Kanye West mid-jump at Bonnaroo. Photo by Michael James Murray.

There was a lot of talk surrounding Kanye West’s Bonnaroo 2014 performance. One piece I contributed to for Noisey went viral and angry anti-Kanye folks turned the meme of Kanye being a gay fish on the writer himself.

I can only speak from the photo pit experience honestly. I met the other photographers and the Big Hassle escorts 30 minutes before the show in the press area. Then 15 minutes before we were about to go, I got word from one of the publicists that Kanye’s mgmt changed up where we would be shooting from. I had photographed Jannelle Monae at the same stage earlier in the day and scoped out where I could potentially be standing for Kanye later that night. But sure enough, giving the ongoing vendetta it seems Kanye has with the media, they put us back at the fucking soundboard roughly 150 yards away. So, basically, if you didn’t have a 400mm lens there was no chance of you getting a decent close up of the chained-faced Yeezus. That was just in theory however, because even with the 400mm lens, and the whole bloody 2 songs that we were allowed to shoot, he was soaked in red backlight, pissing every photographer off for not being able to get any shot but one of the varied red silhouettes. So, as we were leaving the pit and getting closer to stage I made some of the other frames on the fly.

But, it still felt like we were walking onto sacred ground as they escorted the 10 or so photographers approved to shoot the set. They gave everyone piece of neon green tape and stuck them on our shirts to be easily recognized by security. I’m not sure it helped too much. We crossed bridges, got stopped by different security personal at least 4 times, all the while being led by the Bonnaroo ring leader Ken Weinstein from Big Hassle. 

As I mentioned, the frames I made during the first two songs were drenched in red, silhouetted backlight. 

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So, this crazy thing happened at Newport Folk: Jack White broke down in tears. TEARS. REAL. EMOTION. I’m not teasing the Third Man prez and former White Stripe; I was legitimately dumbfounded that the notoriously guarded rocker was opening up to the crowd the way he was while conducting a sing-along tribute to Pete Seeger with “Goodnight, Irene.” It got me thinking about how the Jack White I’d seen at Governors Ball and Bonnaroo earlier this season wouldn’t have stopped shouting or launching into weird rants long enough to pull off such a beautiful moment, and how Newport Folk really, truly cultivates this experience and obliterates any sense of celebrity and inaccessibility between its audience and its talent. I went long on this for Esquire, dissecting the pros and cons of the mega-festival industry and why Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc. can learn a thing or two from the folk at Fort Adams.