A day in the life of a concert photographer – The Joshua Edition. Get photopass, go through security while displaying the photo pass and unzipping all the camera gear with an impatient crowd behind, get in, find the side of the stage and then hover near the stage. When the lights go down we shooters scurry like cockroaches to the front of the stage, grab a quick snap of the set list and then take up our positions and wait. Once the band starts to take the stage start shooting like mad because after the third song ends so does the glamorous life of being inside the barrier come to a halt and we are cleared away, easy.
All was going as per usual, the lights went down and away we went. I had my cell phone ready to snap the set list and then get my starting spot. One problem, no set lists were taped to the ground. I looked around and nothing, well crap, oh well. I then notice Mark Walk, the drummer, was almost totally hidden behind his set, while normal, he was also raised up and in the corner, this won’t be easy. Checking out where
the cEvin Key, the keyboardist, was also in an elevated hard to reach place for us photographers at the other end of the stage. I figured that would be most of my problems but when Nivek Ogre took the stage he would have a lot of room for his dramatic antics (side note: check out Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Devil’s Carnival to see Ogre performing in movies) and I would have all sorts of shots to get…easy.
To paraphrase Boromir, one does not simply go to a Skinny Puppy concert. I believe that no one goes to a Skinny Puppy concert, they experience a Skinny Puppy performance. And while some may argue that there isn’t much of a difference between the two words I assure you, those people have not been to a SP event. Walking out on the stage in a raincoat-ish attire, wielding a machete and an umbrella, Ogre, whose face was half covered with an out-of-this-world mask, lurked around, barely bathed only in the minimal light from the sides of the stage and a projector shooting images on the screen as the opening song, ‘Choralone.’ As the next song, ‘illisiT’, from their latest release “Weapon” got underway Ogre was even more deliberate in his creepiness and dramatic flair, this was just a taste of what was in store. At no time during the second song did the lighting on the stage change to something brighter and, oh I don’t know, photographer friendly. I snapped where and what I could as the dreaded third song “Village” began. I say dreaded not because of the song, because it was a great song, but because it meant my time shooting this very atmospheric lighting situation was coming to a close and I knew that the conditions weren’t going to improve, Snapping away I went left and right hoping that when I get the tap on the shoulder indicator that it is time to leave I will have visuals to leave with. The song ends, we leave the pit and it is time to go from shooting to enjoying the performance as a whole.
Skinny Puppy’s setlist covered 70% of their new album with brief stops at their previous releases, specifically “Rabies”. During this bounce back and forth from the present to the past musically, the events on stage took on a life all its own. We were witness to a radioactive downward spiral story from beginning to end. As the show progressed so did Ogre’s character from a ‘seemingly’ healthy, albeit deranged, person to someone suffering from radiation poisoning. There were scientists taking readings of the audience, surveillance cameras all over the stage, and ‘chemicals’ for our ‘hero’ to play with. Flowing from one song to the next there wasn’t a pause to address the audience. We weren’t a concert audience but witnesses to the evolution and downfall of this character up to the point where he is captured … and then he escapes. End of show.
And then the encore, of course. Ogre and the guys come back to the stage and perform a few more songs, mainly from their “Remission” EP released in ‘84. Seems fitting that remission would be when Ogre takes the stage dressed regularly and addressing the audience as a regular human being.
No, one does not simply go to a Skinny Puppy show. One attends a performance by Skinny Puppy. This was theater and music but not a musical, performance and art and part performance art. If Skinny Puppy were to put out a DVD of this show I would be first in line in order to experience it all over again.