15 February 2012

Gigs, Cameras, and Weird Smells

Filming at gigs. I know, I know... Annoying, right? And probably illegal!
Some will argue that taking pictures and video-recording at gigs and festivals are the definition of "uncoolness".

Hey asshole you are blocking my view
You are standing there in the crowd, at a hotspot you guarded for two hours in advance, waiting for the curtain to fall. Everybody around you becomes restless as the allowed 15 minute window of opportunity for bands to show up before everybody starts to swear (obviously not applicable to Guns N' Roses), is coming to an end. Then it happens. Just seconds before the opening drum beat, the clicking noises and the blinding flashes, torture to your senses. Hands are in the air in various arrangements, some forming fists, the sign of the horns, and others clicking away relentlessly. Point is, you cannot see beyond hands holding cameras, so you may as well count on your sense of hearing (whatever's left from it!).

The a-live experience
Between the smell of sweat (especially if good old nature and genetics have not been kind to you and you are lucky enough to be of, what I call, "armpit-level height"), blood, and the odd fart, the experience of being part of such a large mass and the live on-stage performance can be a natural high - without the drugs. You ought to enjoy what you see and hear because lets face it, you probably paid a respectable amount of money to be there.

Talent unfolding
Guitar solos, unbelievable drumming, out of this world vocals, outrageous outfits, pyros, laser lights, moving stages.... I could go on for a while here. Most acts sing and play their hearts out for our, the fans', own pleasure (and money of course). Naturally, clapping  and cheering should not be replaced by clicking.

Despite all the above, not all have the money to buy all the brilliantly filmed yet significantly over-priced DVDs companies produce. I am, personally, not satisfied by just living the experience and from time to time I like to watch my well-organised collection of videos. Who wouldn't want to have a personally-filmed video collection of the late legend RJ Dio? [sigh] And lets face it. Most of the legends we now see live on stage (be it the "last" tour or reunion) will either be to old to rock or dead by the time my biological clock ticks! I want my children to have something from my "era" which signifies the hand over of the "Metal flag" from the godfathers and godmothers of Rock N' Roll to the newbies. 

Weeeeell, you've probably realised that I am one of those annoying people you see at gigs filming their hearts out! Before you start sending hate-mail though, I ought to say; I have been to many gigs in the past where I have not filmed nor photographed a single movement coming from the stage area. I have been part of wild masses (thanks to the Greeks!) where I was knocked to the ground by over-enthusiastic fans, and had my fair share of "wholesome" gig experiences. 

During my 10 or more years of experiences like these, I managed to develop a set of internal rules (i.e. never actually put in a list until now) for practising two interests at the same time, photography/filming and gig-going with minimal intrusion and maximum enjoyment! Here it is:

1. Choose your spot
As I wouldn't want to be the one sworn at for blocking the view and due to my limitations in the height domain I usually choose seating at gigs. Therefore, I can just rest the camera on my knees and film away freely without loosing the feeling in my hands and subsequently skipping the trendiness of what it has recently become the listening to Heavy Metal, meaning "a youth gone wild", with their ridiculous yelling and screaming.  

2. Know what to record
I would not recommend filming the whole gig as it is tiring and you end up loosing the meaning of the whole thing. The key is to film your favourite songs and skip the mainstream ones, unless only those ones are indeed your favourites in which case you are probably part of the "youth gone wild" described above.

3. Delegate where appropriate
A technique that works wonders is to delegate the responsibility of the filming to your partner or a friend who are not particularly into this kind of music but go along with you as a favour! Then you are free to go as wild as you want or can. [Special thanks to my special person are in order here]

4. Do it properly
If you are going to film, do it properly. That means buying a good camera, managing to hide it successfully through the security checks, and recording good quality videos. Nobody wants to watch  a shaky amateur video on YouTube! You will experience the odd Parkinson's-like shake, bums of people walking in front of you etc but at least the picture and sound should be clear. And lets not forget: record whole songs not just intros or choruses!

5. Do it for fun
If you are doing it to just show off to your friends, you are a dumb-ass! [Sorry, but you are] Do it because you enjoy it or if you are emotionally tied to collecting souvenirs of your experiences.

In this era of digital revolution, filming at gigs cannot be avoided or even banished altogether despite various attempts by promoters. If you are like me and you still want to do it, learn to respect the others around you. And don't forget, a gig or a festival is a collective experience, so don't immerse yourself in your filming otherwise you will indeed loose the whole point, be it smelly armpits, beer showers, screams to the point of hear-loss, pushing, grabbing and all the good stuff that come with it! That is  the point anyway.
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