Live: Kiss/Mötley Crüe/The Treatment (or, The Life of a Concert Photographer)

CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION — 8/3/2012: I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about the Kiss/Mötley Crüe (with special guests The Treatment) concert I went to a few Friday nights ago at The Woodlands Pavilion. I was able to work out a photo pass for the show, but there were no tickets available for me to go see the rest of the show, other than the two songs each while I was taking photos.

In the end, I was okay with not having a ticket; it was an exhausting night just taking photos. For many people, the “job” of concert photographer seems like a glamorous position to be in. In several ways, there is a glamorous aspect to it. For two or three songs, you get to be the closest people to the “ROCK GODS” while they are playing. You get the pride of participating in documenting a performance that many people in the audience will remember for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes you get to rub elbows with musicians, and sometimes they love your photos enough that they ask for a copy and show them to their fans. And most importantly (for me, at least), you get the chance to preserve a moment in history that may never be repeated.

In other ways, it’s not at all glamorous. It’s work! You have to show up early. You don’t make the big bucks (if you make anything at all). You more or less sign your rights to the photos over to the band, if they’re famous. And if you’re working for a major publication, you give a lot of your rights to the newspaper or magazine, as well.

If you don’t have a ticket, between bands you are stuck back in a small room nowhere near the concert — or worse, at the Woodlands you’re stuck back at the un-air-conditioned guard shack area. And you leave the concert while everyone else keeps on rocking, because you’re preoccupied with how well your photos turned out.

Then you come home, and that’s when the work really begins. Editing photos is draining, tedious work (though it is exciting to see your photos on the screen for the first time). You add a little contrast, make the photos a little brighter or darker. You saturate the colors just a little bit more. Or if the shot is on the darker side, you turn it into a black and white photo to mask your lack of talent (or the club’s lack of interest in lighting) at getting enough light out of the room.

It’s amazing how much that little bit of the glamorous part of concert photography makes up for all the not-so-glamorous parts. I love doing it. Not as much as actually making music and playing electric bass, but I have definitely been bitten by the photo bug.

Anyway, here are some thoughts from the Kiss/Mötley Crüe (with special guests, The Treatment) concert.

The Treatment (from Cambridge, England) opened, and they were a perfect unknown opener for Mötley Crüe. When they walked out on the stage, I thought, “Look, it’s One Direction, except for Metal!” That may sound like an insult, but all I mean by it is that they are so good-looking and perfectly dressed that it makes me think they were assembled by the X Factor judges rather than just meeting at a local bar and forming a band.

Once I got over their “central casting” image, I settled in to three songs of Guns ‘N Roses-/Mötley Crüe-/Black Crowes-influenced, ’80s-style heavy riff-rock. Rock music is cyclical. I remember when this kind of music was so out of fashion — and yeah, it’s still out of fashion for most of us. You wouldn’t find much of this kind of music at Summerfest or Austin City Limits, unless it was done with an ..
ironic wink.

The Treatment were on a mission to sell themselves to their potential new fan base, and I think they did that fantastically. They also played it up for the cameras. I overheard one of the photographers back at the guard shack say he had taken way more photos than he expected to; I concurred with that feeling.

Mötley Crüe made the photographers shoot from far far away. In the business, that’s called shooting “from the soundboard.” I had to do this at Van Halen, and I was completely unprepared. So much that I never even edited those photos and “forgot” to write about the show. Woe to the band who makes photographers shoot from the soundboard — you lose my respect, right there.

There is a give and take with the media, and bands that don’t want photos taken are just taking and not giving. I get it. You’re older and larger than you were in the good old days when you first made it. You want to seem more famous than you are, because those are the kind of acts that make photographers shoot from far away.

Well, I don’t have the money for a 300mm lens to try to get close up to you, like you’re some kind of exotic animal on a safari trip. The “seasoned vet” photographers next to me had all that kind of gear, though. I have so much respect for the other photographers at these shows. I bet they still got a few good shots. But most of my photos had a 6-foot-5 guys head-blocking the band, and a lot of people with their arms up and cell phones or point-and-shoot cameras in their hands. Those people down front with their iPhones were getting much better shots of old Mötley than me!

That aside, Mötley Crüe sounded great, and it was a giant thrill to rock out with them to “Wild Side.” Since this show was a double bill, Mötley Crüe had a long set, and the photographers without tickets had a long layover to wait for Kiss. I want to thank Trish Badger for chatting with me and making the time fly between bands. I got to see a couple of her photos of Kiss, and they blew my mind.

Finally, it was time to photograph one of rock and roll’s most photographable bands. This is the glamorous part! To say Kiss are consummate professionals is to understate their professionalism. They played it up for the cameras like no band I’ve ever photographed. They obviously knew that we would be gone in two songs, so they made sure we all got some attention. To have Gene Simmons posing for me was a surreal and amazing feeling that made up for the hour-and-a-half I’d spent in traffic to get out to The Woodlands and the 40-minute drive I’d be making soon.

Kiss needs to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. We all know their music is on the cheesy side, sure, but damn, Red Hot Chili Peppers got in this year. R&R HOF is a joke without Kiss.

Enjoy the photos! END

(Article photos [top to bottom]: Kiss; The Treatment; Mötley Crüe; Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, & Paul Stanley (Kiss); Paul Stanley. All photos by Jason Smith.)

Live review by . Live review posted Monday, August 20th, 2012. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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