Tuesday, June 15, 2004

First two songs, no flash

Gene Simmons of the band Kiss performs at the Smirnoff Music Centre in Dallas on Friday, June 11, 2004.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

This month I got to cover some cool concerts. This is a perquisite of photojournalism. Who else gets paid to see Kiss or Jimmy Buffett in concert? It sure beats working at the pet store.

I was never a concert fan. I paid to see Pink Floyd (nosebleed section). Otherwise, I'd rather spend the concert ticket money on an entire album collection. It makes more sense to me.

Now, I get paid to go to some concerts. It's fun.

We cover the "first two songs, no flash." Kiss let us have three songs. Gene Simmons did all his best visual performances for each photographer. He knew to step away from a microphone and find each photographer. Then he conveniently pointed left, right and center for layout purposes. So, he ran in the paper (hint, hint to you aspiring young singer/performers).

This cooperation is what sets performers like Kiss apart from some-guy-who-was-famous-but-wanted-total-control-of-his-image-and-now-sings-at-weddings. I wonder who might fit this description?

Meanwhile, PJs typically hang out somewhere backstage until we work. For some reason (probably MTV) everyone thinks there is some massive party happening backstage. Although I'm sure I'm not seeing everything, I commonly see semi-nervous people trying to psych up for their show.

Many performers want a little time alone to pray or talk to themselves. Some are cramming new lyrics to make sure they don't sing the wrong words. Some stretch like athletes or adjust their makeup like thespians.

Most eat. They are people. It's dinnertime. So, they eat dinner. They eat some innoxious, unmemorable, bland, hotel meal from steel containers. Not the "Rock Star" image many people imagine, but the backstage reality we typically see.

If I'm shooting from the stage, I normally talk to some of the band members before the concert starts. They're people. They work. They play. They want to know they're valuable as humans and someone somewhere loves them -- like everyone else, everywhere else.

They have children, pets, bills and cameras. Many like to make photographs and ask photographers for pointers and little technical questions.

It takes a lot of guts to stand in front of 9,000 or 50,000 people with just your voice and body language. Some do this while flying through the air or playing different instruments. It's cool, but I wouldn't want to do it for a living. It sure is fun to shoot it for the "first two songs, no flash" though.

Enough for now,

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