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Not With The Band: Taking Or Not Taking Pictures At Concerts


Queens of the Stone Age at the Teragram Ballroom


If you are like me, you like to take pictures at concerts with a real camera, not a cell phone! Of course, it’s not always allowed, clubs have different rules, and I want to give here a big shout-out to the Echo, the Echoplex, the Satellite, the Bootleg, the Regent, the Teragram Ballroom for always letting me in with my camera, regardless of the fact I have a photo pass or not! These places are cool but it’s not always the case for clubs, especially clubs on the west side of LA where they reinforce a very strong no camera policy. I ‘fought’ several times with the security guards at the Troubadour, I almost got banned from the Roxy because I had sneaked my camera in, and they even confiscated my camera at the Wiltern, but that was stupid and for once I was not trying to cheat: Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre had told me he had added my name on the list but he hadn’t.

Why are there so many differences between one place to the next? I once went to see Queens of the Stone Age at the Wiltern, they didn’t let me in with any camera and told me it was the wish of the band. I did insist a bit but the security guard didn’t want to hear anything. ‘I talked to Josh’, he said to me. I don’t know if he told me the truth but allow me have some doubts. A few years later, I saw QOTSA at the Teragram Ballroom, and was able to take tons of pictures with a professional camera at Joshua Homme’s feet. Why would it be different this time if it were really a wish of the band?

I could multiply the examples: I had the same experience with Titus Andronicus at the Roxy, where I couldn’t snap a picture, whereas I had taken many pics of the band one day before during an intimate performance in a store. If Patrick Stickles had had a problem with me taking pictures, he would have told me! The same band in two different venues and different policies… The Jayhawks also played a concert at Pershing Square a year ago, and cameras were prohibited, once again I sneaked mine in and managed to take a few pictures, but I was seen by a security guard who got mad at me, escorted me to the exit, while telling me the same fable once again: the band doesn’t want pictures! I tweeted my review with the pics and the Jayhawks liked/retweeted the whole package, and even posted a few of them on their Facebook page. They were apparently not mad at me.

So I have no explanation why some places are so tough with photographs, after all everyone has a cell phone these days and can take a bad pic of the show to post it on social media, so why wouldn’t they want to see a better pic instead?

But even when you have a photo pass in these tough places, and have access to the pit, the security guards generally don’t allow you to stay for more than 3 songs. Most of the places have a strict 3-song rule and I have often thought it was out of respect for people standing in the front, whose view is obviously obstructed by the photographers. Actually there is another story told by many photographers. This rule started decades ago, when Sting began seeing photos of himself performing. Obviously, he looked great on the shots taken during the first part of the show, but as the night progressed, the Sting pics began to sting, the rock star was sweaty and not so pretty to look at after a long gig, so he started giving photographs three songs, throwing them out of the pit after the three songs. Other performers fell in love with the idea and it caught on. I want to add there’s nothing wrong with sweaty!

True or not true, it is not too surprising coming from someone like Sting, and after all, there are other performers who don’t allow photos at all, and these are the performers the most attached to their image. They have built their entire career on how they look. I am talking about the late great Prince, Jack White, She and Him, Bjork, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages, Beyonce…

But let’s be honest, none of the performers is worried about your concert experience, none of them is really thinking that taking pictures takes away the enjoyment of a live performance, they are just worry about these bad pics of them that could show up on the internet. Remember these terrifying Beyonce pics after her Super Bowl performance? That was very scary and the queen must have lost some sleep over them. Potential bad pics are the only reason photos are banned at some concerts, and this has nothing to do with the sad excuse that it is distracting from the performance.

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