10 photo passes and the stories behind them
The almighty photo pass! If you’re a concert photographer you already know that these little sticky fabric passes are sacred and need to be cherished. If you’re an aspiring concert photographer, know that photo passes can become an obsession. You begin to seek them out (even long for them) and consider them trophies that need to be kept in pristine condition. That little pass validates what you and only a select few got the chance to do. Maybe I’m blowing it totally out of proportion but that’s what it’s like for me. Every time I receive a pass I take care of it like it’s a baby and when I get home it sits nicely in a sealed box so I can look at it over and over again over the years.
From my experience, each pass has a story unique to the photographer and obviously unique to the show. Getting a photo pass for a certain artist can become a conquest and the following post breaks down ten photo passes that I’ve received over the years and the stories behind them.
1. Blink-182’s California Tour (2016)
I’d be lying if this one wasn’t one of my favourite photo passes ever. Pop punk will always reign supreme to me given that my adolescent years were in the 90’s and early millenia. What’s crazy is that this was from Blink-182’s California Tour (not featuring Tom Delonge), not the best moment in time to capture them but I got the pass! Back in 2013 I had the pleasure of photographing them with Tom, but it was early on in my career and I don’t believe there was a photo pass for that show (unless I lost it). Needless to say this was a special one having grown up with Dude Ranch on repeat in my Panasonic Shockwave.
2. Arcade Fire’s Reflektor Tour (2014)
Canada’s favourite indie rock band and unquestionably my favourite as well. I’ve always had Arcade Fire on my bucket list to shoot and not just because they became a grammy winning band for Suburbs (2010). This band has been a staple in my music rotation for years and the bigger they got, the bigger their shows got. That means epic stage setups, stunning light shows, and all the tricks you could as for as music fan. I got exactly what I wanted with the band setting up huge mirrors and platforms on the stage and putting on a truly incredible performance. The one downside was that we could only photograph from one side of the photo pit. It always sucks when you can’t get the angles you’ve been dreaming up in your head.
3. GWAR’s Fate or Chaos Tour (2012)
This was one of the craziest experiences of my life and was the last time I got a chance to photograph them with original lead singer Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) before his untimely death. Before I headed into the photo pit to capture the show (along with the decapitation of a former U.S. president) and what felt like gallons of fake blood being sprayed on us, I had 5 minutes to interview Oderus backstage. It resulted in me throwing my mic to him, hitting record and shotgun questioning him, only to get the most hilarious answers. If you want to go back in time and see the fastest run and gun style interview I’ve ever done you can watch it here.
4. Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Alchemy Tour (2012)
If you’ve read the name above I question whether or not I need to explain why this one means so much to me. Neil Young is an absolute legend and back in 2012 he reunited with Crazy Horse and played a string of shows throughout Canada. It was early days for Beyond The Watch but I managed to get us on the media list for their show in Kitchener at The Aud. Right after work I took off from Toronto to Kitchener (a hefty ride for a show) and it was everything I could’ve asked for and more. Small town vibes, massive sounding show.
5. Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy Tour (2017)
The first time I got a chance to photograph Father John Misty was way back in 2012 when he played The Horseshoe Tavern. I was hooked immediately with his stage antics and hypnotic dance moves that were reminiscent of Jim Morrison. I went on to photograph him every time he came back to the city and even once in London, England. But every single time I showed up to the show to collect my photo pass I received a ticket and no pass (seriously it’s the worst feeling). The closest I got to a pass was a Father John Misty wristband when he toured I Love You, Honeybear (2015).
6. Stone Temple Pilot’s (2012)
A lot of these passes go back to 2012, I’m starting to see a pattern with some of my very first photo passes being my favourites. This one holds a special place in my collection because I got a chance to capture the late great Scott Weiland (R.I.P.). This show was in my hometown of Hamilton at Copps Coliseum and I remember the fans being so stoked for the show. I was super nervous as STP was always a big rock band growing up, not to mention Scott’s epic run with Velvet Revolver. This show was one of the biggest sets I photographed at the time and Scott was pure magic during those first three songs. He was a rockstar through and through, running up and jumping on the monitors with a megaphone in hand, pinstripe pants, vest and floral button up. What a boss.
7. Green Day’s Revolution Radio Tour (2017)
Green Day was always a band that I was chasing to photograph. Forget the photo pass, I wanted to just photograph these guys from a pit, soundboard, crowd or wherever else I got the chance to. The first time I witnessed Billie Joe command a stage was on their American Idiot tour back in 2005. That show goes down as one of the best rock shows I’ve ever been to and year after year during touring cycles for 21st Century Breakdown (2009) and ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! (2012) I kept having terrible luck. I would either get denied or there was a conflict in schedule and I wouldn’t be able to make the show. Finally in 2017 I once again headed down to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum and landed that beautiful pass and captured one hell of a show from the guys.
8. Tame Impala’s Currents Tour (2015)
If you’ve never been to Australia then you wouldn’t know this but, everything's better down under ;). Perth psych rock band Tame Impala put on an incredible show and my history with missing their live show for one reason or another goes back to their very first show in Toronto. I have had the worst luck with getting to their shows but when they toured through Toronto in 2015 for their Currents Tour I got my chance. This pass is badass not only because it features drummer Julien Barbagallo’s face on it but because it’s simply a Tame Impala pass. Cheesy as that sounds, the band has become MASSIVE since then and this now to me is going down as true rock memorabilia in the not so distant future. I love this pass almost as much as I love the band and what seals the deal further is that the show was at Massey Hall (the best venue in the city, hands down).
9. Metallica’s WorldWired Tour (2017)
Another band that almost got away from me. Back in 2013 I drove all the way out to Detroit to photograph Metallica’s now defunct music festival Orion Music + More only to find out I was approved to photograph all the acts BUT THEM. This happens, and we all need to get use to the occasional denial but it really sucked. Luckily I managed to capture them when they played a small side stage under the fake name Dehaan and performed Kill ‘Em All front to back (IT WAS INSANE). Fast forward to 2017 and I stood in front of 50,000 strong at Toronto’s Rogers Centre capturing one of the most epic stage shows in the world.
10. Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour (2015)
If you would’ve told me back in 2011 when I started Beyond The Watch that I’d eventually be photographing Taylor Swift on quite possibly her biggest world tour I would tell you that you were crazy. Taylor Swift isn’t necessarily our preferred style of music but who doesn’t jump at the chance to document one of the biggest female artists of all time? I remember being super anxious as the photographers got escorted down an elevator and through a part of backstage where we then erupted onto the ground floor to a literal sea of fans screaming at the top of their lungs (and the show hadn’t even started yet). The typical photo pit area was sold as VIP tickets to extreme fans and the photographers had to fend for themselves and let me tell you… no Taylor fan wants a massive camera lens in their face, especially not when they paid a small fortune to be there. Needless to say it was a challenge to shoot but it was an experience I’ll never forget. Out of all the shows I’ve been to, this was one of the craziest. Every single person in attendance screamed the words along with Taylor. I don’t care who you are, you couldn’t resist smiling and getting into it. It was a whirlwind event and one I’m proud to have been a part of.
Written by: Steve St. Jean