It was the Summer of 2000. I was in middle school. And up until this point I’d only been to one concert in my entire life (the concert was Alanis Morrisette, but that story is for another time). That all changed on July 8, 2000 when I went to my very first festival: Ozzfest.
To have only been to one concert before and then to get to go to a “concert” that lasted all day blew my little teenage kid mind. Even more mind-blowing was the experience of finally seeing my hero, Ozzy Osbourne, perform live. But that story too, is for another time. Today we’re going to talk about a different band that was on that incredible lineup, and that band is Static-X. My introduction to them came by way of their performance at Ozzfest, and I was hooked by the end of the first song.
That was unfortunately the only time that I saw Static-X live with the late Wayne Static at the helm. Static is irreplaceable and no one would argue with that point, but Xer0, the “anonymous” frontman currently leading the band, is a damn good tribute to him.
Static-X is in the midst of their rescheduled Rise of the Machine tour, and I was fortunate enough to catch their stop at Irving Plaza in Manhattan a few weeks back. The stacked lineup also included Dope, Mushroomhead, and Fear Factory.
Upon my arrival to the venue I made my way to the box office to check in and get my photo pass. “I don’t see your name. Can you reach out to your point-of-contact?” Familiar words for a concert photographer to hear, but anxiety-inducing all the same. With so much that goes on logistically for a tour, in so many cities, and with so many photographers, this will inevitably happen from time to time. But in situations like this, as Axl Rose once said, “all [you] need is just a little patience.”
I checked in with my contact and a few texts and a phone call later, I was inside Irving Plaza and heading up the stairs to the live room. I’d made it in too late to shoot Dope’s set but was able to catch the final moments of their epic rendition of of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”
Mushroomhead was up next, and let me tell you – they are a live band not to be missed. Many of the theatrical elements employed by metal acts in their live performances can be traced back to Mushroomhead, and it was clear from the start that they are experts in their craft.
I was admittedly caught off guard by the water splashing off of the floor toms (I should have done my research), and I was apprehensive about getting too close in fear of getting my lens wet. However, as soon as I reviewed the shots I was getting, I eagerly took the risk so I could get even more.
The members of Mushroomhead took notice of my camera and gave me plenty of “camera staredown” shot opportunities of which I gladly took advantage. Vocalist Steve Rauckhorst made frequent visits up to and over the barrier, allowing for me to get some fun shots of Rauckhorst interacting with the crowd. By the end of the band’s third song, “Our Apologies“, I shut off my camera and left the photo pit thrilled with the shots I’d taken. I was already excited to go home and get to work editing my photos, but the night was just getting started.
Fear Factory took the stage next and started things off with “Shock” from their 1998 breakthrough album, “Obsolete.” New vocalist Milo Silvestro had big shoes to fill replacing Burton Bell, who until Silvestro was the only lead vocalist in the band’s thirty plus years in existence. Silvestro proved himself from the start, delivering a performance that made it clear that he was the right man for the job.
Founding members Tony Campos and Dino Cazares stood stage right and left respectively and remained there for the duration of the set. Campos and Cazeres were anything but stationary and put a great deal of passion and energy into every note they played while headbanging along to the rhythm. Mike Webber, who was sitting in for longtime drummer Mike Heller, tied it all together with his impressive chops.
After shooting a band with as many members as Mushroomhead has, I welcomed the opportunity to shoot a four piece. I made my way back and forth across the photo pit, taking my time to focus on getting shots of each individual band member while periodically zooming out to get a shot of the band in full. The stage lighting lent me a hand by being predominately clean as well as bright; a rarity, particularly in the case of metal shows.
After Fear Factory’s set, the house playlist provided a series of songs that welcomed a crowd singalong, Rammstein’s “Du Hast” drawing significant participation. With each song increased the energy and so to the anticipation for Static-X to take the stage.
Static-X opened with “Permanence“, and the extent of their stage production was quickly realized by the blinding light from a wall of screens. Xer0’s new mask looked great and photographed well, the red-glowing eyes in particular. I was and continue to be blown away by how well Xer0 can channel the spirit and voice of Wayne Static in his performance. It is a sight to behold as well as to see.
The wall of screens on the stage created an immersive environment in which the band could perform and, in addition to it being cool as hell, it made for some epic-looking wide shots. Trying to get a clear shot while balancing stage lighting with LED backlighting could easily have been a challenge, but in this case it was anything but. Much like with Fear Factory, I was able to take my time getting shots of each band member while enjoying some great lighting
The band’s setlist included songs that spanned their entire career, but it was particularly focused on their 2001 release “Machine” and, of course, “Wisconsin Death Trip.” Each time they played a song from their classic debut album, I felt like I was transported back to Blockbuster Pavilion in Charlotte, NC, at Ozzfest seeing them for the very first time and becoming a fan all over again.