| Sunday May 2, 2004
Courtney Love bares her soul (and more) on Sunday night. Sorry for the blurring but 'tis a family site.
Today was a bit easier. I got plenty of sleep last night and had a big lunch before heading off to the insanity. Things started off kind of boring. I'm not a fan of jam bands and my stage started off heavy on that stuff today. I really do respect Karl Denson and the musicianship of his Tiny Universe but I prefer "songs" to instrumentals. And don't even get me started on Galactic. Again, great musicianship but if you're not high (and I never am) there's no need for them to exist. They played for ten minutes or so before ever leaving the first chord it seemed. They built it up to a frenzy and birkenstocks helped the noodle dancers feet stay dry as the hackey sacks flew.
I got out of there until the jam did, too.
Over on the other side, Gary Jules was disappointing, too. Just kind of there. He did decent versions of "Mad World" and Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" but it was boring, quite honestly. Unfortunately, the same can be said for Me'Shell N'degeocello (fronting The Spirit Of Music) and even Cee-Lo whose records I love.
Luckily, back on my stage, Ween showed up to clear the palate. Gene announced (with all the subtlety he could muster), "We're Ween and we've come to shit on your parade" at the top of a twisted, killer set that showed just how skilled these boys and their backup band are. To me, maybe it was just the dullness of the rest of the day, but Ween was the musical highlight of Midtown. I sincerely enjoyed their entire set. Later, Gene acknowledged the fact that REO Speedwagon was about to follow them (and then Journey - strange or what to have Ween) by saying that their job was to get the audience wet for REO. (By this time, the temperature had dropped to around 50 degrees with a wind chill of about 40. I was fa-reezing.) After the show, I told Gene that seeing Ween open for REO and Journey was a sure sign of the coming apocalypse and that the end is definitely near. Gene agreed and said, "Yeah, but we've known the end is near for years." The Ween-ers were super nice. I enjoyed my time around them.
After a quick dinner stop, I ran back to shoot REO. Unlike in Columbia a couple of weeks ago, they gave me a great shoot in no time. It was fun. Apparently, Jason Mraz was in a quiet dramatic moment one stage over when REO started off with sirens, massive guitars and thundering drums for "Ridin' The Storm Out." Wish I could've seen Jason's face. I heard it was hilarious. By now, things were slowing down a bit and with the cold, the crowd was much thinner. After Fuel's set, I jumped into the stream of remaining humanity as the exodus left the 99X stage to see Jessica Simpson headline Q-100. Everyone was wondering how she was going to fill her hour and a half time slot. We shouldn't have. She just showed up a half hour late and ended a half hour early. The audience was actually booing her lateness but all was forgiven when she showed up glowing.
I went back to my stage to shoot the first three songs of my last band of the weekend, Journey. They opened with "Separate Ways" and followed with "Stone In Love" and "Wheel In The Sky." What a great opening salvo. I swear - as much as I want to dislike them without Steve Perry, every time I see them with Augeri, they're better.
On the way back to the media room, I decided to swing by and see if they'd let me shoot Courtney Love, who was headlining at 99X. They did, but it was truly the saddest thing I've ever seen. I can't even begin to describe it. First off, most of the audience had already left. There were maybe 1000 people there by the time I made it and some of them were throwing things at her. She was forgetting the lyrics and apparently strung out. It was not a concert or a musical performance as much as twisted reality for the reality show generation. It was, what could be, the start of the final chapter of a sordid morality tale. She spent as much time muttering semi-coherently as attempting to play. She'd stop in mid-stream to yell, "Give me back my child. "Give me my money," while her band stared helplessly. At one point, she started talking about suicide. She pointed at a skyscraper on the Atlanta skyline and said, "I might just climb that giant hypodermic needle and shoot myself to the moon." Her nose was running. Her eyes were wide. She cursed the people who were leaving throughout the course of her show and Jessica Simpson. Early in the show, she said she was trying not to get arrested in Atlanta. Then she proceeded, in full view of the Atlanta police presence, to strip out her jumpsuit and bra. Seeing her topless, with a cigarette dangling from her mouth as her people tried to figure out what to do and the audience turned was the saddest display I've ever seen. It was the first time I've ever felt guilty while shooting. Fellow fotog Scott Gries of Getty Images said later that all he could do was look through his lens chanting to himself, "this isn't happening, this isn't happening."
Then Courtney crawled off the stage and into the crowd. Of course, the audience groped her and tried to pull her apart. When she finally got back on stage, she reprimanded the audience for not knowing how to treat a lady. Hmmm....
Near the end (perhaps more literally than I care to realize), she burst into tears. She started muttering the lyrics to Kurt Cobain's "Pennyroyal Tea" as tear drops glistened in the spotlight. By then, Love wasn't even trying to go by a set list anymore. Someone in the crowd would yell something and she would attempt it until it fell apart.
Somehow, the snippets of songs meant more than they should've.
After her flashing, audience grope and pull back on stage, she leaned into the mic, crying the lyrics "When they get what they want, they never want it again. Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to. Go on, take everything, take everything, I dare you to." Having had enough, and trying to show the audience and Courtney some mercy, the festival decided to pull the plug on her guitars and amps. They left the mic on. Her band and "handler" gathered around her trying to reason. "C'mon, Courtney, it's time to go." She'd shove them away and mutter lyrics. The last ones that I remember were her repeating over and over and over, "If you live through this with me, I swear I'll die for you" while still strumming the unplugged guitar. Then the mic was cut, too.
Eventually, she capitulated and let herself be lead away. But just before she left the stage, she turned and made one last dash to the comfort of the crowd. She made it halfway in. Her people were yelling to security "Bring her back. Pull her back." The audience was pulling her the other way. She could've been ripped apart in Ziggy Stardust fashion. The security finally had no choice but to get rough. They got her back and physically carried her off like a father would a bratty child. It was ugly.
I went back to the media room in a sort of shock. Seeing the pics that all the photogs took didn't really relieve the feeling except to prove to us that it did actually happen.
Media director Caren West saw some and just said, "I feel violated."
All I can say is, something's chasing Courtney Love. It's about to catch up.
| Saturday May 1, 2004
The Strokes start the evening on the 99X stage.
With little sleep and a lot of pain, I headed off to day 2. Today, I had to shoot everyone on my stage AND get stuff on virtually every other one, too. It was difficult. I almost overdid it. Sometime around dinner, I started feeling faint. I made it into the VIP area just in time. After a little roast bison (you read right, I was hungry), I felt much better.
Today's music started with a frantic set from Finger Eleven. Then all the way across the site for Story Of The Year who weren't nearly as good as last time I saw them. After that, it's kind of a blur. Smile Empty Soul and Damien Rice were a bit disappointing while The Smithereens and Joss Stone were pretty good. I caught up with my buddy Jonathan Baker as his band Second Shift took the stage. I only got to see a pair of songs but they were rockin'. Glad they played "Gun Of A Son" early. Then it was over to Angie Stone (good, but not that good) and Drive-By Truckers. As you probably remember, DBT are one of my favorite bands. Chris Robinson was on the side of the stage watching when I went up. Again, I only saw 3 songs ("Where The Devil Don't Stay," "Sink Hole" and "Decoration Day") before I had to leave but they were on despite jet lag after just flying in from Europe. After their set, I ran into Patterson backstage. He recognized me and asked why he never saw me in Athens, only Atlanta and other out of town places. I had no good answer for that. We talked about his exhaustion and his upcoming solo album. Before I took off, Jason saw me and came over to join the discussion. I'm always honored by them taking the time to talk and hang out or for that matter even remember me.
By now, evening was setting in. I rushed back to the media area to drop off my cards with Bridget the wonder girl from Wire Image. As I was about to eat, The Strokes kicked off their set EARLY with "Someday." I ditched dinner to go shoot a couple of songs. I was glad to hear "The End Has No End." I've got to say that The Strokes were better than I've ever seen them. Julian usually makes them come across as sloppy but they were air tight tonight and probably had the best mix of the entire 3 days. Great set. I actually sat and listened to the whole thing before heading back to my stage for Chris Robinson and The New Earth Mud.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed Chris' set a lot. I thought it was just going to be a bunch of pointless jamming but it was really solid '70s slices of music to help you drift away. I didn't know he played guitar so well and his backup band was spot on. You know there's a lot of it going on when you're on stage outdoors and you can smell the pot wafting up. It was that kind of a show.
I got over to the Q-100 stage to see the very first ever live performance from Jessica's sister Ashlee Simpson. She's obviously the "rebellious" one as her stuff rocks a little more. She's one of the stars of Seventh Heaven but has decided to get a little of Jessica's action. Her voice wasn't great but it doesn't have to be in her genre. MTV was filming the show for an upcoming (yawn) reality show. So look for me in the pit if you see footage of Ashlee's first concert.
Then back across the site for Foo Fighters. They were more metallic than ever. I only stayed for a couple of songs and the lighting was terrible but they were rocking (gee, am I getting repetitive?). One of the oddest moments occured when I reached in to grab a bottled water backstage and happened to catch the eye of the other guy who was grabbing one. It turned out to be Kevin Cronin from REO Speedwagon. He and REO's guitarist and drummer had come out a day early to check out the Foos. Amanda was a little weirded out that Kevin called her a cowboy (she was wearing a hat to shield her from the sun). It was kind of amusing.
Then, another mad dash back to my stage for The Doors. Excuse me, The Doors Of The 21st Century. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek was frantically working up a set list while Robby Krieger talked to a mime. Odd. They had a terrible set up and poor lighting and wouldn't let me up on stage to shoot so I left after getting the basics. I did hear "Been Down So Long" and "LA Woman." New singer Ian Astbury (formerly of The Cult) kept egging the audience on with "sing it for Jim, this is for Jim" during the "Mr. Mojo Rising" part.
I wanted to catch Big Boi from OutKast doing a rare solo performance so it was back to Q-100. As I passed the V-103 stage, George Clinton & Parliament / Funkadelic were doing "Flashlight" so I grooved on over to Big Boi. I had to go UNDER the stage to get to the pit due to the crowd but I made it in time to get a few shots of Big Boi and Sleepy Brown. As I was leaving they launched into "Ms. Jackson" so I continued grooving away from the stage. As I passed back by The Doors, "Ms. Jackson" bled into "Light My Fire." It was one of those cool Midtown only juxtapositions that was only made cooler as Foo Fighter's "Everlong" drowned out the other songs.
Then I called it another night.
| Friday April 30, 2004
Kansas rocks "my stage" - the 96 Rock stage on Friday.
I got to Midtown at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The weather was clearing. I was assigned the Classic Rock Stage - 96 Rock (heretofore to be known as "my stage"). That means that I had to shoot every band that played there all weekend and get whatever else I wanted as I could squeeze it in.
Tantric started things off. Generic music but super cool guys. Hugo, the singer, and I talked for a while and I took a picture of him with a couple of the guys from Kansas. During Kansas' set, I went up on stage to get some shots with the gathering audience. It still feels odd to me to be standing on a stage while something like "Carry On Wayward Son" or "Dust In The Wind" is played. Unlike last time I saw them, Kansas rocked. Contrary to popular belief, Kansas lives in Atlanta. After the set, singer / keyboardist Steve Walsh climbed on a bike and rode home. What a strange sight.
By this time, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was hanging out backstage with his Dad. Kenny roamed around with his guitar on (not plugged in) warming up. He was just as expressive with the "guitar face" even when he couldn't hear himself. He was great to shoot.
Steve Miller Band headlined and were, um, not so great. I've always wanted to see Steve but after lame versions of "Swingtown" and "True Fine Love," I decided to catch Ludacris on the new Q-100 stage before calling it a first night. I got back to the hotel about 1 but only got about 2 to 3 hours of sleep. Remember, I was totally sick and couldn't breathe. Meanwhile, my back and the pleurisy were killing me. But I wouldn't be stopped.
Here's what I wrote pre-update and before the festival.
Well, today's the day. I wish I could say I was looking forward to Midtown like usual, but I can't. I'm still improving and I hate the fact that I may undermine it this weekend. Some jobs you can ditch and some you can't. This is one I can't. Plus, it looks like it's going to rain all day and night all three days. Big fun!
Let's hope I live 'til Monday to give you the blow by blow. Ooh...it's going to be a long one.
Hey - if you get the chance to just sit back and relax this weekend, do it for me. I wish I could.
I'm going to go out for a big lunch and then get to it.
Despite my hesitations, I'm planning on having a good ole time.
| Thursday April 29, 2004
Nothing much to say today. I've spent the day trying to settle some things for my Grandmother. I'm trying to help her as much as I can and I didn't get to work much because I was doing stuff for her. No matter how much I do, I can never repay all she's done for me and the rest of my family (even the ones who don't know it)...but I can make the effort and do everything I can.
I'm still getting a little better. I'm still having that knife-in-the-rib and lighter than air feeling from the medication but it's definitely improving. I feel like if I just had 'til early next week, I could whip it once and for all. I don't, of course. In 24 hours I'll be working like a madman at Music Midtown. 36 acres and 3 days to cover. If I'm upright on Monday morning, it'll be a minor miracle.
Check out the new DISTRACTIONS that I added. They are just as advertised.
| Wednesday April 28, 2004
Still in a lot of pain. Still on a lot of medications. Still don't know how I'm going to manage Midtown this weekend but I'm sick of talking about it so that's it about that for today.
J Mascis (from Dinosaur, Jr.) and Dave Schools from Widespread Panic have a new band and their manager wanted to hire me to shoot their first show tonight in Athens. As much as I would've loved to do it, I had to recommend someone else. I also ditched on Yes tonight. I need the rest.
Tom called last night with some pretty cool news. It looks like the band's Athens debut (or maybe debut anywhere) is at AthFest on June 19 at The Roadhouse. I've tried since Q-Sign to get into AthFest but none of my other bands could pull it off. Just like everything else with this band, it's falling into place beautifully. Too bad my condition has cost us at least a week but we'll make it up as soon as I'm able. I've also been emailed about a potential show in August at The EARL in Atlanta. Watch the pieces come together.
(Oh - and Lori, I got your email and card. Thank you so much. I'll email back as soon as I can. I haven't had time to check out your distractions yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for thinking of me. It means the world to me.)
| Tuesday April 27, 2004
Well, the medication's working better than expected and so far only minimal side effects to report. I'm strong enough to do a little work today. I still don't feel like doing it but I've got to get back on it. The stuff in my lungs is definitely breaking up. The problem with that is that my ribs and the pleuritic inflammation is incredibly painful. Breathing in is a chore. I'm dealing. If I didn't have Midtown this weekend, I wouldn't be sweating it but with only 72 hours until I'm supposed to be on site, I'm definitely freaked out.
Oh - got asked to be the official photographer for the On The Bricks 2005 season today. Of course, I said "yes." I had a fun time doing it last year and it doesn't seem like summer without it.
One of my shots of The Darkness is the front page pic on Pollstar today. Check it out. If it ain't up, hit refresh until it is.
It's Ace Frehley's birthday today. So happy 53rd, Curly! ACK!
|Monday April 26, 2004||
It's been a really bad couple of days. On Sunday night, I had a bad reaction from medications (why do I have to be so sensitive?) and we had to call an ambulance to check me out. I was in some weird place between consciousness and unconsciousness. I will never take that blend of medications again whether I'm told to or not. It doesn't work for me. After the paramedics EKG'd me and checked out my stats, I started to come around so I decided to not go to the hospital. Apparently, I was in that state from dehydration caused by the medications. I drank two pints of water in an hour and felt like I might live 'til the next day.
I went to the doctor today with what little strength I had left. She notified me that my bronchitis is back and worse than ever AND the pleurisy is still happening. Wonderful. She gave me an inhaler (corticosteroids anyone?), some antibiotics, industrial strength cough pills and told me to keep on with the Ibuprofen for pain (which is pretty intense again from the pleurisy). Then I had to go for a chest x-ray. Will the excitement never end? I'm glad I'm not contagious or fever ridden at least. I'd hate to pass this misery around.
Got final word that I'm on the Music Midtown photography staff for this weekend. 72 hours of almost constant work. I wish I could be more excited about it. As it is, I'm just scared that I won't be well enough in time. The doc says it should clear up fast with the medications. Why don't I buy it?