Robert Plant, Grace Jones, and more make up the best of 2015 concert photos

by Kara Murphy on December 28, 2015

Grace Jones at Fox Theatre Oakland

Grace Jones is an icon in her own right. Her sold out show in Oakland, this past September, exceeded my wildest expectations.

Like many people contributing to Spinning Platters, 2015 was a full and busy year to the point where I didn’t have the time to write and share as much as I would’ve liked. I didn’t go out often and chose to prioritize client work (and a burgeoning drone hobby) over excessive concert-going.

However, quality of the subjects trumped the quantity of shows I attended – especially compared to years past (apologies for the over-used analogy, my mind is on Holiday break). Legendary acts, big names, and a combination of both crossed my lens in the pit this year alongside some up-and-comers that should be on your radar if they’re not already.

Couple that with getting the chance to work with the imitable Paige Parsons at Outside Lands, who taught me more in one three-day weekend than I learned on my own over six years, and this was the year my craft truly, noticeably, and considerably improved.

Below is an album of highlights from music festivals I attended including Bottle Rock Napa and Pitchfork Music mixed in with some incendiary live performances at local venues such as Fox Theatre Oakland and Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre. Also, I’m sharing a never-before-seen photo I captured of Grace Jones in an element I could only put into context once I read her riveting biography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.

Scroll on and enjoy.

Happy Fangs at Great American Music Hall.

Rebecca Gone Bad knows how to work a crowd and give the audience something to talk about the next day. This photo of Happy Fangs’ front woman was taken at Great American Music Hall in March.

Kendra McKinley at SXSW

Kendra McKinley was awesome enough to take time out of her busy SXSW schedule, along with Survival Guide, Abbot Kinney, and The Damn Fanatics, to perform at a talk I gave on live music photography. Her infectious single “Fine as a Vine” helped her star rise considerably this past year.

Robert Plant at Bottle Rock Napa

Robert Plant did not want photographers in the pit. So, I weaseled my way up to the front of the massive crowd, just for a moment, and captured a few shots. It was worth getting stepped on a few times, for sure.

No Doubt at Bottle Rock Napa

Hey, baby. Gwen Stefani also didn’t want photographers in the pit, so we stood in the center partition. Thank goodness I have a halfway decent lens.

Phono del Sol

A lot of festival fashion tries too hard to impress or doesn’t try at all. This woman’s effortless style and aura gets a nod of approval from me (not that she’d care). Phono del Sol is a truly special event showcasing the best up-and-coming indie talent.

Madvillain's Freddie Gibbs performs at Pitchfork Music Festival

Madvillain’s Freddie Gibbs performs at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Run the Jewels at Pitchfork Music Festival

Run the Jewels perform at Pitchfork Music Festival. They’re giving away goods with #12DaysOfRTJXmas which the started on Christmas day itself.

Kathleen Hanna performs with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Kathleen Hanna performs with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Chance the Rapper at Pitchfork Music Festival

Chance the Rapper closed out this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival on a high note with his energetic, engaging performance.

Sleater-Kinney at Pitchfork Music Festival

It rained at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon in Chicago. I would have been devastated if the day’s acts had been cancelled. I love Carrie Brownstein, especially, and didn’t mind ruining a pair of Tiek shoes to slosh through the muddied photo pit and capture photos of her and Sleater-Kinney.

Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Everyone adores Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES, it’s hard not to with her enigmatic stage presence and her refusal to accept online misogyny.

Big Freedia at Outside Lands Music Festival

If you haven’t witnessed Big Freedia live, you’re missing out on the best party you’ve ever attended. She stole the show during GastroMagic at this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival.

St. Vincent at Outside Lands Music Festival

St. Vincent performed at Outside Lands Music Festival. She never disappoints, ever.

Kendrick Lamar at Outside Lands Music Festival

Any shot you can capture of Kendrick Lamar is an accomplishment. The rapper moves at a rapid pace around the stage, pausing only briefly to take in the audience’s energy.

James Blake at Outside Music Lands Festival

Nice view if you can get it. I was able to go on stage a few times at Outside Lands and got a different perspective of up-and-comer James Blake performing to a swelling crowd.

Billy Idol at Outside Lands Music Festival

If Billy Idol and his bandmates knew how to do one thing especially well, it was put on a show for the photographers in the pit. I miss the days of bands acting like actual performers with the intention of allowing a photographer to capture an epic shot.

Hall and Oates at Hearst Greek Theatre

My only complaint about Hall & Oates performance at Greek Theatre? They didn’t play long enough. After an hour-and-a-half, they concluded their sold out performance.

Grace Jones at Fox Theatre Oakland

Fox Theatre has a strict 11:00 pm curfew. Do you think Grace Jones cared? Not really. After starting her show only a half hour late, a feat for someone who has a reputation for showing up several hours past schedule, she took the stage with a fury and flow that will probably never be replicated. I was hesitant to publish this photo but after reading I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, I learned that she purposely evokes this rage – a trait she learned from her intensive, at times abusive bishop grandfather Mas P.

If you’d like to view any full-sized version of these images, please visit my Flickr.

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