Every year I have attended Tons of Rock festival since 2015 there has been at least one day when it rained. Not this year – clear skies and sun for the entire time, and this final day was the hottest. I was beginning to regret wearing black jeans. We decided not to attempt to squish onto the No. 34 bus to get to the festival but to take an Uber. I was expecting a Prius, but we got a Tesla…with falcon-wing doors! What a start to the day!
First to take to the main stage were Norwegian rock band The Dogs, who I hadn’t heard of but my photographer buddies suggested I go check out because they were fun to shoot. My God, were they right. All six band members were full of energy but vocalist Kristopher Schau was something else – he barely kept still throughout their entire set. I had heaps of fun shooting the first three songs (as is standard for photographers), but as we went to leave the photo pit, Kristopher pointed to us and was saying things in Norwegian and the crowd were laughing. I initially thought it was along the lines of “Bloody photographers – now they are out of the way we can get on with the show” (which is something I have heard on many occasions), but turns out he was saying that we were welcome to stay and shoot their entire set. It was blazing hot and to be honest I was looking forward to retreating back to the shade of the press tent, but immediately after he finished what he was saying, he jumped down off the stage, climbed onto the barrier and leapt into the crowd.
I realised this was an opportunity not to be missed and stayed in the photopit for the duration of their 50 minute set. Incredible. Bands rarely do cool shit like crowdsurf during the first three songs of their set, so it is something I haven’t really had the opportunity to capture before. It was great. For their final song, “Oslo”, Kristopher climbed over the barrier, took off his shirt and started a moshpit in the crowd, still singing. It was insane and awesome and I was so happy I got to not only witness it but capture it as well. At the end of the song he dropped the mic and just walked away towards the interview tent. My new favourite band. Saturday was already getting off to a fantastic start!
I do not enjoy prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and after so long in the pit for The Dogs’ set I changed out of my (now sodden) black jeans and into some camo shorts, before heading to the shade of the scream stage to check out German heavy metal band Powerwolf. I had seen other photographers’ shots of the band before and thought they would be fun to shoot, and I was right. Great stage presence from the whole band, and the keyboard player made sure he didn’t miss out on the action (and being photographed) by coming to the front of the stage and pulling some “metal” moves.
Later on I was back at the scream stage for Californian thrash metal band Testament. We waited in the photo pit and as the lights went down smoke filled the stage and the crowd roared. We pointed our cameras up towards the stage but the band were not to be seen – just huge clouds of white smoke. Eventually the smoke cleared and the familiar figure of Chuck Billy became visible. Testament are always great live and I enjoyed their set, as did all the bodies packing the tent.
I have a bit of a soft-spot for Swedish band In Flames who were next up on the main stage. They were my gateway to metal. Their new material may not be very popular with their older fans, but I still enjoy seeing them live. There was an almost constant stream of young, shirtless men crowd-surfing and having a lovely time. The band’s current line-up includes Chris Broderick (ex-Megadeth) – who was excellent – as well as a guy surrounded by no less than five keyboards. As well as some of their newer material, I was pleased that they played “Colony” and “Cloud Connected”, which roused some of the outliers who were watching the band’s set from the bar / lying on the grass enjoying the general vibe of the festival.
Next I headed to the vampire stage to photograph Carcass, who I had not realised hail from Liverpool! Another band with a lot of smoke and mainly back-lit, but it did make for some quite atmospheric silhouette shots.
Closing this year’s festival were pop rock legends Def Leppard. They may be getting on a bit but they still put on a brilliant show. No theatrics like KISS on Thursday night, but not many bands can touch KISS when it comes to a live show, except Rammstein (in my opinion). They played all of their hits including my favourite “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which was great to see live.
And so ended another year at Tons of Rock. I bloody love this festival and it is always a highlight of my year. Not only did I get to photograph some awesome bands that I knew, I also discovered new ones. Both the crew and the festival-goers are always so friendly and welcoming. I will definitely be returning next year…if they will have me!
Photos by Katie Frost Photography