Desperate times. Desperate measures.
Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan
Daylight cuts the darkness through a crack in my blinds and stabs me right in the eyes. A haze has somehow formed and it’s cast in the beam of light. Sunrise. ‘Agh, it’s so early,’ I say to myself. My hangover thumps the kick drum of my medulla oblongata. ‘Why do I drink? Why do I do this to myself?’ Rhetorical questions come easy when hungover.
I stumble out of bed. Cautiously, I perambulate and enter the bathroom. My eyes, still glossy and red, look back at me in the mirror as I drop onto the toilet. My bowels spill its contents into the water beneath me and the sour stench ignites a nausea that stabs my guts and I pull forward, heaving a toxic stream of bile across my linoleum floor. After the retching subsides, I sit there, defeated, knowing full well that this, at least, will be the low point of my day.
It takes me half an hour to clean the bathroom. Once I finished I brewed up some coffee and sat outside on my patio. Birds are in full chorus. The violence in the bathroom seems to have calmed down my guts.
My phone rings, shattering my moment of tranquil bliss. “Hello,” I say, sipping my coffee.
“Buddy, buddy, buddy.” It’s Brian. He’s up early, too. “Dude, how are you feeling?”
I wince. “I’m better now. Good thing you didn’t call half an hour ago. I would have had a different answer.”
“You were having fun, eh? At one point you were doing the robot and dancing to Vanilla Ice.”
My hand lifts to my eyes and it squeezes the bridge of my nose. “God, I don’t remember any of that.” The evening had been a gathering of musicians and local socialites. I was there as a hired photographer, shooting an award show. Once I finished with the show I was off the clock. “That after party got a little out of hand.”
“You got out of hand, my friend. Anyways, did you get your tickets for tonight?”
A lightning strike of dread cuts through me and suddenly the low of my day just collapses down onto the realization that I did NOT in fact have tickets for this evening. “I totally forgot to grab one.”
“Dude. The show is sold out!”
The whole idea was mine. I knew of the show before anyone else since I had overheard a conversation at a house party the night the gig was booked. Face to Face and Strung Out were coming to Kelowna and I had alerted my friends right away since we’ve all grown up to these bands and were huge fans of their music. I told myself I would get a ticket on my own and completely forgot. And here I was, on the morning of the show, hungover and without a ticket to not only an epic concert, but it’s the debut show of Kelowna’s Sunplex; a structure made for indoor sports like hockey, volleyball and basketball. I had never been in there before and it was just a 10 minute walk from my place.
All day, I tried to track down a ticket. I went online. I tried to charm a local promoter but when we met for coffee she said I smelled like a brewery. I tried and I tried but as day turned to night, I returned to my drab little apartment and collapsed on the couch. It felt like a new low. Lower than low. I gave up and figured I’d have a night of photo editing from the award show. Maybe I’d order some pizza. I walked over to the corner and pulled my camera bag off its shelf and when I did that, the laminate I had been given at the award show fell onto the floor, between my feet. I looked down and saw it laying there. I set down the camera and picked up the laminate. In bright, bold, red letters it read, ‘MEDIA. ALL ACCESS.’ By now, I had a collection of laminates covering different events, but I had never thought of using one to get into a sold out show before. I had a new memory card for my camera. 64 gigs worth of room. I had a fresh battery in my bag. I looked at the clock. It was after 8:00 pm. The show was just starting. There was a whirl of thoughts that suddenly funneled from my brain into my fingers and the next thing I knew, I was switching out the old battery for a fresh one. I placed last night’s card at the desk of my work station and swapped it for the new one. I quickly dressed, threw on my jacket, packed up my camera and grabbed the laminate. “Might as well give it a shot,” I tell myself as I lace up my shoes and walk to the show.
My heart raced as I approached the building. As I walked up to the doors, I realized that the security was actually quite relaxed compared to other shows I’ve been to. There was only one person at the front door. “Hello,” I said, as casual as I could. “I’m Shane. I’m photographing the show tonight.” I looked up at the roof of the canvas building. “Looks like I should have brought my tennis shoes, not my camera.” The young security guard laughed at my joke and I stood there, as if being held up by his presence. I pull the laminate out from under my jacket. I show it to his face. He leans in, reading the MEDIA pass. “Cool, man. Go on ahead.”
I smiled and held my wrist out to him as he retrieved a wristband.
He snapped the wristband on me. I walk past him, feeling guilty for just lying to such a sweet guy, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I try not to skip through the lobby. ‘Keep it cool, man,’ I think to myself.
The throng of a punk rock show welcomes me. I skirt through the crowd, zig zagging my way to stage left, where my friends usually are. Sure enough, I see Brian and Sean. Their faces light up when they see me. I’m greeted with a big hug from each of them and I tell them the whole story. Sean grabs the laminate and holds it up in front of his face. “You scoundrel.”
We watched the rest of Strung Out’s set then grabbed a few beers from the concession. As we stood in the crowd and watched the drum set being changed out, I figured I’d go and try my luck at getting backstage. “Wish me luck, boys.” I flop the laminate down on its lanyard. I down my beer and head for the stage. To the left is an opening to the backstage area. It’s guarded by a large man wearing black combat fatigues. His shirt reads, SECURITY across his chest. I gulp and try to be as confident as I can. Walking up to him, I raise the MEDIA pass up so he can see it. He looks down at me, holds the laminate in his hand, turns away and says something into a microphone that’s connected to his earpiece. There is a terrorizing moment of pause between us and then, a squawking chirp comes through his headset. His fingers press into his ear and he leans down, listening. He nods his head and opens the gate for me. “Knock yourself out.” He gestures with his head to get inside. I walk backstage, unscathed and undetected.
There was a blur of commotion backstage as crew members hurried to get the stage ready. Suddenly, to my right, a door opens and Face to Face emerges. They walk out of the change room and saunter past me. I smile and nod. Then, I hop over some electrical cords, round the curtain and I’m on the corner of the stage. Speakers block me from the crowd. I am but a shadow to the band. I remove my camera from my bag and I adjust the focus. The crowd is going ape shit. The band starts playing. If I can recall the opening song, I do believe it was DISCONNECTED. The crowd is fired up into a frenzy. Everyone singing the song, yelling the words at the top of their lungs. “YOU DON’T KNOW A THING ABOUT ME. IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW?.”
I’m rapidly firing the shutter of my camera, singing along too. I shuffle around, getting closer to the band. I can see the crowd now and they can see me. I photograph some epic crowd surfing. I see Sean and Brian. Their faces light up again when they see me. I took their picture.
Both of these bands played amazing sets and after the show and after I packed up my camera I walked over to the open door of the large dressing room. Beers were being opened. Their heads turned to me. Like a deer in headlights, I stumble with my words like tripping over shoelaces. “I… I just wanted to say that you guys are awesome.” I flash them the media pass and I happen to flash it backwards, showing just a white rectangle. “I take photos of bands around town and I got some cool black and white’s of you tonight.” I handed them my business card. They took my cards, smiled politely and raised their beers. “Cheers, Shane.” I smiled, turned and ran out of the room and into the crowd like a gitty, little kid.
All these years later I can still recount the memories of the evening with odd clarity. Most of my memories from way back then are like looking into a fogged mirror. For a long time, I thought I had lost those photos after a flood had wiped out the hard drives they were stored on. Luckily, I had saved them to a smaller thumb drive that I came upon all these years later, by accident. I plugged the drive in to see what was on it and there were the photos. I yelled out, “NO F*CKING WAY!!”
I’ve selected some of those photos for you here, dear reader. I guess the moral of the story is that when desperate times call for desperate measures it may be worth the risk to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. That and remembering to buy my tickets on time.
I never heard from Face to Face regarding their black and white photos. However, if they ever come back to Kelowna, this time, working with GONZO, I’ll have a legit MEDIA pass and if I meet them backstage, I’ll tell them the whole story and hopefully they’ll forgive me.