concert photography

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. 

THY ART IS MURDER PHOTO GALLERY:

CROWN THE EMPIRE PHOTO GALLERY:

ISSUES PHOTO GALLERY:

FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER PHOTO GALLERY:

YELAWOLF PHOTO GALLERY:

AUGUST BURNS RED PHOTO GALLERY:

UNDEROATH PHOTO GALLERY:

A DAY TO REMEMBER PHOTO GALLERY:

Disturbed || The Observatory

Disturbed, the multi-platinum, Nu-Metal legends sold out The Observatory in Santa Ana, California on March 17th, 2016. It was definitely one of the most packed shows I have ever been to. Before any bands started playing, the venue was humid and smelled of sweat and body odor. This only got worse over time. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Disturbed live and it was a very unique experience because every other time I have seen them, its been at a massive amphitheater or outdoor festival with a crowd in the thousands while this show probably only had 1,000. The shows I’ve seen have had massive amounts of smoke, lighting, pyrotechnics, and even moving stage pieces. While this show was toned down on the theatricality, the energy and phenomenal performance were consistent with what I have seen in the past. 

The crowd was constantly on their feet with vocalist David Draiman leading them. Disturbed is possibly has the best crowd interaction of any band I have seen, making each show memorable and unique. My favorite part of this show was in the middle of the set when the band slowed things down, whipped out the acoustic guitars and played “Darkness” and “Song of Silence.” Personally, I love it when metal bands can really nail slow songs because it shows off their diversity and talent. My other favorite part of the show was how Draiman interacted with the crowd on the song “The Light” off of their new album Immortalized. Before he started the song, he instructed everyone to whip out their cell phone flash lights and lighters and wave then high in the sky. The catch was the crowd was only supposed to do this when Draiman said the words “the light” during the chorus. The majority of the song was dark until that moment came and lighters and flashlights illuminated the room in under a second.

Even after playing 17 songs, the crowd was longing for more. With seven full length albums, there is no chance that Disturbed could play every hit song. The set would end up being close to 2 hours long, but I don’t think the fans would mind. They played some of the hits along with material off of their new record. Luckily, their setlist wasn’t too heavily saturated with tracks from Immortalized which would have cut down on some of the crowd favorites. 

Setlist: 

Ten Thousand Fists, The Game, The Vengeful One, Prayer, Liberate, Land of Confusion, The Infection, Stupify, Darkness, The Sound of Silence, Inside The Fire, Stricken, The Light, Closer / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Baba O’Riley / Killing In the Name, Indestructible, Voices, Down With The Sickness

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