Every rock fan knows that the biggest dilemma at a show is having a good sightline. If you are 6’4”, then you are a genetic marvel, and I hate you because you are always standing in front of me as I start to pogo for a glimpse of my favorite performer.
Not anymore! For I scored tickets to the real front row at Coachella: the photography pit! As EW’s Music Photo Editor I have pored over thousands of shots of bands in live poses, but I’d never investigated the perils and pleasures of this coveted spot. And so I scored a proper wristband (blue Hawaiian pattern), a credential (easy, because I assigned myself) and a camera (Nikon D80, courtesy the manufacturer).
Here’s what I learned:
• Know your camera. Most of the pit crew had elephant guns with tripod sticks, and I had my beginner’s digital SLR. But it had a sweet automatic feature that took care of things I should know (F-stop, exposure). I fired myself for that lack of knowledge, and the camera did all the work.
• You get to shoot only the first three songs by each band. Make them count. Most photographers shoot the lead singer, but as an editor you want to see the whole stage. I also like seeing things like the Kaiser Chiefs guitarist’s sweet Adidas sneakers and stripey socks, which I shot. And I got to watch James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem tighten the bolts on some drums. Shot that too.
• You could die. Hazards include angry photographers. (“DON’T HIT ME,” screamed an ox from a tiny fanzine as I tapped him on the shoulder to indicate the security dude wanted us to exit stage right.) Also, be careful in front of the Arcade Fire (pictured, left) — they throw stuff. Death by ninja star/spinning cymbal is not my preferred way to shuffle off this mortal coil.
• Being a paparazza is not that hard. In the VIP area I spiedFrances Bean Cobain (pictured, above left) chatting on her cell phone. So Iplaced my camera on a table and pretended to text my best friend ParisHilton (kidding) while snapping shots just to see if I could. Easypeasy.
Later, I was sitting on the grass, and the real Paris Hilton (pictured, below center) sat 20feet in front of me with her sister Nicky (below left) and David Katzenberg. Theypractically walked up to me and hit the shutter release button on the trusty Nikon themselves.
Yep, the front row view is awesome. So become a photographer, andshow your work to a picture editor like me. Bring earplugs to the show.Bring me coffee.