ROB ZOMBIE LIVE AT TAGS
HORRIFICALLY CINEMATIC!! As a huge fan of the classic horror and sci-fi films of the 1930’s through the 1950’s including The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, all the Twilight Zone episodes and so many more that I remember watching as a kid on WPIX Chiller Theater or Monster Movie Matinee on Saturday mornings, I was immediately drawn to the killer backdrops, outlandish costumes and stage props of Rob Zombies set. They were so visually stunning and cool, reminiscent of the classic horror vibe and super creepy fun. The glistening metallic Nosferatu mike stands seemed to lurk on stage peering out into the audience as if to say….Welcome to the nightmare. Rob, John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish kicked hard right out of the gate and most definitely did not disappoint the sold out mob of over 5000 fans of all ages at Tags in Big Flats, NY. It was quite an extravagant spectacle at the very least. A kick ass Zombie rock show complete with amazing lighting, theatrics, thrills, sex, cursing and electrified excitement kicked off around 9:30 p.m. following a ballsy hard-core straight up metal set by opening act Drop Clutch from Binghamton NY. The atmosphere at Tags almost felt like a carnival fun house complete with 10 foot tall freaks who roamed the massive crowd before and during the show. I remember thinking it was like being on set of American Horror Story.
I arrived well before show time getting to the venue around 4:30 pm. My photo pass was not ready at will call so I had about an hour to kill before actually checking in so I found myself a seat at the bar and ordered a few beers while talking with some of the excited fans. It was very cool to see some original Zombie fans as well as many younger newer victims in attendance. I saw and was impressed with countless tattoos in the crowd as well, lot’s of leather, denim jackets with cool ass patches and several fans donning some very creative and ghoulish face painting.
About 6:30 I was finally contacted by the tour manager notifying me that the passes were now available at will call. So with that, I slammed my beer and headed into the venue. When I walked through the will call gates I noticed a handful of very stoked and supercharged fans who had arrived for a special meet and greet, photo and autograph session with the band. I must say Rob’s entourage look pretty normal and very fan friendly without the makeup. There were maybe 50 or so fans who lined up to get a photo with the band and have a few items signed. It was cool to film and document this part of the show as it was real and intimate and I knew, for some of these fans, it must have been the dream of a lifetime. I knew, however, the best was yet to come.
For the first time in many years of shooting concert photography, I was greeted in the pit by a mob of at least 6 other photographers anxiously awaiting, with their fingers on the trigger, for the show to begin. I recognized a few faces in the pit and met some cool new photogs as well. We traded tips, facebook pages, stories and the like while a rumour circulated in the pit that only the first song would be allowed to be photographed, this, thankfully, turned out false.
Zombie kicked off their set with the groovy sexy Teenage Nosferatu Pussy from the album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor followed by Super-Charger Heaven and Superbeast. During these first three songs we photogs in the pit jockied for position, crouched under others and moved back and forth from stage right to left always being mindful of each other. Despite this being a highly supercharged Zombie show with only one fight to my knowledge, all the photogs in the pit were extremely respectful and friendly. I was curious as to what kind of lighting show Zombie would have as I have heard and seen in the past the light show was amazing but dark and constantly changing as well. As fate would have it, I ran into an old friend and amazing lighting tech guy that used to own and operate Hard Hit Productions out of Elmira, NY. He is now THE light guy for tags and other venues supplying the stage lighting shows for major acts. Needless to say we chatted a bit over old times and his new gear. I was impressed with his massive system. He assured me lighting would not be an issue as the last show I shot was lit very horribly with LED lights on a stick.
I just love processing concert photography in black and white as it lends to the old school classic look which, for me fit well with the classic black and white horror film backdrops they had on stage. The lighting was very cool and tricky at times to navigate but I enjoyed the vintage black light-esque color look to some of the images. It didn’t take to long into the first song to get my settings to where they needed to be. I think most of my shots were taken at around ISO 2000 at f/3.2 and 1/320ish…give or take. I used my new Canon 50mm 1.8 for the majority of the shots but also used a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 for wider shots as well as my Canon 70-200 while I shot back by the soundboard. Thankfully I had my Bat utility belt on to keep my arms free and back from throbbing the next day.
Zombie thundered through the night kicking ass with all his supercharged hits including old school White Zombie hits Thunder Kiss 65, Living Dead Girl, More Human, Sick Bubble-Gum and many more including a few covers that included Cooper’s Schools Out, Funk’s We’re An American Band and the Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop all while never ever lacking for energy, powerful stage presence and classic horror theatrics. I’ve been to many concerts and have had the opportunity to photograph some awesome shows. This Zombie show had to be right up there in the top 3 of most electric, magnetic, and energetic live shows I’ve shot. Not to mention LOUD……The one show where I forget my earplugs right up in the pit as well. Lesson learned, keep earplugs in camera bag !!
Rob came out in his signature grunge grey zombie dirt face fresh from the grave look while donning a killer retro fringed tattered leather jacket and signature hat while John 5 started the set off in a freaky alien gas mask get-up with a Game of Thrones style fur and leather outfit….very cool. Piggy D had the whole dead Eddie Munster Vampire look going while Ginger kept it simple behind the kit with the face makeup and upside down cross painted down his nose and upper lip. The entire band changed it up however throughout the night. I can not even begin to imagine the smell of creeping death that must emanate from those costumes after just a few songs. But screw it..they do look cool as fuck !!
This has to be one of the coolest, bad ass concerts I ever had the opportunity to shoot. I love Rob’s music and at times can be a fan of his writing and movies. Regardless of what many may think about his style. He is a true artist and extremely talented. Shocking, perhaps, but very entertaining, fan friendly and without a doubt knows how to capture and knock the crowd dead. However, I don’t think anyone at this show was dead. Anything but, as they screamed and threw the horns up, jumped, surfed and refused to go quietly into the night. Zombie came out with three encores finishing the night with Dragula.