Finally coming home from the Budapest gig at 03:00 a.m. Still loaded with adrenaline I had to force myself to get some rest before heading off to the next Kaiser Franz Josef and Billy Idol show taking place at Tollwood Festival in Munich. My mind had no time to process all the intense impressions that I experienced just the other day and after only three hours of sleep my alarm clock rang punctually at 06:00 a.m. I had two cups of coffee before I took my bag, stepped into my car and hit the road again. Fortunately, traffic was smooth all along the way and I made it to Munich in about five hours taking some stops into account.
Where is that damn stage?
I parked my car in one of the lots right next to Olympiapark which is located in the north of the Bavarian state capitol. If you have been there you surely know the incredible dimensions of the area and I had absolutely no idea where exactly the show was about to take place. Talking numbers, the park is about 210 acres – that’s 85 hectares and you can’t just go around in there by car. Nothing was indicating that a rock show would be going on that evening. So, I called up the guys of Kaiser Franz Josef, who were still rollin’ on the freeway and asked them if somebody could send me the exact location. Pete was just telling me they would arrive in about two hours but none of them had the slightest clue where the stage was.
Hiking through Olympiapark
Anyway, I took all my stuff, went for a walk and tried to find out myself. Hiking through the beautiful park on a warm summer day was also a good opportunity to calm down and relax from all the recent happenings. Stretching my feet and being surrounded by a natural environment after sitting in the car for the last couple of hours was a welcomed change. Catching a fresh breeze, walking under the shadows of beautiful trees while listening to birdsongs was a good substitution for the sleep I barely got the other night. About half an hour later I finally found a signpost leading me to the Tollwood Festival area where I got my accreditation and backstage pass. I started editing the pictures I’ve taken in Budapest and enjoyed a cold Paulaner while doing so as there was plenty of time left until the band would arrive.
Checking the location
When Kaiser Franz Josef finally arrived in the early afternoon I showed them the way to the backstage facilities which were pretty stunning that day. The catering and bar were set up in a lovely tent with colorful ambient lights that added a relaxing vibe to the entire place. The individual dressing rooms shared a common outdoor space with a large dining table next to a small fountain. I felt like sitting in some sort of zen garden. All throughout our stay the service staff was very attentive, friendly and helpful – always up for a good joke too. Looking back now, this was definitely the most comfortable backstage experience of the entire tour in my opinion.
10,000 people indoor show – hell yes!
Next thing on the list was to check out the concert venue. First off, the promoters really stuck to their concept because the stage, just like the artist area, was also set up in a tent – a much bigger one of course like they use them for a circus. It could easily fit about 8.000 standing people and had a tribune with another 2.000 seats at the opposite end of the stage. I’m terrible with scale and numbers but since the show was sold out, I bet we broke the 10k audience mark that night. I also loved the fact that this was going to be an indoor show. With no natural light shining on the stage, it was an entirely different shooting situation I had to deal with compared to the open air show in Budapest just the other day.
A thrill of anticipation
When Kaiser Franz Josef were summoned to do the soundcheck I used the time to find the right exposure settings for the environment. Since it was very dark I consistently used the largest available aperture of f/4.0 on my Canon EF 24-105mm lens. In order to get a shutter speed capable of freezing fast movements I had to shoot with high ISO settings between 3200 to 4000. I knew this might add some noise to my shots but nothing a decent full frame sensor like in the Canon EOS 5D MkIII couldn’t handle. Noise reduction in Lightroom also works pretty well and in a worst case scenario I would just convert certain images to black and white. In a monochrome color space noise will turn into sort of a grain effect just like on analog film that adds a cool vibe especially to rock photographs. I’m rather pragmatic on that matter as you see.
During the check I got a glimpse at the light show which was amazingly colorful and very professionally designed. With no daylight interfering the test shots already turned out to my entire satisfaction. As I also did the other day, I checked out the best spots, how and where to move around the stage and I couldn’t wait to catch the splendid atmosphere later on during showtime. Last thing worth mentioning is that I mostly use spot metering when shooting concerts. This ensures that the performing musician you set your autofocus point on is correctly exposed. Using matrix metering is going to overexpose the subject as the light meter is calculating the exposure taking the mostly black backgrounds into account. You definitely want to avoid this.
Showtime for Kaiser Franz Josef
The show started and literally everybody in that tent went crazy when the opening chord rang. The band was on fire, the crowd was hot and I constantly went around the stage to capture the intense mood in there. I was well prepared thanks to the soundcheck test shots and didn’t encounter any problems from a photographic point of view. One thing that was causing me a little trouble though was the high temperature in that tent. Filled up with about 10,000 people and an uncountable number of stage lights in the hottest month of summer it was no easy workplace.
I was drained in sweat right from the beginning and my left viewfinder eye was constantly tearing as I was trying to keep it open. My hands got sweaty and right in that moment I was really glad that I had my trusty Peak Design Clutch and Slide camera strap mounted to my camera body providing me with a safe grip in this situation.