Not going to post the actual band/crew photo, but to be honest, I prefer this one. Jagger with his 2012 Gorilla button-up sweater talking to Paul Dainty of the Dainty Group/Virgin Live (in blue) and other crew members.
You know... one of those photos you'd rather be in than to have taken - even if you hadn't really slept for three and a half days.
Rolling Stones 2012 tour photo set-up/Prudential Center/Newark, NJ/2.13.12
The 121212 concert straight into 12.13.12 with the Rolling Stones in Newark. That day that was also slated as band/crew photo day. A photo that was to be taken by, you guessed it, Yours Truly.
Needless to say, this was a big week.
I know, I know, it's essentially just a wide shot of a stage. A shot you've taken 100s of times... but yet, there's something different about taking this wide shot than any other wide shot on the planet.
You know what that difference is?
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are looking directly at you. Nay, they HAVE to look directly at you. You who is propped up on a seven-foot platform in the middle of the tongue pit, with not only the Stones staring at you, but some of the biggest guys in the business - people with whom you'd like to work more closely with one day. You're on radio with select crew gents on stage to move people as you wish them to be moved. It's a production that, you really never realized was going to be a production.
And the first time you do this is with the fucking Rolling Stones.
Meanwhile, as I'm chatting with the lighting director, one of the Stones' guests that evening, John Mayer, was sound-checking, stage right.
John Mayer/Soundcheck/Prudential Center/Newark, NJ/12.13.12
Haven't seen this kind of a line-up since we did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show at MSG back in 2009. Very excited to say that 121212 was the first time I have ever seen Clapton play. He was supposed to have played in 2009 as well, but ended up having some kind of ailment/surgery... don't quite recall. He was replaced by Jeff Beck, which had my opinion been asked, I would have agreed it was an excellent choice. Duh.
Aside from finally hearing Clapton live, my two other highlights were, first and foremost:
Roger Waters and Eddie Vedder on "Comfortably Numb"
Followed by: Chris Martin and Michael Stipe reviving "Losing My Religion"
Of the seventy-two hours dedicated to this show, a max of ten hours were spent sleeping. Leaving the Garden at 5:30AM on the morning of December 13th, I got back to Brooklyn at 7:00AM, only to shower, cat nap and head on out to New Jersey for the second of three US dates for the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary Tour.
Life could be worse. Necessary eight hours of sleep, my butt.
In the words of Thom Yorke (or what I can only assume to be Thom Yorke as I pulled this quote from the Radiohead site years ago):
Zip up, belt up, keep up.
121212 Show Run-Down/Production Office/Madison Square Garden/12.12.12
Between Puerto Rico and the 121212 Concert a lot happened in the world. A lot happened in life. While I was not in the city for Sandy, I watched all of my photographer pals capture and transmit their images to the rest of the world. Couldn't have been prouder. I tipped my little felt Dororthy Parker hat to them for both myself and for Chris Hondros.
Tragedies have a way of bringing people together as a result of mind-blowing perspective change. In all reality, a strong motivating factor is the realization that horrible things could happen to you and your loved ones, just as you see them happening to other people on the news. And from there, compassion arises. Sympathy. Empathy.
As a reference point, I wrote about a related concept back in 2009 when walking by the 9/11 memorial one bitterly cold New York night. Truth be told, I still feel the exact same way. People need that perspective change, but why the catalyst's face is rarely a beautiful one, I will never totally understand. But that being said, you also have to remember that no matter how you spin it, the ugly catalyst creates a gorgeous end result, which then inspires further.
Take Harvey Weinstein and Jim Dolan for example. What do you get when you add Weinstein, Dolan and a major disaster? An epically billed six-hour concert at Madison Square Garden on a Wednesday night.
Gajllions of dollars are raised and 18,000+ patrons experience a night they will never forget in the name of a great cause. Ticket prices ranged from $25,000 to $150 a head and hey! if you are going to donate, might as well donate to get once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch Clapton, the Stones, the Who, Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Dave Grohl, Chris Martin, Michael Stipe, Alicia Keys, Kanye West and an unimaginable number of celebrities get up on stage to do what they do best. In Kanye's case... to delay the show, be annoying and wear a leather kilt. He was great!
As you can imagine, when this Weinstein/Dolan scenario occurs, there often isn't much time to create the actual event. Enter all the hardworking folks at Madison Square Garden and Diversified Production Services. Making the impossible possible. What they created in 3.5 weeks? Incredible.
Monday was the first moment I said, "Thank goodness for the lockout."
Every feasible space in that building was used. Rock gods had dressing rooms in hallways made of pipe and drape. Chris Martin and Michael Stipe SHARED the ice crew room (a room that has never been cleared in the history of the Garden). The weight room turned into a radio studio. The Knicks and Rangers locker rooms were turned into party spaces. Mick Jagger closed down the dressing room hallway (which also held McCartney, Joel, Clapton, Waters and Bon Jovi) mid-show to do his pre-stage wind sprints. Keith Richards took over the MSG production office for his smoking room. Our office became the Rangers' head coach's room. And wait, back up. Smoking?! In the Garden? Surely someone has gone mad. It truly was an "all-skate," as TP aptly put it. All in the name of Sandy. The destructive, natural energy of a tragedy transforming into an inspirational, man-made energy. The root of a great moment in rock history.
Energy. Neither created nor destroyed.
121212 pre-production - Road case nap (Top), Stage Left (Bottom)/Madison Square Garden/12.11.12
From the beach to the jungle. A solid day in topography AND ecosystems, if I don't say so myself. Science!
Mayyybe one of my favorite photos from Puerto Rico. Noticed this guy hanging out when I was trying to get some arty texture shot of moss and other freeloading vegetation. This? Way cooler.
Just a few jungle notes:
1. The "highway" does not, I repeat, does not run all the way through the jungle as most maps would indicate.
2. Definitely, definitely hike.
3. I am happy to report that there were zero snake sightings on this trip.
Once out of the jungle we made our way back to San Juan for a cold glass of Ron del Barrilito on the rocks (Rum on the rocks? Yes, folks, it's that delicious) and the best ceviche of my life at a Peruvian joint called Lima. Restaurant recommended by Jennifer Bilec and now me.
Read: Eat There.
Annnyway, we had one more half day in sunny Puerto Rico before boarding our flight back to New York. For the most part, I put the camera away and just enjoyed the sun and the surf. If I'm not mistaken, a few more excellent life decisions were made on that beach as well, but more on that adventure to come...
Saturday, the 20th. Our day to get in a rental car and just drive. Beach to jungle and whatever came our way in-between. I'd say we, hands-down, experienced our worst meal on this adventure, but sometimes that happens. Roadside meat stands are for sure a hit or miss endeavor. Would you like your food poisoning with a side of sweet mango smoothie? Just kidding, no one got poisoned, but it was indeed terrible. Let's see... what else happened in-between? Hammock naps. Short tours of small towns. A rainbow (below). A vanishing hotel. This picture of Justin looking off into the distance (perhaps trying to locate said vanishing hotel) with a camera in hand.
We really couldn't have planned our activities better on this impromptu trip of ours. No rain on our beach days. Without this Puerto Rican beach, very important life decisions may not have been made... as promptly.
So. I have a National Park Service Passport. And like my actual passport, I'm obsessed with it. I was introduced to this magically educational book/activity by a fellow roadie, Mr. John Merritt. Perfect for days off in random cities and the like. For any of you crazy road kids who I've not already coerced into purchasing one of these suckers or purchased one for you, well, they make lovely Christmas gifts for the frequent traveler/roadie.
Sometimes, Kids, you've just got to get up and go. And sometimes the catalyst that pushes you out the door comes in the form of a morning text message from a fellow globe-trotting friend.
On Wednesday, October 17th:
Justin: Wanna go to Puerto Rico this weekend? Fiiiine. Hawaii.
Justin: K! Thurs-Sun?
Justin: Ever been?
Me: Nope! Not to either! What's the occasion?
Justin: Who says we need an occasion? I just want to go somewhere new, and I don't have anywhere I need to be until Monday.
Me: Touche! Hawaii is a bit far, no? For such a short escapade?
Justin: Yes, I think PR is the better bet. Trying to decide if I should bring my 7D or not...
Me: I'm going to bring mine. I'm also considering packing in my purse. Swimsuit and camera.
Justin: Like, that's all you're bringing?
Me: I don't know, it seemed cinematic. I could also be drunk when I show up at the airport.
Justin: Hahaha. Love it. Want me to check you in and print your boarding pass?
Me: Sure dude.
Justin: "Would you like to standby for an upgrade to business elite on the following flight?"
Me: Ummm yes
Justin: I clicked "Never ask me this again"... I don't know why they'd offer that choice...
Me: If you clicked "Never ask me again," I will punch you in the dick as soon as I see you.
Justin: ...wait, promise? THAT'S NOT A REAL OPTION.
Justin: I said yes!
And so we went to Puerto Rico the morning of October 18th... one of us was upgraded to first class. Normally, I would have offered it to my travel companion, but as predicted I was DOA - Drunk on Arrival. (Thanks, Jeff Snider).