Not just any contest, but a contest judged by Soundgarden.
Take a moment to let that register, as daily I still have a hard time believing it.
One more time. I won a contest, judged by Soundgarden!
Earlier this year a friend of mine brought to my attention that Soundgarden were holding a contest that would allow multiple photographers the chance to win a fantastic prize. Seemed simple enough. All you had to do was enter your best live shot.
The prize? An exclusive photo pass to one date of the 2013 North American tour and the photos would also be featured in a gallery on the Soundgarden Facebook page.
To be honest, I debated entering. I figured hundreds of people would enter and that my chances were super slim. Well, two days before the deadline, I decided I would go for it. I knew exactly which photo I would use but had to scramble to read the rules so that I wouldn’t jeopardize my entry. I triple checked everything then submitted.
I received my confirmation email. Now all I had to do was wait. Voting started the very next day and would last for a week. Voting was another part of the contest. The photos with the highest number of votes (from friends, family, strangers, etc.) would be taken into consideration when picking the final winners, but ultimately, it was Soundgarden’s decision, and not exclusively on the number of votes.
I’m not going to lie, for about three days straight, I pimped the heck out of the link to vote for my photo and asked my friends to do the same. Slowly but surely I started racking up votes. Cool! This was fun. After a couple days, I was in the Top 50. After about the third or fourth day I had slipped out of the Top 50. By the time the contest ended, I was no where near the Top 50 but I had just over 100 votes. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
The winners were supposed to be notified on January 21, but that didn’t happen. January 22 came and went and there was still no update. I was getting anxious. Nothing like a little torture to add to your nervousness, right? The morning of January 23 I checked again and still nothing. For the majority of the day, I wouldn’t have access to the internet. That is what I found ironic. At some point that afternoon, my friend texted me. I didn’t get the message right away, but once I did, I was in shock. Immediately my hands started shaking as I tried to access email via my phone. Guess what? Email was down. GAH! After a couple hours, I eventually left my current location and kept trying to check email. Still no luck. I kept driving and once I arrived at my next location I checked again. HALLELUJAH! Email was back up!
There it was.
“Congratulations, you have been selected as Runner Up for the Soundgarden Creative Invite on Talenthouse. As a Runner Up, you will receive:
An exclusive photography pass for one date of the Soundgarden tour. Each winner will also have their photographs from the live performance featured in a gallery on the band’s Facebook page.”
WHAT?! (pause) WHAT?!?! (pause) WHAAAT?!?!?!
MY PHOTO had been selected, BY SOUNDGARDEN, from the hundreds of entries?
Needless to say, my excitement level was through the roof! I could not stop smiling. I was on Cloud 9.
As if to stay calm, I tried to shrug it off casually like, “Oh hey, by the way, I just won a contest to shoot Soundgarden. No big deal…they’re only the biggest band I will have ever shot. NO. BIG. DEAL.”
I quickly notified a couple people and then carried on with my evening. I had no choice but to wait to let the rest of the world know I had won. Once I had that chance though, boy did I let everyone know!
Hey, you’d be excited too!
When I entered the contest, I chose the February 1 date at the Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI. I had been to this venue plenty of times before, but that night was unlike any other experience I’d had before.
A few days prior, at the Soundgarden show in Chicago, I had never paid so much attention to lighting as I did during those first three songs. I hoped and prayed for the best possible lighting at the Milwaukee show. I also was hoping Jesus Christ Pose would be within the first three songs so I could capture Chris’ outstretched arms. It’s such a powerful pose and I wanted it. As the set list was taped to the stage, I looked. Nope. It was in the #4 slot. But hey, at least they were still going to play it!
I Shot Soundgarden.
I took my first photo at 8:31 p.m. and my last photo at 8:44 p.m. That was THE FASTEST 13 minutes of my life! Not that the songs were short, but time just flew by. During the opening song, Been Away Too Long, about half way through I thought to myself, I still have plenty of time. I don’t even remember their second song of the night, My Wave. I was in my own zone. I do remember thinking, that I could shoot only Chris if I wanted. Of course, I didn’t and continued to take photos of everyone. By the time they started the third song of the night, Worse Dreams, I couldn’t believe how fast the time was going. I only had one more song and I was done. I made the best of it and continued to shoot as much as I could.
Since I knew what song was next, I quickly left the photo pit and raced to get to a decent spot on the floor. I thought, maybe I could take one long shot of Chris with his arms outstretched. I somehow made my way back to the soundboard before he even sang the first word of Jesus Christ Pose. Did I mention this show was also sold out? The quick pace during the beginning of the song was my soundtrack as I weaved through the crowd mouthing “excuse me.” However, once by the soundboard, my view wasn’t the greatest. Chris also held onto his guitar as he stretched out both arms. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but at that point, I decided to just enjoy the moment and stop worrying about trying to capture his famous pose.
Once the song was over, I found a better spot on the floor so I wouldn’t have to look around so many tall people. As the night carried on, everyone, including myself, were having a blast. Same as the Chicago crowd, all eyes were on the stage as they were either singing along, rockin’ out, jumping around, moshing, you name it. Soundgarden had everyone’s undivided attention!
Chris thanked the Milwaukee crowd and asked how everyone was doing. The cheers were enormous. He mentioned how great it was to be there and told everyone that it was good to hear them so alive and lively. Not surprising since Milwaukee crowds are known for their energy. Same as Chicago, Chris mentioned they’d do a lot of new songs and old songs. I should mention, of the first 10 songs played, 7 of them were from King Animal. After playing By Crooked Steps, Chris told the crowd that it was because of them that they were still out there doing this and that they would continue doing this as long as everyone was there to see them. As he thanked everyone for all their support all this time, there were lots of crowd cheers and whistles. As they launched into Outshined, people were going crazy. You’ve got to love an energetic crowd. For me, it was exciting to hear Taree and Rowing from King Animal since those were not played the first night in Chicago. Chris mentioned that Rowing was about getting by, doing whatever you had to do to move forward. Even if you don’t want to, you have to. This was amazing live. So big and powerful sounding, I could listen to that song over and over.
They weren’t even halfway through their 27 song set list, when they took us way back to songs from Louder Than Love. I love a band that doesn’t forget about their past. They dug up, Get On the Snake, Loud Love and Ugly Truth, which included a little intro drum solo from Matt not to mention a creepy eyeball watching us all on the video screen behind the band. During Ugly Truth, I noticed Chris had on a white T-shirt with the words Hunted Down on the front. He ended up wearing it during several songs. Pretty cool.
They continued with crowd favorites Blow Up the Outside World and Fell on Black Days before Chris, sans guitar, launched into Drawing Flies. Chris then dedicated Hunted Down to the nice gentleman that made him the shirt. Once again, he called out that it was from an EP they did with Sub Pop records, called Screaming for Life. When the song was over, Chris and Matt were crouched down at the edge of the stage. From where I was I couldn’t tell what was going on, but found out after the show, they had both signed the Hunted Down shirt and gave it back to the fan. Pretty darn cool!
I was surprised to hear Live to Rise from the Avengers soundtrack but it sounded great. Hearing Tighter and Tighter for the second time during that week was also a nice bonus. I think the band is having as much fun playing some of these older songs as the fans are hearing them. They closed out their main set with three amazing tracks. Hands All Over with its haunting vocals, heavy bass line and super tasty guitar licks. Bones of Birds, another new song, which sounded fantastic live and included a few segments of guitar notes similar to bird calls. Finally, they closed with Rusty Cage. Once again, if you were open to it, the music of Soundgarden really took you somewhere.
However, the night wasn’t over yet. Oh no. There was a four song encore headed our way and they were taking us out with a bang. They chose to end the night with two from Superunknown and two from Ultramega OK.
Once back on stage, there were band introductions and then the opening notes to Black Hole Sun, which had the loudest crowd participation of the night. This lead into Let Me Drown, where once again Ben’s bass was very prominent and thunderous. Chris thanked everyone for coming out and mentioned they planned to come back many more times. They closed out the night by taking a giant step back to 1988. That’s 25 years ago people. Flower felt just as current as if it was written in 2013 while Beyond the Wheel, with its extremely high vocals and slow sludgy pace, had such a thick menacing tone. At the end of the song, Chris yelled, “SEE YOU SOON MILWAUKEE! GOOD NIGHT!” The music carried on for a little bit longer, sounding quite animalistic, before the last note was finally silenced.
After the show was over, my immediate thought was how fantastic the night had been. Not only musically but the fact that they played half of King Animal, not to mention 10 different songs from what I saw in Chicago. Not many bands change up their set lists any more, so for me, I was very appreciative of the variety. Exploring your back catalog as well as celebrating your present is the best gift a band could give their fans. Speaking of, Soundgarden recently announced another round of dates. If you’ve Been Away Too Long, I suggest you get yourself to one of those shows to be part of the Soundgarden experience.