Frank Zappa Festival Hits Right Note With This Photographer

Zappening Festival (2000)

The Story

Background

The fact that there was a Frank Zappa music festival within 100 miles of my house was extraordinary enough. Zappa isn’t really on the mainstream playlist in Central Illinois, so the idea of getting that close to a Frank Zappa festival was special. The fact that through a friend I would be asked to photograph the event was nothing short of miraculous (with full access pass). It just so happens, Frank Zappa is perhaps my most formative musician. I jumped at the 3 days celebrating his music and capturing it on good old film.

Frank Zappa festival
Photography done simply (tongue in cheek)

Filming Technique:

Before the days of the pixel (and for several after), I used to shoot “analog” film. Everything for the festival that I shot was using a simple-metered, fully-manual Pentax K1000. Think minimal. Real minimal. I believe the daytime shots were done on a low-speed slide film and Ektachrome 400 for the night shots (which was hardly sufficient for weak stage lighting; lesson learned). A digital camera would slay the exposure on these images. But, after analog chemical processing, they were scanned to disc in a low-resolution format. It was considered printable at the time.

…it became obvious I wasn’t getting paid. They weren’t going to make any money and that was that.

– Author

So… What Zappened:

The first night was booming with headliner acts. It was a camping festival and no open flames allowed, strangely enough. So, after the show, there were hundreds of “heads” running around in the dark blasting their favorite Zappa music from all directions.

The Festival ran for 3 days. As I watched many people leave Saturday morning and not be replenished with concert-goers for that day/night, it became obvious I wasn’t getting paid. They weren’t going to make any money and that was that.

The music raged for three days getting deeper into Franz Zappa quirkiness and non-headliner acts. These are the acts I love, actually. Lots of Zappa alumni and, perhaps, their jazz-rock fusion combo. Experimental lesser known and less restrained. Yes, I was in my element. I had to remember I had a job to do.

I was left with a great experience as a fan, a great experience as a photographer, and 3 nights of summer camping.

– Author

I spent a good part of Sunday afternoon basking in the sun. With the camera. But, frankly, there wasn’t a lot to be photographed that hadn’t been captured at that point. I quite enjoyed baking in the sun (responsibly, of course), eating my fresh fruit, and getting up for photo adventures as assignment called.

Upshot

I shot all the film I had for 3 days and decided to pivot to fun loving festival-goer and enjoy it. I was left with a great experience as a fan, a great experience as a photographer, and 3 nights of summer camping. Well worth the price of the film…


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