In the fall of 2010, I made one of the most significant changes of my life when I moved to Brooklyn to attend a year-long filmmaking program at the New York Film Academy. During that time - from September 2010 to June 2011 - I managed to find my way to a good handful of shows. Despite my limited free time, I got to experience some amazing musical moments: Temper Trap performing in SPIN Magazine’s offices; My Chemical Romance taping a five-song-set in Rockafeller Center for New Year’s Eve just days after an incredible show at Roseland Ballroom; Foxy Shazam bookending Thanksgiving with shows at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg; dancing so hard to The Secret Handshake in the basement Studio at Webster Hall that my legs ached for days.
Unfortunately, none of these nights were caught by my camera.
With no press outlet to back up my name, I knew that I had to find other ways to practice my newly found hobby. There were still shows – indie bands in bar venues, friends performing in DIY spaces, music halls upstate with less discerning security – but for the most part, I had no access to the places and bands I wanted to cover. Still, I kept trying. I found opportunities to shoot where I could. I covered a comedy show, worked with amateur models, took photos of anything and everything in my apartment just to practice editing. It was a slow progress, and a frustrating one. Nothing ever came out the way I wanted it to.
Fences - CMJ 2010
Hit the Lights - Poughkeepsie, NY 2010
People With Teeth - Brooklyn 2011
Looking back at some of those photos now, I can appreciate the positives. I still feel frustrated, wishing I could go back to those moments with the knowledge I have now and do better. But that’s life, isn’t it? The failure taught me more than the success ever could. It set me up for success when I finally got my first big show: Panic! at the Disco at Terminal 5. Standing in the pit in such a massive space, I was terrified. What if I didn’t get a good shot? What would that mean for me moving forward? It was life or death, even though it wasn’t. And then it didn’t matter, because the lights came up and I had no choice but to just do it.
I can’t say the photos I took that day are the best or the most brilliant. What is great about this process of revisiting these shows is that I do now have the opportunity to go back, in a way, and rework the images. Without access to the RAW files I can only do so much, but it’s a rewarding and valuable exercise all the same.
Foxy Shazam, 05/24/11
Panic! at the Disco, 05/24/11
I need to backtrack for a moment to talk about one of the biggest events I attended in 2010: the Bamboozle festival in Chicago. My friends and I took a roadtrip from Rochester for the single-day show to see Something Corporate reunite. The band had been on hiatus since 2004, but came together again in 2010 for the Bamboole festivals in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Jersey.
Something Corporate was one of the first bands that really meant anything to me. They introduced me to a world of music that I never would have explored otherwise, as a 13-year-old mainly brought up on showtunes. In the two years that I knew of them before their hiatus, my best friends and I managed to find our way to a handful of their shows. When the announcement came six years later that we would have the opportunity to finally see them perform again, of course we found our way to that, too.
The day also included newer favorites like Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes, and 3OH!3, all of whom I managed to capture, however poorly. When Something Corporate took the stage, my camera sat, forgotten, as I was swept away by nostalgia and joy. Later, I would regret not at least trying to get a photo or two, but whether documented or not, we were there and the memory will forever remain.
There’s nothing quite like standing in a crowd, singing along to your favorite songs, surrounded by your favorite people.
For me, music is a gut reaction. Hearing something for the first time, I know almost instantly if I like it or not. It speaks to me, or it doesn’t. It’s a revelation, or it’s not.
Foxy Shazam was like an electric shock. The first notes of the first song (an illegally ripped version of their ‘Self-Titled’ album instead called ‘Au Contraire’) woke up every sense in me. I first saw them opening for The Young Veins, and that was it, I was hooked. They’re certainly a band I’ve mentioned and featured before, but Foxy Shazam is always worth mentioning.
The feeling I walked away with after their infamously kinetic live show was a high I would continue to chase, and these first shows would set the tone for the beginning of my 2010s. It took me to a dimly lit warehouse venue in central Pennsylvania, and then it drove me to do something I was not typically partial to doing at the time: take a chance.
I sent an email, asking for a press pass to see the band open for Hole, knowing the venue was too big to let me just walk in with my camera. To my complete shock, it was approved. I now drove to New Jersey, found myself with a pass stickered to my shirt, sick with nerves. Courtney Love, at that time, was the most famous person I had been so close to. Somehow, that was an afterthought. All I knew was that I didn’t really know what I was doing.
It went fairly well, considering. I did the best with what I had learned in my self-administered photography lessons, and there were (mostly) failures. In a strange way, though, the failures got me hooked on something else. Now I was hooked on capturing the perfect moment.