Well, summer is all but over and what do I finally get around to doing…? I went to a poolside concert at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I’ll think twice before I do that again but more on the nightmare of it all later.
I went to see Collective Soul, a 5-piece band — whose music is a cross between alternative, mainstream and Southern rock — that I became enamored with when I first saw them live on the 7th Annual Rock Boat in January of 2007. I went because I thought it would be fun to compare the two experiences and the photos taken at both.
Collective Soul — consisting of Ed Roland as lead vocalist, his kid brother Dean Roland on rhythm guitar, Joel Kosche on lead guitar, Will Turpin on bass and Cheney Brannon on drums — have been around for the better part of two decades with their 1993 breakout hit “Shine” making them pretty much a mainstream rock staple. More recently, in an apparent attempt to broaden their fan base, they had a song on the soundtrack for the hottest tween movie of 2008 by the name of “Twilight” entitled “Tremble For My Beloved.”
OK, so let’s compare the two shows and the photos I got from each.
The Rock Boat is a 5-day floating indie rock festival in which up-and-coming as well as established bands mix, mingle and play for current and potential fans on several stages and showrooms ranging from a small stage above the lobby bar to a larger stage in the pool area to the cabaret showroom. Acts ranged from up-and-comers Zac Brown and Five Star Iris to major headliners Collective Soul and the creators of the Rock Boat, Sister Hazel.
This was my first major photo assignment for Front of House magazine, not to mention my first cruise, so I was definitely anxious yet excited. I shot over 1,000 images with my brand new Canon Digital Rebel (my first semi-pro digital SLR camera that I still use today) in the 5 days we were at sea and because I never got my sea legs on the stormy seas, all but a very few were unusable. The Collective Soul set in the main showroom was the final night with a little bit of a storm going on outside and I was asked by the editor to shoot from the side and back of the stage with the sound crew’s point of view. Let’s just say that between my nerves, the rocky seas and a sound engineer who couldn’t mix a milkshake I didn’t last long and left after about 5 songs.
Fast forward to this past Friday night in the newly remodeled and expanded pool area at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Collective Soul was scheduled to hit the poolside stage at 10:15pm so I decided to take my time getting over to the venue and took care of some errands first. Big mistake because once I went to the box office to pickup my photo pass and ticket and dawdled outside the Joint to listen to Carlos Santana playing “Europa.” I didn’t get into the pool area until nearly 10pm. (I’ll get to review and shoot Santana in November…fingers crossed.) As I opened the doors from the hallway out into the pool area I quickly realized that it was wall-to-wall-to-water people. There had to be thousands upon thousands of drunk and nearly drunk party-goers out there. I tried to quickly find my way to the stage but as it got closer and closer to start time I realized that I wasn’t anywhere near close to making it to the photo pit (if there even was one) so I looked for a quick alternative spot to shoot from. After all, the rules are that I only get to shoot the first two songs and no flash and it was nearly time to start the show. I noticed a balcony of sorts above and behind the stage that was only half full of people so I surmised that this must be the VIP section and quickly moved over to the stairway leading to that area. Long story short I batted my eyes at the security guards to be let into the VIP area and then flirted a little with a large bachelor party from Cancun to let me get to the railing so I could get a few shots.
After the first two songs I put my camera into my bag and started for the door. Even though I love these guys and really wanted to hear them live it was just way too crowded and too hot for me to stick around (I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like out there in July…) but on my way out I ran into a new friend, Kristine, at one of the large bed-like areas along the West side of the pool. She had to be at least a half football field away from the stage, behind so many people and palm trees that you couldn’t see the stage at all. The sound system in this area sounded like crap as it was all high end, no definition between the instruments and vocals and very static-y that, for me, was nearly un-listenable. This would piss me off had I paid for that privilege to sit in what I imagine are expensive seats but she and her friends didn’t seem to mind at all. That’s when I realized that this type of event is more about the party (and getting plastered) and less about the music and isn’t really designed for a true live music lover like me so after about 5 or 6 songs I said bye to Kristine and was out the door.
It’s kinda funny to me that once I got home and compared the two shows I realized that the pictures are quite similar but my photography skills have definitely improved. Still, maybe one of these days I can get a close-up shot of Ed’s face instead of his backside.
Next up for me is that I get to see and review the highly anticipated Cheap Trick/Sgt. Pepper Live show at the Las Vegas Hilton tomorrow night. I already got a sneak peak at the stage the other day. Here’s a sneak peak for you. My All Access pass is waiting for me. I gotta go.