The streets were alive with the sounds of music; and myself, late as usual biking hard towards downtown to get my pass. I’ve never been part of the press before. Not officially. I’ve sort of just had a passion for heading down to big events and pushing through crowds to get nice pictures, the thought of a young Peter Parker hanging out (upside down) in the back of my head.
The First Day…
As most first days of festivals go, it was pretty tame, a few bands on my list but the night was reserved mainly for art shows and pass holder parties. What? Hosted by Jameson and Sapporo? Yes, thank you very much! “I’ll have one of each!”, or fancy cocktails in between slices of brie on crackers with a baby dills “C’est magnifique!” I’d like to say I enjoyed the art, but the starving artist in me was focused on the beauty of the buffet table. Cheeses, crackers, meats and pickles… I could get used to this.
A few more “How do you do’s” and more than a few cocktails later and I was amped to check out some bands. We had met a few fella’s from across the pond at one of the schmooze fests earlier in the day. They had flown in all the way from the Wales on their own coin (which is the pound if you’re keeping track). When you are willing to put that much into your own art, it’s gotta be worth seeing. “Camera” is their name, and needless to say they put on a good show, probably the best I saw that night. Fancy that!
The Second Day…
Thursday was done right. Slept in late, woke up refreshed and ready to rock. There were no more art parties or schmooze fests, from here on out it was a full lineup of bands from dusk till dawn. Kiz & Legin, Braids, Diana, You Handsome Devil just to name a few. The best part about a festival like this is how many bands you have as your options. Everything from electronic, to metal, alternative rock and I even caught a quiet little rap show at Nocturne. (Why they would host a rap show in Nocturne is a question I still have yet to figure out the answer to!)
That night ended great, but it also marks the beginning of what I call the ‘descent’. I think I had a drink for every syllable in the name of the bands I went to go check out. The ringing in my ears from being up front (a necessity as a photographer) was deafening. My battery light was flashing, there was no way I’d get a full charge before I had to head out again tomorrow.
The Third Day…
It’s now Friday and Toronto is a buzz with music hungry crowds walking around wrist first to their chosen shows. I got a tip from a friend that ‘Flag’ was playing the Cathedral. This was a huge bonus for me because not only does the Cathedral have the best lighting, it’d also give me a chance to indulge like it was my antiestablishmentarianism-driven teenage years.
They did not disappoint, let me tell you. The crowd was wild! You could see all the old punks with their grey ‘hawks and duct taped chucks from the late 80’s still mixed with the younger generation, all in one massive pulsating crowd. Once they got to some of their old favourites even this photographer had to get in on that pit.
With my camera held as high as I could get it, I partied like it didn’t matter. So hard, in fact, I ended up smashing my flash. Oh well, it was worth every penny. With all that energy infused into me, I had enough adrenaline to make it to BLKBOX and catch the 3am Spice Girls tribute band ‘Wannabe’. Their choreography was great and the screaming girls around me made me feel like I was actually at a Spice Girls concert. (Check that off the bucket list). The pics did come out a little blurry, I wish i had of waited till after this one to smash my trusty flash. Not only that, but I locked up my bike somewhere downtown and immediately forgot where… I’m starting to lose it.
Saturday. The fourth day.
I didn’t even get up in time to catch the sun. Not that I needed to anyways, it would have only been counter-productive. I had a lineup of late shows anyways, including ‘Smif & Wessun’ and Toronto favourite ‘Fucked Up’. I’ve got to say I didn’t think anyone would be able to beat the ‘Flag’ show but I was dead wrong. Fucked Up packed the horseshoe from wall to wall and they were easily the highlight of the entire festival for me. The pit was crazy, maybe because the space was so much more intimate than the Cathedral. People were literally flying off the walls to get ontop of the crowd and surf over to the stage. It was a free for all with people in the crowd picking the mic out of the leads hands and singing along.
At one point the lead singer reached out and picked up a crowd surfer, played an entire song with him slung over his shoulder, then whipped him back into the crowd with hands eagerly waiting.
I was in the middle of everything, half dancing with what might as well be a few grand in my hand (camera) and half doing ‘work’… but if this is ‘work’, then I haven’t even begun to have fun yet.
I woke up worse for the wear. No bike, my body aching from head to toe and a high profile concert to shoot… I was starting to wish this was over already. This is hardly the buffet table full of cheeses and pickles that I started out with. I made it down to the Ludacris concert because c’mon… Luda yo! You could tell who the amateur photographers were because we actually enjoyed the music.
With the roar of the crowd behind us and the speakers surrounding the stage vibrating through our bones, I instantly forgot how tired I was once Ludacris came out. The sense of urgency you get in a photography pit is much different than that of a punk show’s pit. Everyone is still rushing and trying to get over each other but for a good shot. It was ravenous. The music however was, as Luda usually is, Bumpin’ [ definition 1.2] and I couldn’t resist but bounce to it as I took some shots.
I’m not just doing this because it’s work, I’m doing this for the love of it. I did it because I have passion for music (no matter how ‘bad’ it’s considered to be) and photography. Before I left, another photographer tapped me on the shoulder and said “We’re here to take pictures, not to dance!” I looked at him and said “You’re old!” and left. I hope I never become that lame… I’m doing this for the love of sound.
– W.S. Rivera