Continuing the tradition of playing surprise shows in small venues to celebrate the release of a new record, Foo Fighters played at Lee's Palace in Toronto for In Your Honor.
Halfway through the set I walked to the back of the room because I knew they’d have some big lighting cues during Stacked Actors and wanted to get some wide shots of the whole stage.
The song started but I couldn’t see Dave on the stage. What I did see was a roomful of people looking in my direction. Then someone knocked my elbow.
I looked up and of course, there was Dave standing on a table in the middle of the bar, shredding. I've had a few happy accidents involving timing at Foo Fighters shows.
By the way, if anyone knows the guy in the Pearl Jam shirt losing his mind, I’ve been hoping to track him down to give him a print!
I remember the energy on stage that night. It was the band’s biggest headlining show to date and you could feel it. The production was huge and so was the crowd.
For the most part I live in the shadows when I work, but every once in a while there’s a moment that I just don’t want to pass up. It depends on the comfort level I have with the band, and what kind of mood I’m in. Either way let’s face it, nobody’s watching the photographer anyway.
A few years ago Taylor Hawkins wrote a caption for this photo of him playing guitar, “Where every drummer really wants to be”.
Time and time again I watched this band win over fans and steal the show when opening for someone else. They were one of the most exciting bands to see live and you couldn't help but have fun at their shows.
This time The Noise Conspiracy were opening for a band who aren't even worth mentioning. A flash in the pan who thought they were the shit and used every opportunity to treat people badly.
Here's the cool part. While the headliners were playing, Noise Conspiracy were at their merch table selling shirts and records and talking to fans. One fan walked by on her way out and said “You guys were amazing!! I hadn't heard of you before but I'm a fan now! I'd been looking forward to seeing the other band for a long time but they're so boring I'm going home.”
She wasn't the only one. A steady flow of fans were leaving the show they'd paid to see, and being stoked to meet Noise Conspiracy on the way out!
I found a diary-style article I wrote about these shows for a magazine. It sums up the next day in Montreal pretty well: (I will refer to the other band as “The Headliners”)
From the moment our bus parked in the front of the Spectrum in Montreal, The Headliners Clown College was in session, making the day a disaster for The INC… Long story short, The Headliners dicked around all day without any regard to the other bands on the bill, and The INC got the short end of the stick. No sound check, no electricity on their bus, and no respect.
9:42pm - Supposed to go on at 9:20 but because they didn't get a sound check, the crew was still frantically trying to set everything up. The band stood waiting in the dark stairwell next to their basement dressing room.
Dennis has a smirk on his face because we had just been told that the in-house crew was going to have to re-patch all the cable and start from scratch. The words “clown college” could be heard echoing in the stairwell…
9:58pm – “Can you feel the hate?”, Inge asks me, tongue in cheek. They finally went on just after 10pm, but for most of the first song Dennis’ mic wasn’t working so he used Lars’… which wasn’t on.
Despite all the problems of the day, this turned out to be the best The (International) Noise Conspiracy show I have ever seen! It wasn’t the first time I had seen them take adversity and turn it into explosive energy on stage.
This was one of my favourite work days ever. Sarah Harmer picked me up and drove us to her parents' farm in rural Ontario, Canada. It was a perfect early autumn day without a cloud in the sky. Nothing but rolling hills and sunshine.
We kept it simple and didn't hire a crew so it was just us and the barn cats. Sarah did her own hair & makeup and wore her own clothes, and the sun took care of the lighting. At the end of the day her parents made us a lovely dinner. I wish every shoot was like this.
This might still be my favourite individual portrait even after all these years.
Whenever I rode the streetcar down Spadina, when it got to Adelaide St I always looked out the window to the right because I loved the way this church looked at the end of the street. I always had it in the back of my mind to take a photo of someone in the middle of that street.
One of the locations we had for this Hot Hot Heat publicity shoot was just a block away so even though it was raining I got the guys to stand in the middle of Adelaide street to get this shot. It was a one-way coming towards me and I told them I'd let them know when the light changed so we could get off the road. At one point someone in the band thought they hear a car coming and they all ran, and this became one of my favourite shots!
Not that this has anything to do with these photos, but Hot Hot Heat and I are from Victoria, BC and it's always cool to see people from our hometown find commercial success in the arts. Nelly Furtado is another Victorian who made it big, as is my good pal Mark Wigmore.
Every summer when I visited my Mom's family in Québec City we would go to Festival d'été which took place down the street from my grandparents' house. The main stage was in a park called Le Pigeonnier which held a few thousand people.
In 2005 I timed my family visit to be there at the same time as Billy Talent and Alexisonfire. I left my grandparents' place to say hi to the guys at soundcheck and on the way out my Mom said “Don't forget the stage moved to the Plaines Of Abraham”. The Plaines are a vast historic site covering over 240 acres and apparently the new stage was on one of the big fields.
When the band arrived for soundcheck Ben stood in his spot at centre stage looking out at this massive expanse in front of him and said “They must have dropped us off at the wrong stage”.
The promoter reassured him that this was the right stage, which begged the question “whose idea what this?” Ben said something like “1,000 people will show up and it will look like 100 because this place is so huge”.
A couple of hours later we walked to the stage and could hear what sounded like a LOT of people chanting “Bi-lly Ta-lent! Bi-lly Ta-lent!”. Turns out 55,000 people showed up. The band hit the stage and played the show of their lives! The crowd was bonkers and sang every word.
The 5th photo shows the band coming off stage and catching their breath for the first time. “What the hell just happened?” is something I've heard everyone say when coming off that stage, from Foo Fighters to Queens Of The Stone Age. It's truly something to behold.
1-5: Billy Talent. 6-8: Billy Talent & Alexisonfire after the show.
In Montreal the previous day I was watching my friends Bedouin Soundclash, and when they were done playing they said make sure to stick around for My Chemical Romance who were up next.
I'd heard the name but didn't know their music. As soon as they took the stage the crowd went bananas. I hadn't seen a crowd this stoked in a while. I guess I was late to the party but I became an instant fan.
The next afternoon in Barrie (near Toronto) I pulled aside MCR's tour manager as they walked to the stage and asked if I could shoot them. He hastily said sure and placed me on stage right and asked me not to move. It was a great spot because it was right next to their guitarist Frank Iero who is a lot of fun to photograph.
This first shot is my favourite because he had his back to the crowd, which is something you don't see often, and I was able to see him from the front with all the madness going on behind him.
That fog hovering over the crowd is actually dirt. It was a very hot and dry day and the pit kicked up a ton of dirt which is why a lot of the bands and crew wore bandanas as makeshift masks.
My Chemical Romance are so captivating and really put on such a great show.
This was the first time I ever feared for my safety while working.
I knew of The Dillinger Escape Plan because they had collaborated with Mike Patton. Seconds before they went on stage I told Liam the bassist that I'm a friend of Patton's and was hoping to shoot their set.
He looked at me with a certain level concern and said “That's cool, but be careful. It gets hectic”. To which I confidently replied “I've been doing this a long time. I'll be ok, thanks.”
From the very first note, chaos was unleashed and I immediately felt unsafe!
Singer Greg Puciato started breaking things right out of the gates, flipping stage monitors over, climbing up stuff and jumping off.
A fan hopped the fence and got in Greg's face and he wrestle-sang at him. I envisioned him picking me up and tossing me off stage if we made eye contact.
I stepped out from behind the bass amp where I'd been trying not to be seen, and Liam looked right at me as it to say “get out while you still can!”.
I survived the set unscathed but I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't terrified the entire time. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen.