From the Pit to the Crowd: The Goo Goo Dolls with Rachel Platten, Colbie Collait, and Blue October

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On Wednesday, December 7th, the All I Want for Christmas show was being hosted at House of Blues in Orlando, FL starring The Goo Goo Dolls. I was very excited for this show. I grew up listening to the Goo Goo Dolls so getting the chance to see them live, let alone photograph them, was a dream coming true. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was running behind schedule. I already had my gear gathered, so I finished eating quick, grabbed my stuff and ran out the door by 6:30 PM.

I ended up getting to the box office around 7:30 PM and gathered my photo credentials and ticket. It took longer to get through security since I had my gear and they check photo bags carefully. I made my way inside and was stunned by the amount of people there. I was here back on November 4th for The Pretty Reckless and that show wasn’t as crowded as it was this night. I was literally elbow to elbow with people as I made my way over to the entrance of the photo pit. This was an all ages show as I noticed children as probably young as 5 to teenagers in the crowd as well. I got to the pit right as the first band, Walking on Cars, just finished their 3rd song. So, no photos of them for me.

James was just stepping out of the pit so I caught up with him and thanked him for checking on the pass for me. I’ve noticed that sometimes other photographers at an event view me as competition since we’re all taking photos of the same bands for different media outlets. I’ve never looked at any of them that way and truly enjoy the friendships I’ve made in the pit. James is one of them, who I met at The Pretty Reckless show. Walking on Cars had a short set and the stagehands started setting up for the next act. I could tell our gaps in photographing wouldn’t be very long.

The show was hosted by Mix 105.1 a local radio station that focuses primarily on pop music. The Morning Mix DJs, Dana Taylor, Jay Edwards, and Adam Alexander came out to introduce the acts. Right before the DJs went on stage, security let us into the pit. Next up was the band Blue October. Another band I’ve feel like I’ve known forever as they started back in 1995. Though, it was an acoustic version of Blue October, which only included Justin Furstenfeld (guitarist/lead vocals), Ryan Delahoussaye (pianist/violinist), and Matthew Ostrander (guitarist). As soon as they hit the stage, they received an good round of applause and cheers, mostly from the adults as the kids there were too young to truly know them. Justin was very friendly to the crowd waving to the crowd and the photographers in the pit and all smiles.

They started off with “Calling You”, their first single of the History for Sale album. It’s a nice song in it’s full version. Stripped down to acoustic made it even more compelling. Justin’s vocals are very powerful and still sound as good during their recording period. They followed up with one of their most well known songs, “Into the Ocean”, which went platinum, as did the album, Foiled.

I loved the lighting for this set. The House of Blues mixed up a number of reds and blues and some blues and whites. My settings were probably higher than they needed to be for photographing them with this lighting. When they had the blues and whites going, I noticed how they fell behind and through Matt. I never like shooting into lights, but this set up I couldn’t resist and the photo I captured (see the gallery below), I think was amazing and one of my favorites from this set.

Their third song, “Hate Me”, is by far one of their most recognizable songs (also off Foiled and another single that went platinum). The band slowed it down from the original and Justin truly poured his heart into the performance, which ran chills over my skin. To me, it was the best song they performed that night. It was great to have been able to photograph them from the pit for that song. After I left the pit, I stood off to the side enjoying the rest of their set. A true pleasure to be able to see them live.

As we waited for the next performer, I had the chance to meet the photographer for Mix 105.1. I was actually surprised to learn some things (which I can’t reveal here, sorry!) on how local radio stations work with performers touring through Orlando. I always enjoy speaking to other photographers and their styles because we all see things differently. His style was definitely different than my own for pictures and we both got to enjoy viewing the shots we’ve captured so far.

The Morning Mix hosts then introduced the next performer, a Grammy Award winner, Colbie Caillat. She came out to thunderous applause. Considering she’s had over 6 million records sold worldwide, I wasn’t surprised by the crowd’s greeting. She too was doing an acoustic set and played guitar along with another male guitarist. She started off the set with “Bubbly”. Even though pop isn’t my taste in music, even I recognized this song along with the crowd. They started singing along as soon as she got to the chorus. After she introduced her companion, Justin Young, who she said is her fiancé. This had the crowd respond with an “Awwww”.

Once again the lighting was great with mostly blues and whites. She primarily stood at the mic stand either playing guitar or just singing. Justin sat on a stool playing guitar supporting Colbie. Numerous times she looked over to the photographers during her performance allowing us to get some very nice shots of her. Though, I noticed I dropped my settings a bit lower than I should causing some of my shots to look hazy. I had to do some additional editing to clean them up.

After her third song, I left the pit to review our pictures and watch the rest of the show. The crowd, especially the kids, were very excited for her performance. Colbie finished her set to another huge round of applause and cheers. The House of Blues crew started working on the setup for the next performer.

Once again the Morning Mix DJs came out to introduce the next performer, a well known performer, especially played often on 105.1, Rachel Platten. She came on stage with even more cheers than Colbie, mostly from the kids. Her set was a mix of acoustic guitars and keyboards. She started off with a popular single “Stand by You”.

Her set had a mix of blues and reds or greens and whites. She mostly sat behind the keyboards for her performances. During her second song she got up and walked around a bit. She was walking close to the edge of the stage and realized she was wearing a skirt. Remember, this pit is about 6 feet deep. So I was tracking her across the stage to get shots if she got too close, security would probably think I was trying to take pictures up her skirt! I made sure to put my camera down and move to the other side before I started photographing again.

Her third song was beyond unexpected. She went back behind the keyboard saying she hoped to do the song justice, which meant it was a cover of someone’s song. And she suddenly looked around and then mentioned for the young children to cover their ears, which had me really confused. She then went into her rendition of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. This song was definitely not children appropriate, but Rachel ensured she left out the inappropriate words. She did get up to get the crowd to sing the chorus, acting like a composer. For an artist like her, it was definitely different, and enjoyable as she smiled and laughed the whole way through it.

After lots of laughter and applause I left the pit to review the pictures and listen to the rest of her show. No surprise to the crowd, she ended her set with her most popular single, “Fight Song”. The entire audience was singing along with her word for word. It was a cool experience to witness. She went off stage to even more cheers and applause as the crew set up for the final performers, The Goo Goo Dolls.

I was anxious with anticipation waiting by the pit for security to let us in. When they let us in, I nearly ran down to the center, setting up my camera for the final performance. The Mix Morning DJs came out one last time to introduce The Goo Goo Dolls. When they walked out on stage the crowd was louder than they were all night. They were set up for a full rock electric performance, no acoustic for this act, which was OK with me. They started off with “Slide” from their album Dizzy Up The Girl. Their performance was better than I expected and they sounded as good as they started back in 1986.

The lighting for this set is exactly as I figure it would be. A lot of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and a little bit of white. I went out of my way for this show and rented a 70-200mm lens from Canon. It’s a great zoom lens that allowed me to get some nice up close shots of the artists throughout the night. And using it for the Goo Goo Dolls made it worth every penny I paid. I was quite pleased with the pictures I shot of them.

Three songs came way too fast and I was saying goodbye to the pit for the night. After a quick review of the photos, James and I made our way down a walkway to watch the rest of the show. It’s these moments where I go back into fan mode and can sit back and enjoy the rest of the performance. Some of their other songs they performed included “Black Balloon”, “So Alive”, “Sympathy”, and of course, their most well known success song, “Iris”. Overall, it was a fantastic performance from a band that appears to be ageless and timeless.

Though these had acts I normally would never see, I’m glad I got the opportunity to see all of the acts I did. It was a once in a lifetime and very enjoyable experience.