Lotus performing at the Park West in Chicago, Illinois
photo by DeWook
Oh my god. This was so fucked up. I just got the once in a lifetime chance to photograph one of my favorite bands. Two fat shows at the Park West and the snow was coming down. I called my buddy Stan Pszeniczka, who works with Mungion as he was headed to the shows as well and asked how the weather was. He told me It would take him 20 minutes by Uber to get to the venue. I was straight fucked. So far it was two and half hours to Chicago for me from Milwaukee. I wasn’t going to make it. I had to abort.
The band was Lotus. This five-piece electronic jam band that formed in Indiana, now based in Philly. Luke Miller, Jesse Miller, Mike Greenfield, Chuck Morris, and Tim Palmieri. To me at a personal level, Lotus has always been a go to band for when I listen to music in the office. Just love the sound. Also being into techno this was like the perfect medium between electronic and jam band.
A lot of people ask me, how do I get all access pass to work with these bands? To be honest it’s a long process of doing what you say you will do. Making calls, sending emails, and making relationships with marketing people you will never meet. Then there is the product. Shooting, editing, and promoting. Making sure you, the marketing director, and the band management are all on the same page. Hoping after it’s all over, everything comes out perfect.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Like when I first reached out to Lotus in 2020. I was so stoked to work with them. At the Park West in Chicago as well. I knew the venue like the back of my hand. Then it fucking snowed. I was grounded. I reached out to Lotus and explained the weather and they understood. But I still felt empty. I was not living up to my word.
When Lotus announced the mini-Midwest run of Milwaukee then two shows in Chicago in 2022 I reached out to them instantly. I was a tad ahead of the curve, but timing can be a little off. I secured my offer to shoot. I was hoping the pandemic would chill so we could get a few shows in. Just hold off on shutting down! I needed this! The fans needed this! Two days before the shows I got confirmation on all three dates. Lotus and Wook, this was going to rock.
NIGHT ONE - Photo Pass
I always get good parking, ask anyone. I can park in front of the venue. It’s amazing. So, the Pabst Theater was a block away. I went in, got my credentials. Photo pass. Sweet. Inside I suited up my gear and stashed my bag by the merch guy. Lotus always has a lot of merch. Love a band that gives back to the fans. I scoped out the records, I’ll grab one on the way out.
After moving into the theater, I was nervous. It was a light crowd, 130 sold. I counted 50 in the room with the staff. I was scared. I moved to the stage right and waited. Soon after some glitter people came in and I was relieved. The people were filling in. As the band hit the stage, I couldn’t smell cologne anymore. Just weed and people. The fans rushed to the stage, and I went to work. Night one with Lotus was in the books.
NIGHT TWO - VIP Pass
After a crazy night in Milwaukee with Lotus. It was down to the Park West in Chicago Illinois for two nights of madness. I expected parking to be a bitch but it wasn’t. I expected Park West to manhandle my bag, but they didn’t. I bounced between will call and the coat check to find my credentials. Photo pass acquired. I went in, walked to the balcony entrance to suit up and stash my bag. Boom security guard. Balcony closed. I flashed my pass and was denied. I needed the VIP to go upstairs. I needed to find the Lotus manager. Frustration was setting in fast.
After locating the Lotus lighting director who led me to their manager. I was able to score a VIP pass. Thank God. I raced upstairs, got my gear on, and swooped to the front of the stage. My waiting period began till the band started. I scanned the room and noticed a dude with a camera. I thought, uh oh, new guy. Sure, enough he walked right towards me.
He introduced himself as Kevin McGuire. Told me it was his first show shooting ever and was excited about being able to photo a concert. He asked me for any pointers. How to get all access pass and etiquette during a show. The only thing I said was to understand that this isn’t our show. It’s for the fans. They worked all week to be here. This is their release. Take the photos and get out of the way. As for access I said, that will take time. He smiled under his mask, fist pumped me and walked away. I thought to myself, fuck, I wanted to ask him how he got in the room to photo the show. Shit. The lights dimmed and I went to work.
NIGHT THREE - All Access
Late afternoon on day three of the three day run with Lotus I sent an email to my contact with the band. I told them about the hoops from night one and requested an AA pass. It was hit and miss if I would hear back, but since the show is in motion, all involved still have responsibilities. He got back to me and approved my request; I knew night three was going to be special.
Back at the Park West, front and center stage I was watching the room fill up again. People watching with a mask on. Listening to the bullshit. Watching beer get spilled in the middle of the dance floor, before the show yikes. Out of the blue, Kevin McGuire popped up. He mentioned my photos from night one at the Park West. I said thanks and asked him for permission to mention our conversation in this piece. His eyes lit up and he disappeared into the crowd.
Lotus hit the stage for their final performance of a three-show run. I walked the room like a panther and collected the images I needed. Every now and then someone would stop me and say hello, maybe mention the photos from the night before and share their appreciation. That stuff warms my heart. Fuels my fire to keep rocking the room. To keep doing what I love to do.
After it was all over. The photos were edited, posted, and delivered. I was so excited to write this piece for you. To really explain how special this all was for me. I needed to share everything I had seen, spoke, and heard. In small blips for you. This run was perfect. From the fans to the band. Perfect. In the end I was given a second chance on Lotus. Kinda felt like an internship. I was trying out for a photographer position with these fantastic artists. No matter if it snowed again or not, this was one mission I wasn’t going to abort again.
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