Shinedown: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Shinedown drummer Barry Kerch; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown drummer Barry Kerch; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown, finishing up the last leg to their Attention Attention album tour, played Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheater. They brought along the bands Broken Hands, Dinosaur Pile Up and Badfkower for support.

Shinedown guitarist Zach Myers; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown guitarist Zach Myers; photo Reuben Martinez

When Shinedown’s curtain came up to prep for the band to come on the theme to “Indiana Jones” played. As the curtain came down there were multiple stage explosions then the band opened with the song “Devil”. On the third song, and one thing I appreciate by this band, is singer Brent Smith goes one by one and shakes the photographer’s hands saying thank you for what we do.

Shinedown singer Brent Smith; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown singer Brent Smith; photo Reuben Martinez

While watching the remainder of the show, the band took a break and headed to the back of the stage to play a few songs to the back seats of the venue. Most bands play one or two songs but the guys in Shinedown played four, up close to the fans in the back.

As the band headed back to the main stage the screen showed a picture of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park who died last year to suicide. The song “Numb” played with just a piano and Chester singing as different images were displayed. Singer Brent and guitarist Zach Myers walked on stage after playing “Black Hole Sun” paying tribute to Chris Cornell from Soundgarden/Audioslave who also took his life. An awesome tribute to both artists who left us too soon.

Shinedown bassist Eric Bass; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown bassist Eric Bass; photo Reuben Martinez

After the band went through hit by hit, they played the last single off Attention Attention called “Get Up” A song written for bass player Eric Bass who has battled with depression and the things he has overcome. Eric also recently came back to Shinedown’s tour after an injury to his back while on the road, but he still gave 110% to his performance.

This was another great show from this band who I’ve seen multiple times, and it was a great way to start the Summer.

Band:
Brent Smith – Vocals
Zach Myers – Guitar
Barry Kerch – Drums
Eric Bass – Bass, keyboards.

Set List:
Devil
Diamond Eyes
Enemies
Monsters
Black Soul
I’ll Follow You
Unity
45
Bully
Amaryllis
How Did You Love
Through the Ghost
Second Chance
Black Hole Sun
Simple Man
Cut the Cord
Get Up
Sound of Madness
Brilliant

Immortal Guardian: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Immortal Guardian; photo Reuben Martinez

Immortal Guardian; photo Reuben Martinez

Having never been to The Parish Room at House of Blues Anaheim or having never seen Immortal Guardian before, I did my research on the band and was very curious on how they would sound live.

This band from Texas made headways with their music exposure on ESPN’s X Games and performing at NAMM Jam in the past which brought them to open for major name bands in the business.

While NAMM 2019 was in full bloom in Anaheim, Immortal Guardian opened for guitar God Marty Friedman. Trying to get in, there was a huge line at the box office to get my credentials, since Metal Allegiance was playing next door. Finally walking into this small venue, it was hard to get up front to take photos since the place was packed.

Immortal Guardian; photo Reuben Martinez

Immortal Guardian; photo Reuben Martinez

When Immortal Guardian came on, they blew me away! Guitarist Gabriel Guardian, playing both guitar and keyboards simultaneously, played a short instrumental before singer Carlos Zema came on. As a powerhouse on vocals, he kept impressing me. Everyone in this band brings pure talent to the table, Thad Stevens on bass and Cody Gilliland on drums. You could hear in the reaction of the crowd after each song that the applause kept growing louder and louder. Immortal Guardian sounds like a six piece instead of a four piece. As a guitarist, my eye was drawn to Gabriel soloing on two instruments.

With a couple of albums under their belt the latest came out late 2018. But nothing compares to seeing Immortal Guardian live. Even after the show the band hung around the merchandise booth, shaking hands and signing autographs. As I was saying before, it was so hard to get up front to take photos with a full crowd, but I was thankful for a good zoom lens. Often as a photographer I run across a band that I’m covering and get totally impressed. Immortal Guardian is one band that made me a fan. Be on the lookout for this band to make more waves.

Alice Cooper: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Alice Cooper; photo Reuben Martinez

Alice Cooper; photo Reuben Martinez

Walking into Pechanga Resort and Casino, waiting to see if my credentials were there, I was excited to see and photograph a rock legend – Alice Cooper.

Once inside, they told me and the other photographers that we were allowed to shoot the first four songs. Normally it’s three! But as the lights went out, not having a photo pit at this venue the tricky thing is to try to fit in and not to get in the way of others watching the show.

Alice Cooper; photo Reuben Martinez

Alice Cooper; photo Reuben Martinez

As soon as Alice came out the crowd was instantly on their feet. Alice knows how to entertain, and with an elite band as well. One thing to look for at his shows is his guitarist Nita Strauss, I like to call her the Queen of the 6-Strings. A phenomenal guitar player as well as Tommy Henrikson and Ryan Roxy, and Glen Sobel on drums and Chuck (Beasto Blanco) Garric on bass. Every musician in Alice’s band is top notch.

Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper); photo Reuben Martinez

Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper); photo Reuben Martinez

As the songs play on so do his stage antics. From a fencing sword with money featuring Alice’s face being thrown to the crowd, to a monstrous “Alice” as a Frankenstein monster, to a guillotine where his stage hands throw him in and cut his head off executioner style.

Alice finished the night wearing a white tux jacket while playing hits like “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out”, accompanied by a bubble machine. Personally, this was such a treat to shoot, just seeing someone that is 70 years young still touring and putting on a great show.

If you can, check out Alice Cooper and his amazing band on the Paranormal Tour.

Set list:
Brutal Planet
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
Billion Dollar Babies
Be My Lover
Lost in America
Serious
Fallen in Love
Woman of Mass Distraction
Poison
Halo of Flies
Feed My Frankenstein
Cold Ethyl
Only Women Bleed
Paranoiac Personality
Ballad of Dwight Fry
Killer
I Love the Dead
I’m Eighteen
School’s Out

Ghost: A Tale From The Photo Pit

GHOST

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

Swedish band Ghost kicked off their “Rats on the Road” tour in Riverside, California on May 5. A SOLD OUT show. Obviously, they have a huge following and for a photographer, a dream to shoot.

But the great thing was that only Ghost performed this night, no supporting band. A full show with just them. There were only six photographers allowed to shoot this show, which made the photo pit less crowded.

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

If you follow the band, singer Papa Emeritus takes on a new persona as Cardinal Copia (with no black Pope outfit). There has been a big mystery going on with this band with the changes and direction. But as Ghost played on with some wardrobe changes, and a set list of songs that everyone was familiar with, the band did squeeze some of the new songs in between.

As the curtains opened the band of Nameless Ghouls, wearing their signature silver devil like masks, jumped into “Rats” the first single from the upcoming album Prequelle out Jun 1.

Another new song, “Miasma” featured

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

the band as an instrumental. In the middle of the song, Papa Nil (head of Ghost’s Clergy) emerged with two nuns, stood from his chair, pulled out his saxophone, and belted a solo. After playing a few more songs, the band took an intermission and then singer Cardinal Copia came back out in a typical red Cardinal robe.

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

GHOST; photo Reuben Martinez

Two full sets played over two hours was epic. During songs like “Mummy Dust” there were cannons shooting gold confetti creating a shiny flurry in the air. They also played the crowd favorite “If You Have Ghosts”, an early 80’s cover by Roky Erickson, ending the night with another new song, “Dance Macabre”.

All in all, it was a very exciting, visual show. Be sure to grab tickets for The Forum show at the end of the year because they will sell out again!

Song set list:
Ashes
Rats
Absolution
Ritual
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Devil Church
Cirice
Stand by Him
Miasma
Jigolo Har Megiddo
Pro Memoria
Deus in Absentia
Set II
Spirit
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Faith
Year Zero
Spöksonat
He Is
Prime Mover
Mummy Dust
If You Have Ghosts
Dance Macabre

Shinedown: A Tale From The Photo Pit

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

Shinedown hit Riverside Apr. 12, as part of their Attention Attention Tour and will return to SoCal Aug. 4 stopping at Fivepoint Amphitheatre with Godsmack.

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

As I arrived at the venue 30 minutes before the show, I noticed right away that the line to get in went around the building. Once I was inside, I noticed how crowded and packed the venue was. I’ve shot a few sold out shows here at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium and it was unusual for people to come out early and pack in the venue as the doors opened.

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

I ran into familiar faces in the photo pit while waiting for the headliner, Shinedown to take the stage. They opened with “Sounds of Madness” and the crowd went crazy singing word for word. After the first song ended, singer Brent Smith thanked the audience, the staff and us, the photographers, for the work we do and shook all our hands. This was such a humbling experience.

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

SHINEDOWN; photo Reuben Martinez

While shooting the standard first three songs, I really enjoyed the energy from the band. The sound, the lights, also. This band really puts on a great show, one to see. In fact, the audience was on their feet the entire time. They only played a couple of new songs and ended the show with their cover of Lynard Skynard’s “Simple Man”, one of my all-time favorite remakes, followed by the first single “Devil” from the upcoming album Attention Attention.

SET LIST:
Sound Of Madness
Bully
Cut the Cord
How Did You Love
I’ll Follow You
The Human Radio
State of My Head
If You Only Knew
Enemies
45
Unity
Second Chance
Diamond Eyes
Simple Man
Devil

METALLICA: A Tale From The Photo Pit

METALLICA

Kirk Hammett/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Metallica. The name says it all. Coming live to Southern California in my favorite town, San Diego. I’ve been a longtime fan of this band since 1983.

You can’t imagine the thrill it was to get the approval to shoot and cover the show. Not knowing what to expect from the venue (Petco Park) or the band, I was as ready as I could have been.

Kirk Hammett/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Driving to downtown San Diego I went early knowing there were going to be 50,000 plus fans going to the outdoor area. After I parked, I walked around the city until it was time to check in.

At the venue, I met up with a couple of friends and fellow photographers that were also covering the show. Once we had checked in and received our credentials, we waited to be escorted to the floor to shoot the opening bands Gojira and Avenged Sevenfold.

METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

James Hetfield/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Then as we waited for Metallica, the excitement was growing for all of us. When it was time to walk back down to the photo pit, my fellow photographers and I fist bumped each other as if we were going onstage.

The lights went down and we heard Metallica’s signature intro theme song starting to play, “The Ecstasy of Gold” from the movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

The band opened their set with “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” sending the crowd into a frenzy while towering video screens over 100 feet high showed the band playing.

The most difficult thing about photographing Metallica was working with the stage that goes into the center of the crowd, known as The Snake Pit (where Metallica fans stand in the middle of an opening of a ramp that goes into the crowd). The Snake Pit ramp was at my eyelevel, which is pretty high, but for a big stadium area it’s common.

METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Lars Ulrich/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Getting to shoot the first three songs, “Hardwired”, “Atlas, Rise!” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was challenging, but rewarding. After the shoot, I had to remove my camera from the premises before I could go back in to watch the rest of the show.

Metallica had a great mix of new and old songs. During a new song, “Now That We’re Dead”, all four band members played a Taiko drum (Japanese style drum) solo.

For the song “One” which is known for opening with battle sounds, pyrotechnics and fireworks were added to the war sounds that went around the stadium. Such a great visual for the fans.

METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

Robert Trujillo/METALLICA; photo Reuben Martinez

But playing classics such as “Master of Puppets” and “Fade to Black” it was obvious they were crowd favorites. Everyone was singing word for word. It was great watching the band play these songs, which still hold up, and watching the crowd react. It just made the experience even more enjoyable.

The band finished with “Seek & Destroy” from their first album Kill ’em All. As they left stage the crowd knew they were coming back. Obviously, a huge band in a huge venue, they had to please. And they did.

First song of the encore was a classic thrash song from the early days, “Fight Fire With Fire”, followed by two radio favorites, classics “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman” as well as a huge firework finale.

Metallica has over 30 years as a band and they still sound great and are great musicians. Solid as ever, the WorldWired Tour continues with SOLD OUT shows until May 2018. This band has made their mark on music and influenced many in the industry. And the joy of capturing it on camera is absolutely one of the highlights in my life.

Sons of Texas: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Sons of Texas

Mark Morales of Sons of Texas; photo Reuben Martinez

Sons of Texas opened for heavyweights Hellyeah at the Observatory North Park, San Diego.

When asked to cover Sons of Texas, I was excited to see Hellyeah (one of my favorites) but I did my research and listened to Sons of Texas’ CD Baptized in the Rio Grande days before the gig. Next thing you know, I’m buying the album on iTunes!

Sons of Texas

Sons of Texas; photo Reuben Martinez

I arrived at the venue to find there were minor issues with my photo pass. This happens from time to time, but everything worked out. This is why a photographer should arrive early to a venue.

Excited, but not knowing what to expect, plus this was my first time shooting at this venue, I walked around, grabbed a drink and checked out the merchandise before the show started, then headed to the photo pit. The venue had great lighting and a great ambiance.

As Sons of Texas opened playing “Never Bury the Hatchet”, these guys were top notched musicians! I noticed right away how perfect they fit on the bill with Hellyeah, and could hear the influence of Pantera and other bands.

Sons of Texas; photo Reuben Martinez

Sons of Texas; photo Reuben Martinez

Sons had great energy that got the crowd going. During one song in their set, singer Mark Morales jumped in the crowd singing as a small mosh pit went around him. They played most of their debut album and did not disappoint. Great performance also equals great compositions.

Even after the Hellyeah performance, the band was hanging around greeting fans. I definitely had to go over and say “Hi” and bought another copy of their CD to get signed.

I will be looking forward to seeing these guys again either covering their concerts or just attending as a fan. In fact, I kicked myself when I found out they had played a couple headline shows in the past week here in Southern California and I missed them.

But I’m sure they will be headlining more shows in the future. I can’t emphasize how good these guys sound live and couldn’t ask for a better end to my Father’s Day than seeing these two bands play.

Skillet, Sick Puppies, Devour The Day: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Skillet

Korey Cooper of Skillet; photo Reuben Martinez

Skillet headlined the Grove of Anaheim in support of their latest release Unleashed with two great opening bands, Sick Puppies and Devour the Day.

As I arrived early at the venue, the one thing that instantly amazed me was how many cars were already in the parking lot. I had a feeling this venue was going to be full and possibly sell out.

When Devour the Day took the stage they had a fantastic stage presence. But a funny thing that has never happened to me occurred during the second song.

As I was turning around after taking a great shot of singer Blake Allison singing while he surfed the crowd on his back, the microphone stand hit me in the face! I then noticed that his microphone cord got wrapped around the base while he was going through the crowd.

Devour the Day

Blake Allison of Devour the Day; photo Reuben Martinez

That was a first for me and I actually thought it was funny. I’d rather get hit in my face instead of hitting my camera. As I brushed off my wounds I finished my three songs for the first band of the night.

I’m very familiar with Sick Puppies, who were the next band to play, having photographed them before plus I was excited to see the new singer, Bryan Scott. For being a three-piece band they know how to entertain and sound amazing. Bassist Emma Anzai is always fun to shoot. Her slap style and hair blowing around is always a great visual. My obvious favorite band of the night but I would say 90% of the crowd was there to see Skillet. Yet, I’m sure Sick Puppies won over some new followers.

sick puppies

Emma Anzai of Sick Puppies; photo Reuben Martinez

When headliner Skillet took the stage the crowd was cheering with excitement. They opened with “Feel Invincible” with the crowd reciting every word. Skillet has been around over 10 years and have a strong Christian base. This band knows how to play and knows how to entertain. Singer John Cooper and wife Korey on guitar are full of energy. I’ve never seen this band live before but seeing their energy along with their fans’ (known as “Panheads”) made for some great compositions.

Using one camera, I was switching from a zoom lens to a prime lens (faster lens that doesn’t zoom). With a band like Skillet jumping around and all of the fast action, I needed the faster lens. The three songs I was allowed to shoot went by quickly!

Skillet

John Cooper of Skillet; photo Reuben Martinez

It was an all-around great show to see and to photograph making it a very successful photo opportunity for me. And one thing I can say about the Grove of Anaheim is that I love the lighting in this venue. I have never had a bad shoot there.

Metal Allegiance: A Tale From The Photo Pit

METAL ALLEGIANCE

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

Metal Allegiance, a metal all-star concert and project started by Mark Menghi, asked friends to collaborate and pay tribute to recent and past artists at the Grove of Anaheim over NAMM weekend.

They played tribute to “Fallen Heroes” like David Bowie, Prince and Lemmy with songs like Bowie’s “Suffragette City and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. Metal Allegiance also played music of artists from the past such as Pantera, Metallica, Queen, Deep Purple and Ozzy Osbourne.

Kicking off NAMM, this event was highly sought after by the media. In fact, there were so many photographers that we were divided into small groups to photograph three different songs each, while the event was simultaneously being filmed and streamed live.

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

Metal Allegiance consists of artists such as Chris Jericho (Fozzy), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Phil Demmel (Machine Head), Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy (Testament), Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs), David Ellefson (Megadeth), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Gary Holt (Slayer, Exodus) and many more artists contributed throughout the show.

I was excited to be covering this event as I am also a huge fan of all of these artists. I waited my turn to get into the photo pit and ended up being able to shoot songs like “I Don’t Know” Randy Rhodes/Ozzy, “Was Ensemble” Jeff Hanneman/Slayer and “5 Minutes Alone” Dimebag Darrell/Pantera. Great songs! I couldn’t have asked for a better selection of three songs. The lighting and sound were great and any “Music Fan” would have enjoyed this lineup paying tribute.

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

METAL ALLEGIANCE; photo Reuben Martinez

As the night continued, special guests Mikkey Dee drummer of Motorhead and Vinnie Appice drummer of Dio covered their own songs to pay tribute to their own singers that have passed.

It was a great evening of great musicians paying tribute to their “Fallen Heroes” and I was pleased to capture the moments of the night.

Menghi, who also plays bass in Metal Allegiance, continues to hold this event of all-stars in the Metal genre during the NAMM conference each year. Be on the lookout for this show every January in Southern California.

Ghost: A Tale From The Photo Pit

GHOST

GHOST photo: Reuben Martinez

Grammy Award winning band Ghost, who won for Best Metal Performance this year, recently played the Riverside Municipal Auditorium. For the past two years, there’s been a lot of buzz brewing for this band. I had the chance to see them at Coachella for the first time back in 2013. I was intrigued then with their stage presence of metal with heavy demonic overtones and was looking forward to this event.

When the lights went down, operatic music began to play, the stage crew came out wearing the Ghost logo, an upside down cross with a “G”, on their shirts, bowed to each other and removed the black cloaks covering the drum set and keyboard. The scent of incense burned on stage, creating a church-like atmosphere.

They opened with “Square Hammer” a new song from the Popestar EP, a followup to last year’s album, Meliora. Singer Papa Emeritus III came onstage dressed in a black “pope like” robe and skull makeup.

This is exactly what a photographer loves to see in a stage show. The band members are called “nameless” ghouls and wear silver masks with horns and eye cutouts but no mouth. Scanning the crowd, I noticed there were fans wearing make-up like singer Papa, replicating their allegiance to Ghost.

GHOST

GHOST photo: Reuben Martinez

After shooting the first three songs, we photographers had to vacate the photo pit, which is standard practice. Most of the photographers went to the balcony to get full stage shots until the security stopped us and made us go downstairs.

Trying to shoot from the floor was hard with the general admission crowd, and eventually security told us we couldn’t shoot at all. I’ve shot this venue before with all access to the balcony and other places, but they were strict with this show.

The band played a total of 17 songs but during “Mummy Dust”, guns shot confetti and dollars with Papa’s face on them into the crowd creating a visually stimulating atmosphere.

The Swedish group formed in 2008 and I am sure will stay around. Hopefully, I’ll be covering them next time they’re in Southern California. Great music and a great visual show.