Bringing together music and gig photography, Graham Smillie finds great potential in Shout About It Live. 

As a gig photographer, a festival about music and gig photography should be right up my street and for the most part this was certainly the case at Constellations this weekend.

An exhibition of live-music photos accompanied by some top quality live music will make any weekend worthwhile for me.

First of all, a line-up featuring some familiar faces and some new. Some I’ve seen regularly and a few I’ve not seen for a bit, so there’s a chance to catch up on how they’re progressing.

St. Helens’ finest Scarlet headlined the Friday opening session with a familiar, high energy punk-pop set that has developed a slightly heavier edge. Lead singer/guitarist Jessie promises a big change to the set in the near future, but I was quite happy with what was on offer tonight.

I was a bit disappointed to encounter the photography on display, although the irony of poorly lit gig photography wasn’t lost on me, I did struggle to see much of the pictures. Fortunately, more lights were added on the Saturday and this helped to present the exhibition a bit better.

I wasn’t familiar with most of the photographers, though the appeared to often be covering heavy metalish bands (not my thing), but they were great photos nonetheless. Local pit perennials Warren Millar, John W. King and festival organiser Georgia Flynn were able to show off some of their cracking images.

Saturday opened with young punks NVMD doing a fine job of blowing the cobwebs of the day before into orbit.  Liam from Limerance gave a much quieter solo set as bandmate Jennie is in poor health. Liam’s own throat infection merely served to give a gravelly tone to the songs and let ours ringing ears settle down a bit. Lovely stuff and get well soon Jennie.

Local indie boys JJohns opened with a cover of Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning which continued the quiet section of the day, but they gradually picked up the pace and finished in top form.

But it wasn’t all indie, and R&B act Tabitha Jade proved to be one of the most impressive vocalists of the entire weekend, and no doubt has a great future ahead. Likewise, Satin Beige (one of two cello heavy acts of the weekend) was a joy to listen to. She has a great voice and combined with the sound of the cello melts my brain, beautiful!

I haven’t seen Natalie McCool since her Sound City set last year, and on this showing, it’s been far too long, filling her set with intelligent, tuneful songs, played with the right mix of power and subtlety.

👉Click here for tickets to Planet Slop and Out of Context‘s Liverpool R&B showcase 👈

Although still in its infancy, it’s nice to see Shout About It have the ambition to bring international acts to the festival. Early on the Sunday,  we were treated to Canadians Novusolis, who brought a beautiful, trippy sound – ideal for chilling out on a Sunday afternoon.

That isn’t to take away from the local talent; Astles seems to have been around for a long time, though he’s only about 19. But the recent addition of a cello and bass and drums has given a welcome back up to his often haunting songs.

Credit must also be given for the diversity of sounds. Like on Saturday, there were a handful of great local soul artists, starting with Remee gave us a taste of modern soul music. She has a great voice and if this is what is on offer at soul music gigs, I might have to get out more. She is playing a show with Planet Slop in a few weeks if you wanna see what all the fuss is about.

Continuing the soul vibe Mersey Wylie, backed by her six piece band, took the stage and hit us with a set of songs of revelation and truth about her struggles with mental health. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had their battles there and these songs resonate. Mersey’s voice, which has always been good, is maturing with each gig and somehow getting even better.

As a fill in for a late cancellation, Ahmed Khwaja took the stage accompanied by his own guitar and a violinist, taking his chance with some aplomb. A mainly folk based set, but informed throughout by growing up with brown skin in St. Helens and definite sounds of the middle-east and India. A surprise addition, and extremely welcome.

I haven’t seen Nick Ellis play for ages and to be honest, that’s my fault and my loss. His voice is incredible and, accompanied by his fantastic skill on the guitar, his set is a sublime thing. His songs tell stories of people and places that are often familiar. He gave me a shout-out on a song about the She Club, which will be familiar to a section of the population of a certain age. Nick has a new record out, catch Blue Summer on all the platforms now.

As a festival Shout About It could be a really special thing when it hits its full potential. The music was top quality, and had a great mix of styles throughout the weekend.

Right now, the ambition seems bigger than the event itself. It would, for example, be nice to see the photography better presented, probably in a separate room to the music. It would give the photography element a much better platform.

But Georgia Flynn still did a tremendous job putting the weekend together, and wasn’t asking much for entrance. She has launched a crowd-funder to try and cover her losses. I know times are hard, but if you can spare a couple a quid please chip in. These festivals only exist by the fact that people take a chance and organise them, if they’re not supported they will cease to exist.

Pictures by Tom Adam