I haven’t been to Lollapalooza in years. Last time I was there, I photographed it for TimeOut magazine. That was 2012.
That year, there were often way too many photographers in the pits (the space between the crowd and the stage), so the powers that be cut the numbers by 80% or more the following year.
I wasn’t upset, though. I loved the experience, but the pay was shit. The music industry is leading a sort of modern day slavery for artists. They figured out earlier than most that if you swing a cat, you’ll hit a “photographer.” So paying them became obsolete. While my pay covered my transportation, food and drinks for the day, I doubt most photographers were compensated at all.
If you’re a photographer, and you want to shoot music, get in and get back out. It’s a great way to learn camera settings quickly and to figure out how to nail focus. But you will get taken advantage of.
The best thing about the shooting lolla experience was having three songs in the front row for bands I loved and bands I didn’t know I loved yet.
I found that live music is one of the only things that provides me with a “spiritual” experience. And festivals are spiritual times 1,000. When artists are performing their craft for zillions of fans and everyone seems to be connecting, there’s nothing like it. There was no church experience that can compare to this feeling.
Plus, I’m getting older. I’m almost 43. And Lollapalooza is largely a young crowd. Yeah, my similarly aged friends went. But it’s a drag to see them sweating it out with a zillion little, glitter clad 20-somethings. Hell. Teenagers.
The last few years, I’ve watched the live feeds from the lollapalooza website. For me, it’s better than attendance. I can drink a beer, and see the artists from much better vantage points …
I streamed while I worked and cooked. And even when Tina and I watched TV, I had my computer streaming on mute and would check in with headphones on occasion to see what different acts were playing/saying/doing.
There was an artist named Tash Sultana that blew me away. I googled a lot of acts to see if I should watch them. I had not heard of her before. But of course she’s been around for a few years.
She’s one of those single-person on stage acts where she plays a guitar, loops her voice and riffs with different drums and all. Her influences ranged from Jeff Buckley to Eddie Van Halen. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Her vocals were amazing. She was on stage surrounded by guitar pedals and microphones. Drum pads. A huge amp. Lamps and rugs. It was her little haven, and I felt invited to her creative lair.
At the beginning of her set, she said (in an Australian accent): “If you’re racist, get the fuck out of my view. If you’re homophobic get the fuck out. If you’re transphobic, get out. The world can be a harsh place and I’m trying to leave it in a nicer state.”
Other acts I loved were: St. Vincent, Charlotte Cardin, Portugal, the Man and Malaa. Sometimes, I’m taken aback at how much I love female artists.
In college, I wrote a paper called, “Woman as Salvation.” Its thesis was inspired by the movies and musicians I loved at the time, like Nakita or Leon, strong, amazing female leads.
When I studied in France back in college, I was turned on to a poet/writer named Gerard de Nerval. His poetry and writings twisted my perception of Christ into that of a woman. Our imagery of Christ in the western world is a long-haired, fit, lightly clad white man. The hope is that men and women will fall in love with “him” and make them your best friend, your confidant, your heart’s wonder. But I also came from an extremely homophobic tradition. So it made sense that the powers would purposely paint Christ — not as a brown man of Jewish middle eastern decent — but as an almost pretty man with androgynous features.
If you love Jesus, you’ll invite him into your heart … and he is the governor of eternal life. If you’re a man, from a homophobic culture, falling in ‘love” with a man is hard. And as a kid, who was fed lots of terrifying stories about sex, STDs, and how women will steer you in the wrong direction unless you get married, how they skew the idea of falling in love with a man is beyond me.
You’ve all heard it: people on stage, pastors, teachers, women, men, talk about Jesus as if he’s more lovely and more awesome than one’s spouse. Men in love with a man. Women in love with a man other than their husbands. Multiple women in love with one man. What kind of group sex orgy bullshit has the church been pushing on people …
But the more I read about Jesus from other sources, alternate to the Bible, and deviations from all the ideas that were shoved down my throat as a kid, the more I found that Jesus wasn’t a supernatural being, but an internal transformation.
And that actually made sense.
I put myself at a sort of long-form crossroad that I had to decide if I thought of Jesus as a key to an imaginary level of friendship that led to so-called eternal life or a being who inspired self-knowledge, dying to family and friends, self discovery and search for “heaven” within reason, knowledge, nowness,
When I see artists living out their art on stage, or on a stage, a museum or a gallery, I’m transformed by their spirit. That is spirituality. That’s honest. It’s not contrived. It’s not pushing a square block through a circular hole.
I had to stop convincing myself that the stuff I learned as a youngster about eternal life and friendships with the imaginary world of ghosts was harming my brain. It was harming my relationship with myself, my role in life as an artist, and my hope to be excellent, to raise the bar of what is honest and lovely. What is truth. What is true is that I have the power to create. And anything that distracts me from creation should be vetted or removed from my world.
If I surround myself with things that distract me from my goals, goals to be like the musicians, the artists, those who are creating excellence, then I’m no better than the world convinced a long-haired, white man claiming to be god entered the world through a virgin vagina and believe that he and he alone is the giver excellence and of eternal life.
I know. Crazy. Talking to myself as if the creator of the universe is listening is not crazy.
But wanting to be a statement, to make a statement, to make a mark, to create, to fill the world with art … is?