Sometimes luck is the way it happens. When people ask me how I get to shoot some of the things I do, there are a couple answers to this question. The first is luck—aka being at the right place at the right time. The second is the fact that I do kinda know what I’m doing. The third is hustle—be fearless. And last but not least…. It’s all really about who you know.
When I was in my early 20’s, I lived in an apartment with a hip hop clothing storefront below called The Layup. It was owned by this amazingly cute, smart, and kind guy named Keith and his buddy, Jon. They sold Fresh Jive and Triple 5 soul clothes and other cool stuff right off of South Street in Philadelphia. Over the course of 3 years or so, Keith and I became friends.
He also knew a couple of my friends from Creative and Performing Arts High School—Tariq and Ahmir, aka Questlove and Black Thought. They were in a group called The Square Roots, which a few years later would become The Roots. They used to jam on the street in front of the store/my apartment for hours. I adored these guys, and while Keith and I lost touch after I moved to Boston, Ahmir and I remained in touch while I lived in LA. Then we lost touch until Facebook. Same with Keith. (That is why I do love social media. Staying in touch with them now that they are super big time is great thanks to Facebook. I mean, being the house band for The Tonight Show must be any musician’s dream job. Anyway … on to the show.)
A couple weeks ago, The Roots came to town to play at the House of Blues in Boston. I haven’t seen Keith since, God … like FOREVER. And there was no way I wasn’t going to see him this trip. Keith has been working with the Roots since the beginning. Those guys are loyal to the core when it comes to their Philly Peeps, and Keith is the man that pretty much takes care of everything. So when I asked him if he was going to be in Boston and he said yes, I hauled ass downtown to give my old friend a huge hug. He hooked me up with a ticket for the show, and that was that. When I left my house, I thought, “You know, if I don’t bring some gear and lose the chance to shoot them live, I will just curl up and die. But I don’t want to assume, so I’ll just bring one body and a couple lenses. I’ll just keep them in the car.”
The show started, and about 5 minutes in, I texted Keith and said, “Holy crap, the lighting is amazing, I would kill to shoot this.”
His response? “Well, do you have your gear? Go get it!”
I freaked the hell out and ran to the car. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. He gave me an all-access pass, and I was the only photographer there, other than their social media staff video dude. (Who was so stylish and smelled amazing!) I had full access and even got to shoot onstage. I was even able to photograph the brilliant Bilal as well. He made a surprise appearance that night and BLEW MY MIND!
I LOVE capturing live music. I think I was born to shoot it. It doesn’t pay much, but this show was not about the money. It was about a collaboration that I had in my mind as they worked their asses off. If you ever get a chance to see The Roots live … RUN RUN RUN. It was hands down one of the best shows I have seen … probably ever. Now, how do I get to shoot the Roots Picnic back in my hometown of Philly?? Tariq? Ahmir? Keith … I’m all yours!