Nothing equals the excitement and adrenalin rush that comes from shooting a live concert. A record will always pale in comparision. For the photographer, there was the challenge of working under constantly changing conditions. A rock group is always moving on stage not to mention the lights and crowd. To get good results the photographer cannot use flash, as that would destroy the live affect. Back then auto focus was a dream away. You had to focus on a moving singer or guitarist who was never stationary, while watching your light meter at the same time. It was great challenge, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
As far as I am concerned this was the golden era of rock concert photography in Calgary. First, most concerts were held in the Stampede Corral and were usually a festival seating event. You bought a ticket but it was rush seating. This meant that you could simply push your way to the front of the stage and you were all set. Secondly, there were no security goon squads out there to take away your camera. The promoters didn't care as long as they had their share of the take.
This may have been because Calgary wasn't exactly the centre stage of the rock world. In most cases if bands played Calgary it was because they were up and coming and not because they were on top of the business. If they were on top, they would not be coming to Calgary. The venues were just too small. The Stampede Corral, a glorified cement barn built in 1950, was not a massive coliseum. It only had a capacity for about 7,500 people. It took the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary before a decent 18,000 seat venue was constructed which would attract bigger acts like U2 and the Rolling Stones.
As my appetite for existing light photography grew my knowledge of developing and printing improved thanks to a friend by the name of Don Mckenzie. He taught me how to develop slide film and to push the ASA of a film to make it more sensitive in dark existing light conditions, typical of a rock concert. Don also showed me how to make prints from slides. At this time I never worked with Black and White film. I went straight to working exclusively with color. Without his help, I never would have learned a thing about printing or developing. I tried getting a teacher at school to show me how to make color prints but the answer was always that it was too advanced for someone of my page. To be frank, at this point, I knew more that the teacher.
In grade 11, a friend of mine, Sheldon Wiebe managed a record store in downtown Calgary called Opus 69. Sheldon told me that someone he knew, Keith Sharp, a sports writer with the Calgary Herald, was going to start a magazine called Music Express, and he was in need of a photographer. The good thing was that he really didn't have money to pay a professional to do the job. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for someone like me, who had the basic skills and wanted the experience. I phoned Keith Sharp and we discussed his plans in a restaurant. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven when the job was mine. I was sure that this was the start of a career that would see me working for Rolling Stone or Guitarworld.