Will Not Fade’s 2020 In Review

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg
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I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say it has been a rough year. Personally, I had a lot of amazing plans that got cancelled. I was planning on traveling throughout Europe, seeing the world, touring with my dear friends Ranges and attending festivals such as dunk!festival and ArcTanGent. Then a pesky virus spread around the globe and put an end to all of that. Admittedly we’ve got it pretty good here in New Zealand. We had five weeks of national lockdown around Easter time, and certainly a lot of gigs were cancelled or at reduced capacity, but we’ve still had live music for a lot of this year, which is an absolute blessing.

Even so, I’ve found it hard for a multitude of reasons. I decided to retire from running the blog earlier in the year. But I have some spare time now that I’m on holiday and I enjoy writing these end-of-year summaries, so I’m back in action for this one last article for the year.

My top albums of 2020

The Beths Jump Rope GazersThe Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

As I mentioned, New Zealand has still been able to have concerts and gatherings for a lot of the year, so this has allowed a lot of NZ artists to stand out a bit more on the world stage. Benee is an example of one artist who has garnered international attention and success. The Beths are another group who have gone from strength to strength. Many of us fell in love with their self-deprecating powerpop with debut album Future Me Hates Me, and follow up record Jump Rope Gazers is just as brilliant. It’s more of a slow burner than FMHM, but still proves just as irresistible and catchy after a few listens, and an easy pick for my top album of 2020. The Beths are also great live and I was delighted to catch them live again this year after a number of postponements. They’re in such demand that they played 5 packed out shows over three days in Wellington, and I imagine they could have even pulled enough of a crowd to play a few more shows too.

Caspian On CirclesCaspian – On Circles

Caspian’s last album Dust and Disquiet is phenomenal. They blew my mind playing that material at dunk!fest in 2018 and I was so upset that I couldn’t see them play again this year after my travels were cancelled. On Circles may not quiet measure up to Dust and Disquiet, but it’s still a solid album, just in it’s own way. It’s a more reserved offering, but this seems somehow appropriate for the times. There’s two songs with singing –  Kyle Dufrey of Pianos Become The Teeth lends his voice to one track, and Phil Jamieson’s singing on the titular track is sublime and soul restoring. Something else I love about this album is the interesting tones and timbres they’ve gone for. Maybe they’re in alternate tunings, maybe it’s effect pedals, I really have no idea. But these tones, coupled with some cello and violin on a few tracks, make for unusual yet enticing listening.

Into It Over It FigureInto It. Over It. – Figure

Regular readers won’t be at all surprised by this inclusion. It’s no secret that I’m a big IIOI fan. They were the first act that I flew overseas to see live. And the last album, Standards, was a great. Figure is a logical continuation of Standards. Brilliant songwriting, great playing. The drumming is complementary and they’ve continued their exploration into interesting tones.

Biffy Clyro - A Celebration of EndingsBiffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

Again, this should come as no surprise; Biffy Clyro have been my favourite band since I was a teenager. I almost slept on this one though – I pre-ordered the vinyl record and due to covid related complications it still hasn’t shown up. Warner said they’d send a digital download but never did (same case with their last record Ellipsis too, up your game Warner!) After a few months of waiting I figured that maybe I should do some hunting. I eventually got a copy of the album downloaded and I’m glad I did because it’s been on steady repeat ever since. Biffy have always trodden a fine line, making a point of being weird and alternative (at times inaccessible even, especially during the earlier albums), yet at the same time playing stadium rock and writing songs that earn mainstream radio play (more so overseas). And somehow they’ve managed to continue down this path with success. There’s less of the bland radio fodder that featured heavily on Ellipsis, and they’ve managed to evolve and push their style whilst style true to their distinctive Biffy sound.

Other music worth mentioning

distance

Sam Butler released two great solo EPs this year. I reviewed the first EP, over time.

Saint Speak

A side-project from Spencer of Tides of Man, lullabies for his newborn.

Spencer Gill with Tides of MAn at dunk!festival 2018

Spencer Gill with Tides of Man at dunk!festival 2018. Image: Will Not Fade

Jakob – “HAARP”

A great lost b-side from the post-rock titans.

Lakes

Lakes released my favourite album of 2019, and dropped a few remixes, covers and other tracks this year. This 7″ is my pick of their 2020 offerings.

And two albums not released in 2020 that I listened to a lot

Dave Hause KickDave Hause – Kick

You may know Hause as the singer of punk band The Loved Ones. It’s almost a cliche how punk singers start solo projects along these lines (Think The Revival Tour). Kick is a great album, hopeful and defiant in the face of oppression. It’s in the vein of singer-songwriter, even country styles, something a bit more chilled out, but still with rock roots.

MetavariMetavari – Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise

I have no idea how I came across this album but it just hit the spot. A perfect blend of ambient and electronica. I’ve needed more calming music like this a lot this year.


The state of things in 2020

I’m terrified of the ongoing implications of what will happen to the music scene as a result of this pandemic. Musicians who rely on touring and selling merch for a living suddenly don’t have an income. Venues can’t get by because people aren’t allowed to attend gatherings. No venues means no places for bands to play. And it doesn’t just affect musicians, there’s the roadies and drivers and lighting techs and sound engineers and a whole industry suddenly without work.

Many musicians are resorting to livestreaming performances. [Here’s one that my friends in Ranges did for WherePostRockDwells]. Some people have been able to monetise livestreaming these performances. We will see if this becomes comomonplace in the future.

We all know that streaming is not really the answer forward. Sure, it is a revenue stream, but they pay such a pittance per stream that it’s a joke. Bandcamp have stepped up with Bandcamp Fridays, monthly events that they choose not to take their cut on any music and merch sold in order to help the musicians and labels who need the income so badly now. And it appears to have worked, with millions of dollars worth of transactions happening every Bandcamp Friday.

Thankfully we still have live music here in NZ for the time being. I’ve been paying to a Patreon for our local venue Valhalla because I know that without venues, we won’t have a live music scene.

Live music in 2020

I didn’t see many international acts this year, for obvious reasons. I did see Queen at the stadium (it was a bit of a spectacle but I’m glad I didn’t pay much), I saw Yawning Man at Valhalla, and a few metal bands at Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt. My own band also opened for Sebadoh at a sold out show at San Fran in Feb, which was pretty awesome.

Yawning Man at Valhalla

Yawning Man at Valhalla. Image: Will Not Fade

My best gig of the year was The Wellington Sea Shanty Society at Breaker Bay Hall. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I drank a lot of rum and sang pirate songs. My friends and I all agree that it was our collective best night out since The Beards.

Newtown Festival was one highlight. I spent most of the day there taking photos at the Ferguson St Stage for The Mousai.

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival. Image: Will Not Fade

Some of my favourite Wellington bands at the moment are Happy Valley, Planet Hunter and Adoneye, and I managed to see them all play a few times.

It’s a real shame that Spook The Horses had their European tour cancelled, but I was stoked that they asked my band to open at their album release and they killed it. They livestreamed the night if you want to go back and watch it.

Spook The Horses album release at Meow

Spook The Horses album release at Meow. Image: Will Not Fade

A real indication of how much things have changed is when I went to see local speed metallers Stälker recently. It was packed. Certainly a big change from reduced capacity shows that I’d been going to a few months earlier. The mosh pit was pumping and you couldn’t move because everyone was squeezed together so tightly. I used to live for nights like that, but it felt so uncomfortable after avoiding being too close to others for most of the year.

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar. Image: Will Not Fade

2021

It’s hard to say what next year holds for us. Guns n Roses have announced a stadium tour in NZ. Is that too ambitious? Only time will tell. Hopefully the covid vaccine is effective.

Beastwars have held an Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt over the past few years and it’s been successful. I’ve heard rumours about the potential lineup for 2021 and I’m excited about that. I’m not holding my breath about seeing any acts from overseas anytime soon though.

In terms of releases, I’m looking forward to a new Amy Shark album, and hopefully Adoneye release their debut (bass player Jesse is recovering from wrist surgery). There may also be a live DVD from Opium Eater (Jesse’s other band) and Glassblower are dropping their debut grindcore album. My own band Secrets of the Sun will have an album out at some stage early next year too. Sora Shima are coming back so I’m hoping to see them again, and fingers crossed for some new music.

 

What are your favourite albums of 2020? What are your predictions for 2021? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

 

Premiere: Sora Shima – At the Edge of Hope Is Despair

Sora Shima At the Edge of Hope Is Despair cover
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Sora Shima were staples in the New Zealand post-rock scene for some time. They shared the stage with royalty like Jakob and Mono, and put out some great music.

The band slowed down and fell into a hiatus about five years ago. You know the score – guys get a bit older, work commitments start taking over, suddenly they have families, and the band goes on the back burner. Their last release was the 2014 album You Are Surrounded.

I remember in late 2016 my friend David Zeidler (of Young Epoch fame) asking me to recommend some post-rock acts from my neck of the woods for an A Thousand Arms compilation, which were relatively new at the time.

From memory I suggested Jakob, Sora Shima, Hiboux, Into Orbit and Kerretta. Three of those acts made it onto the first edition of Hemispheres (Hiboux featured in the following edition).

Chatting with Jason from Sora Shima, the fresh surge of interest in his band as a result of that compilation inspired him to revive the band and get things up and running again.

They’ve had a handful of gigs in the past year and have been working on new material and getting back on track. Out of nowhere they’ve dropped two fresh songs.

“At the Edge of Hope Is Despair” is a brilliant return to form. A guitar line at the start reminds me of Tides of Man – which can only be a good thing. And the drums sound immense – really full and vibrant and spacious. So many drummers try to emulate that sound that John Bonham gave us in the song “When The Levee Breaks” and Sora Shima have come darn close. All the instruments come together in a searing, triumphant crescendo that leaves you panting for more. I’m reminded of the recent Hubris album.

“Loss” is more cinematic ambient, full of mournful swells and dense textures. A nice counterpiece to the first track.

Sora Shima

There’s no story behind these tracks, no waffly bio. It’s just shy of 7 minutes worth of music. But it’s damn tasty and exciting to have new content from such a great band. Keep an eye out on the Shora Shima Facebook page for some news being announced in the next week.

While you’re at it, buy their back catalogue off Bandcamp. They’re only asking for $3 for their entire collection, which is criminally underselling themselves.

 

EP Review: distance – over time

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Sam Butler is likely best known for his time as the bass player for Banks Arcade. Recent life changes have signaled time for new opportunities, allowing Butler to explore different avenues.

He put the word out last year, wanting to start a post-rock group. I even had him over at one point for a jam in my bedroom. But a shift to the sleepy town of Nelson put those plans to rest, so Butler decided to see what he can do on his own. The result is the over time EP, put out under the moniker of Distance.

The timing seems slightly comical, considering all the jokes circulating about how we are about to get flooded with bedroom albums and solo projects due to the covid 19 lockdown period, but don’t worry, this is actually quality output.

Butler shares with me about the inspiration behind the EP. The immense Nelson Pine factory plant in Richmond is responsible for producing a lot of the MDF, plywood and timber that we use in our part of the world. You can see the constant plume of “steam” churning out from it’s chimneys at all hours.

Butler noticed this during a commute to work one day and it got him thinking about the water cycle. One thing led to another, and before long he’d formed a song in his head that revolved around the concept of water. Wanting to extend himself, he expanded upon the theme, introducing other elements of nature, and in the end settling on five elements he loved about New Zealand: water, trees, sky, mountains and people.

Most post-rock music is instrumental by nature, leaving the music open to interpretation by the listener. But I do love when post-rock artists use an overarching concept to influence and inform the songwriting process. It can result in a more interesting final product, which invites the listener to interact with the themes and messages of the music on a deeper level. Take Ranges, hubris. or Lost in Kiev, for example.

distance over time Sam Butler

“coalescence” is the original water themed track that jump-started this project. Butler shares that “throughout the song, raindrops fall, coalesce, create puddles, rivers and streams, and then finally join the ocean, where they crash about in the final climax.” Guitar notes with plenty of delay and thunderous drums echo within a sparse chamber before sharply plucked bass and monstrous layers of guitar consume everything and engulf you. I especially love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-em drum fills towards the end of the track.

It’s clear that Butler is a fellow believer, having paid his dues at the altar of Jakob. The rolling bass line in “coalescence” and the hollow snare tone on “tectonic” – there’s no mistaking where he drew key inspiration for those aspects of the music from.

Butler utilises wonderful field samples, of rolling water, of crashing waves upon the shore, of tranquil birdsong, of people chatting. These recordings lend themselves to the concept that anchors the music, as well as adding an georgeous textural layer to the sounds.

I just adore the birdsong in “undergrowth”. The music contains tribal percussive elements and grunty riffs that sound like the lovechild of Jakob and Tool.

The heaviest track is “firmament”. It sounds crushing and huge, a dense slab of noise which threatens to overwhelm everything.

One of the better known Māori whakatauki (proverbs) is:

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

It’s a nice touch naming the final track “(treasure)”, knowing that the working title was “People”, making me guess that the name is alluding to the whakatauki.

The track is very much a nod to the origin of ambient music: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. We hear hustle and bustle, distant sirens, people connecting. Similar to “Coda” from Pillars’ outstanding 2019 record Cavum, it’s a touching track that explores mundane yet magical aspects of life, and a brilliantly soft finish to a great collection of music.

This is an extremely promising release from Butler, and certainly exceeds all expectations in terms of quality, considering it’s a lock-down bedroom project. Looks like I missed a grand opportunity, given that we could have teamed up to start a band when he lived in Wellington. That aside, over time is well worth your attention, with well crafted songs that sound great, and an understated concept of gratitude that we would all do well to remember in trying times such as these.

distance over time


distance links:

Bandcamp: https://distancenzl.bandcamp.com/album/over-time

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkFeC2SN-QY

Spotify et al: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/distance2/over-time

Album Review: Hubris. – Metempsychosis

Hubris Metempsychosis cover
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Hubris. was birthed amongst giants, playing their first ever show with our very own Jakob in May 2015, which also happened to be the release show for their debut album Emersion. 

Five years on the Swiss post-rock quartet have made a bold statement with their third album Metempsychosis, a stunning musical exploration of Greek myths and legends.

I’ll begin by discussing the first track I heard: lead single “Heracles”

Choosing to locate their lead single as the final track on the album seems like a odd, if not potentially risky choice. Metempsychosis is just shy of an hour long, and in this current age of singles and shuffled playlists, how many listeners are going to last throughout the entire album to reach the best song?

I guess it is in keeping with the theme. If you’re discussing legends and writing an opus of an album, you want to end it by smashing it out of the park with a grand climax.

“Heracles” commences with some reverberating guitar chords and some lovely percussive elements that slowly grow, adding wondrous dynamics that sweep you away. They suck you in with fully fledged passages, just to drop out and leave you panting for more. The sleepmakeswaves influences are apparent, and that is definitely a good thing. “Heracles” is a damn strong song and you’d be surprised to find out that it’s almost ten minutes long, seeing how it carries such great momentum.

If you read the description of the track, you can start to understand some of the story behind its composition:

“the song Heracles tells the story of the Greek Hero Heracles, also known as Hercules. He was not only given the chance to be born in the first place when Zeus intervened at the trial of Heracles’ mother who had been sentenced to burn at the stake, but was the only mortal who was granted access to Mount Olympus after his death. The song’s repeating patterns echo Heracles’ own life, as he was constantly tried, most famously by Zeus’ resentful wife Hera. The song is divided into twelve parts alluding to both Heracles’ labours and the different stages of his life, the last two being musical illustrations of his rise to Mount Olympus and his place among the gods until the end of times.”

How cool is that? The composition of the song reflects the story, with twelve parts connecting to elements of the legend.

It’s a shame that I’m not more familiar with Greek legend, which would provide some great context for the stories that inspire these incredible songs. Have you ever considered that music can take on a personality? Thankfully “Icarus” has a spoken-word section detailing the flight and folly of the Icarus, who you may know as the boy who flew too close to the sun and lost the use of his wings when the wax that was keeping the feathers adhered melted.

It’s reminiscent of Range’s title track from God’s of The Copybook Headings, or plenty of Lost In Kiev songs. And true to post-rock convention, the moody music and suitably chosen spoken word track work together wonderfully. The narrative guides us through the tale. We revel in Icurus’ joy as he soars through the sky following his creative escape, and vicariously feel his Father’s terror when as he powerlessly witnesses his son’s demise.

One reason I love concept albums like this is that they invite the listener to unpack and explore the source story or material. Like Listener‘s last album about inventors, or Frank Turner’s recent record that explores inspirational historic female figures, or even Iron Maiden songs based off history, poetry and prose (“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, for example) these themes and concepts are so interesting that they compel you to go searching down a Wikipedia wormhole to learn more about the Greek antagonists that loan their names to these song titles.

Conceptually, this album is stunning. Musically, it’s just as grand. It’s a soaring, sweeping, expansive masterpiece. Hubris. have crafted something legendary with Metempsychosis, befitting of the stories which guided their writing. It’s a stunning album that sweeps you away on a journey from epochs past, drawing from many conventions of the post-rock genre whilst managing to remain fresh and exciting.

Hubris.


Hubris. links:

Website: https://www.hubrisband.com/

Bandcamp: https://hubrisband.bandcamp.com/album/metempsychosis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hubrisband/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEhqSOV5UkvvXqMTr–HNwQ

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hubrismusic/

 

Joseph James

Artist Profile: Jechtography

Jechtography
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Welcome to Will Not Fade’s Artist Profile series, where we take a look into the people in the music scene who aren’t necessarily musicians.

Jechtography

Jechtography

Who are you?

Hey! I’m Jecht and I run my own photography business Jechtography! I officially settled on the name while on tour with two Battle Of The Bands grand winners and since then I’ve shot seven international acts and 70 kiwi musicians and bands, most of them multiple times! If the name Jechtography seems familiar, it’ll be because of the many musicians and bands currently flaunting the photos I’ve taken of them on social media haha.

 

How did you start off doing photography?

It all started when I was taking snaps of my brother’s band Pale Lady with a cracked phone lens, at the time I very rarely took photography seriously apart from making the odd Instagram post. From there I started to go to more and more local music gigs and decided I’d need to invest in some better hardware, so I bought a brand new Sony A6000 and self-taught myself to where I am 10 months later!

 

Why do you photograph musicians?

I believe it’s mainly due to the influence of going to see my bro play live. I rarely went out to check the local scene beforehand and it think it was the exposure to seeing the raw talent oozing out of the Wellington scene lately that occupies most of my photography ventures lately. I’ve branched out and done a wedding and some photo shoots since starting Jechtography, but there’s a special active component with photographing musicians in a lively venue that you can’t get anywhere else, a special symbiosis between the performer and the photographer where you’re doing your best to capture and preserve the energy and emotions they’re expressing.

 

Film or Digital?

I would like to try out film sometime in the future, and upon thinking more on this question I do wish I tried taking up Photography as well as Art when I was at college (I remember we had a darkroom, so that implies film was taught right?)… but ultimately I’ve only ever had access to Digital hardware, and for now I want to shoot music gigs exclusively in digital. I’m a rather trigger-happy type of person and I want to be able to transfer shots to my phone within the same night for quick post-processing work.

 

Colour or Black and White?

Tough question. Easy answer is both, I love keeping shots in colour when the lighting crew or venues have a really cool setting to work with, and when the moment calls for it like when I want to draw attention to a facial emotion through a close-up or if there are great textures in the shot then I’ll pare it down to B & W. There is a hard answer though, and that’s when I really want to salvage a perfect moment like an iconic pose or an intimate crowd exchange, yet the photo is overblown with harsh red or blue light. I try to avoid those situations as much as possible on the fly with ISO/ShutterSpeed/AF settings but these moments don’t wait for you, you have to chase and make to with what you can get. For those photos, I begrudgingly almost always go to B & W.

 

What has been your highlight so far as a photographer?

I’ve had to reanswer this a few times sooooo honorable mentions go to Thom of Villainy saying my shot of him surrounded in gold confetti was one of this favourite shots of all time and Jon Toogood giving me a massive signal boost from an awesome acoustic show.
As for my highlight so far, I’ve got to give it to my time touring with Blue River Baby, a Wellington based Rock Soul Funk band that asked me to go on a nationwide tour as their tour photographer! I had a great time getting to know the band members, meeting new people within the industry and gaining the experience and the do’s and don’ts of touring life! It’s definitely something I’d want to do again.

Thom from Villainy, taken moments after giving me a nod to denote something BIG was gonna happen

Thom from Villainy, taken moments after giving me a nod to denote something BIG was gonna happen

What band would you most love to photograph?

My mind says Slipknot, my heart says Lacuna Coil. Both have great stage presence from what I’ve seen and I’d love to capture the grit from their makeup and costumes they proudly portray and change up every album release. This is supposed to be a single answer question so I’ll just lock in Lacuna Coil!

 

Have you got a favourite venue?

Whichever one has the better lighting!!! Jokes aside, Valhalla in Wellington is essentially my second home at this point. There’s no photographer pit so getting in close for a high profile band is tricky, especially when you’re trying to keep a steady hand with a lower shutter speed to compensate for low lighting (Korpiklanni was a cascade of dreadlock whippings for example) but it’s really great for seeing local legends in the making like PL, ELK, DSE etc.

 

What do you consider your most essential piece of equipment?

I don’t think eyes would count for a suitable answer so I’ll have to say my earplugs. I can work without my tripod, I can work with only one of my few lenses but I need to preserve my hearing when I’m forced to stick near a blaring speaker to take those magic moments. I got my own future music career to think about too!

 

What kind of ear protection do you use?

I started using monthly disposable earplugs from White Cat, then when I prematurely lost them recently I resorted to looking like a tool and used my noise-canceling bluetooth earphones for a while. It totally worked but I’m sure that’s not their intended purpose, please don’t take it as an endorsement! Then for Christmas I got a pair of Alpine PartyPlugs that are wash friendly and I’ve been using them ever since.

 

Have you got any advice for aspiring beginner photographers?

From personal experience, starting with a phone camera is totally okay if you’re testing the waters and you’re not sure, but know that you will definitely need the freedom and flexibility that modern DSLR cameras can offer over flagship phones. A great tip with shooting specific musicians is that you’ll probably need to see them live a few times before you’re both in sync, if you can identify unique quirks that band members have and when they’re most likely to showcase said quirks, you’re already on the way to becoming a fantastic photographer! It all comes back to the symbiosis between the musician and the photographer, even getting to know them off stage can lead to them becoming more comfortable and showing you sides no one else will see.

 

How can people contact you if they want to use your services?

If you’re looking for a passionate photographer with a rising portfolio, you can get in contact with me via my Facebook page Jechtography or at booking@jechtography.com. My rates are usually very affordable and work on a per-head basis, less band members = cheaper rates! I’m based in the Wellington region but I have on occasion ventured out to shows, it doesn’t hurt to inquire.

 

If you’d like to take a gander at more of my photos, I upload a small selection from each set I shoot on my Facebook page Jechtography with the full photo albums on my personal website at https://jechtography.com. I also have an instagram account where I upload musical photos from the gigs I shoot… confused about what a musical photo is? Check out @jechtmania for what I mean. I also shoot the occasional video at the gigs I shoot and upload to my YouTube account Jechtmania, there you’ll see kiwi acts like Jon Toogood, Pale Lady and Hault as well as a few high ranking videos of the international metal sensation Devin Townsend doing acoustic!

Nick of Dream State Empire

Nick of Dream State Empire during a double digit second long howl, real estate given up top to accentuate his aura

Jon Toogood belting out solo

Jon Toogood belting out solo

Jessy and the Volunteers_s Jessy getting her RnB soul on

Jessy and the Volunteers_s Jessy getting her RnB soul on

Devin Townsend during his acoustic warmup world tour, incredible musician with an unbelievable voice

Devin Townsend during his acoustic warmup world tour, incredible musician with an unbelievable voice

Coridian's Dity reaching out

Coridian’s Dity reaching out, going B_W to bring more focus to his hand