April 29th, marked day one of the fifth annual Fort Rock festival here in Fort Myers, FL. It also marked day one of Welcome To Rockville, and together these two massive festivals kicked off what I like to call, festival season. Several others are set to occur in the coming weeks and months such as Carolina Rebellion, the iconic Rock On The Range, Rocklahoma, Rock USA, Northern Invasion, and so many others.
I'm hopeful that all of those go very well for those who attend, and by far exceed my experience at Fort Rock 2017. As some of you may be aware, this was my third year in a row covering Fort Rock. I've only missed one year at all, and that was Fort Rock 2014. Every single year something has gone wrong on my end of things, and usually it's just interviews getting jumbled or the press company having some disorganization and misplacing my passes. Something like that. Something that in the end is easy to get past, but in the moment completely ruins my mood and causes a great deal of stress.
This year however, apparently things were going a little too well. We got to the venue during Motionless In White's set, and got in the line to get my tickets and passes for the weekend. There was a nice breeze, and the guy up at the media tent actually remembered me from last year, which made getting my pass easier than any other year. Aside from the fact that it sounded like whoever was running the soundboard was sleeping on the job, things were looking very promising.
We get inside, and I was just a little too late to cover Nothing More, so we decided to explore for a little bit. We first took a look at the merch, and was sadly disappointed. For the first time ever, I was not impressed with the merch at all. I actually only bought one thing out of the entire weekend, and that was an I Prevail shirt on day two. I posted a picture of it over on the Facebook page, if anyone is interested in seeing it or any other merch I have for that matter.
After that we headed over to the FYE tent, because FYE sponsors the event and sells records and CDs. They also have artists, both big and small, come do signings, which was our main reason for looking. Now, ironically, something had been telling me we needed to go to the festival earlier than we did, but due to the heat and not actively knowing why this feeling was there, we did not go. Come to find out, that was because Papa Roach did a signing that had just finished about twenty minutes before we got inside. They were probably still signing things when we were getting my pass.
So as a big fan of Papa Roach, that was disappointing, but there will always be another chance in the future. By the time we got done in there, it was just about time to go cover the first band of the day: In This Moment.
I had a couple discoveries with them, and I was quite happy with them. For starters, they were extremely smart with the way they had the media enter this year. They set up the barricades in such a way that gave us our very own walk way. This sounds extremely minor, but it actually was extremely helpful. In past years, we were either given nothing and had to fight our way through the crowd, to get all the way up to the barricade or go through the VIP section. Both tended to have similar results -an argument with someone who didn't want to move or didn't think you belonged.
So realizing that they actually thought ahead and gave us our own way in was fantastic! Then there was the experience of covering In This Moment. They are honestly a photographer's dream! If you've seen In This Moment, in person or even just in photos, you've seen that they all have a certain aesthetic to them that's very unique, and at times appeared to be inspired by the movie Silent Hill. Not only is that awesome, in person and on camera, but I also discovered very quickly that none of the members of the band, aside from the drummer move very much. I don't know how those watching the performance felt about that, but as a photographer that is constantly trying to capture a moving target, I much appreciated it.
I've never had an easier time getting glamorous shots in my life, and I had an absolute ball doing so. It set a great tone for the day -I was sure things were just going to go fantastic.
I also had a slightly alarming moment, before realizing what I was looking at. As you can see in the pictures below, they had back up, what I'm going to call 'dancers' on the stage. While I loved their outfits, and over all look, at a glance, it looked like they were completely nude under the outfits. I had a brief moment of questioning if I was looking up at someone's private parts, but quickly realized they, and Maria alike, all had on skin colored leotards underneath. That gave me a good laugh, because I was shocked for a second.
After In This Moment was Of Mice And Men, who I actually have wanted and tried to cover for several years now. Surely by now most of you are aware that Austin Carlile, the band's frontman and screamer, departed from the band mostly for health reasons a few months ago, so all the songs were done by Aaron Pauley instead. I've never been a massive fan of Of Mice And Men, I will admit. They've had a handful of songs I've liked over the years, but unfortunately, I must say I was not overly impressed with their performance.
There's no particular reason for that, they just....didn't stand out to me. Only things I really want to say is I enjoyed hearing my favorite song from them, "Would You Still Be There" and their brand new song, "Unbreakable." But other than that, nothing stood out to me, which sadly says a lot as those were two of the three songs I photographed.
Alter Bridge followed them, and it was basically the same thing to me. I had fun taking pictures, but aside from a song or two that was played while I was photographing, I wasn't overly interested in their performance.
Just after Alter Bridge came Three Days Grace. I don't have a ton to say about them, except I actually was more impressed with them then I expected. I've talked about how I feel about modern Three Days Grace in previous posts through out the website, and let's just say the last time I saw Three Days Grace as they are now did not go over nicely. So I actually opted out of covering their performance, but I did pay a great deal of attention to them. I covered most of what I have to say about them in the vlog, so please click here to watch it. I did not actually take pictures of their performance, but got plenty of footage during their set.
Unfortunately, here is where things started to drastically go down hill for me. Just as the bands that fully had my attention got on stage too -just my luck, right? Seether came on, and this was actually my third time seeing them, and second time covering them. I must say, I was highly impressed with not only their performance, but the pictures I got. The last time I saw them was at the Hard Rock in Orlando, FL in January 2015 and the venue was working against all of the photographers with the lighting so most of pictures from their performance were not fantastic.
This time however, I did get many good pictures, and greatly enjoyed that they played, "Nobody Praying For Me." They did that as their second song, and I was very happy about that because I do greatly enjoy the song, and they did not play it before. However, this is exactly when things fell apart.
Two crowd surfers got over the barricade and stopped walking right next to me. They asked the security guard with the hose if he could spray them real quick, I saw him shrug out of the corner of my eye, and then all the sudden was sprayed with water. It got all over me, my camera and the camera of the guy next to me. I quickly borrowed a towel of another photographer to dry it off, and went back to taking pictures. I assumed there was no harm done.
Then I went and sat down, just to watch the rest of Seether and was messing with my camera, just to check on it. I then realized it was freezing when I zoomed out, or tried to take a picture. The on / off button was doing nothing, and none of the other buttons were responding. So I popped the battery thing open, and the camera restarted itself. I did this a few times, and the problem appeared to go away. So while this was a new problem I had never experienced before, I tried to brush it off.
It was soon time for my favorite act of the night, Papa Roach. I go up there to cover their set, and my camera refuses to cooporate. I would take one picture, and it would freeze, and I would have to pop the battery chamber open in order to take another picture. This whole process wasted a good ten seconds each time, I would say. Which when you only have three songs to get as many pictures as you possibly can -that's a lot of wasted time. I had to give up about half way "To Be Loved" which was the first song, and I fully admit, I was heart broken.
Not only was I greatly looking forward to covering Papa Roach, but now my camera was also broken. My camera has been one of my prized posessions, and something I worked hard to get. Not to mention, cameras are extremely expensive, especially when you work at a minimum wage job. Plus not being able to cover the band I was most excited for, when I had every right to, was also very upsetting.
I recorded a lot during their set, but my mind the entire time was running a mile a minute, all regarding my camera. I texted my mother, who I am very close with, to tell her what happened, and to confirm that she was going to come get us after Papa Roach was done as originally planned. Rightfully so, she was also infuriated about my camera, and decided to come down to the venue anyways.
Now, take this as you will, but somehow, after hearing about what was going on, the security at the front gate allowed my mother into the venue so she could help me find the head of security. She had absolutely no ticket, or pass of any kind, and told them that. She also had her purse, which they did not look in at all. Since she is a good person, this is fine, but for safety reasons, it actually would have made perfect sense for them to not allow her in or if nothing else, at least check her bag.
The security guard we talked to though ended up being absolutely incredible, and told us a lot of information while trying her best to help us out. I wish I would have gotten her name, because I greatly appreciated her attitude and assistance. She was guarding the entrance for the VIP section, and my mother went straight to her, I found her soon after. She asked for every detail of what happened, and was furious for me. I even showed her what it was doing, and after that, she asked her supervisor if she could walk away from her post to help us find the head of security, Darnyll and JR.
They tried calling JR's cell phone several times, he never answered, and he was no where to be found. We ran all over the place, including up in front of the barricade to talk to other security guards, and toward the behind the scenes area. Nobody could find who we were looking for, and he still wasn't answering. Word was now spreading among the security, and most were upset for me, and almost all were saying they were sorry and it would probably come out of the guy's paycheck.
After searching for a good while, the security lady said we were welcome to sit down in the VIP section, and hang out while they waited for some information. By now Chevelle was on stage, and I was trying to focus on their set, not everything that was going through my head. It didn't work, and I sadly was not very impressed with the way Chevelle sounded, though I did recognize more songs than I expected to.
We unfortunately had no luck and were asked to come back to talk to JR and Daryll at 8:30 the next morning. I've worked with this company before, which is DAK but thanks ot this experience, I learned a lot about how the company is run.
Almost all of the guards themselves were very nice, helpful, and took their jobs very seriously. Which is impressive, fantastic, and highly appreciated. Almost everyone I spoke to had the right attitude regarding everyone's safety, and happiness. The girl that was helping us though also told us how they are treated, and frankly, if all security companies treat their guards like this, all of them need way more respect.
As we were waiting with her, she told us that they were from Miami, FL, which is about three hours from here, and were expected to stand in the same spot for sixteen hours without food, smoke breaks, or even a chance to sit down. They even had to be descreet about their water bottles, all for $100 a day. That breaks down to being less than minimum wage here in Florida, and they were expected to do it two days straight. I don't remember what time she told me they got there, but they had to be up and ready to be at the venue by 8:30 on day one, and would stay both days til 11:45pm. They were even told specific rules for while they were at their hotel, like they weren't allowed to smoke at all on the premise.
So honestly, next time you see a security guard being unfair, or just coming across as judgemental or moody, cut them some slack. They're dealing with a lot, and are probably more exhausted than most of the people they're trying to protect.
The staff was fantastic, as I already said, despite everything they're dealing with. However, at least in my experience, their boss was the exact opposite.
We did go meet with them at 8:30 the next morning, and they were both rude, and disrespectful. Neither of them daned to introduce themselves, though we knew who it was thanks to the description we were given. He barely even looked at me, and he was rather condescending. He told me that it was my problem, not theirs, and when he heard how long I've been doing this he just clicked his tongue and says, "Well that's not a very long time, I've been doing this for 30 years."
I instantly responded with, "Well I'm only 24, so yes it is a long time."
He also tried to tell me that it was in the wavers I signed when I got my passes that they weren't responsible for me or my equipment. I looked, he was dead wrong. Everything I signed, was actually stating that Monster Energy and the PR company had rights to my images, and I was not allowed to sell anything. None of it stated anything about bodily or equipment harm.
He barely even apologized, and this was after he basically just shut me down. It was very clearly a back thought that was rather empty. "I'm sorry that happened to you, but what would you rather us do? Save people's lives or your camera?"
I told him both because I do agree that spraying people with a hose is a good idea. It keeps people cool, and had I been out in the crowd and this happened, I probably wouldn't have been having that conversation with him. But they're not supposed to spray people in front of the barricade, they're supposed to spray the crowd. I would have even understood this had they pulled someone unconscious or just barely conscious out and had them laying on the ground and sprayed them. But these two girls were fine! They were smiling and laughing, they just wanted a quick cool down.
He should have thought about it before he did it, because not only was he extremely close to my camera, but another photographer's and several speakers. There was thousands upon thousands of dollars of equipment that close to us, and if it had been a speaker or something, that could be highly dangerous.
All in all, I was very disappointed with this year. The security was great, but they're working for a terrible company, and have a very rude boss. The lineup, aside from a handful of bands, in my opinion was a let down, and the fact that I now have to replace my camera due to someone else's lack of thought, completely ruined the experience.
I'll tell you one thing though, for the first time ever I went to a show without my camera. Given, it was under terrible circumstances, but on some level, it was very refreshing. We came back to Fort Rock later that day to watch I Prevail, who as you may know, I've been greatly enjoying lately. Some videos I found on YouTube had me questioning if they were going to live up to their records live, but they exceeded my expectations. They made up for the day before, and I honestly really enjoyed their set. They played two of my favorites by them, "Scars" and "Rise", both of which I got on video and they were definitely entertaining to watch. Their frontman, Bryan was all over the stage and seemed to be having a ball just goofing around as he sang. I look forward to seeing I Prevail again, hopefully when I'm in a much better mood.
Fort Rock 2017, you disappointed me greatly. Something goes wrong every year, I expected that, but this took the cake. Hopefully 2018 will go over much better, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it a year from now.
If you are interested in seeing any of the content from this year, please head on over to the page to see all of the pictures, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Over there you will see the vlog, which is already up and several songs, which will be slowly uploaded over the next week.
If you went -how did it go for you? I would love to hear anyone's stories and see any pictures or videos you may have. Feel free to share with me in the comments here, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Blogs of various topics go here, and all are written by Immortal Music's creator. You never know what you may find here, so have a look around.