elf, trouble causer and journalistic genius, got to work on a daily newspaper that we had to deliver content to by 3am after a 9am start each day. For three days!! Needless to say as INCREDIBLE as Liverpool Sound City was, it was also knackering and we certainly enjoyed the closing party! And if you read any of my ramblings at the time you would know that my festival highlight was Black Lips (that's them snogging below) and the fact that although I spent most of my time running into gigs and running out once I'd got my shots, with Black Lips at Masque it was a case of being stuck in the pit for the whole gig and it is my second best gig of the year. My first was watching the same band at SXSW! My Liverpool Sound City blogs are here or head over to the official site for early bird tickets!
Another great '08 event that carried on into 2009 was the Viennese style balls at St.George's Hall and I got to photograph the Summer Ball. Incredible setting, The Phil and Greg Francis orchestras supplying the soundtrack and some of those tv dancers (who's names I don't remember) showing you how it's done. The photograph of the dancers is one of my favourite pics of the year.
I met the Nashville Liverpool Underground Medicine Show in Austin Texas in March or I should say that I was there the night that they formed. I'd met Mike Badger, the Liverpool singer who formed The La's, in Austin for the first time and we discussed doing some film work whilst we were out there for this film project I'm working on and then the next thing is we're in a backyard in South Austin hanging out with these new friends of Mike's called Emily and Matt and we did some filming with Mike on his own. The house had a giant rope light map of Texas on an outside wall which flashed on and off around the peace symbol. And then the beer and the Rum came out, along with the Mexican food, I filmed some more of the singing that carried on into the night and the next thing is there's talks of Mike bringing them over to the UK for a small tour. Needless to say it was a great night, with some great music, but to back up what could have been an easily forgotten drunken conversation, the band really did start that night and they came over in the summer to play a series of UK dates. I'm currently trying to put some of the footage I shot with them together and will post it online soon but in the meantime here's a quick link to some of the original footage I shot in Texas or go check the band out here. Nice one Mike, Emily and Matt!
Highlight of Liverpool's summer calendar for me was the On The Waterfront set of events which although hampered at times by typically awful weather, still saw thousands flock to the new look Pier Head to see bands, classical concerts, films, fireworks and loads of street theatre. These photos are from the light show which was my favourite of the 3 weekends.
'Sorry but I don't photographs weddings' is my usual answer when asked though I do like documenting all kinds of events. The saying no to weddings is mostly down to the whole thing about group photos and posed formal shots and even when you're told there'll be none of that sort of stuff, there usually is! Once when asked if I was bringing me camera, I obviously said yes and as soon as we walked out of the registray office, the groom's mother walks up to me and says 'who do you want first?'! So, no I don't do weddings though I have taken a lot of photographs at weddings. This year however saw a rare exception when I photographed a very very last minute, informal wedding by friends Jasper and Donalda. In fact I only found out a few hours before the wedding itself that it was happening and nobody was taking photographs and as it was such a great day, and I don't often post personal photographs, I just thought I'd post it!
As in house photographer at two of Liverpool's best venues, I get to see some amazing shows every year. One venue is O2 Academy (formerly Carling) and so I get to see all kinds of bands, big and small, and there's more of that in a bit. On the other hand I shoot lots of stuff for The Philharmonic including portraits of conductor Vasily Petrenko for brochures and record covers as well documenting the orchestra throughout the year. And aside from the classical side of things The Phil puts on an incredible calendar of everything from music to comedy and film and my personal highlights this year have been Brian Wilson, who I to got photograph backstage which was a bit special, and the OMD/RLPO collaboration which I'm posting here. This event has just been released on DVD and can be bought from The Phil's site.
The afternoon I spent at The Phil photographing David Gest's guests was without a doubt THE highlight of many a year not only because I got to photograph some of the greatest names in soul music like Billy Paul, Jimmy Ruffin and Percy Sledge (photo below) but at the end of the afternoon The Temptations sang the whole of The Way You Do The Things You Do to me accapella! To be fair they were actually singing it for the tour manager who was stood behind me but the camera says they're singing to me!
I think I went on enough about Dubai Sound City enough at the time and it was only a month or so ago but needless to say that as the weather here was turning pretty horrible, it was nice and a great honour to be taken off to the sun for 6 days to shoot some great live music and get to be part of what is looking like becoming an annual event! Aside from this there's talk of Sound City being part of an event out in Shanghai next year for the World EXPO so fingers crossed I might be getting out to China in 2010!
'Son I'm thirty, I only went with your mother 'cos she's dirty, and I don't have a decent bone in me', Shaun Ryder's classic lyrics from Kinky Afro, were the start of my last gig of 2009 in what has been a very musical year. It was 11 o'clock and Happy Mondays are seriously on form. The band are great, the new singer is great and even though there was no Bez and the new stuff wasn't too good, the hits kept coming and it was a great gig to end the year on! The only odd thing about it, and it was really odd, was that the band left the stage at 11.58 and didn't do an encore so everyone just sort had a brief cheer at midnight and then just sort of shuffled about waiting for something else to happen. But it didn't so we went home. So it was an odd new year but still a great gig and not being a fan of the whole New Year's Eve thing anyway, I was quite happy.
So it's goodbye to 2009 and roll on 2010 with possible musical road journeys out of the country again, an early new year launch on my new stock and print sales gallery (which is currently empty!), several book projects to carry on with, updates on both www.mcnulty.co.uk and www.markmcnulty.co.uk coming in the next few days and of course the ongoing film projects which will hopefully start going online soon.
And if you're not sick of reading about 2009 and you've actually made it all the way down to the bottom then check out some of these for further lists and writing about the year just passed.
Happy New Year