Category Archives: Concerts

No Photos, Please (one for The Vault)

The cliché is true: you don’t truly appreciate something until you don’t have it.

As a photographer, I’ve always known the value of my camera equipment – both monetary and sentimental. It is, after all, how I make my living and how I’ve spent almost half my life. There have been times when I have not been allowed to use it (not everyone is a willing subject), and a couple times when I’ve just not had it with me when I wished I did. The missed opportunities never amounted to much in the way of regret – until yesterday.

During an assignment at the Hard Rock administration offices, I was offered an opportunity – nay, THEE opportunity – that anyone who has ever listened to music with any passing interest would jump at.

The assignment was a simple portrait of one of the marketing executives (who shall remain nameless). Seemingly uneventful, until his admission that he originally wanted to have the shoot in… The Vault.

The Vault is where the local Hard Rock offices keep, well, everything. Guitars, albums, photographs, costumes… and the ever-glamorous “etcetera”.

The idea was squashed by the arch enemy of all fun ideas, The Legal Department. It seems that Hard Rock is merely the curator of the items, with the former owners retaining the rights to any use. Much like taping a Sunday afternoon game, any unauthorized use is prohibited.

After the shoot, which took place in a lounge outside The Vault, I was asked if I had a few minutes to spare. This was followed by the question, “are you a music fan?”

He didn’t know me – obviously – so I resisted the urge to “DUH?!” and simply said, “oh hell yeah.”

My photo subject then offered me a walk through music history.

“You wanna see The Vault?”

… cue another silent “DUH?!”

Of course, the obvious and most-painful catch was made evident as he pointed to my camera bag and uttered the words I knew were coming but hated to hear – “you have to leave that here.”

Letting go of my bag-o-gear was never so difficult, but sometimes you have to make choices. I chose to see the stuff.

A quick stroll down the office hall; past some cubicles, a signed Doors poster, some office folk, and through the obligatory non-descript-wooden-door that usually precedes the finest of discoveries, and I was in.

A wall of guitars hanging on metal racks – about five or six guitars high and several hundred guitars wide – met my eyes like a trimmed tree on Christmas morning. Stratocasters, Les Pauls and acoustics, Oh My! And they were ALL SIGNED!

Little did I know, there was another catch or two: The autographs were less than legible and I could not handle any of them for a closer look. Nothing was labeled and my guide – the aforementioned nameless exec – could offer no information on which instrument belonged to which artist. He wasn’t part of the curating staff, none of whom were making the rounds with us on the impromptu tour.

I walked by the wall, v e r y  s l o w l y. My eyes scanned every surface and soaked in every inked line. And my mind raced.

“Does that say Richards? I think that says Richards! Does that say Dyan? I think that says Dylan! That one says Slash! LENNON?! NO! No, wait that’s not an L. What the hell is that? Where’s Sting? Wait, where are the basses? Tom Petty?! Holy Shit, What Does That One Say?!”

… and so on.

I avoided passing out. I avoided pleading for someone with a working knowledge of the archives to join us immediately. I simply strolled.

Across from the guitar wall were rows and rows and rows and rows… of shelves. My guide went on to tell me about the photos, books, artwork and record albums that filled each one. All were wrapped and protected and sealed and… not for my grubby little fingers.

There was a second level with racks of clothing. Dare I ask to venture up there? No. There was only time to admire from afar. Both my guide and I were on a schedule, and you can’t have “impromptu” without “prompt”.

I walked by the guitar wall one last time. “Somewhere on that wall is an Eric Clapton,” I thought. And I tried to linger in that idea, and in that room, as long as I could.

On the way to the door I had a brief-but-biting feeling of irony. This was an amazing opportunity, and I was happy to have it. But not knowing exactly what it was I had seen was a bit of a frustration. History is still history without the name tag. It’s just a little harder to recognize.

I briefly mused about some of the autographs I had accumulated over the years. Honestly, if I hadn’t watched as they were signed, I wouldn’t know who they were by reading the scribbled names.

As I took one last look back before the exit, I saw a shelf to my right. Not as crammed as those across from the guitar wall, I was able to make out one or two items. Those items I cannot recall now because of the impact of the last item I saw.

A drum skin. Sitting atop the shelf. All by itself. With an autograph signed in black, felt tip ink. Written clear as day.

“Peace. Love. Ringo.”

So ended my visit to The Vault.

(Insert big, goofy, smiley face here.)

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Exit History, Enter Legend

History changes hands in downtown Orlando on Friday, 10.1.10, with the opening of the Amway Center; The multimillion dollar event venue that boasts state-of-the-art, hi-tech, and every other flattering catch phrase that Webster’s can dish out. It even has it its own flattering catch phrase for the grand opening ad campaign – Enter Legend. How do you not look forward to that?

Amid the pomp, circumstance and ribbon-cutting there is another, quieter side to the opening of the new venue. The closing of the old one.

As the new rings in, the old is wrung out. Despite the problems, out-dated amenities and dated appearance of Amway Arena, there is still a value that cannot be glossed over. Especially for those of us who spent many a night in the belly of the beast.

Former colleague and forever friend Jim Abbott, music writer for the Orlando Sentinel, spent much of his career covering concerts at the O-Rena (a vintage moniker that just stuck with the old building despite the name changes). As a burgeoning event photographer in my days at The Sentinel, I covered everything from minor league hockey to big league basketball to, yes, concerts.

I remember watching the Solar Bears – Orlando’s International Hockey League team – both as a fan and as a pass holding member of the media. I covered them for The Sentinel during their 2001 season when they became the last team to with the Turner Cup before the league folded.

I watched from the stands as Shaquille O’Neal played as a rookie in the Orlando Magic lineup, only to find myself – a mere seven years later – at court side, photographing the team in action.

I was there when RUSH took the stage at the grand old venue during their Roll The Bones Tour of 1992. And I photographed the concert event of a lifetime when REM teamed up with Bruce Springsteen , John Fogerty and Tracy Chapman during the Vote For Change Tour of 2004.

They will remain some of the best times I have spent in Orlando, and some of the best assignments I’ve had the pleasure of carrying out.

As those doors close, new ones will open. I have watched the Amway Center slowly emerge through each phase of construction (I pass the site every day on my way to work) and have toured the facility three times as it took shape. It lives up to every boast, and will help make many more fantastic memories.

I will enjoy the new, but I will always cherish the old. Here are just a few of those most cherished.

The 2001 Orlando Solar Bears... VICTORIOUS!

Penny Hardaway... 'member him? Yeah, me neither.

Steven Tyler belts it out at Amway in 2002. One of my favorite concert pics.

Tracy, Michael and Bruce tried to make a Vote For Change in '04. It eventually happened.

Britney in 2004 - pre K Fed. The good 'ol days.

Billie Jo and Green Day rocked the arena in '05. Another favorite.

Neil. 2005. 'Nuff said.

Star Wars In Concert: my last show at the O-Rena. A fitting end.