I went from wondering when Pusha T would ever perform at a location close to Iowa, to learning that every year Minneapolis hosts one of the most incredible Hip Hop festivals known as Soundset. The catch however was only point and shoot cameras were allowed. So I sent an email to a friend who is the head editor at www.djbooth.net (DJ Z) and pleaded for the opportunity to cover the event. At the time I had no idea I would be biting off more than I could chew. As May 28th got closer I assembled an array of instant film, and even rented the 70-200 GM for my trusty Sony A7. The lineup was incredible and featured many newcomers to the industry as well as some top shelf talent from multiple styles with a performance from Lauryn Hill and Travis Scott billed as the headliner.
The Sunday event had me pumped, I left Saturday afternoon so I could locate my hotel that I rented in an effort to avoid departing from Des Moines at 6am and being exhausted from covering an all day event. I checked into my hotel and then walked around downtown Minneapolis with my Instax, I snapped photos of the local building artwork and made my way 3 miles to the Hip Hop store Fifth Element. Once I arrived at the shop, I noticed many customers buying tickets for the festival as well as a variety of apparel and albums. I elected to purchase the only vinyl available of Pusha's most recent release. I then headed back to the hotel and observed where the before party for the festival was being held (First Avenue).
I washed up and rolled through the venue and was given a photo pass. DJ's spun songs as the venue became packed. I elected for a few overpriced beers because I was eager to be surrounded by so many individuals who enjoy hip hop and curious as to who the special guests would be. The event got underway and performances from various local artists occurred. At this point I had already placed my protective ear plugs in however the delivery of each individual seemed impeccable and smooth, the cadence and breathing patterns were as if each one of them had been in the industry for a decade at least. It was inspiring to see such young talent able to move such a large crowd. The hosts held it down and didn't let the party simmer. Then a familiar face graced the stage, he goes by the moniker of Modsun and 2 weeks earlier I wouldn't have known anything about him. Hailing from Bloomington, Minnesota his tattoos and overall flair make him hard to miss. He managed to get the entire crowd moving with his eccentric stage presence, from drop kicks to telling everyone that he would be giving a pound of weed away at the festival, he really had me eager to see if such a claim would come true. Once Mod left the stage the venue slowly cleared and I made my way back to the hotel.
<This is where I slept, despite being more excited than a six year old on Christmas Eve>
I didn't set an alarm, I figured the first chance my eyes had to open, they wouldn't let me go back to sleep. Slightly hungover I packed up the remaining charged batteries and got everything packed. I realized the possibility of having Pusha sign the vinyl was slim so I placed it with my clothes from the previous day and headed to pay my $40 parking ramp fee and head to the State Fairgrounds for my first experience of Soundset. I've attended and shot rap concerts but never have I attended a festival, so the for the next two hours I was the child in a candy store without adult supervision. I arrived at 10 am, went to the check in window, received my VIP & Photo wristbands and then mingled with some of the local photographers. I was surprised to see so many shooting Sony and the number I noticed throughout the day continued to grow. We ended up getting in the VIP line which was 1/10th the length of the general admission line. After a thorough inspection by gate security of my camera bag and declaring film pack after film pack and my phone setting off the metal detector, I was finally in the gates. No more than 3 minutes upon entering the facility, the smell of marijuana began to linger and it remained for the remainder of the event. At times passing through the crowd fellow hip hop heads would offer me their poorly wrapped joint asking if I wanted to take a hit. I had one job, and that was to take stunning imagery, again I don't smoke pot, so I smiled and declined time after time.
DJ's started to spin at the individual stages, skateboards were thrashing the ramps as festival goers watched from bleachers, and every type of low rider you could imagine was present at the car show included in the festival. If you're still reading this I did manage to get photos!
I made my way to the two main stages which were placed next to each other as festival attendants slowly made their way to the area. In fear of never getting food, I quickly grabbed a quesadilla which was $7 or 7 of the 20 tickets I initially purchased. I consumed some of the water of the 1 allowed water bottle and then proceeded to the main stage to assess where the photo pit access was. From there I managed to shoot a variety of acts, break the A7 (After T.I. performed I tripped over an individual laying down on a towel...as a result my viewfinder ceased to function and I couldn't fix my LCD screen, towards the end of Gucci's performance I figured the issue, and as a result achieved nearly 0 photos of Gucci. I do however have about 50 of the ground and his jeans as I worked to render a quick solution) I struggled shooting via the LCD screen against the sun glare the remainder of the evening which ended up just being the set of Lauryn Hill as I wasn't allowed to shoot Travis Scott as he basically caused attendees to riot (as usual) and heavy rain started. As I proceeded to my vehicle for some reason the rented 70-200 dismounted and smashed into the ground. So as if being frustrated wasn't already enough I just smashed a lens that fortunately I picked up insurance on. If you're still reading this congratulations here are some photos of my first festival experience!
Shouts out to DJ Z & DJ BOOTH www.djbooth.net
Modsun and Mgmt @modsun
The countless photographers who helped pass the time
The random moron who I tripped over and ruined my pride and joy
My local camera store Christian Photo for having an A7ii available to get me through the remainder of the season.
Every individual who has helped fuel my passion and continued to help this not be a hobby but a way of life.
This is me continuing to do what I love, and if Soundset comes back for an 11th year, I'll make sure to be there and make up for missing so many amazing artists. (In my defense the stage for up and coming artists was beyond out of the way and mainstage acts didn't show (lil uzi vert, or were hours late).
Until next time