Bucket List Band #1


I’m a nerd. I really have no problem admitting this.  I’m not even a nerd about a just small collection of things.  You know how people have like one or two little things that they’re kinda nerdy about and people think it’s cute?  That’s not me.  I’m nerdy about things in a way that my wife normally shakes her head at me for.  One of which is my love for stadiums.  Not just baseball stadiums, or hockey rinks… all stadiums.  So when I shoot bands at a big venue, I spend a lot of time gawking around the place from the level of the playing surface.  I think it’s neat, shoot me.  I also have a bucket list of bands I want to photograph live.  So, Saturday June 3rd was a double dose of neat-o for me.

Tim Horton’s Field.  Homefield of my hometown Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  As I stood against the railing of the floor surface, peering across the astroturf and up at the press boxes, I feel a sense of earning this one.  In a couple of short hours I was going to photograph one of my bucket list bands.  Billy Talent.  A band that I almost fell ass first into photographing just a few months ago by mistake.  Okay, “by mistake” is misleading.  I knew exactly where I was.  But I was there to photograph the opener, Monster Truck.  I was also there because Janine, my wife, had bought me tickets for Christmas.  It was shortly after Christmas that I decided I was to getting back into photography.  So I started poking at some of my old contacts and looking into who was coming to town.  “Oh right, Monster Truck is opening for Billy Talent!! I love Monster Truck”.  So I do some of that stuff I do, and get approved to shoot them when they open at the Air Canada Centre.  I had no allusions of photographing Billy Talent aswell.  I was only just coming out of my hibernation as a photographer.  I was just trying to punch my weight and get back some form of a portfolio.

February 27th rolls around and Janine and I head into Toronto.  We go to our favourite downtown restaurant before the show (my second favourite if you count hot dog vendors) and I’m still waiting for final confirmation on my phone.  We’re talking like 2 hours before show time. So of course when we get to the arena, what has two thumbs and isn’t on the media list? This guy.  I assure Janine that I’ll get it worked out and meet her in our seats in a few minutes.  It did not take a few minutes.  It took forever, and my phone reception was spotty at best.  Unable to get through to my wife, who in my mind is growing increasingly impatient, I start to get a tad jumpy.  I can’t leave the media area cause they didn’t have enough passes to physically give me one, so I’ll never get back in.  I can’t reach Janine to explain what is going on, and time is really starting to march on.  I’m torn.  I want to shoot Monster Truck.  I've been told I can shoot Billy Talent.  But my wife has been sitting by herself in our seats for almost 2 hours.  I can’t stop pacing but atleast it’s time for Monster Truck to go on. As I stand in the pit waiting for them to come on stage I’m pretty much in a full panic attack over the situation.  It dawns on me.  “What am I doing? These tickets were my christmas gift. Janine doesn’t really even like Billy Talent”.  One song into Monster Truck I pack my gear and head to my seat.  I told myself that there would be other chances.  It was only photography.  Somethings are more important, and nothing is more important than the ones you love.  I get back to my seat and Janine is like “what are you doing?”

“The lighting was terrible”, which it was.  That’s not a lie.  From a camera’s point of view the lighting was atrocious.

"Go back and finish, it's fine" 

"Nah, the lighting really is awful. Couldn't get anything good"

Less than a month later it was announced Billy Talent was playing nearby again in June… and by nearby, I mean almost in my backyard. Karma was smiling  upon me.  The moral here is; do the right thing.  Support those who support you.  Your time will come. 

Now I just need Monster Truck to come back, and with better lighting. 



Make Your Own History, Boy!


So there I am, buried in the bowels of the First Ontario Centre.  It's my first show back after a LONG hiatus.  We're about an hour away from the Arkells hitting the stage... and I'm pumped.   

I don't want to say I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Because for one; that's just way too cliche, and two; I feel more like a grizzly bear coming out of his cave after winter hibernation.  A disheveled, yawning, snorting, grizzly bear. Given my bearded, 5'10", 230lb frame it's probably a more apropos visual anyway.  Grizzly bearishness aside, I feel like I'm back at home. Back where I belong. Back in my element. Did I mention I was pumped? Cause I was pumped. But I'm also nervous as hell. What if I've lost my touch? What I I don't have the eye for it anymore? What if they say "beat it kid, you've got no future"?  I just don't think I could handle that kind of rejection.  Dammit, I've lapsed into Back To The Future dialogue again.  

Surrounded by concrete and sound techs walking back and forth (backstage is not the rocking party you might imagine), it suddenly dawns on me how long it's been since my last show. It's been like 10 years. Ten!!  Where have I been for the last 10 years? It doesn't feel that long... Suddenly the door next to me swings open.  The door I hadn't even noticed.   That's how lost I am in trying to recount the last decade of my life.  I snap out of it as I realize I'm now face to face with Max Kerman, lead singer of the hometown Arkells.  I'm not going to lie, it crossed my mind to say something stupid like "I LOVE YOUR BAND!". Had it been Michael Stipe or Gord Downie, I probably would have. But since I live in Hamilton, it's not exactly uncommon to see Max or any other members of the band walking around town.  I settled on a much more reserved and refined, "good luck tonight Max".  I realize this sounds like I gawked at him like an animal in cage until something came out of my mouth. It was all over a split second. At least I hope so. That's what my brain has led me to believe.  At any rate, he flashed his patented ten thousand watt smile, pointed to my camera and said, "you too".

Moments later, us media types were herded together and marched off to the stage in cattle like fashion.  This wasn't my first time, but it wasn't old hat either.  This was a new beginning.  You couldn't wipe the smile off my face.  To hell with looking professional, like my dog with a bone, I was wide eyed and hungry.  Filed into the WORST, and most narrow, media pit I have ever been in, it was now real.  Treated like celebrities of our own, we're peppered with questions from the first couple of rows; "when is the band coming on?", "how do I get your job?", "do you know the band?" (99% of the time, the answer is no), "does Max have a girlfriend?" (seriously, how would I know?).  The ambient music stops. The lights come down. Please God, let me get one good shot.