By Wesley Juhl
I’ve never covered a concert before, so covering the Concert for Valor, an HBO Veterans Day special show Tuesday on the National Mall was an amazing experience.
Hundreds of thousands of people from the District and surrounding areas came to the free show. I was standing guard over my VIP seat in the bleachers, about a football field’s length from the stage.
For one, the weather was more beautiful than it’s been in weeks. Second, the show had an amazing lineup: the Black Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Rihanna, Eminem and more.
I chose a seat toward the top of the bleachers where I had a good bead on the stage to shoot pictures of the show. I claimed the seat directly in front of me as well to preserve some legroom and have space to work. I quickly found the other people around me were also journalists who were turned down for backstage press passes. The college-radio journalists and freelancers quickly did the same thing, but no extra space would be given to any of us.
It seemed more VIP tickets had been given out than there were actually seats for. My island of misfit journalists stood elbow to elbow and sat cheek to cheek as we learned that there was no cellphone service. Those of us hoping to tweet or send out live updates or photos were out of luck.
As the other reporters settled in to wait to watch the show, I jealously guarded my spot. And as the other reporters sat and watched the show, I shot thousands and thousands of pictures of the show.
Most of them came out blurry. I wasn’t quite close enough, the performers wouldn’t stand still and the lighting was chaotic.
But I got some good ones.
Jessie J, performing her hit “Bang” and a cover of “Titanium,” sang wonderfully and was easily the easiest to photograph of the night. She harmonized with Jennifer Hudson like it was child’s play and knew how to cheat out toward the crowd and find her light.
Metallica, who performed some the band’s most iconic tracks, was hard to shoot, just because I thought my face was going to melt from all of their epic guitar licks.
But the hardest to shoot was Eminem, who did that fun song from his movie “8 Mile” and never once stood still. He wore a baseball cap and a hood, which made getting any good shots of him near impossible from where I stood.
HBO put on a great show, and the ocean of Washingtonians in attendance made it an incredible night.
I’ve never aspired to be an arts-and-entertainment reporter, but I had a blast and it was a wonderful celebration of an important U.S. holiday. And shooting the event was like a photography gauntlet, and I definitely learned from the mistakes that I made.
Covering the Concert for Valor made me think that perhaps entertainment reporters have it the worst, because they always have to work while everyone else is having fun.