Sunday, August 14, 2011

Motley Crue, Poison and the New York Dolls in Tacoma, WA 2011

Exciting, Frustrating and Humiliating. If I had to describe in a nutshell my experience photographing Motley Crue those would be the words I would use.

EXCITING: Not long after I turned 11 years old Motley Crue released the album Shout at the Devil. Against my Mom's better wishes she let me buy the cassette and my life was never the same. I played that tape until the ribbon snapped then I bought another. I was rarely seen without my Motley Crue hat on until I was around 14. It was a borderline unhealthy obsession with a seriously bad ass band. Fast forward to 2011 and I'm presented with the opportunity to photograph their show at the Tacoma Dome on August 12. For the better part of the night I was backstage at a Motley Crue show walking amongst an army of busses. It appeared that each band member had his own bus in addition to a fleet of trucks for the massive stage they had set up. Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx were strolling around. Vince with the swagger and smirk that told a story of confidence after a lifetime of living the life that says all the chicks want to do me and all the dudes want to be me.

The bass player for the New York Dolls Kenny Aaronson was came by and grabbed my massive 400mm f/2.8L IS lens to check out the weight. He said it was heavier than his bass :) Myself and the other 4 photographers with credentials for the night were placed in a holding area where the EMT's were staged in preparation of the inevitable waterfall of vomit which we also got to witness. All in all it was very, very exciting to be there.

The New York Dolls opened the show to a shockingly empty Tacoma Dome. They have been playing for 40 years and pioneered the punk era. An iconic band to say the least but the crowd didn't seem to give a shit as they were milling about outside...what a wasted opportunity for them. Up next was Poison . What can be said about Poison that hasn't already been said. I was a fan of theirs as well back in the 80s so shooting them was a great bonus to the night. The two songs I saw were a bit on the cheesy side but lets be honest, it hasn't always been about the music with this band. The show itself is a big draw for many and they didn't disappoint. At the end of the 2nd song Brett Michaels took the microphone and in a scratchy voice apologized for being off-key. "Hey guys..sorry about my voice tonight..I tell ya, I've got one heck of a flu goin on here but I wouldn't have missed this show for the world!" I was reminded of his shamelessly honest and candid approach to playing Celebrity Apprentice and I must admit I really like the guy. My wife has her own Brett Michaels story from the 80s that I won't repeat here but I still like him :)

Up next was Motley Crue...They shuffled us photographers back in the dome at the last minute. While we were setting up the curtain dropped to a massive explosion of huge fireworks and the show had begun! Holy shit did I have to react and fast. The stage was enormous. Tommy Lee's drum kit was like nothing I have ever seen before. I only saw it on the ground and I was blown away...look at this video he has on his site to see what I missed! Nikki Sixx came out looking like a mad man with crazed makeup and fierce intensity. He is as good a photographer as he is a bass player...check out his art here... Mick Mars was a freaky dude in the 80s...he has taken it to a new level in my opinion. I grabbed a couple shots of him during the show that when I saw them I wasn't entirely convince I wasn't looking at a ghost. Vince Neil is Vince Neil. That's all that really needs to be said. As I wrote before, he has a certain swagger about him and a contagious smile that I would imagine comes from being adored by millions of fans for over 3 decades. I remember knowing girls that were so in love with Vince Neil back in the big hair days that all I had to do was play a Crue tape and they were start taking their clothes off for me. Hey Vince if you are reading this...Thanks! :)

When I received my credentials it was confirmed that I would only be allowed to shoot from the sound board and would only get to shoot 2 songs. Typically when I shoot a show I'm given a minimum of 3 songs and am allowed to get right up next to the stage. They had an escort walk us to the sound board just before the show began. We found ourselves standing on the floor about 125 yards back from the stage and directly behind every fan with floor seating. Of course nobody was going to be sitting down so to even catch a glimpse of a band member was based on pure luck. It was as if they didn't want us to get any photos. Fortunately, I had a very long lens with me as I heard stories from photographers that had shot previous shows. For the New York Dolls it was no problem because as I mentioned, the venue was not very full. For Poison it was the worst. After the two songs they wouldn't allow us to stay and watch the show so myself and the other photogs went to a nearby restaurant for a quick beer and a bite. I borrowed a milk crate from them to stand on during Motley Crue's performance and that saved my ass big time. After the show we were required to remove our photo passes and return them. They had the date of the show and the magazine I was shooting for written in sharpie so clearly they were going to the garbage. I'm not sure why we couldn't keep them and was pretty bummed as those are great souvenirs from shows. In addition, we were given very strict orders to not even think about taking a photo backstage. If we did we would be banned from shooting the Tacoma Dome for life. I was told that was Brittney Spears fault but whatever. It sucked because there were some great photo ops back there. So our two songs came and went very fast. When I got back I asked to leave my camera gear in the security room so I could watch the rest of the show...can't watch the show they said...I said I would buy a ticket...nope. Can't do that either. Don't go away mad, just go away was the message I was hearing loud and clear.

HUMILIATING: This will fall under the category of too much information. I had to work all day in a suit. I didn't want to shoot Motley Crue in a suit so I meant to bring a shirt. Forgot it. I went to Macys in the morning and bought one. Didn't try it on. I put it on after work and realized it looked ridiculous. No problem I thought. I had my under armor spandex looking t-shirt under it. I'll just wear that in the venue and buy a Motley Crue T-shirt while I'm in the show. Worst case scenario, I'll be in the dark concert hall..not a big deal. If you don't know me, I haven't been to the gym in...well, I've never been to the gym. It ain't pretty if you know what I'm saying. Well, no venue t-shirts dark venue for any length of time...bright lit, backstage hanging out with a million people who had to have been wondering what kind of delusional person I must be to think I could get away with wearing that thing. Oh man, I cringe just thinking about it.

Now for the pics :)