Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I'M STILL SKIMMING THE TOP OF MY ARCHIVES at the moment, which means the handful of finished prints and decent second prints I kept after purging myself of boxes of 8x10s before a big move. And I'm finding things like this:

Pearl Jam, Aug. 18, 1993, Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand

Unlike my previous post on David Bowie, I actually do remember shooting this concert, mostly because it was an utter fucking pain in the colon. It was a big package tour, with Neil Young backed up by Booker T & The MGs, supported by Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Blues Traveler. I was on assignment for SPIN magazine. I have no memory at all of how I got the gig.

I hate shooting stadium shows. Always have, always will and God willing I'll never have to do it again. This one was particularly awful because of the sheer scale - the CNE Grandstand was the biggest venue in the city - and the incredible popularity of Young and his support acts at the time. As a result, the media handlers treated photographers with more than the usual disdain, and we found ourselves being penned and shoved all over the backstage area during our long waits to shoot the band for our allotted photo slot.

If you've never shot a major concert before, it's a treat. There was a time when a security "gutter" ranging from two or three to ten or twelve feet deep in front of the stage was where we shot - up over the lip of the stage anywhere from six to ten feet off the ground, past the sound monitors and up the nostrils of the lead singer. Once upon a time photographers had the liberty of this "pit" for the whole show, but that era was over by the time I started shooting arena and stadium shows, and the three song rule was in full effect - whittling down to two and even just one song over the years.

Since then, I think the pit has become off limits, and photographers are now assigned spots by the sound board or along the mezzanine level of the venues, where they get their scant three-or-less songs to shoot with long telephotos and monopods. Back in '93, however, we were still allowed into the pit. Except for Pearl Jam.

I gave Blues Traveler a miss - something about them sucking like a chest wound - and shot Soundgarden for three songs from the pit. I didn't feel cheated since I'd seen them before in clubs and was losing interest in the band in any case. For Pearl Jam, however, we were informed that we were only allowed to shoot from the far corners of the pit, on either end of the stage, which meant long lenses and, inevitably, poorer angles.

Tucked elbow-to-elbow into our spots, we waited for Pearl Jam to hit the stage when we noticed that three or four young women - the band's girlfriends, as it turned out, in their standard issue thrift store dresses, torn jeans and combat boots - had walked into the pit area directly in front of the band carrying an SLR or two and at least one old super 8 camera. We had been cleared from the spot where we'd best be able to do our jobs to make space for some proto-hipster tour document where the band would probably just get mocked.

"Oh my gawd - look at Stone. He's going all cock rock!"

"That's what you get for owning too many KISS records, right?"

"Like, totally!"

It felt like a final humiliation, and obviously I'm still smarting from it today. I didn't much like the band, and now I knew why; not merely spoiled rock stars, they were shameless beta male rock stars, happy to make some camera stiff's job harder to keep peace in the ad hoc domestic space of the tour bus. Shooting arena shows was bad enough, but being collateral damage in some assless wonder's attempt at making his girlfriend feel "included" on his "big rock star tour ego trip" made it feel worse.

But that's all so long ago now. In any case, Eddie Vedder is still a complete tool.

1 comment:

  1. On the mention of "Pearl Jam", I am reminded of a story my history teacher told of Louis XVI, each morning, cleaning the dirt from between his toes, and flicking the 'toe jam' at his assembled courtiers.