Self Help Festival

After months of waiting, the day of Self Help Festival finally came. Unfortunately, it came on one of the same days as So What Festival in Texas which meant I wasn’t able to shoot that as well. The day started like any other festival, trying to find parking. I later found out that a Self Help record of 17,000 people had attended the festival that day, so the place was packed to say the least. Before any of the concerts started, people sat on the grassy lawns surrounded by merchant tents and food trucks. Sadly, the line for the beer and food trucks was almost as packed as the stages themselves. 

There were two stages at the festival, the main stage outside and a smaller stage inside of what looked like an old airplane hangar. The main stage was lit by the sun (of course) and very minimal lighting during the day. However, once night time came (around the time Underoath played) the fog machines, lights, and pyrotechnics came out to play. The stage inside the airplane hangar was large and easy to navigate, but the lighting in there was absolutely abysmal which made for terrible photography conditions. The stage was heavily backlit with highly saturated gels which made the colors bleed together and look nasty. Also the lights were quite dim so along with nasty colors, everything was severely underexposed. Ok… enough camera jargon. 

In the beginning of the day, I started playing with the prisms I have to reflect and bounce light across my lens. It made for some interesting images but due to being in the daylight, I got a lot of reflections from areas to my sides and behind me. At one point I took a photo that blended the asphalt ground and a guitarist, but not in a cool creative way. While it was fun to experiment with, I think its easier to do this at inside venues where everything is dark around you except for beautiful lights and smoke. A few pictures turned out pretty well of Thy Art Is Murder, the second band to play on the main stage. The most unique one was where the prism reflected back to the crowd which was cool. 

I got to hang out with the guys from Further Seems Forever early on and take some portraits of them before the show. They were super chill dudes, but had a busy day filled with various interviews and photo shoots before they played on the indoor stage, so I kept my shoot with them brief. For being advertised as a metal festival, there sure were a diverse number of bands from other genres, Further Seems Forever being one. However, they put on a fantastic and energetic show that had the crowd on their feet. 

Being an August Burns Red fan, I was absolutely stoked to see and shoot them for the first time. Jake (vocals) put on one of the most fantastic and unique performances I’ve seen. During breakdowns and instrumental parts like in their song “Martyr,” he got up on the platform and just danced. It was very clear that he enjoys hearing his own music and performing live. Jake also swings his microphone around a lot which is quite entertaining to watch. I was also pumped to see Matt Greiner play live because he’s one of my favorite drummers. Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures of him.

With the first show after disbanding in 2013, Underoath took to the stage and everyone freaked out. As the second to last band of the night, followed only by A Day To Remember, every one of the 17,000 people were watching the history making show. Due to the intensity of the music and the rapid movements of the band members, photographing them turned out to be quite a difficult experience. It didn’t help that the lighting was quite fast paced, making it difficult to capture someone in some light. That being said, the show was incredible and the audience truly felt it. Even though they’ve been labeled as a Christian band, Underoath (and August Burns Red as well) has made it clear that their music is for everyone and that they don’t write Christian songs. They’re simply Christians who make fantastic metal music. 

Finally, A Day to Remember took to the stage and put on a fantastic show filled with fireworks, explosions, and theatricality. Even though they played 17 songs, I felt that they could have played another 10 due to the energy of the crowd and popularity of their music. This was also the first show that ADTR played their new song “Paranoia” live. Jeremy led the crowd in an act they’ve been calling “Surfing a Crowd Surfer” where one person stands on top of another person who is crowdsurfing. Its close to crowd surfing Inception, but its really cool to see live. Along with the explosions and fireworks, ADTR also had an old man with a T-Shirt gun firing into the crowd, as well as beach balls and toilet paper rolls flying everywhere. I feel like I keep saying this, but A Day to Remember put on one of my favorite shows packed start to finish with excitement and theatricality (along with their awesome music).

While the music was fantastic, nothing touched my heart more than the support the bands gave to the members of The Ghost Inside. Many bands dedicated songs to them and the love was truly there. In case you don’t know, The Ghost Inside was in a massive bus accident resulting in the loss of 2 lives and hospitalizations of everyone involved. Band members were in comas, had lost limbs, and had broken many bones but they were glad to be alive. It was quite inspiring to see Jonathan Vigil sit side stage in his wheelchair watching several of the performances. Despite this awful tragedy, nothing has warmed my heart more than seeing the entire metal genre band together in love and support for the members of The Ghost Inside.