anaheim

Nightwish || The Grove Anaheim

Next to the Observatory, The Grove in Anaheim is probably my favorite venue to shoot at due to the fantastic lighting, massive open spaces, and accessibility as a photographer. That being said, Nightwish put in an incredible performance at the Grove that was quite refreshing for me. Also, due to the length of Nightwish's songs, I was able to stay in the photo pit longer. Usually the first 3 songs gives me about 12-15 minutes to shoot up front, but this time I probably had around 17-20 minutes.

Coming from Finland, Nightwish has been one of the most well known European metal bands in the last decade. Their highly popular musical style has been categorized as symphonic metal and is unique because of their phenomenal female opera vocals. Lead vocalist Floor Jansen joined the band in 2013 after the departure of Anette Olzon and is currently a permanent member of the band. Having never seen Nightwish live, I had no idea how tall Floor was until I saw her 6 foot 1 inch frame for the first time on stage. She was an absolute pleasure to photograph, giving me so many different faces and reactions along with the rest of the members of Nightwish.

European metal bands, especially Finnish bands have such a different feel from the American bands I usually listen to and shoot. Their chord progressions, vocals, and song structures are completely different from other cultures which truly gives live shows a unique feel. There is more passion from the fans in the crowd and they seem to love paying for concert tickets, merchandise, and the bands albums. I have found that metal heads and fans outside of the US support their bands financially more than most other genres.  The crowd was extremely energetic during the show and Floor Jansen’s stage presence and crowd interaction only helped to improve the show.

For the first time, I experimented with a camera technique called “prisming” where you put a glass prism in front of your camera lens to manipulate the light and image. While I had zero experience doing this, I’m very pleased with the results and will continue to experiment with this. I chose to do this while using my 70-200mm lens in order to blur out as much of the prism as possible. I tried it out with my 16-35mm but I thought the prism was too noticeable in the image. Be ready to see more of this soon!

Setlist:

Shudder Before the Beautiful, Yours Is an Empty Hope, She Is My Sin, Storytime, My Walden, While Your Lips Are Still Red, Élan, Weak Fantasy , Bless the Child, I Want My Tears Back, Nemo, Sahara, Stargazers, Ghost Love Score, Last Ride of the Day, The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker), The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter IV: The Understanding; Chapter V: Sea-Worn Driftwood)

Breaking Benjamin || House of Blues Anaheim

After driving over an hour to the House of Blues Anaheim, I couldn't have been more excited to shoot Breaking Benjamin. While the music was well played the on stage performances were a little lacking. Each member stood at their designated microphone playing their respected instrument for most of the show. As a photographer, up close performances can really help my work shine.

The music was fantastic though and the crowd was really into the show. The venue was packed to its absolute maximum making for a very intimate experience, both with the band and unfortunately some of the people around you.

One of the many highlights of the show was when Ben made a short Star Wars speech followed by the band playing the Imperial March. When bass player was supposed to start the next song, there was only silence. Then Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper came into stage and surprised Ben with a Death Star birthday cakes and an awesome Kylo Ren guitar because his birthday was the next day. Well done Disney. 

The song “Give Me A Sign" was really sick because Ben instructed the crowd to whip out their phone flashlights and light up the room. The House of Blues turned off all of the house lights making the flashlights the only source of illumination.

From time to time, there would be massive pillars of smoke bellowing from the stage which really added to the intensity of the show. After attempting to wander around taking pictures and failing due to how packed the venue was, I decided to find a seat in the balcony. While it was a good place to watch the rest of the show, the lighting designer kept shining retina melting beams of light directly into my eyes.

Ben also had some of his other bandmates sing main vocals on some songs which I thought was a very interesting choice. It definitely changed the sound of some of the songs and made them more unique to the live show. During the song “Breath,” Dustin, the vocalist from Starset, came on stage and joined Ben with the vocals. Usually opening bands do this in order to bring extra hype to their show but I haven’t seen a headliner bring the vocalist from the opening band on stage for a very long time. It showed how close Breaking Benjamin and Starset truly are.

It was great to finally check Breaking Benjamin off of my bucket list as I have never seen or photographed them live before.

Setlist:

So Cold, Follow, Sooner or Later, Angels Fall, Firefly, Unknown Soldier, Simple Design, Ashes of Eden, Blow Me Away, Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk, (Birthday celebration for Ben), Polyamorous, Give Me a Sign, Believe, Breath (With Dustin from Starset), Failure, Fade Away, Until the End, I Will Not Bow, The Diary of Jane

Atreyu || Musink 2016

This was the 2nd time shooting Atreyu (the 1st time being my first big show back at The Glass House in September) and it was just as fun as the first. Having released their album “Let Live” after a 5 year hiatus, Atreyu has come back in full force, selling out venues and rocking out hard. Peaking at #26 on the Billboard 200, their new album has been positively reviewed by musicians and fans alike. Singer Alex Varkatzas spent a lot of time interacting with the crowd during the show, making him very difficult to photograph. It was pretty frustrating because I ended up with only one usable picture of him.

However, the rest of the band picked up the slack and filled in beautifully. Brandon Saller, the drummer who also sings during choruses, was spectacular with both his vocals and drumming. His voice sounds the same as it does on the albums which is impressive because he’s drumming at the same time! While the performances were great, the crowd and the lighting felt a bit lackluster compared to previous Atreyu shows. That being said, Atreyu is always fun to see live due to their talent and high energy music.

This was kind of cool though, after the first 3 songs (the only songs you're allowed to shoot in the photo pit) I went to the VIP side stage area to chill and watch the show. Ended up seeing the guys from Avenged Sevenfold coming out to support Atreyu and watch their show. No I didn't go up and say hi. I hate being a creep like that. I just thought it was cool.