Sometimes all it takes is 6 words to change your mind. 6 little words to forever change your perception and outlook. 6 words to turn a normally boring Saturday night in Las Vegas, to one of the best nights of your life. 6 words to go from a stranger, to a lifelong friend.
Saturday afternoon I was sitting on my couch with Netflix and Facebook, like I always am, and I was tagged in a post on the Drowning Pool fan page. I was told I should go check them out because they would be doing a free show for the summer concert series. Being who I am, and the amount of celebrities that I have worked with, worked for, or are friends with, I didn’t hesitate to reply with a short, direct answer because I figured they wouldn’t ever see it because they have social media people dealing with it. So I replied with 6 words.
“Maybe Lance. Never been a fan.”
Not thinking anything of it, I went on about my business. I went to the store, shopping, and to go and see a man about a job. While I was standing in the middle of the store, my phone goes off with another Facebook notification. My phone goes off constantly. Calls, texts, notifications, emails. People get annoyed with me because of how often my phone is making noise. The fuckin thing is very rarely ever silent. So, as I get into “electronic zombie” mode and check my phone, I notice that Drowning Pool had replied to my comment on their page.
“Tonight is your night!!! Let us convince you.”
I replied rather quickly with my demands. I figured I may as well try to get something good out of it if I am going to go downtown with the hordes of tourists and drunks to listen to a band that I don’t even really like, or know anything they’ve done other than one song. So I asked for a photo pass and an interview, but what I got was much much more.
As you can see, my demands were met. Having been in this “meet at the merch booth” scenario before with other bands, I wasn’t expecting much at all to come out of it other than maybe a press pass for three songs up front, and a possible short interview. That’s how it always happens, the “make nice” part of the business, give them a little, then get rid of them.
But, before we get into the juicy bits of this story, let me explain a little something to you I have learned about the music business over the years:
No one likes a kiss ass, not even if they act like they do. Most celebrities have a full on resting “douche-face” they wear around the clock. Even the ones that were once famous, but aren’t anymore. Why? You try having millions of people paw all over you, interrupt your dinner, your family time, your free time, every day, with requests for pictures or autographs or whatever else they want from them. See how long you can behave yourself. The niceties don’t last long when you’re in the public eye.
But with me, I treat them all the same, no one gets the fake nice from me because they are a celebrity. If I am treated poorly, you’re treated poorly. If you’re a decent human being to interact with, you’ll receive the same in return. I won’t take shit from you, your roadies, your band manager, or any of the entourage. And, if you’re an asshole to me, it will be immortalized in print and possible video if I am quick enough. On the flip side of that coin, your generosity of spirit and your good nature will also be immortalized just as fast. Choice is always theirs. What I write is up to you, not me.
But, back to the topic at hand.
I had a couple hours to kill. I figured I would do a little reading up on the band, and it’s members past and present, listen to some of the music and try to understand the lyrics and what they might have gone thru over the years. Being as I have only ever heard the song “Bodies” before, I took to YouTube to do some listening.
Being as I don’t care for the heavier alternative/metal music, I was surprised by what I found. Drowning Pool isn’t like every other band in that genre that people have tried to get me to listen to. You can understand the words, for one. The songs all have a similar “sound” to them, but they don’t all sound the same, if you know what I mean. From album to album I know the voice is slightly different because of changes in lead vox after Dave, the original lead singer died, but the energy and the spirit remains.
At this time of the day, I was running on under three hours of sleep from the day before, and awake since 4 AM. I was sleep deprived, food deprived, and really considering not going. But, I managed to get myself together, try to remember the info I read and gather a few questions in my head for when I get there. I headed out the door an hour and a half before they were supposed to take the stage, just for good measure. I knew it would be a bitch trying to find a parking space downtown. And it totally was.
By the time I managed to find a parking space, I had pretty much forgotten everything I had initially intended to ask if I was granted interview, and most of what I had read about them, including the names of the members, and their faces. When I finally made it to the merch booth, which, was hidden off to the side of the stage, something the venue really needs to work on by the way, I had no idea who I was looking for. So, in a last ditch effort to not look like a complete asshole, I took to the interwebs to google images of the band members again. The face I was greeted with at the merch booth was a middle aged woman, completely shitfaced, and trying to sell me pink booty short panties because they matched my hair. After a few questions, I threw my hands up and decided to find a way to get myself to the back security gate by the green room, ask some questions there. Took me nearly half an hour to actually come face to face with one of the band members. Run around is natural when your name isn’t on a list or you don’t have a badge. Persistence is key, and finding the right person is also key.
First person I saw was a dude with long hair and a guitar, so I stopped him. He was a member of one of the other bands there, tho I couldn’t tell you the name of it because that’s not who I was after. He was nice enough to go get the head lady that runs the show down there, and as I am standing there trying to explain the Facebook situation with her, I see the guitar guy speaking with a bald guy by the green room door. He points at me, bald guy looks at me, smiles and comes running over. I just hugged CJ Pierce, the guitar player for Drowning Pool. The head boss lady went from bitch to best friend in two seconds flat.
Around the gates I go, and into precious, rarely seen territory. Let the night begin.
He introduced me to the other band members, asked me if I needed anything to drink, and he sat down dangerously close to me on the couch. After a few minutes of the normal conversation I know they give every member of the press, something clicked in his brain, and the situation changed. Take a listen to the small audio clip I have uploaded here, and you’ll see what I mean.
The entire dynamic of the evening changed from that point on. I was no longer a member of the press or a potential fan. I was a friend.
There was a small bit of time to kill before the show started, that time was spent with shots, meet and greets, and the amp up rituals. I managed to catch Jasen and Stevie doing their normal adrenaline push, but I missed Mike and CJ because they were off doing something else. We all participated in a pre-show shot and hug, a couple of selfies, and a couple of awkward minutes of “who the fuck is this guy walking into the green room?” glances. At one point I remember Stevie telling me I smelled like the color pink, and he always wondered what that smelled like. I got a good laugh out of that. Never had anyone say that shit to me before, usually it is always about how pink my hair is, and here lately, about my pink contacts. The contacts always throw people off.
Time to start the show, hey, ho, let’s go!
As I get myself up the stairs backstage, I come around the corner and am met with the familiar feeling of anxiety I have felt so many times before. The crowd. Look at all of those people. If I walk out there now for pictures and video before the band gets out, THEY’LL ALL BE LOOKING AT ME. I can handle it, I enjoy working the crowd, I just need to get past that first step over the line and I’m golden.
As I walk out to the middle of the stage and begin shooting, I can see familiar faces in the crowd. Photographers I know, acquaintances, people I run into here and there, but not many. I scan the crowd relentlessly for something interesting out there to capture, someone that wants so desperately to be seen by the camera they act the fool to get noticed. There were a few, but they weren’t interesting enough to keep my attention.
Here come the boys, and there go my eardrums. The music was powerful, you could feel it in your chest. I floated from one side of the stage to the other, front and back. The only place I didn’t bother to shoot from was on the boxes directly in front of the stage. I have seen mother fuckers fall through those before, wasn’t even going to try. But, having the back end vantage point gave me the opportunity to grab a lot of prime picture opportunities. Shit normal people, and every other photographer, never gets to see. Every photographer I made eye contact with thru the night, gave me the stink eye, and I enjoyed it.
I got about 500 pictures from the stage, and a few videos. I managed to check out the set list so I could be ready for when “Bodies” was coming because I wanted to video that. But over the course of 45 minutes, I got to see the boys in the band in their most primal states of being. Doing what they love, doing what feels right, to them. I got to witness the stinging pain of sweat in the eyes and pushing thru it. I witnessed the updating of social media during the middle of a song by band members. I witnessed the appreciation of fans for making it possible to get paid doing what they love.
After the show, a few of the members and friends went to go and do the zipline that runs below the canopy, CJ asked me to join them, but by the time I got my camera, the golf cart was full, so I decided to go back to the green room and take in the happenings in there. The one roadie told me that he just got a text saying they were next up, so out front we went to check it out. Fifteen minutes later, I got this video of them flying overhead.
After the zipline fun was done, and everyone got back to the green room, there was much discussion on what to do with the rest of the evening. There was another band playing down at the Las Vegas Country Saloon, Gemini Syndrome, that they were friends with and wanted to go see. Had to get the gear back to the hotel first. Let me tell you, walking with a pretty huge band through the hotel on Femont Street can be interesting. You have fans staring and waving and running after you for a handshake or a picture. Everyone stares. These guys don’t look like normal dudes either. They actually LOOK famous. You may not know from where, but you just know they are famous somehow.
After the boys got changed and dropped off the stuff, we all met back downstairs at the main bar at The D, and decided what was next. LVCS it was. We got some slack walking thru the door by security. They want your ID, no matter what. Having been in this situation before, I was expecting one of them to cause a small scene, to pull that “you know who I am?” card that so many of them do. But, not one of them did. That solidified my already pretty well deep seeded thoughts about them being good and decent human beings. They could be total douchebag monsters if they wanted to be, but they aren’t. THAT is what sets them apart from so many others in their same shoes.
Once inside, I immediately saw Marcus and his girl Christina at the merch table. It is hard to miss Marcus, he’s a big dude, stands above most of the crowd, which is good for me, because I am short as fuck and always have a hard time seeing anything other than the backs of heads in crowded places. I went and said hi, told him to give me a sec and I’d get a picture of him and his girl with the boys. Stevie had gone missing somewhere, and about 20 seconds after I snapped the picture for them, Stevie walked in. Day late, dollar short.
We milled around the LVCS for a little bit, talked with the members of Gemini Syndrome, and there was another face in the crowd I knew. It was Zoltan Bathroy from Five Finger Death Punch. Dude is still a cool guy. I met him some years ago, and had a picture of me, him, and Ivan on my phone. When I showed it to him he was like, “God damn that beard, what was I thinking?” Never know who you are going to see in Vegas, or where you will see them at.
After a while, we all left, supposed to go find something to eat, so we all went in the direction of Denny’s. CJ ad I ended up getting separated from most of the group, so we spent the next couple hours talking about music, and our lives and what makes us such awesome people. I got to learn about CJ’s newest musical venture he is trying out, what drives him to do what he does, and what makes a difference to him in life. I learned a lot of things that most people aren’t privy to, and for a short moment in time, I felt pretty special.
A mere hour prior to the concert, these four men were strangers to me, and by the end of the evening, they were my friends. I learned life stories, the trials and tribulations of their journey as a band. The heartbreaks, the failures, the triumphant moments and the sweet victories of life they all had. I learned who they were individually, and what they become as a band.
Even though I am still not a fan of the genre of music they fit into, I am a fan of them, and I have added their albums to my music library. Of all the celebrities I have met over the years, this set of boys are taking the number one spot on my favorites list, and it’ll be hard pressed to knock them off that pedestal.
Check out the photos from the stage on Facebook at GonZo Jenny Photography, as well as the ZRockr page. Leave your comments, share them, tag yourself if you see yourself in the crowd. And always remember one thing:
Live life like every day is Saturday Night with One Finger and a Fist.
Editor's Note: we already know the sound quality may not be the greatest on the vids but the energy had to be shared- \m/