I hate being late. I am the person who is at the airport way too early; where “on time” means “running late.” I am the person that arrives to a show right around doors, even if there’s five bands and I only care about seeing the headliner. But New York City traffic cares not about my desire for punctuality. As one would expect at 5 o’clock on a Friday, the drive to Long Island was a solid red line on Google Maps for the majority of my drive. Despite the traffic, I arrived with 30 minutes to spare – or so I thought.
Doors at 7. Show at 8. That’s what the website said. So at 7:32 when I was going through security and thought to myself “the house music is super loud, it almost sounds like it’s live”, I was surprised to realize Currents was already halfway through their first song.
As you may recall from a few sentences ago, I am used to being the type of guy that helps people finish setting up for their party because they took the party’s start time literally. In other words, I was not prepared for this situation. Running up the stairs, I made my way to the photo pit, dropped my bag, and pulled out my camera just as Currents began their second song, “Into Despair.”
Being allowed three songs to shoot from the pit is kind of perfect. You can use the first song to get dialed in, hammer it out during the second song, and get your “just in case” shots during the third. Having missed the first song of Currents’ set, I felt immense pressure to make the best of my time and get caught up. Suddenly, every shot I took mattered. I wanted to freeze time for just a second or two so I could get myself together, but the show must go on – and it did, so I did too.
By the end of their third song, “The Death We Seek,” I was finally in my groove. I made my way through the crowd to get some wide shots of the stage and happened to find myself at the right place and the right time when vocalist Brian Wille got the crowd waving their arms side to side. I took some shots and upon review found that a few of them would be usable. There’s something funny about how that you can take 500 photos and as long as you know one of the photos is good, you suddenly aren’t so worried about the other 499. It’s a major relief. I felt like I could relax a bit now.
I decided to put my camera away for a bit so I could watch the show. I’ve had Currents’ newest single, “Remember Me” on repeat for the past week, and it was nice to take a moment to just enjoy watching them perform it live. The song is really good and is definitely worth a listen.
Memphis May Fire was up next, and they were a blast. The band kicked things off with “Blood and Water”, the first single from the band’s 2022 release, “Remade in Misery”. Vocalist Matty Mullins was always on the move, criss-crossing back and forth across the stage to interact with the crowd. The rest of the band stayed in their respective areas for the most part, which made it easy for me to focus on each member individually and get the shots I needed (remember the cycle!).
The ever-present hurdle, though, were the risers. This is a common obstacle at metal shows. They’re great for when you’re getting shots from the crowd, not so much for when you’re in the photo pit. I did my best to shoot over them, a feat made easier thanks to the R5’s vari-angle LCD. The ability to turn and rotate the LCD has been clutch for me as a concert photographer, especially after spending so many years shooting with the 5D Mark IV, which has a stationary LCD. Turns out it helps to see what I’m doing when I’m holding the camera above my head instead of just shooting aimlessly and hoping for the best.
During the latter half of Memphis May Fire’s set, I spent some time playing around with double exposure. I haven’t fully gotten the hang of it just yet, but it was fun to experiment all the same. The R5’s software gives you the ability to be very precise with your overlays, and while the digital tools at hand almost felt like cheating, the underlying composition is still up to person holding the camera. This is a growth area for me for sure – figuring out how to make two photos work together in a way that is impactful. These shows provide great opportunities for practice, and I look forward to getting the hang of it eventually.
Memphis May Fire’s setlist consisted almost entirely of songs from “Remade in Misery”, but the band still closed with “The Sinner”, a crowd-favorite from their 2011 release, “The Hollow.” The mosh pit was in full force for the song, and Memphis May Fire had left it all on the stage by the time it was over. Then, just like that, it was time for the headlining act.
Parkway Drive’s return to the United States has been a long time coming – four years, to be exact. It’s safe to say that the band’s absence from this side of the world has not gone unnoticed, if the fans’ room-shaking chant for the band prior to their set can serve as any indicator. These fans were ready for Parkway Drive and, as we’d come to find, Parkway Drive was ready for the fans too.
The band was firing on all cylinders when they took the stage, opening with the supremely catchy “Glitch” (I mean it, this song will get stuck in your head). They followed with “Prey” and “Carrion”, two Parkway Drive classics that were both greeted with WrestleMania return-level pops from the crowd.
When the crowd is giving that much to the band and the band is giving it right back – that is when I really love shooting concert photography. Being able to capture that connection between an artist and their fans is a special thing – even if that means getting kicked in the head by crowd surfers from time to time.
The risers continued to present challenges, however they were not without their benefits. During one moment when vocalist Winston McCall was crouched on the stage, effectively posing for an awesome shot, I couldn’t get it without the riser obstructing part of the frame. In hindsight, that’s one of my favorite parts of the image. It’s nice when things work out like that.
After leaving the pit, I made my way to the back of the room as I had for the prior acts, grabbed some shots, and then I put my camera away again – this time for good – and enjoyed watching the rest of Parkway Drive’s set. An epic ending to a night with an unexpected start.