Last week we went to the True Colors show here in Seattle, and it was a blast as expected. Nona Hendryx, Joan Armatrading, The B-52s, and Cyndi Lauper each played a set, with stand-up comedy bits in between by Carson Kressley and Rosie O’Donnell. Critter got us VIP tickets which included meeting Cyndi and getting a photo with her before the show, something he’s wanted to do for many years. He told her how much she meant to him and thanked her for being such a big part of his life. When he said goodbye and walked away from her after the photo, something about his expression must have caught her attention because she paused, then called him back. She said, “Is this what you need?” and gave him a big hug…it was the sweetest thing ever. He was walking on air after that! He fared much better than I did! I shook her hand and said “Hi” or something lame like that, then my mind completely blanked out as they took our photo. I wanted to say something but they rush people through these things and I blew it. I think I thanked her, I’m not sure…all I know is that it’s one of the absolute worst photos ever taken of me, but at least she looked good! The most important part was that Critter got to have his moment with her, and that makes me happy.
Photographically speaking, I had very lucky break this time around. Last year our friend Nate interviewed Steve Gaboury, keyboardist for Cyndi Lauper (and a zillion other artists over the years), for an article in Mix Magazine. Just for fun he showed Steve my photos of Cyndi from the True Colors show in Hollywood, some of which also happened to show Steve in the background. Well, he ended up liking the photos and requesting copies, and somehow Cyndi and her manager ended up seeing them as well. A few months later, Nate got back in touch with Steve and asked if he could score Critter and I some backstage passes or something, because the show was coming to Seattle and we were definitely going. We didn’t ask him to do this, he just did it because he knew what a fan Critter is and how much I love to snap pics at shows. What a guy, eh? So he put us in touch with Steve, who eventually arranged for two all-access passes and one press pass for photos.
I was floored! I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve taken my share of concert shots and usually have pretty good results, even with my little pocket camera (which is all most venues allow). I really enjoy doing it, and this was a great chance to get some shots with my higher-quality digital SLR that wouldn’t have been possible without a press pass. So I thanked Steve profusely for doing such a nice thing (for two total strangers!), and then I started to get a little nervous. Here was a rare opportunity to shoot these bands freely, but concert photography is tricky and I’ve never had access to “the pit” before, much less been allowed to bring my good camera to such a big show. I only had a couple of days but I gave myself a crash course in “credentialed” concert photography: dos and don’ts, the best camera settings, what’s normally allowed from the pit, what to do if the security people give you a hard time, etc. Thank you, Google.
I was flying blind in several ways, but it ended up being a lot of fun. I was able to approach the stage (with the press badge stuck to my arm) and snap away without fear of a bouncer getting on my case, which was really nice. However, before the show I was informed that the B-52s and Cyndi Lauper couldn’t be shot from the pit like the others — they could only be shot from way back at the soundboard, dozens of rows away! This meant that I would have had to use my big telephoto lens, which I didn’t bring because I didn’t think I would need it. This rule is intended for photographers shooting for publications who don’t actually have a ticket to the show, but luckily we did have tickets, right there front and center, so I was able to sit there and snap away like crazy. At first I was a little leery because the security people were watching everyone like hawks, but I started snapping anyway and they didn’t seem to care. Turns out they were more concerned about crazed fans getting out of hand than some dork in the front row with a camera. Another lucky break!
After the show, we wandered around backstage and ended up standing outside the door of a room where all the people from the various bands were having a private birthday party for Fred Schneider of the B-52s. Once in a while the door would open and we’d see someone like Margaret Cho or Cyndi. Carson Kressley was walking around goofing off with people, and eventually Kate Pierson (also of the B-52s) wandered out and began visiting with a group which was apparently family. (Onstage she looks fairly tall, but in person she’s so tiny! We both wanted to meet her but didn’t want to be rude.) At some point Steve wandered out and we flagged him down to say hello, and he stopped for a few minutes to chat. He’s a genuinely nice guy, very easygoing and friendly (I’m not just saying that because of the passes!), and he talked to us about various artists he’s worked with and other things. He was glad we had fun and even suggested that he could have gotten me onstage for photos if he had thought of it beforehand, but that might have been a bit too much pressure for me! Or maybe not, who knows. But it was a great little visit and I’m glad we got back there to meet him.
I ended up taking 1500 photos that night (thanks to Burst Mode), many of which ended up being tossed because they sucked. But I did get some good ones after all, and they’re now online in my Music Galleries. Many were probably lucky shots, and they’re not quite as fancy as what the pros get with their big expensive lenses, but they’re some of the best I’ve ever taken.