“The minute you stop reaching you become irrelevant.” – rock photographer Robert Knight
I was having a hard time finding something to write about this week — not that I didn’t have any choices, after all, this IS Vegas — however, I was just not feeling terribly inspired. This was probably due to some heavy duty stress caused by major deadlines at my day gig but also a little bit of frustration at trying to get press/photo passes for some bigger touring shows and getting nowhere. Then my publisher forwarded an email invite to me and asked if I’d be interested in covering the showing of a documentary Saturday inside the Terry Fator Theater at The Mirage and I didn’t hesitate. This could very well be the medicine that I needed. Why would the Photo Diva want to talk about a documentary you ask? Well, this film is called “Rock Prophecies” and is all about the journey of one of my favorite rock photographers ever, and Vegas resident, Robert Knight.
“Some people collect stamps, some people collect butterflies, I think I kinda collect rockstars.” – Robert Knight
You may not be familiar with his name but you are definitely familiar with his work. He is famous for capturing images of music legends before they became famous: The Yardbirds’ Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page (prior to Led Zeppelin), Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Elton John just to name a few. In more recent years, Knight is one of the photographers behind the massive images outside Guitar Centers which is one of the largest outdoor photography displays ever created and has also widened his viewfinder to seek out the next big thing and to follow them, mentor them and use his connections to help them get to the next level focusing on Aussie rock band, Sick Puppies, and a teenage Texas blues guitar player, Tyler Dow Bryant.
Director John Chester does a masterful job of capturing Knight’s reflections on his historical images, how he got initial access to these artists and how he gained their trust, respect and friendship. The most poignant story told is that Robert Knight was the only photographer at Stevie Ray Vaughn (with his band Double Trouble and Eric Clapton) final concert on August 26, 1990 at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI and captured the final images of his friend on stage.
“You’ll know me when you hear me.” – Stevie Ray Vaughn’s final words to Robert Knight as he boarded the helicopter in which he was killed
In the movie their are funny moments (Knight helping to sing backup tracks of “yeah, yeah, yeahs” for up-and-coming rock band, Sick Puppies) sad moments (visiting his Alzheimer’s -ridden mother and coping with her medical costs) and poignant moments (Robert Knight’s recollection of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s final words as he boarded the ill-fated helicopter ) that left me with a clear sense of what drives this 40-year rock photo veteran to pursue his next adventure – Stevie Ray’s voice and final words resonating in his head. With his discovery of YouTube, Knight has been able to go full throttle in looking for Stevie Ray Vaughn’s prophecy and finds teenage blues guitar player Tyler Dow Bryant in Texas. The movie follows Bryant’s journey from relative obscurity in rural Texas to the floor of the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show where his amazing guitar skills (reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s licks to the point of questioning whether or not he is Vaughn reincarnated) empresses Nick Bowcott at Marshall Amps and lands him an endorsement deal on the spot. One of the funniest moments is when the young Bryant, after gawking at all of the barely clothed aptly named booth bimbos, turns to Knight on the NAMM show room floor and said “there are so many beautiful women” to which the elder wise man says, “you don’t get out much do you?” Having gone to this trade show many times I assure you that’s funny!
“I get paid to see.” – Robert Knight
I have to say that I was thrilled to see that Robert Knight’s initial approach to entering this realm of photography was similar to my own (only he approached and befriended the musicians while I approached and befriended the sound crew) as a music fan first and a photographer second and after the screening and the Q&A with Robert Knight and John Chester I left the theater feeling more inspired than ever before. Produced by Tim Kaiser, Rock Prophecies is a well-crafted and loving look at a very small but very dynamic part of the live event industry that few of us have had the pleasure (well, for the most part) to experience. It’s no wonder that this film has won over audiences that have had the opportunity to see it, winning at three 2009 film festivals (Maui, AFI Dallas and Nashville) as it is a pretty accurate portrayal of a world within the music industry. Rock Prophecies will not only appeal to musicians and aspiring live event photographers but also all music fans of any genre and I can’t wait for its DVD release next spring. Thank you, Mr Knight, for inspiring me yet again.
Get The Party Started
Saturday was also the 20th anniversary grand reopening party for Tommy Rocker’s bar and grill and since Tommy is someone my husband did some work with in a past life, we went to help celebrate his success. The first sign that business has improved since going back to being a local’s party locale after the short-lived strip club days was that the parking area was packed. A good sign for sure but it made me think that I might have a hard time getting my chicken wings order very quickly (but they are so good I can be patient). Then we walked into the joint and it was wall-to-wall-to-stage-to-bar packed with happily inebriated fans screaming over Tommy Rocker and friends up on stage as they ripped through some song that I couldn’t hear over the sound of the tribe and I quickly realized that there was no way I’m getting my wings tonight. We stayed for a while but my hubby doesn’t like crowds too much (unless he’s the one on the stage then it’s OK) and really doesn’t like to just stand around and stand guard over my purse and camera bag (there we no seats available at all) so after the band, Face First, took the stage it was time to work our way to the front door. We briefly ran into (literally) Tommy Rocker on our way out and he expressed satisfaction with the turnout. I hear that Tommy has plans to add a comedy night called Cozy’s Comedy Corner on the first Friday of every month to the entertainment line-up that includes his own ever-popular sing-along show on Saturdays starting at 9:30 p.m. as well as a country night on Wednesdays with Seth Turner that will be followed by an open mic with local singer/songwriter Joey Vitale. And it is one of the few places in town where you are still able to eat, drink, smoke, gamble and party like a rockstar all at the same place. Pretty cool indeed.
OK, One Last Time
Next Saturday is the Danny Gans Memorial Champions Run for Life 5k at The District at Green Valley Ranch. The Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation are the beneficiaries of funds raised and the run will be hosted by Donny Osmond in leu of the passing of Danny Gans earlier this year. If you can please click here and scroll down the page the registration button to donate or to participate in this inspiring event. Hope to see you there.