Best of 2012, Live Music, On The Road, Photography, Tearsheets, Year End Recaps

Best of 2012: Festival Coverage

One of my biggest goals for 2012 was to get more experience with one of the most challenging rock photography venues: the outdoor festival. 10-14 hour days of slogging through massive crowds with 30+ pounds of equipment to get 5-10 minutes of photo time for each act sharing space with dozens of hyper-competitive, ill-tempered photographers in furnace-like, often muddy photo pits can make for a very trying experience without the right perspective, outlook and preparation. Thanks to the coverage needs of City Pages and Village Voice media, this summer was a busy one for me, allowing me to get quite a bit of experience under my belt. I spent over 20 days outdoors, away from comfort of the dark rock bars I’ve come to enjoy as a second home and thrust into a world of hot, sweaty, and frequently rainy days. Through the festival season I learned many important lessons about pre-planning, hydration, gear selection, scheduling, lens/camera weather sealing and crowd navigation that will go a long way to making 2013 a much more comfortable year. Out of all of those days of shooting, here were the highlights – my top five outdoor festival experiences in 2012.

#5 – SXSW 2012 – Austin, TX

Previous SXSW coverage: 2010, 2011

My third year at SXSW, this was my first with an official ‘badge’ (the highest tier of press access) and the first working with Reed Fischer, who had taken over City Pages’ music coverage in January of this year. It was, by far, my most challenging as well. Between an illness (a brutal sinus infection that wiped me out the first two and a half days) and huge problems with lodging (which I won’t get into, suffice it to say I lost a ton of money on it) I started off behind the 8 ball but by the time Saturday rolled around I was back in the game, having a great time, eventually photographing 46 bands over 4 days. My photo coverage (including a few print photos) were syndicated across Village Voice Media’s (now Voice Media Group) 13 alt-weeklies and City Pages/VVM proved to be a valuable client yet again, for the third year in a row. Massive thanks go to Gabe Douglas of Minneapolis band 4onthefloor for bringing my bike down on their bus, allowing me to rack up over 30 miles of bicycling across town, zipping from East Austin to Downtown and back again more times than I could count.

Coverage List:

Slideshow (People, Part One):
Slideshow (People, Part Two):
Slideshow (Minnesota Music at SXSW):
Online/Print Article:
Online/Print Article:
Photos for Online Article:
Photos for Online Article:
Photos for Online Article:

#4 – River’s Edge Music Festival – St. Paul, MN

2012 saw several festivals rise and fall and River’s Edge was one of the most successful of the newcomers in the Midwest region. Live Nation came on strong for their first big fest, landing two huge headliners – Dave Matthews Band and Tool/Puscifer – along with enough “second-stage” acts to be a festival of their own. Scissor Sisters, Flaming Lips, Mutemath, Coheed and Cambria, Polica and a dozen more rounded out a scattershot but effective lineup and ticket prices were strategically placed right around what DMB and Tool single-show tickets normally go for in most markets like this. In the end, it proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable two days of summer music and people watching and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Live Nation has in store for 2013.

Slideshow (Day 1, Music):
Slideshow (Day 2, Music):
Slideshow (Day 1, People):
Slideshow (Day 2, People):
GIFs (15):
Day 1 Review (by Reed Fischer):
Day 2 Review (by Youa Vang):

#3 – Soundset (and Soundset Afterparty) – Shakopee & Minneapolis, MN

Although Soundset had been on my list of “must shoot” shows for three years, this was the first year I was booked to shoot it. Having seen coverage of previous years, I was expecting a hell of a show and the Rhymesayers crew delivered, brining a non-stop rush of attitude-heavy, lyrics-driven indie rap with a dash of quality mainstream rap to round it out. Relatively laid back photo pit rules made Soundset a joy to shoot, making scheduling a breeze, and heavily charismatic performers along with a roaring crowd made my job as easy as it could be. Atmosphere, the traditional headliner at Soundset, didn’t get to go on thanks to an apocalyptic thunderstorm, complete with gale winds and hail, that nearly tore the place down. Slug and Ant made an extended appearance at the First Avenue after party though (the “storm shelter,” Slug called it) along with a massive, mirrored Rhymesayers logo disco ball that would’ve stolen the show in the presence of lesser performers. All in all, a great day, and a great kick-off to the summer fest season.

Slideshow (Music):
Slideshow (People and Scenes):
Slideshow (Evacuation):
Slideshow (Afterparty):
Review (by Reed Fischer):
Evacuation (by Reed Fischer):

#2 – Lollapalooza 2012 – Chicago, IL

Another huge first for me this year was Lollapalooza, the ungodly huge 100,000-attendee summer festival in Chicago, IL’s iconic Grant Park. After a summer of collaborating for festival coverage Reed and I were fully sync’d up and made for a great team. Even though I didn’t get to cover as much as I would’ve wanted thanks to the huge distance between the two main stages (just over a mile) and the stiflingly hot temperatures (over 95 degrees all weekend) I came away quite satisfied with the results. A huge rain-out of Day 2 gave us a rough crash-course in rapid reporting, too. Massive thanks to Ian for letting us upload some photos from his computer and for use of his hotel room as a temporary refuge. Throughout the weekend I put over 70 miles of walking on my boots and I managed to shoot 35 bands, including a few bucket-list bands for the first time (Sigur Ros, At the Drive In, Frank Ocean) and I probably lost about 10 pounds in the process. Even if I missed out on Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath and M83 thanks to access limitations or unacceptable photo contracts I was still quite satisfied with the weekend’s results. Like SXSW, my coverage was syndicated across all 13 of Voice Media Group’s weeklies, but this time since Reed was the main man in charge I was able to focus my efforts on the most effective coverage possible. This would’ve been my favorite festival of all time if it wasn’t for the next one on the list being an unexpected gem…

Slideshow (People of Lolla):
Slideshow (Day Two, Music):
Slideshow (Day Three, Music):
GIFs (25):
Recap: Day One (by various writers):
Recap: Day Two (by various writers):
Recap; Day Three (by various writers):
Lolla Suspended, Rain Threat:
Why Lollapalooza Needs EDM (by Ian Trass):
10 Things Your Outfit Says About You (by Reed Fischer):
M83 at Lollapalooza (by Ian Trass):
Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza (by Reed Fischer):
Jack White at Lollapalooza (by Reed Fischer):
Frank Ocean / The Weeknd review (by Ian Trass):
Sigur Ros at Lollapalooza (by Abbie Gobeli):

#1 – Knotfest – Sommerset, WI

And then there was one. Over the many years I’ve been shooting live music, I’ve come to learn one important fact: metal bands and metal fans are simply the best. Something about the particular brand of showmanship and the family mentality of the crowds makes for a product that’s far greater the sum of its parts. Knotfest was the perfect manifestation of this phenomenon – thousands and thousands of black-clad, cargo-short bedecked, headbanging metalheads crowd-surfed, moshed and generally ran amok. The lineup was coherent and laser-focused for maximum impact – Slipknot, Lamb of God, Deftones, Serj Tankian, Cannibal Corpse, Prong, Dillinger Escape Plan, Machine Head, and Gojira. All thoroughly great live acts, for sure, and all bands that wouldn’t be held back by anything – even a raging thunderstorm. The experience of an epic downpour starting during the Deftones “Change (in the house of flies)” and shooting Lamb of God (with Randy Blythe fresh out of Czech jail on bail, no less) while lightning surged around me and bursts of fire shot off in the distance was by far the most epic I’ve had shooting shows. Ever. It’ll take one hell of a 2013 to beat that, but I’ll be trying.

Music Slideshow:
People Slideshow:
GIFs (15):
Review (by Reed Fischer):

some posts that may be related

speak up

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site.

Subscribe to these comments.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*Required Fields