My best venues for live music photography

Photographer Laura McCullagh, who has been documenting the live music scene in Cape Town for nearly a decade now. She gives the scoop on the best venues.

It’s an interesting time to be shooting live music in Cape Town. A few years ago at virtually any random gig I’d be among at least three or four other photographers. But nowadays I’m often the only one – unless it’s a big event. So it feels like we’re in a bit of a dip at the moment  – but like anything, it comes in waves and I’m looking forward to the next upsurge, whenever it may be.

I hardly ever go to gigs without shooting these days, so I often end up judging a venue or show by how I found the shooting conditions. I have a soft spot for ROAR and its honest dinginess – and many musicians have told me they think ROAR has the best sound in Cape Town.

The (newly revamped) Mercury Live is also an old favourite, and the renovations include a great lighting rig – which is a vast improvement. Assembly has maintained its reputation for hosting some of the biggest acts that come to Cape Town, and always has good sound and plenty of seating, which is getting more important to me as I age, I’ve found.

For sheer entertainment I’m enjoying our local metal acts more and more, with all their energy and hair and head headbanging fans. iIt’s great fun shooting and watching metal.

From a purely visual perspective I tend to prefer the energetic rock, metal and punk acts and the antics of their respective fans, though sometimes you get that beautiful combination of a really emotional performance from an acoustic or gentler artist in a moody venue.

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