Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
If a concert took place in L.A. within the last five years, chances are Joseph Baura has shot it. While the prolific photographer has shot everyone from Burna Boy and Cardi B to pre-fame Anderson .Paak and Vince Staples, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely prevented his work.
“The night everything shut down, it was the Jay Electronica’s album release. He was supposed to do an event at the venue I work at and JAY-Z was supposed to come through,” Baura told REVOLT. “I was so ready to shoot JAY-Z and Jay Electronica together. As I was driving to the venue, they stopped it because of the guidelines for COVID[-19].”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the seasoned photographer talks not shooting candid moments of YG in daddy mode, a surprise Drake appearance at a Lil Keed show, and emotional moments onstage from J. Cole and Ski Mask The Slump God. Read below.
What was the first major show you were able to shoot?
Travis Scott on the “Rodeo Tour” at The Henry Fonda Theatre (on September 15, 2015) in Hollywood. It was crazy he had a western type of vibe with cactuses and shit. He made that small stage feel like a festival. That venue can probably fit 5,000 people and it felt like a big venue. He jumped off the speakers and did a flip into the crowd. The crowd’s energy was crazy.
What’s a surprise artist appearance you remember from a show that stood out to you?
Lil Keed show at The Novo (on September 13) is one. Keed is popular out here, but he’s not as popular here as he is back home. It was a pretty hype show and there were rumors that there was going to be a special guest. It was going to be a really big guest because security guards on the side of the stage were on the radio really heavy. Towards the end of the show, Keed had a big crowd on the side and there was a lot of movement, so I thought something was happening like an argument or something. Then, the crowd parts and all you see is Drake come strolling out on the stage while rapping along to Keed. Then, Keed looks over and he doesn’t realize it’s Drake, but then he gets hype and they dap each other up. Drake doesn’t even perform, he was just vibing.
You also got a candid shot of Drake backstage at that show. How’d you get that?
I usually try to stay low-key because I try to not bother anyone. But, I was like, I need to get a photo of Drake backstage. So, I was just chilling in the hallway pretending to be on my phone. I saw that he was in one of the greenrooms, so I waited outside. Drake comes out chilling with no one bothering him and I push my way through security, walked my way to Drake and tapped him on the shoulder. I asked, “Hey, I’m a big fan. I work at the venue. Can I get a photo you here in the hallway at the venue?” He was like, “Ahh, I’m kinda in a rush.” I said, “Can I get a photo of you real quick because my boss is a big fan?” Then, he was like, “Oh, yeah.”
You’ve seen some other wild performances. Buddy and Guapdad 4000 at Fonda Theatre last September is one that comes to mind based on your photos.
It was at the same venue as the Travis show. Buddy had a low-key show from Red Bull with a really small crowd. As the show went on, Buddy started bringing out a bunch of guests like Guapdad , Thundercat, Boogie, and a bunch of the Dreamville dudes were there. They were doing “Costa Rica” and he brings out a lightsaber. He starts swinging it around. That was crazy.
What are the most emotional moments you’ve captured?
Two stand out to me. One was J. Cole at Dreamville Festival last year. He got onstage and just stood there for a minute or two. He was leaning on the mic, looking at everyone, pointing at people and saying he loved everyone. You can tell it was a really big moment. Second one was at last year’s Rolling Loud. I think it was the first time Ski Mask the Slump God had performed at Rolling Loud since XXXtentation passed. One moment he was sitting on the speakers while throwing up a heart as X is playing in the background. That was pretty dope.
Are there any interactions backstage that were too personal to shoot?
Last year, Mustard had a show out here in L.A. He performed and brought out YG, Migos, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign. I was backstage and YG was there. Everyone was partying and YG was standing by himself. Someone then comes with his baby and it was crazy seeing YG being in dad mode. Everyone was off partying, and YG was off to the side chilling with his baby in private. We didn’t want to take pictures because it was a private moment and we didn’t want to bother him. He was just dancing with his baby and you don’t really see that side of YG.
You shot Anderson .Paak a year before he dropped Malibu. What was it like shooting him pre-fame?
That show was when he just stopped being called Breezy Lovejoy. He did a show in Pomona, a small city just outside of L.A. at The Flyway Fox (on May 21, 2015). There were literally 15 people in the crowd. I wouldn’t even call it a venue, it was a bar. He had the whole Free Nationals team at that point. He was popular, but not to the extent he is now. It was obvious he was someone who had the talent. I was up in his face shooting at that show. There was really no one there, so they were cool with me being all over that place. It was crazy being right next to him and shooting him.
What artist has evolved the most onstage?
Vince Staples. I’ve seen Vince perform with no production or anything really special. Now he brings these big setups to the venues. He really plays off his stage setup and feeds into it. I know he was really big on the visual side of his performances. One of the last few times I shot him, the theme was no one is safe from cameras. So, his whole stage setup was a bunch of TVs playing propaganda stuff and news segments. It played along with his style of music.
Has how the pandemic affected you?
Mid-march the shows stopped. In L.A., we get a big influx of artists coming in April because of Coachella. I had a big April set up and there were a bunch of shows right after that. When the pandemic hit, it was a shock because you were anticipating all of these moments to come up and then they disappear. The night everything shut down, it was the Jay Electronica’s album release. He was supposed to do an event at the venue I work at and JAY-Z was supposed to come through. I was so ready to shoot JAY-Z and Jay Electronica together. As I was driving to the venue, they stopped it because of the guidelines for COVID[-19]. It didn’t hit me at that moment that a whole industry is going to shut down and it’s more sobering now that you see how long it might go. Concerts might not be back for another year or two. Out here in L.A. they’re really strict about it and don’t expect them to return until late 2021.