2016 in Review: 50 Essential Photos

 

2016 has been a tumultuous year – to say the absolute least.  We lost cultural icons like Bowie, Lemmy, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Mohamed Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen and Prince – a misogynistic psychopath was elected President – Brexit happened and a majestic gorilla named Harambe died for our sins.  However, amidst this hellish shitstorm, there were moments of true beauty, incredible expressions of art, music and political thought.  So here’s a few photos to help remember some of the awesome stuff.

As one of the judges of the Moshcam Photography Awards – I’ve been in the privileged position to be able to see some of the best photographs taken by the most talented music photographers over the past 32 weeks.  I’ve seen some truly mind-blowing images and have relished the opportunity to give these creatives a platform to exhibit their work and receive some much deserved recognition.  Please jump over to the MPA page and check out the incredible Longlist and Shortlist galleries – where you can read the stories behind the images, the gear used and the post-production process. It’s quickly becoming a fascinating archive of the week-to-week achievements of the exceptionally talented photographers around the country.

I myself was lucky enough to be a contributing music photographer for Moshcam and The Music, and in the process document some amazing moments in music this year.

Here’s my fifty favourite images that I managed to capture this year.

Adalita Srsen. I shot this photo on New Year’s Day at MOMA in Tasmania just before Adalita took to the stage to support You Am I. This badass lady is rock n’ roll to her core – you can see it in her eyes – she’s strong, thoughtful, dark and a little bit crazy – like the awesome music she’s been creating since the 90s.
Grimes at Laneway Festival. I was very late to the party with Grimes – but seeing her perform at Laneway was incredible. She’s ridiculously talented and the production and styling of her show makes her a fantastic subject to photograph. Check out the Song Exploder podcast featuring Grimes explaining the process behind her song ‘Kill v. Maim.’
Kendrick Lamar at Bluesfest. After photographing his Wednesday night at Acer Arena in Sydney – we drove through the night to shoot him headlining the opening night of Bluesfest in Byron Bay. There was a near riot prior to the set – and with minutes to stage time the photo pit was full of police and it looked unlikely we’d get to cover the show. But when the lights went down – a calm came over the crowd and we were allowed access.
The Avalanches at The Great Northern Hotel. This pre-party show in the small backroom of a pub in Byron Bay was the band’s first live performance in almost fifteen years and the anticipation was at boiling point. The show itself was met with mixed reactions – but those who were there will remember that electricity in the air as the band took the stage.
Yannis Philippakis is brilliant and beautifully insane. Before 2016 was a week old, Foals put on one of the best shows of the year. This was one of the rare occasions where the first three songs photography rule was adjusted. Instead, the photographers were advised we could shoot the final three songs – probably because that’s when the band is clicking on all cylinders and at their most volatile. It’s also when Yannis tends to go crowd surfing…
Modern Baseball at Def Wolf Studios. This was the first Moshcam Studio Session that I directed, and remains one of my favourites. The band performed two beautiful stripped back acoustic songs for us and their excitement to play new material and comradery with one another was clear. Looking forward to seeing them again in January when they play The Metro with Camp Cope.
Courtney Barnett at the Enmore Theatre. Just moments before the show security informed us the band would allow us to remain in the photo pit and shoot the entire set. This is highly irregular – the standard rule for gig photography being ‘Three Songs no Flash,’ so it was a surprise and pleasure to be able to take in this killer show from such close quarters.
Montaigne at The Plot Festival. Less than a week before Montaigne would win her Breakthrough Artist Aria, she made a guest appearance during Japanese Wallpaper’s set at The Plot. Cloaked in mist, her beautiful and haunting voice perfectly accompanied the electro-soundscape.
Pond at Gizzfest. It’s extremely rare that a band can out-gizz The Gizz – but on this night at Luna Park in Sydney, Pond did just that. With his twitchy, gyrating contortions, Nick Allbrook led the band in a hypnotic performance that shone brightly on an evening of stellar weirdness.
Stonefield at Yours and Owls Festival. Early on a wind-swept Friday afternoon, the psych-rock queens blasted out an energetic set amidst a trippy multi-colored backdrop. A dream scenario for the photographers in attendance.
Gordi at Newtown Social Club. It’s been a massive year for Gordi – a nationwide headline tour and performing around the globe with Jose Gonzalez, Of Monsters and Men, The Tallest Man on Earth and Bon Iver is just the tip of what’s to come from this incredibly talented artist.
Gang of Youths at Festival of the Sun. This was a blistering Saturday night set from my favourite Australian band. I managed to find a vantage point on the side of stage just as massive set-closer ‘Vital Signs’ reached it’s crescendo. I love the commitment that this band brings to every live show – forging a poignant and unique connection with the crowd in the process.
Rodriguez at Fairgrounds Festival in Berry. The Sugarman delivered an eclectic set of originals and covers on Friday night with songs by The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and Sam Cooke. Despite his physical frailty, his voice, musicianship and banter was strong.
Sigur Ros at Splendour in the Grass. On the final night of the festival, the Icelandic post-rockers delivered a powerful performance that had the crowd holding their breath so as to appreciate every note. Not an easy task at a rowdy festival, but you could hear a pin drop in the mud during a few songs and everyone left feeling the euphoria of having attended a very special musical moment.
Coldplay at Allianz Stadium. This was an exhilarating experience. The frenetic multi-colored explosion, spear-headed by the impossibly energetic and highly charismatic Chris Martin, was surprisingly challenging to capture. The man sprints down the runways from stage to the middle of the arena and back again – amidst a storm of confetti and fireworks, but through it all – his unbridled happiness was a joy to photograph.
High Tension at Laneway Festival. This band has a brutal intensity to their live show. Sidling on-stage Karina Utomo exploded into a furious demon – with a snarl that’d make James Hetfield reconsider his day job. She climbed off stage and leant over the barrier – fist clenched, roaring to the frenzied crowd.
Method Man at The Enmore Theatre. When Redman and the Meth dropped into my local venue it was an opportunity to see hip hop royalty. During the second song of the evening they sparked a massive blunt on-stage and many punters in the crowd took the cue to do the same. There was very little the security could do about it. I went home that night strangely hungry.
Noel Gallagher at Bluesfest in Byron Bay. When The Chief came to Byron Bay with his High Flying Birds, there were some serious photo restrictions. We were only allowed to shoot for the first song of the set – from the very edge of the photo pit. He has a well known dislike for photographers and this photo seems to capture one of his trademark filthy looks in our general direction.
Crowded House on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House. 20 years on from their iconic Farewell to the World show – Crowded House returned to the magical venue to treat us to four consecutive nights of nostalgia, and annoy the local residents in the process. The band was as vibrant as ever and allowed themselves to get lost in the reverie of the moment.
Harts at Mountain Sounds Festival. Backstage at Mountain Sounds I approached Darren Hart and asked if he’d pose with a sign that read Keep Sydney Open as part of a campaign against Mike Baird’s ridiculous lockout laws. He was keen to help out and a very nice and softly spoken guy. I then asked if I could snap a quick portrait before I let him go. A few months later his close friend and mentor, Prince, would pass away at his home in Minnesota.
The Dandy Warhols at Young Henry’s Brewery. On a Tuesday afternoon in late October, The Dandy Warhols stepped out of a minivan and strolled into the tasting bar at the Young Henrys Brewery in Newtown. Unannounced, they played a short set to a small handful of lucky punters who just happened to be there, with all four members of the band strumming acoustic guitars. Talk about right place, right time.
The Kills at Splendour in the Grass. Alison Mosshart never gave one single fuck in her whole entire life. Still smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, she swaggered out onto main stage – eyeing the crowd like they were cornered prey. With effortless cool, she took a final drag, flicked the butt away and sang the opening line before finally exhaling a thick plume of smoke.
The Herd at Wicks Park in Marrickville. With the band back in the studio rehearsing for the Elefant Traks 18th Birthday Celebration, there wasn’t much time to capture this image. Peter Sharp and I set a couple of remote flashes around a pathway in a nearby park and just as we were finishing the band arrived. It was awesome seeing this powerful unit back together again – especially in this tragic year of political fuckery.
Deftones at The Hordern Pavilion. Seeing this legendary band rip through classic tracks as well as cuts from their wicked new album Gore was glorious. Almost as glorious as Stephen Carpenter’s flowing mane of luscious hair, set afloat by a strategically positioned fan.
The Cure at Splendour in the Grass. This was one of those bands I figured I might never get to see play live – let alone photograph from the front of stage. Robert Smith’s voice has aged wonderfully and their majestic three hour set was filled with hit after sublime hit.
Bec Sandridge at Yours and Owls Festival. Bec exudes style and her songwriting is as razor sharp as her on-stage fashion sense. Every show she plays she wins over new fans. 2017 should be a big year for this fascinating artist.
Ecca Vandal at Sydney Park. Inspired by Richard Mosse’s photography of child soldiers in the Congo – I managed to track down a couple rolls of Kodak Aerochrome – an extremely rare film stock discontinued in 2009 – and went to a local park with Ecca to create some alien landscapes.
Sticky Fingers at The Enmore Theatre. Perhaps one of the most divisive bands of 2016, this reggae crew sure can sell tickets. Crowds flocked to see these guys play a sold out headline tour across the country. However, after their meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years, the band decided to go on indefinite hiatus towards the end of the year as Dylan Frost’s mental instability and substance abuse became highly problematic and dangerous.
Hiatus Kaiyote at the Sydney Opera House. These colorful weirdos brought their multi-dimensional, poly-rhythmic gangster shit to the Opera House Concert Hall as part of the Vivid Festival. Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield looked perfectly at home on that incredible stage as their enigmatic music filled the space with a rainbow of cacophony.
Raury at Secret Garden Festival. Taking to the stage in angel wings, there was an infectious euphoria to Raury’s performance. With a million dollar smile and swag for days – this guy knows how to captivate a crowd.
The Jezabels at Yours and Owls Festival. With Hayley Mary clad in a badass custom design leather jacket, the Jezabels were breath-taking on the main stage. This was one of those strange images where the light seemed to hit the lens on a weird angle and create an unusual flare pattern. On first pass I dismissed the image altogether, feeling the flare was more of a distraction than anything else, but threw it into my selects as an afterthought. After a little work in Lightroom – my perspective has completely flipped.
Henry Rollins at The Sydney Opera House. This guy has been a hero of mine since I was a teenager. When I first started photography – he was the number one person I wanted to take a portrait photograph of. This year, after an interview for Moshcam about his inclusion in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, I got my wish. Without doubt, a career highlight.
Joey Williams at Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Artists will drop into the Gibson Tent to try out the equipment without warning. On this occasion, Joey Williams, lead guitar for The Blind Boys of Alabama sat in for a jam session that had a roomful of awe-struck onlookers dazzled by his technical wizardry.
Pierce the Veil at Luna Park. Jaime Preciado spent more time flying through the air than planted on solid ground, or so it seemed. This was a crazy show to photograph – with confetti canons ablaze and a band whose energy level is off the chart.
Tash Sultana at The Plot Festival. This unfairly talented, 21 year old, multi-instrumental phenomenon had been getting a lot of buzz in the first half of the year, so I was excited at my first chance to photograph her. She did not disappoint. She hurls herself headlong into her live show and seems to relish the opportunity to connect with her audience on an intimate level.
The Smith Street Band at Festival of the Sun. Wil Wagner knows how to incite a frenzy of lovable yet loose chaos – his positivity and authenticity make it impossible to not enjoy this band. They had the Port Macquarie locals and blow-ins frothin’ hard on a Saturday evening.  Check out the chat we had with them before this show.
The National at Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Emotional. That’s probably the best way to describe this band. Their melancholic indie rock can make your heart ache and your soul soar within the confines of a seemingly simple turn of phrase. This band was high on my photography bucket list prior to this amazing set.
Modest Mouse at The Enmore Theatre. When I was younger I avoided this band for the simple and completely idiotic fact that I thought they had a stupid name. This was the show that proved to me what a horrific mistake I had made. We were granted access to photograph the entire set from the photo pit and I got to see and hear what I had been missing out on for all these years. I still think they have a corny sounding name – but who cares what they’re called when they sound this goddamn good?
DMAs at Def Wolf Studios. After an incredible studio session where we were treated to the first ever acoustic performance of ‘Step Up the Morphine,’ we ducked downstairs to the empty shell where Troy Horse Studio used to be for a quick portrait shot. They clearly are not big fans of band promotion, but I was glad to have had this opportunity to capture such a talented trio the year they released their cracking debut album, Hill’s End.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Splendour in the Grass. These highly prolific triptastic maniacs are an interesting challenge to photograph. Usually performing in low light or against a projection of psychedelic colors, they flail, twist and bend unpredictably. But on this day, they played in the beaming Byron sunshine, giving a rare chance to capture their manic contortions at a high frame rate.
I Know Leopard at Mountain Sounds Festival. As the smooth sounds of this killer band began to flow forth, a powerful burst from one of the smoke machines created a beautiful haze of purple and scarlet behind Rosie Fitzgerald.
Tired Lion at Yours and Owls. We met this up and coming Perth band backstage for a quick chat ahead of their Wollongong set and despite their distinct lack of spelling ability – they were charming, funny and self-depreciating. And that incredible, fuzzy sound
Montaigne at Festival of the Sun. After a huge year, the Aria Award winning Breakthrough artist of the year descended upon a caravan park in Port Macquarie for a sublime set of her uniquely modern 80s synth-pop. The joy on her face says it all.
Harts at Mountain Sounds Festival. This guy is an explosive live performer – and his set at Mountain Sounds was irrefutable evidence. His guitar shredding alone is beyond the price of admission – but when combined with his impressive vocal range, synth skills and Hendrix-esque rock moves – this guy can pull shapes with the best of them. Don’t miss the chance to see Harts do it live.
The National at Bluesfest. Getting the chance to meet Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner backstage was a dream. When Aaron asked if he could borrow a very sexy vintage Gibson for their headline set that night – we were quick to oblige him. And thankfully – all Gibson wanted in return was this photo.
Gang of Youths at Splendour in the Grass. These guys were hella fired up for this set. The perfectly timed late afternoon main amphitheater stage is the holy grail of festival timeslots – and they made the absolute most of it. The euphoric, bombastic sound of their incredible debut album The Positions was the perfect mixture of chaos and precision. You can see by the look on their faces, this gig was a very special opportunity for them.
Violent Soho at The Enmore Theatre. This band have been inciting frenetic mosh pit madness for years and with the release of Waco this year and multiple Aria Awards – their popularity seems on the rise. I just love that beastly wall of Marshall amps stacked behind James Tidswell.
The Rubens at The Hordern Pavilion. Towards the end of their set, Sam Margin surfed his way across the sold-out sea of hands and phones on a small rubber dinghy. With Sam guiding the way – he managed to navigate the ocean of punters and find his way back to the stage.
Ali Barter at Laneway Festival. I just love this moment – she looks utterly lost in the music.
The Strokes at Splendour in the Grass. Shrouded in haze, Julian Casablancas walked a delicate tightrope between apathy and intensity. It must be hard work to come off so effortless – but these guys are well versed in not giving a fuck.
L-Fresh the Lion at Camperdown Park. After wrapping a promo shoot for The Newtown Festival, I was walking back to my bike when I saw a dog kick up a cloud of dust in the setting sun. Being unable to resist good lighting, I called out to L-Fresh if I could snap a couple more frames. Always the gentlemen, he stood in line with the setting sun and I did a quick shuffle dance in the dirt to kick up some fresh haze.

Check out more of Josh’s work on his website and Instagram.

About Josh Groom

Josh is the Head of Video and Photography at Moshcam. He's an award-winning director, editor and photographer based in Newtown, NSW Australia. He has been shooting live music since 2011 for several publications, both print and online, but primarily Sydney street press magazine, The Music - formerly Drum Media. A 2007 graduate of AFTRS, Josh has directed music videos for artists including Angus & Julia Stone ('Babylon' and 'Just a Boy'), Birds of Tokyo ('Wild Eyed Boy'), Born Lion ( 'Good Dogs Play Dead' ), The Snowdroppers ('White Dress' and 'Love Letters') and The Rumjacks ('FIstful O' Roses'). In 2008 he won the IF award for Best Music Video and he's received nominations for ARIA and J awards. In 2016 he won the Best Editing award at Tropfest, for 'Ben's Filming The Movie.' You can check out his directing and editing website here - http://www.joshgroom.com.au

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