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.

Return Of The Dreads: A Tale From The Photo Pit

korn

Korn at Irvine Meadows; photo Reuben Martinez

“Return of the Dreads” came to SoCal with a lineup that featured In This Moment, Rob Zombie and Korn. SoCal hasn’t had a rock fest in a while and this was guaranteed to sell out.

Arriving at the venue, there were issues getting in. Key to being a photographer is being early to shoot all the bands on the bill, but unfortunately I did hit a snag. As soon as I got into the parking lot there was a lot of walking. As I arrived at the box office to get my credentials, I was given a photo pass but the venue staff said I also needed a ticket to get in. I could hear that In This Moment had already taken the stage. After other photographers were denied entry, another staff worker walked up and said we could all go in.

I walked as fast as I could while getting my camera ready. But once I showed up to the stage, In This Moment finished their last song. Since we’re only allowed to shoot the first three songs of a set, I had missed my opportunity. But running into friends that are photographers, they also had the same problem. But never-the-less, I was able to shoot Rob Zombie and Korn.

When Rob Zombie took to the stage I already knew he never disappoints the fans. His stage was full of his visions of horror and pop art, including a microphone stand that had a Nosferatu looking metal base.

rob zombie

Rob Zombie at Irvine Meadows; photo Reuben Martinez

There were overwhelming red lights that are hard to capture in photos so I switched my camera to shoot black and white and was able to get great shots of him and the band. However, the color photos captured the vibrancy and mysticism of the band.

As Rob loves to entertain, he and guitarist John 5 had an oversized Devil walking around the stage that he interacted with. Such a great stage presence and a great showman. Even while John 5 showcased during a solo, Rob was running around the crowd getting them even more enthused.

While we were waiting for Korn to come on stage, the photographers were escorted back down to the photo pit. Right away, I was in the presence of singer Jonathan Davis’ mic stand, which the legendary artist/sculptor H.R. Giger designed for him years ago.

When drummer Ray Luzier entered the stage that was my key to get the camera ready. The rest of the band came on, bassist Fieldy’s neon bass strings were glowing, and the band went into the first song, “Right Now”. The crowd was jumping!

Great lighting for the band made it easy to get the shots I wanted. And as the tour was called “Return of the Dreads” both guitarists, Head and Munky, had dreads that made great action shots while they were rocking out to their performance.

I’ve seen these bands many times before, they sounded great but this was my first time shooting them. It was a very entertaining show and a great experience to shoot and share.

Although these bands have been around for a long time, their new songs also sounded great. If you are a fan, check them out next time they come around.

Eyes Set To Kill Play Brick By Brick

eyes set to kill

EYES SET TO KILL played Brick By Brick Nov. 6 photo: Reuben Martinez

A band I saw over 2 years ago opening for Kill Devil Hill, Eyes Set To Kill (ESTK), impressed me and I became a huge fan. This time, playing at Brick By Brick in San Diego, I wanted to shoot their show.

While being new to this venue, I didn’t know what to expect. But Brick By Brick’s accommodations and staff were amazing. Small in space yet open to catering to the rock crowd, I was really impressed with the lighting when ESTK took stage.

Using a prime lens for low light conditions I captured great action shots of singer Alexia’s passionate singing and her sister Anissa’s solid bass playing, her yellow hair flaring away. This was the main reason that got me intrigued by this band. Drummer Caleb is nothing but solid behind the kit propelling the group through songs off their last album “Masks” and a few new tunes. The band can really play!

I’ve seen this band a few times so I was familiar with what to expect. In my opinion, I think was one of my most successful shoots. I was constantly looking at the display of my camera and was impressed at how well each shot was coming out. I didn’t have to move around too much to get great compositions.

It’s such a rare experience when you’re able to shoot a great band at a great venue with a great staff. I’m looking forward to returning to Brick By Brick for other shows and obviously looking forward to Eyes Set To Kill’s return to Southern California.

Five Finger Death Punch Heads Ontario Lineup

Five Finger Death Punch

Five Finger Death Punch headlined Citizens Bank Arena photo: Reuben Martinez

New to shooting at The Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, I walked in not knowing what to expect but excited to see three bands I really liked.

First up was In This Moment who know how to give a great performance. Singer Maria Brink, with her two dancers, portrayed songs like “Big Bad Wolf” wearing wolf masks. This is what’s exciting as a photographer, seeing the presence of each song and documenting each move when all of the band members play a part.

Papa Roach came next with a full energetic set. Singer Jacoby Shaddix made his presence known by going into the crowd a few times then later, he and guitarist Jerry Horton played a couple acoustic songs in the center of the crowd. As the lighting radiated throughout the place, I was able to still get great shots from outside the photo pit.

Finally, the band everyone came to see was up next, Five Finger Death Punch. Singer Ivan Moody approached his 180 pound silver mic-stand adorned with a skull, grenades and bullets on the base with the microphone set into a handgun.

I was enraptured by the moment, taking shots of the mic stand alone. Approaching each member of the band, I tried to capture every possible angle but, it was hard to keep an eye open while taking it all in.

This band knows how to get their audience’s attention. From bringing kids onstage to having everyone turn on their cell phone lights, as a photographer, I try to seize every moment.

Five Finger Death Punch delivered a powerful performance and their music fits their name. This music is my preference. Great show. Great venue. Well played.

Yukon Blonde Through the Lens At Soda Bar

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde played Soda Bar July 17

On Jul. 17, Vancouver BC’s own Yukon Blonde played San Diego County’s Soda Bar. With overcoming sound check issues, Yukon Blonde played an overall strong performance. Although it being my first time seeing this Indie Pop band and being at this venue, when they started playing I could clearly see why they had their own followers and understand how they were nominated for a Juno award, which is Canada’s version of the Grammy’s.

In support of Yukon Blonde’s latest release “On Blonde,” they opened up with the first track “Confused” and played the majority of their new release throughout the night. My highlight of the night’s performance was them playing “Favourite People,” their upbeat song with a great bass line from James Younger, and clean 12-string guitar from Brandon Scott.

As they continued, everyone was out of their seat standing in front of the stage. Being a smaller venue, it was hard to move around and get better shots while remaining courteous to the fans. Overall, both the show and the staff were great. With a few albums under their belt, I can totally see Yukon Blonde playing Coachella in the near future.