29 July 2017

It's So Easy

A couple of days ago, I got the e-mail I was hoping for since I sent out the request: I was approved to shoot the Guns N' Roses return to St. Louis.
Axl Rose (l) and Slash

To set the stage, I'm a music fan. But I'm an old-dude music fan. I'm at the point where the music I listen to and concerts I'd like to see are the same acts that I listened to as a kid. Metallica, Poison, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Megadeth - the kings of 80s/90s rock and heavy metal scene. This year, I've gotten approval to shoot every one of those acts (and many others) except Guns. Finally, when they hit the Gateway City, I was allowed to roll in with my camera and capture the moment.

From Quincy to St. Louis is, generally, about two hours. A little more some days, a little less others, but right around there. The doors for the show opened at 5:30, with the opening act taking the stage at 6:30. I needed to be there by 6:00 to be ready and escorted down to the floor. I hit the road at 3:30, so that gave me a little padding in case of traffic problems, right?

Ever driven I-70 in St. Louis, about 4:30 or 5:00 on a rainy weekday afternoon?

About the time I got to the airport, I hit "the traffic." I don't remember it causing me such a long delay before, but by the time I got off of the interstate, it had taken me a little more than three hours to get there. Obviously, that meant I missed the chance to shoot the Deftones opening set.

Now, have you ever decided to go to a big concert where tens of thousands of people are going? How'd you do with parking?

When I finally got into St. Louis, the nightmare continued. Parking lots were full, street construction was making everything a snarl when people were trying to turn and couldn't get back into the flow. It was a bit after 7:00 when I finally got parked...more than half a mile from the venue.

Richard Fortus
A half-mile doesn't seem like much until you have to hoof it with a moderately heavy gear-bag, and you're in a rush because you were supposed to check in at 7:00 for the show. But I was on the ground, and in contact with the marketing guy running things. I was behind, but the show was, too. So we were all good...

...until my bag-strap broke. I customized my camera bag to use a guitar strap because why be like everyone else? The problem is the strap was designed to hold a guitar that runs 7-10 pounds, not a camera bag weighing more double that weight, if not more. And they're definitely not designed for carrying that weight while power-walking through a metropolitan area.

It's enough to make a grown man cry! But who's got time for that kinda nonsense?

(l to r) Duff McKagan, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer
I walked in the door at 7:12 and got pointed to the media holding area. Talked to the media rep and got my photo pass - in this case, a wrist band. I got it put on and was told it was time to head to the floor.

Walking through the crowd, carrying my bag (since the strap broke), is where I started assembling my gear: putting lenses on bodies, attaching everything to the two-camera harness I use. All the while, I was dodging concert-goers and trying to follow the other photographers to get to the floor.

Duff McKagan
By the time I hit the photographer area, I was a sweat-soaked, winded mess. But I was there, my equipment was ready to go, and I was about to shoot one of the bands I had been listening to for three-quarters of my life.

Shooting concert photography is always an adventure. Most of the time it's a great adventure.

Sometimes, it becomes a story to be told.

Axl Rose

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