This year was my second (or third, however you want to look at it) opportunity to shoot The Vans Warped Tour, and it was an excellent, sweaty, smelly day.
Last year I travelled with Blacktop Records to the dates in Toronto and Auburn Hills, and this year I visited the Auburn Hills stop, which took place at The Palace, as a representative of CJAM 99.1 FM.
It was almost 40 degrees the day of the show (Friday, August 22), but I prepared with water, sunscreen, and shorts for a long day of shooting.
Nearly back to back from noon until 7 p.m. I shot ten bands of various genres across nearly all of the seven stages.
Warped Tour allows photographers behind the barriers for the first three songs of each band's set, which usually ended up being about 10 minutes per band. It was a mosh pit of a different sort up there as people with cameras vied for specific locations and shots. As annoyed as I would get when someone moved into my frame at the worst possible second, I'm sure I accidentally did the same thing to numerous others. But despite how hectic the loud, cramped space between the stage and the crowd got, the photographers were always courteous to each other, and by the end of the day we came to recognize each other's faces at the different stages, and would strike up conversations about gear, publications, and experiences. It really was a great opportunity to chat with other people with the same passion.
During each of these ten minute opportunities I would take 250 to 300 photos, which resulted in nearly 3 000 images by the end of the day. Sorting through them to choose my favourites for editing was a daunting task, but one that I still managed much faster than expected. While I could have edited more, I tried to keep myself to 30 or 35 edited images per set. While the full gallery is available on the CJAM Facebook page, I needed to whittle things down even further for this post. So here are five of my favourite shots from each band, as well as some of the best crowd photos.
Bullet For My Valentine (Bridgend, Wales, U.K.)
During pretty much every shoot ever I find one band member that is the most fun to photograph, and then end up with way too many shots of that person. In the case of BFMV, that person was this guy, Michael Paget. While lead singers often get the most attention, I find that especially in bands where the vocalist plays double duty as an instrumentalist, their photos all end up looking the same - a dude holding a guitar with his face in a microphone. The other instrumentalists are more often able to roam around the stage and interact with the crowd, making for some more interesting and varied photos.
Good Charlotte (Waldorf, Maryland, USA)
When you accidentally piss yourself on stage.
The crowd reflected in the glasses is what really does it for me with this shot.
The number of people out for Good Charlotte was crazy. I remember being in love with this band and their second album, The Young and The Hopeless, when I was in grade six. I never imagined that I'd have the chance to see them live, let along photograph one of their sets. Kind of a surreal moment to be six feet from these guys while they played a song I used to karaoke into my hairbrush to.
Less Than Jake (Gainesville, Florida, USA)
As much as I love this band, and have since I was 13, I only saw them for the first time in January 2015, and it was a stellar show. Seeing them again, and having the opportunity to shoot their set, was totally rad. They also happened to be my favourite performance of the day, doing an excellent job playing up their "Make Warped Tour Great Again" theme.
Roger Lima and Evolution Kid
Masked Intruder (Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
I'm a sucker for a band with a concept (think Aquabats), and these guys have a pretty sweet one. Officer Bradford's stage presence of yawning at the show, flipping off the crowd, and pretending to beat the band just amuses the hell out of me. Add to this the fact that the group produces some killer pop-punk and I'm sold. Probably my second favourite set of the day, after Less Than Jake.
Blue Intruder and Officer Bradford
Reel Big Fish (Huntington Beach, California, USA)
Edward Larsen (drums) and Billy Kottage
L to R: Matt Appleton, John Christianson, Billy Kottage,
I've seen this band way too many times, and it just never gets old. I still put Turn The Radio Off into my car stereo at least once a month. But I'll never get enough of Suburban Rhythm being played in various styles, and the reuse of the "it's the same song!" joke.
State Champs (Averill, Park New York, USA)
Ryan Scott Graham
Ryan Scott Graham
State Champs were my first shoot of the day, so it was a lot of testing out settings and angles, but they provided a dynamic performance for me to check all of this on. I was particularly a fan of Ryan's flowing locks and tilly hat, the latter of which really reminded me of my dad. But hey, when it's that hot out you've gotta go for function over fashion (and really, he rocked the fuck out of it anyhow).
Tony "Rival" Diaz
Sum 41 (Ajax, Ontario, Canada)
I'm absolutely in love with the above shot. It might be my favourite of the whole day. It just screamed at me that it needed to be black and white, and so, it is. To me this shot really shows a dude doing what he loves, and it just happens to be in front of people who love him for doing it.
All in all, this was another band that was completely unreal for em to be shooting. Sum 41 was my first ever real concert, back when I was 13 and they played at the old riverfront stage in Windsor. This was definitely a better performance than my last experience with them, and I kind of felt like a a kid again during their set. And of course, it's also cool to see some Canadian bros rocking the shit out of a main stage at a major touring festival.
Tom was one of the first members to take the stage, and I remember being very confused, thinking "when did the frontman of Gob start playing with Sum41?" As it turns out, ages ago. I guess I'm just not following bands like I used to. Either way, it was cool to photograph him again, considering the last time was when they visited Windsor to play The Room back in 2012 or '13.
Teenage Bottlerocket (Laramie, Wyoming, USA)
In this photo Miguel Chen looks surprised by something, and although I can't be sure, I like to think that he noticed a spider on stage, hence the need to jump.
The Story So Far (Walnut Creek, California, USA)
It might have something to do with the neo-traditional-style tattoos sported by frontman Parker Cannon, but a lot of photos from this set just seemed to call for black and white. This was a set that was very difficult for me to choose only five from, as the energetic, engaging performance of The Story So Far made for some pretty awesome shots.
Yellowcard (Jacksonville, Florida, USA)
Ryan really does have some pretty eyes, though.
L to R: Josh Portman, Ryan Mendez
I can't lie - I've never been a huge fan of Yellowcard. But considering their popularity, and upcoming demise, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph one of their sets. It was fun and cute, and the crowd was super into it - perhaps even more than they were for Good Charlotte. All in all, I'm glad that I took the time to check these guys out.
Crowds are always cool to capture when I can, and outdoor festivals lend themselves very well to this. Crowdsurfers, peace signs, and overly excited fans end to make for some fun photos.
This long-haired, tanned, tattooed beast of a roadie is everything I aspire to be. I'd love to do a photoshoot with just him one day, but for now I'll settle with this image of him looking on as the band plays and the security guy wondering why I'm taking his picture instead of the performers'.
This was a long post, sure, but totally worth it just for that last image, right?