How I Shot Photos Backstage at Outside Lands Music Festival
Pictured: Sheck Wes Shot by: Ryan Yee Location: Twin Peaks Stage, Outside Lands 2019
Brought on to take photos of Leven Kali's set at OSL 2019. Used access to capture behind the scenes content of-one-of the most prolific music festivals in the industry.
The Moon (Sol W., Cam J., Trey M.)
Palm Studios Team
Matt W. (Tour Manager), Drake H., Kailah K. B. Smith)
August 9-11, 2019
i sent a dm, and it showed me the importance of networking.
The same time I found out I was accepted to Cornell, I also found out the first-year spring-admit program existed. If you are unfamiliar, FYSA's, as we called ourselves, are given the ultimatum to either start school in the Spring or decline their invitation for that year. This meant, if I wanted to go to Cornell, I would have an entire semester to basically do whatever I pleased. I wanted to go to Cornell, so I decided it would be worth while to take transferable general education classes at a local community college, while also working on a side project. This turned out to be the commercial my friend Dominic shot for the energy tea brand Guayakí Yerba Mate.
While working on a brief for the commercial, Dominic was on the aux and played Thursday by Leven Kali. My head popped up after hearing the smooth flow of his lyrics and voice, and I asked Dominic who the artist was. While vibin' out to Thursday, I followed Leven on Instagram and then got back to working on the brief.
The next day, I woke up to a post in my feed from Leven where he was promoting a show at the The UC Theatre in Berkeley, CA, which happens to be relatively close to where Dominic and I live. That being the case, I shot Leven a dm over Instagram explaining concisely who I was, and how I wanted to help by shooting photos of the show. Leven replied within the hour explaining that his usual photographer was out of town, and how it was actually perfect that I was reaching out. This is how I shot my second concert. (Link: How I shot my first concert)
let's keep in touch!
After a successful concert, I packed up my equipment, grabbed contact info, and said good-bye. I was headed off to college in two weeks (mid-January) and it wouldn't be until mid August we would cross paths again. I took the time to stay updated on Leven's latest projects and provide any support to his team that I could. I was finally able to link up with Drake while interning in LA for a talent agency within their music department. At the time, Drake was at UMG (Universal Music Group), but has since moved to Interscope Records. After a great lunch in Beverly Hills, I mentioned that I would be at Outside Lands and that I'd love to link up with him and Leven's team. The rest is history.
Day of Show
Sunday, August 11th 2019
The day started meeting by a back entrance to the Twin Peaks Stage. Leven's trailer was located behind the stage as that was where he would be performing. The artist trailers are grouped together with a space in the middle to congregate. Leven's trailer was accompanied by Denzel Curry, Sheck Wes, and Bebe Rexha's trailers and I had the chance to meet their teams. After a sound check and stage prep, we went backstage and hung out until it was showtime.
Leven absolutely killed it and the show experience was one that I will never forget. I am incredibly thankful for Leven and his team for welcoming me with open arms and providing me with a priceless experience I will never forget.
In order to get backstage and shoot the show, I was given a Bison Pass. A Bison Pass is an exclusive pass that is given to select individuals, usually artists and their teams, which gives them all access to Outside Lands. Virtually everywhere was on-limits: artists lounge, backstage, crowd, front-of-house, VIP, etc. After Leven's set, I spend some time hanging out in the artist lounge and editing my selects from the shoot. After transferring the photos to Leven's team, I roamed the park, met up with friends, and tested out how far I could get with my new pass. I decided to take photos side-stage for rapper Sheck Wes which turned out amazing, in my opinion.
everything good must come to an end.
Outside Lands 2019 was one I will never forget for many reasons. An amazing line-up, unforgettable experiences, and the best vibes. I ended the night by hanging out in the artist lounge and chatting with a veteran concert/festival photographer named Andrew Jorgensen. Andrew was kind enough to entertain my questions as a novel festival photographer and told me about all the highs and lows of the job. After chatting for a while, I grabbed his contact info, packed up all my gear, and headed out.
See you in 2021 OSL.
Special thanks to Leven Kali, Matt W., Drake H., and Van W.