Red Hot in the Photo Pit…
Stone Temple Pilots and The Red Hot Chili Peppers at The Shoreline
Photos and Story by Clay Butler
Originally published in The Santa Cruz Sentinel
September 17th 2000
I’m sitting on the couch nursing a sore back on a Wednesday afternoon when I get a call from Bob Fenster at the Sentinel.
“Hey clay, I have two tickets and a photo pass for the Chili Pepper’s Show.”
“Wow, that’s great… the only trouble is I pulled my back on Monday am not sure if I’ll be in any condition to shoot the show… it’s this Saturday right?”
“Awww, I’m sure you can get it together for the Chili Peppers.”
“I suppose I’ll have to… can I pick up the tickets tomorrow morning?”
“You bet, Ill leave them at the front desk.”
The Chili Pepper show at the Shoreline was only three nights rest away (when injured I always count nights rest and not days passing).
It’s time to get better, fast. Fortunately, I already had an appointment with the master of pain management, Elisa Livni, at Spring of Health. I arrive at his office.
“So Clay, how goes it today?”
“Not to good, I think I hurt my back more than I had originally thought.”
“So… show me what hurts.”
I point to various spots to my back, describing how it seems to move from one area to the next. Elisha, a licensed acupuncturist, motions me to lie down on the table and starts to press on various reflexology points on my left foot.
“Is this tender?”
“How about this?”
“Yes (gasp) right there!”
“Ahhh, sounds like your liver is talking to you…I have just the spot for that one.”
Eighteen needles and one hour later I feel there is hope for Saturday’s shoot.
Friday morning I break out the camera and begin a routine check of all the equipment. My back is making steady yet slow improvement. Lens… check. Body… check. Auto winder… not working. The auto winder had been giving me grief for some time and apparently chose today to make its final statement. Looks like it’s time to visit the fine folks at The Camera Club. I’m greeted by Richard Jarvis.
“Can I help you?”
“I hope so, my auto winder doesn’t want to cooperate and I can’t define the origin of the problem.”
After a half-hour of trouble-shooting and head scratching punctuated by ‘huuhhh?’…’that’s interesting’… and ‘that doesn’t make any sense’ we came to a satisfactory yet unexplainable conclusion. My auto winder works on other cameras in the store but not mine. Fortunately they have this beautiful but used winder that performs perfectly with my camera, at least for the moment. I need it, but I’m weary of purchasing it just yet.
“Can I rent this, I have an important shoot tomorrow.”
“Hmmm…about twenty bucks”
“If I like it can I have credit for the rental cost applied towards the purchase?”
“Sure, no problem.”
I leave a DNA sample, a pint of blood, and sign over my fist born…you know, in case I don’t come back, and leave basking in the glow of fully operational equipment.
Saturday morning I wake up stiff and sore yet confident that adrenaline and liberal doses of arnica gel and ibuprofen will carry me through. Just to be sure, I take an afternoon nap.
The tickets said the show started at 7:30 PM. We left at 5:50 PM figuring that even with traffic that should be plenty of time.
The Shoreline Amphitheater was built on a dump out in the middle of nowhere off Highway 101. With that much space to work with you would think that the parking would be a model of efficiency. Not so. Hundreds of cars were sent down a single lane dirt road, a cross between Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pirates of the Caribbean and an Elkhorn Slough nature walk, that circled the entire amphitheater only to bring us back to were we started from. We park at 7:25 already frazzled. I do a double check…camera, water bottle, back cushion, anti-histamines, painkillers, earplugs, food and two blankets. I was never one for roughing it but now that I’m in my mid thirties I find my tolerance for discomfort has reached an all time low. I’m a wimp…and I am not ashamed.
Every time I go to show and they tell me that my photo pass can be picked up at will call, I never quite believe it. What if they forget? What if there is a mix-up? Fortunately, I had my tickets already so I knew I was going to at least see the show. At will call they tell me to go over to the main office to get my photo pass. The main office is an interesting place. Once entered you completely forget you’re at a concert. Except for the television broadcasting the bands live and the dry, tweeky, monophonic mixing board sound that is piped through the ceiling speakers which, during the day, probably play some form of muzak there is little to inform you that just outside are 15,000 screaming fans. It was here that we waited for Karri who would escort the photographers to the stage were we would be allowed to shoot for three songs. Afterwards we were to be ushered back to the office to put away our camera equipment. This was repeated for every band.
Stone Temple Pilots were the opening band although it was really more of a double bill.
“Okay, see this crack in the concrete that kind of goes into semicircle… don’t cross that line. If you want to change positions its okay, just do it between songs” Karri informs us. We were lined up about halfway between the stage and the first row seats when suddenly the security announces that they’re taking down the barricade and allowing people to leave their seats. The photographers were to be moved forward to a two-foot wide trough right in front of the stage. Lucky us!
Boom! They hit the lights and Stone Temple Pilots hits the stage. I can’t recall what three songs they played first by I can tell you the theatrics were high and campy and the lighting was bright and white. A photographers dream really. Weiland, the lead singer, pranced and preened, dancing in a style that can be best described as an Egyptian hieroglyph morphed with the Itsy Bitsy Spider from the classic children’s game. Complete with bullhorn, cowboy hat, mascara and mohawk, Weiland didn’t disappoint.
Three songs and three rolls of film later it’s time to head back to the office.
“Okay, we’ll meet here again at 9:10 for the Chili Peppers” Karri informs us.
Exhausted yet anxious to get back to my seat to finish watching the rest of the STP’s set I stop at a restroom to quickly relieve myself. Some women may not know this but men don’t talk to each other in the bathroom. Never. No way. It’s just not done. So basically you have a roomful of men shuffling around trying desperately to stare at anything except each other. Capitalizing on this social phenomenon the good folks at the Shoreline have placed ads on top of every urinal. Ahhhh yes, free market capitalism at its finest. As I’m reluctantly staring at an ad for pants or something I notice out of the corner my eye a guy pulling out his cell phone and beginning to dial… while he is still peeing. If it were scene in the movie it would be hailed as comic genius. In real life though, it’s just depressing. I finish my business and head back to the seats just in time to see STP belting out the first three chords of their debut hit Plush. Weiland, ever restless, decides to give the security guards a run for their money with an impromptu walk through the audience during the first chorus. The band finishes off the song with a surprise guest appearance from Chad of the Chili Peppers on drums. The crowd goes wild, big smiles, big cheers, a classic rock and a moment to remember.
At 9:10 pm we gather again and headed down to the stage. The Peppers were running late so the audience was punished, or rewarded, depending on your point of view with a guest appearance by Julia Butterfly Hill. One would think that someone who spent two years sitting in an ancient redwood would have actually have learned something about them. Peppering here lucid dream come lecture with phrases like ‘trees are old’ and ‘tress are beautiful’ Julia’s shining moment was when she asked everyone who cares about trees to raise there hands and then declared that all who raised their hands were the leaders of tomorrow. The irony of bestowing leadership among people who had just followed your orders was apparently lost on Butterfly. Fortunately we were provided some relief when one of the photographers noticed that the Gina Gershon and Chris Rock were standing off stage next to the sound guy. Gawk, gawk.
The first time I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers was at the 1991 New Years show at the Cow Palace. Opening was the quickly rising Nirvana and a mostly unknown up-and-coming band called Pearl Jam. One year later the lineup would’ve been reversed as ‘grunge’ overcame the music industry and bands like the Chili Peppers slipped out of the spotlight. Back in ’91 you could still see a big show for twenty-five bucks, concert shirts were only twenty, parking was five and a loaf of bread cost just a nickel. Yes sir, those were the days. Nine years later Kirk Cobain is dead, Pearl Jam’s reached mythological proportion and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still headlining.
Again I have no idea what three songs they played first but I can tell you that Flea was more stationary than I had expected and Anthony, the singer, was a photographers nightmare with his double fisted microphone grip and closed eyes. Yes, the Chili Peppers were awesome but I just wanted some good lighting and a non- moving object.
By the time I had returned my camera to the office I was pretty much done for the evening. I casually strolled back to my seat and took a much-needed rest as the soothing melody of “Under the Bridge” calmed my nerves.
As I was relaxing, I started once again to watch the pair of husky middle-aged Silicon Valley types that had been rocking out nonstop through both sets. Complete with air guitar solos, Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts these two men danced the night away in the traditionally awkward, head bobbing, beached whale style that white heterosexual men had been perfecting for centuries. Their wholesome exuberance put a smile on my face and I began collecting my things. We got to the car, the Chili Peppers barely audible in the distant, and embarked on the much-dreaded ‘trail of gears’ caused by the mass exodus of concertgoers. Sitting in traffic once again I started to think. You know, if the Shoreline ever catches fire, is consumed by a cloud of poisonous gas, or perhaps attached by a giant monster during a show, thousands would surely parish. And that, my friend, would be bad. Oh, and I love this new auto winder.