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.’
Devmatic is the official photographer of “The Millennium Tour” and has great stories about shooting acts, during the 2019 run, including B2K.
“Even on stage, they never showed [problems with each other]. It was always the same routine. The only time things had to change was when Raz-B had to get off the tour, and then they had to go to three-man. Even then, they kept it pretty solid for it to go from four to three like that,” Dev told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the photographer discusses wild reactions from women during Mario’s set, shooting B2K’s first tour in over a decade, and Ashanti’s live performance theatrics. Read below.
How did you become the Millennium Tour photographer in 2019?
The tour is put on by G-Squared [Events] and it’s run by [Gary Gentry] out of Houston, where I live. When I was first trying to get in on photography, he let me shoot a concert he was doing in 2015. A shot a few for him and then I shot an event he had in Tampa called Beats By The Bay in 2018...I asked if I could shoot the show if I could get myself out there. He said sure and after I shot that, the first tour I went on was “The ‘90s Block Party Tour” with Guy, 112, Jagged Edge, Ginuwine, Dru Hill, Keith Sweat, and Monica on a bunch of shows.
What were your favorite moments to photograph on that tour with so many legendary acts?
One thing about Ginuwine’s show is when he would get into “Pony,” he would do this dance routine and spin move. He would jump into an almost Jumpman pose and that’s when “Pony” would hit. It took me a couple of shows to get it. They didn’t have a photo pit for these shows, so I was still sort of in the crowd a bit. Sometimes I was getting bumped, trying to move around. For 112, every time they were on stage, they had so much chemistry. On the tour, they started doing their show with Jagged Edge and called it The Experience. Both of them would perform a couple of songs, and then they’d come on stage and perform each other songs together. Guy’s whole set was crazy from Damion doing his dance routine to Teddy Riley breaking his stuff down and Aaron Hall getting out in the crowd.
What were the best crowd reactions?
They definitely were into it. They got a little crazy, not too much. My man Gary “G Thang” Johnson, the host of the tour, would go out in the crowd and let people sing. He’d let people judge if they should keep singing. That was the highlight every night. The crowd would go nuts every time. With there being no pit, when the artists came out, the fans were right there on the stage. They’re taking bras off and the whole nine.
What did you learn about shooting each artist?
Let’s take Guy for instance. Guy comes out as a group and it’s heavy on Aaron Hall at first. Three or four songs in, Damion Hall does his own dance routine with the girls and I know I have to get that shot. Teddy then goes on the keys and goes into his dance routine. That’s when I know Aaron Hall is going to come up to Teddy while he’s on the keys, and I can get that shot there. Ginuwine did this thing when he did “In Those Jeans” where he had an oversized pair of jeans and brought a girl on stage to put in the jeans with him. I made sure to get that shot. I had to know everyone’s routine.
What song got the biggest reaction every night or had the best photos?
That’s tough. I want to say “Peaches & Cream” only because it was such a party anthem, and it was more upbeat. So, everybody was so into it. People really got hyped over that, but it just depended on the artists. Each artist had their own one thing that was a banger...
That led you to become the tour photographer for “The Millennium Tour” in 2019 a year afterward.
The first show was in Pittsburgh on March 8, 2019 and it was crazy because I went to Vegas about three days before and I flew straight from Vegas to Pittsburgh, but I had a layover in Charlotte. When I got to Charlotte, there were a bunch of delays to the point where I thought I wasn’t going to make it. There were no other flights to Pittsburgh from Charlotte that day. So I’m like, “Yo, I cannot miss the first show. This is crazy.” Thank God I ended up getting there. I didn’t get any sleep, but I was so hyped and excited for the tour that it didn’t even matter. I was good. I was ready to go because I was getting to see where the new routines were gonna be, how the crowd was gonna react to certain people, some of these artists I hadn’t shot yet. Also, it being B2K’s first tour in forever was big.
How was their chemistry on stage? Did it change over time?
No. From what I’ve seen, everything was A1 on stage especially after the tour to have ended for us to know what was going on, I never realized things were going on. When you saw Omarion, it was always a smile and a “What’s up?” It was never like a, “Damn, what’s going on?” Even on stage, they never showed that. It was always the same routine. The only time things had to change was when Raz-B had to get off the tour, and then they had to go to three-man. Even then, they kept it pretty solid for it to go from four to three like that.
How did their set give you an idea of what shots to get?
Starting off, they would pop out of the stage. They would get shot up and land on the stage, and it would go really hot. It was crazy because the photo of Omarion being shot up was one I actually got on the very first show. The reason I was able to get that so smooth off the bat was that I didn’t know what their set was like. So, I started to notice when the first one came out. I’m like, “Oh, shit. Okay.” And then, I knew then it was J-Boog, Lil Fizz. So I’m like, “Alright.” I knew where Omarion was coming from like, “Let me be ready now.” I happened to get it perfect, lighting, timing, and everything. When they would do “Gots Ta Be,” they did a chair routine... There were some photos I got of them where they would do this thing with their head down and singing.
One of the most interesting parts of that tour was when Mario would bring women on stage to serenade them. You said that “The ‘90s Block Party Tour” wasn’t as wild as “The Millennium Tour.” Was that one of the moments when things kind of got a little crazy?
Definitely, that one and when Pretty Ricky would do the routine with their dancers ‘cause it was just like so extra, like, almost some stripper-type... lap dances and backflips and all kind of craziness. The girls were just going crazy at this point. Women were definitely trying to dance back on Mario and everything else. It was definitely wild. It got to a point where they had to pull some girls off the stage that he would bring on because they were being so extra.
What were the personalities like together backstage?
Slick Em from Pretty Ricky is one of the nicest people. He’s humble and such a regular person, you can’t tell he’s a celebrity. He would always be laughing. If he’s in the lobby, anybody that comes down, he’s talking to them, buying them a drink. Depending on what city we’re in, he might be drinking in the lobby or outside on the patio or whatever just hanging out talking, cracking jokes. Everybody was really cool. It felt like a family. Everybody was super cool with each other.
Did you take any photos backstage?
I only took one backstage that I recall, and that was of Lloyd. I ended up getting really good with Lloyd because the first day we had the tour, his manager came to me and asked can I do a little bit of video of his set so they can see how the routine looks, and I was like, “Alright, cool...” The next show was in Madison Square Garden and he came to me when I was in the hallway and was like, “Hey, the boss wants to meet you.” So, I go with him. And Lloyd was like, “Yo, you Devmatic, right?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” He was like, “Man, I love your work.” On the first tour, I didn’t get that. I didn’t really get that they really knew who I was. So, Lloyd and I just developed chemistry there, and it got cool. So, on the next tour, I came to his room just to chop it up with him a little bit, and he was getting his hair braided. I took a picture of that while that was getting done.
Then you went on to do the 2020 Millennium Tour.
The tour was easy. It actually sucks so bad that it got shut down like that because I felt like we were just getting in our groove. I think New York might have been the only major city we really hit. We did Louisville, Indianapolis; Richmond, Virginia. Raleigh, North Carolina was where it ended.
Ashanti was an addition to that tour. How did you shoot her?
It was great. Her show was really — it was almost theatrical. She had a lot of different things, she came out in a mask. She brought a mask out during the set. She came out with a chair and had dance routines, everything.
How did you hear about the pandemic on that tour?
I remember when we were in Louisville for the first show, there was talk of a Coronavirus. But, it was still like, “Okay, it’s not really here. It probably won’t get here” because I remember when ebola was popping up a little bit, it was one of the things that they shut down quickly. So, I’m figuring it would be the same thing. Then, the next week, it wasn’t really a thing either. It was talked about a little bit, but it wasn’t really a thing. I remember that morning when we were flying to Raleigh, me and the boss Gary were actually on the same flight. As soon as I get to the airport and we’re sitting there, he’s like, “Man, things are going crazy. I don’t know what’s gonna go on.” ...and they were gonna shut the show down. They weren’t even going to allow it. They technically had canceled it at one point, and then Gary ended up talking to whoever he needed to talk to because Billie Eilish had just did a show the night before. So, he was like, “Look, let me do this show and then shut down after that. We’re already here.” They let us do it, and we did it.