The Writings

Nightmare In Canandaigua (Besides the Fact It's a Dave Matthews Band Concert)

It wasn't supposed to turn out like this.  We came in relaxed, confident, and with a plan.  Dave Matthews may not necessarily be on my favorites list, but it would still make for excellent photography, right?  Were cosmic forces ganging up on us as a result of photographing an artist we didn't particularly enjoy?  That just didn't seem very fair of karma, but there really was no explanation for running over a mile just to barely make the concert in time to photograph and getting harrassed by police.  Especially for my first experience with concert photography.

I met Andrew via twitter and we struck up a lot of dialog between each other, to the point where we had done a wedding shoot together that was extremely successful, leading to future business.  I got a call from him on a Saturday, asking if I'd like to accompany him on a road trip up near Rochester where he was going to take photos of Dave Matthews Band.  Since business has slowed a bit, and DC was starting to make me feel a bit claustrophobic, I decided this would be a much-needed break.  Plus, the off-chance that I might get to swipe a photo pass was a nice carrot dangling in front of my face, too - even if I didn't get to shoot the concert, I'd still see what went into one, and that was good enough, right?

So, off we went!  At around 5:30 in the morning (well, more like 5:45 - daddy needs his coffee), we headed northbound for upstate New York.  The road trip took us just under seven hours, and we made sure we got into the tiny town with plenty of time to spare to scope out the venue and relax a bit.  After having some lunch and watching a crazy World Cup match, we noticed the clock was nearing two hours before the concert started, and like the proactive and prepared people we are, we headed off to the CMAC.

Normally, when you arrive at the venue, you pick up your passes at Will Call.  The band manager or point of contact will usually leave them with whomever is working the booth, and it's pretty cut and dry from there.  For Andrew, however, arriving an hour and a half before the concert started was too early - the passes hadn't arrived yet.  We periodically checked in, only to get the same results.  We were starting to get nervous, and a half an hour before the event, STILL nothing had arrived.  Andrew started to make some phone calls to PR directors and other managers, and when he finally got ahold of someone, they eventually determined that it wasn't at this particular booth - it was at the other Will Call booth in VIP... on the other side of the venue. One way to get across was to enter the venue, but without tickets, this was not going to happen.  Therefore, the only other way was to go all the way around via the surround streets, which was a walk of over a mile. Furthermore, this information was finally relayed to us fifteen minutes before the concert started. Awesome.

After running for our lives in 100% humidity, we finally make it around to the other counter, where they told us they didn't have the passes, either!  The kid at this booth radios the booth we were just at to find out (which raises the question: WHY WASN'T THIS DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE, AN HOUR AND A HALF AGO?!). However, they pointed to a girl at a table, who ultimately had the passes.  This lack of communication infuriated us, but at least Andrew was able to make it in with five minutes to spare.  I, on the other hand, tried to schmooze the lady, but to no avail.  Hey, it was worth a shot!  In the meantime, I decided it would be a good idea to get some drinks for Andrew and myself, since we were both undoubtedly dehydrated at this point.  I found a Wal-Mart (evil empire, I know, but they had beverages!) and on my way back to the car, I receive a call from Andrew, saying he's done.  Well, drat!  I told him I'd be there in a few minutes so we could hit the road immediately, since it was going to be a good seven hour car ride.

Little did I know what could happen in said "few minutes".  As I approached the car, Andrew was being harassed by Canandaigua police as he was standing by the car to wait for me.  They pulled me aside to ask me questions and see if our stories aligned, but continued to feel he was under the influence of something, though they couldn't say what.  I asked the officer that, if I was clear to go, I would drive the two of us back to Virginia.  However, they seemed to have pushed me aside and were focused on Andrew, saying, "this is just a drill - a trial run for some of the newer guys on the force."  Uhh, right.  Either way, I got breathalized, which was the first time I ever had been, and blew a .02 somehow.  Andrew, however, blew a .00, but they were still not convinced.  After a few more minutes of street testing, they still wanted to bring him back and test him more, claiming it would only be forty-five minutes.

An hour and a half later, he finally returns!  He went through numerous, ridiculous tests, such as "staring at a glow-in-the-dark star placed on the ceiling" and being asked the same series of questions repeatedly.  For some reason, they just couldn't believe I'd be along for the ride to accompany him to a show, and still felt that, because his pupils were dilated and looked out of it (uhh, yeah - he was dehydrated!), he was under the influence.  To make matters worse, they said I would have to drive, WHICH WAS SOMETHING I SAID TWO HOURS AGO WHEN THE INCIDENT STARTED! Furthermore, wouldn't you think that if we were under the influence of something at a DMB show, we wouldn't be trying to leave thirty minutes into the concert?

We eventually hit the road in complete disbelief, and Andrew tried to reassure me this isn't a regular occurrence, but either way, this was not a nice first impression of a live concert photography experience!  Andrew managed to get numerous amazing shots from the show, and even snuck a few as he was being escorted out when the time was up, which came out just as well.  I've scattered a few throughout this post, but to check out more from this concert and others, such as B.B. King and Weezer + Ben Folds, you can check out his Flickr page and see  his work.  It was a ridiculous road trip, and we're pretty certain that we're never going back to CMAC ever again.

Hopefully, the next one will be better - the success rate will probably result from not returning to Canandaigua.

Until next time,

- Patrick

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