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From the Pit to the Crowd: Breaking Benjamin with Wilson

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Sunday, January 15th was a major concert at House of Blues in Orlando. Breaking Benjamin had come back and this time to a sold out crowd. I received a photo credential along with other photographers I knew, so I was looking forward to this show. I made sure I got down there a little earlier as I expected the parking areas to be mobbed. I arrived a little before 7 PM, found a spot in the garage closest to the House of Blues, parked, and headed down to the box office.

I picked up my photo credentials and was surprised that I hadn’t seen any of the other photographers outside. Usually, I’ll run into one of the photographers also picking up their credentials. I headed through security and then inside to the venue. As soon as I stepped inside I knew this would be a crazy evening. The doors had just opened and the floor was literally filled with people shoulder to shoulder.  The bars were even packed with people. I made my way to the photo pit and ran into a photographer friend named Barry. There were already a few other photographers waiting, so we all chatted for a bit as my other photographer friends Jennifer and Troy arrived. Right before we went into the pit, another photographer friend named James stopped by to say hello. We also befriended Keysie, who we hadn’t seen before at the shows. He wasn’t photographing that night, but since he knew so many of us there he wanted to at least say hi. Security allowed us to store our gear by the pit stairs before the first band went on so we wouldn’t have to lug our packs around.

The lights went down and we all went into the pit to get ready for Wilson. The drummer started out hitting his sticks together for a four count and the party started. Wilson played hard loud and they were having fun. Immediately I was taken back to 80s rock where music was party on and off stage. The band from Detroit, Michigan consisting of Chad Nicefield (vocals), Jason Spencer (lead guitar), Kyle Landry (rhythm guitar), James Lascu (bass) and Matt Puhy (drums), had every intention on getting the fans to party with them.

Wilson’s “Give Em Hell” from their album Right to Rise resonated strongly with the fans with Chad’s screaming vocals and a chorus you feel compelled to sing along. “All My Friends” also from Right to Rise hit us hard with bass and guitar chords. I was truly amazed by Chad’s vocal strength and how he pushes his vocals with every song harder and harder. They also played “Satisfy Me” another track from Right to Rise.

Photographing Wilson was a lot of fun. They play around on stage with their smiles, Jason, Kyle, and James, playing together side by side, and Chad using a platform to stand tall above the crowd. The lighting fit them perfectly with varying yellows, reds, blues, and whites. In all honesty, the hardest part of shooting in the pit wasn’t the fact there were 8 of us in there, but the fact there were two fog generators and tubes pointing up on stage. I assumed they were for Breaking Benjamin. So not only were we maneuvering around each other, but also trying to maneuver around two large metal boxes with plugs and wires all over the floor.

After we were done in the pit, we made our way through the crowd and headed upstairs to grab some shots. Since it was so crowded, they informed us as long as there were seats still available we could photograph from there. We all got some great shots of Wilson performing “The Flood” where Chad led the crowd in getting overhead claps in sync before he started singing. It was a great image to capture. Wilson also treated us to a cover of AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, which truly fit this rock and roll band. Overall, I truly enjoyed Wilson’s performance. I really appreciated the fact the band members came out all wearing other band’s t-shirts including one for Steel Panther and Sevendust.

In between the bands I had the chance to catch up with two friends of mine, Sean and Misti, who were attending the show. It’s always fun to chat with them about music as they are probably the two people I know most into the same music I am. Afterwards I headed back to the pit stairs and now found we had even more photographers with us, including Kara (who I met that night) and Chuck (who I met during the New Year’s Eve show). Friendship in the pit, to me, is huge. The last thing I want to do is block anyone’s shot they are trying to get for their media outlet. And I would hope the other photographers felt the same way. I’ve been in pits where photographers don’t care about your shot and it’s not pleasant. Even though all of us would be vying for the same images, we’d take care of each other.

The lights went down and we went down into the pit. And then those infamous first guitar chords of “So Cold” rang out through the venue and the crowd went ballistic. Even I had goose bumps. The band members took the stage on at the time and then they dove into the song.  Benjamin Burnley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Aaron Bruch (bass, backing vocals), and Shaun Foist (drums) were all on point playing through every note.  They followed up with “Angels Falls” and then did something I hadn’t seen them do before. For the third song they came out Keith Wallen as the lead vocalist for “Sooner or Later”. It was a nice mixup you don’t see many bands do.

I’ll be honest, this was probably the most difficult concert photo shoot I’ve had yet. For a good portion of our three songs it was dark with exceptions of their light boxes on stage, beaming out red color onto the band members. Every now and then we had some very white bright lights that shone on them, so we all took advantage as best we could. Then, we were also trying to avoid getting in each others way while moving around those fog machines, that got used during Breaking Benjamin’s set.

After our three songs we all went back upstairs to shoot from our prior spot, but that was a no go. Those seats were filled. Security pointed us to a spot on the staircase where we all tried to get in shots. We couldn’t stay there long because there were too many of us and we were blocking pathways of people moving in and out. Due to a sold out show, there was minimal standing room for me to get any other good shots of the band.

Breaking Benjamin was having fun on stage with Aaron performing the lead vocals for both “Simple Design” and “Believe”. The crowd was loving every minute of it. Benjamin at one point pulled out a red lightsaber, its light glowing on the dark stage, while the band played Star Wars’ “The Imperial March”.  During that time they also played short versions of “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Walk” by Pantera, and “Sad But True” by Metallica. They ended their set with “I Will Not Bow” and encored with “The Diary of Jane”. It was a spectacular performance by Breaking Benjamin.

All in all, it was a great show and a lot of fun to share it with old and new friends. This was a show I wouldn’t forget any time soon.