Cage the Elephant
The interim music dies, and so do the lights. The band walks out, but the mic stand and spotlight remain vacant. Anticipation flavors empty seconds, minutes.
"Oh shit dude, here he comes." I've heard stories about Cage the Elephant's frontman Matt Shultz. Stories of him using a broken bottle to cut himself enough to bleed unconscious in front of a late night crowd. Stories of violent stage dives, addiction, and manic depression. The line separating hearsay and the truth shifts depending on who you ask. All I know is this guy fully embodies rock and roll.
I'm in the pit, and I've chosen the right lens - 20mm and fast. I can catch the whole band from the nose of the runway while keeping Shultz front and center. Settings are where I want them. ISO more or less locked in at 4000. Shutter is fast enough to freeze Shultz' frenetic energy with a touch of blur to accentuate the movement - back and forth between 1/250 and 1/320 depending on motion levels. For such an unpredictable subject, I keep the aperture open at f/3.5 or 4 to stretch my depth of field. Sharp focus will be an obstacle tonight.
The media security at these big arenas is extreme - through the metal detector, pockets emptied, bags checked, media pass secured, escorted to stage, first 3/no flash, escorted back to media room. But this time was different. Cage was generous enough to let us shoot the last 3 as well - the full encore. And the energy was thunderous.
Inches in front of me, Shultz is headbanging and belting Shake Me Down into a microphone, squeezing the thing to its limits. Behind me, fans are scream-singing on and off pitch. Thousands of anonymous hands desperately reach out in hopes of touching their idol. Personally, I was envisioning one of his (in)famous stage dives or some other kind of reckless behavior symptomatic of rock and roll legends. But no broken glass or otherwise erratic behavior tonight.
I'll just say it. Shooting high-profile, high-energy bands like this gets me super high. Any other photographer who does this for a living could tell you the same. It's a healthy, organic high. Almost makes me wonder if I'm just catching a nice Sativa contact buzz from the hazy crowd behind me. When everything aligns - lighting, composition, focus, and just the right amount of motion blur - there's a quite noticeable rush of euphoria. "Maybe one of these shots could land me access to a bigger band, or better yet, bump my photography career into a bigger publication." My thoughts always seem to amplify when I put the ear plugs in.
Cage wrapped things up with a stentorian encore of "Come a Little Closer" and "Teeth". Dizzy and disoriented from opening and closing my non-viewfinder eye, I snapped away as Shultz b-lined towards me and sat on the edge of the stage, just inches from my lens. Medusa-like hands stretched violently over my head. I side-stepped twice and carefully composed the frame to capture the enthusiasm in a fan-girl's face as Shultz autographed her iPhone case. And believe me, these earplugs couldn't defend against this shrieking crowd.
I rode cloud nine all the way back to the media room, escorted by the personable security staff of the Infinite Energy Center. Buzzed on euphoria, between-set IPAs, and that aforementioned possible contact high from the crowd, I shook a few hands, swapped a few phone numbers, and strolled through the drizzly parking lot to meet back up with some friends. High fives, stories, and favorite moments from the show were exchanged.
Thanks Cage. On to the next.
14mm | ISO4000 | f/4 | 1/250