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.’
Elliott Pepich graduated college a few months ago but has been photographing hip hop history for years.
“21 Savage’s photographer told me, ‘Childish [Gambino] is coming out to perform the song “Monster” and it’s never going to happen again. So, I need your help to get as much video footage from multiple angles as possible just so we can cover it because it’ll never happen in the history of music ever again,’” Pepich told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the photographer discusses how he shot Gambino and Savage’s only performance together, Baby Keem’s energy on stage, and Post Malone meeting Lil Pump for the first time. Read below.
Who was the first major artist you photographed live?
It was probably Famous Dex and Rich The Kid in 2016. That was when I was first really getting into music photography. I had a friend at the time, and he and his friend did promotions for the show in Chicago and they had me come out. That sparked my interest in the field. It’s really intriguing to see who you could get access to by just having a camera. In this industry, if you have a camera and are good at what you do, people are inviting you to come to the studio, label, shows, and stuff like that. That’s how I built up my network.
What do you remember about that first show?
That show was hosted at the Portage Theater, which is a venue in Chicago. That theater is a lot more hectic than other venues. I remember there was a lot going on, a lot of people on stage, and a lot of people in the photo pit, so you had to move around and walk with a purpose to be where you needed to be to get your shot. Rich The Kid came out to what may have been a preview of “New Freezer” and he had a bottle of champagne he was just spraying in the crowd.
You’ve shot so many different artists. What sort of moves or mannerisms do you expect to get from each of them?
Each artist is their own unique brand and person. People look at these artists strictly as musicians, but I look at them from multiple perspectives. I look at them as musicians, artists, and entertainers. An artist like Lil Uzi Vert, you already know he’s going to have a lot of energy, jumping around on stage and in the crowd, and there’ll be pyro going off on stage. As opposed to Roddy Ricch, who has a lot more songs that aren’t as hype. I was with Lil Mexico — he produced Roddy Ricch’s “Big Stepper” — at Lollapalooza. I ended up shooting some of Roddy’s set. His set was a little bit more mellow because he’s more of a singer when it comes to performing his songs. Obviously, he played “The Box” twice at the end of his set and that was the most turned-up the crowd was for his set. Knowing how each artist is as a performer is important.
How did you get those gorgeous overhead shots of Lil Uzi Vert at Lollapalooza 2018?
At the time, I wasn’t tapped in with anyone on his team, so I made my way up to the side stage and was just viewing. I had my camera, so I grabbed a couple of shots. Funny story, Pi’erre Bourne was actually in town with him and I ended up meeting up with him at the studio afterward, which is an interesting story.
A post-festival Pi’erre Bourne story? Let me know.
After the festival, I went to the studio with Pi’erre where he played the entire The Life of Pi’erre 4 album for me about two years before he even dropped it. He told me an interesting story about he was accidentally sucked into “The Endless Summer Tour” with Uzi and why he was there in the first place. So, Uzi was on tour with G-Eazy for “The Endless Summer Tour” and Pi’erre went to go visit him for his birthday. They were at the hotel and decided to go down to the tour bus to smoke and have a little more privacy. So, Pi’erre went to the tour bus with him and it just so happened to be at the same time the bus driver turned the bus on and started driving. He was just on the bus, went with it, went to Chicago, and was like, “I don’t even have a toothbrush or any clothes with me. I just got sucked into this tour because I wanted to give Uzi a happy birthday. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
You also got one of the only photos of Childish Gambino and 21 Savage performing together. How’d you get that sort of access?
I was already at Lollapalooza networking with people in the artists lounge. My buddy came up to me and said, “Hey, this is 21 Savage’s tour videographer.” Childish Gambino had a set 3 hours later and 21 Savage’s photographer told me, “Childish is coming out to perform the song ‘Monster’ and it’s never going to happen again. So, I need your help to get as much video footage from multiple angles as possible just so we can cover it because It’ll never happen in the history of music ever again.” They cleared the stage and pit out. There was no one in the pit beside me, 21 Savage’s tour videographer, and 21 Savage’s photographer. That was early on in the festival at 6 pm but there were about 60,000 people in the crowd. No one in the crowd knew that was going to happen.
So, how did you know where to be to get the photos?
I knew Childish Gambino was coming out near the end of the set and I already grabbed some footage on stage of 21 Savage. I had made my way down to the pit because I was going to let 21’s videographer have stage access since he’s the main touring videographer and I wanted to respect that. I centered myself in the middle of the pit. 21 Savage’s set had a staircase leading from the top of the stage down to the bottom and Childish Gambino made his appearance walking down the stairs, and then came on stage to perform with 21. So, 21’s production and set helped me out a lot in terms of centering.
You also got a touching moment between Smokepurpp and XXXtentaicion. How’d you get that?
I connected with Smoke at a Lyrical Lemonade show that was thrown by Cole Bennett in 2017. To put it in perspective, in 2017, Lyrical Lemonade only had 50,000 subscribers on YouTube. So, it was relatively new. I was at the right time and the right place. Smoke was performing and Juice WRLD’s girlfriend at the time was on stage and also on FaceTime with X. So, she passed the phone to Smokepurpp while he was performing. I happened to get an accidental photo of Smokepurpp performing with X on FaceTime. I didn’t even realize I had that photo until X passed away and I went back to the archives and found it. It was an amazing moment.
What sort of show does Smokepurpp put on?
That show specifically was extremely hectic. At the time, he was one of the biggest artists coming out of Soundcloud. He performed one of his biggest Soundcloud hits at the time called “Audi.” By then, he told everyone, “Fuck security, hop on stage.” There were 50 people on stage while he was singing it. People were supposed to be in general admission who were in the media pit and people on stage. Security didn’t like that and ended up shutting the show down after that. But, it was an amazing moment.
How did you link with Post Malone?
I connected with him in the summer of 2018. I was a freshman in college attending the University of Kansas. They had a music festival called Flyover Festival. The headliners were Post Malone, Lil Pump, and Flatbush Zombies. I was already there with a Chicago artist with who I had a good relationship prior and he got me in the festival. What happened was, each artist had their green room but there was a communal green room. That’s where all of the food and water were. I went to grab something. I turned around and Post Malone walked into the room. I introduced myself and we just started talking, and grabbing a few candid photos. Before I knew it, his whole team was in the room.
You captured a candid interaction between him and Lil Pump.
That was a very good interaction. That was the first time Lil Pump and Post Malone met in person. That was a really good moment for them. Lil Pump had a huge smile on his face. Post Malone was smoking a cig with the red solo cup probably drinking a Bud Light. Post Malone said he was proud of Lil Pump. They were having a nice organic conversation about the industry and where they were at in their careers.
You also shot Baby Keem at Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash. What was his performance like?
The only set I shot at Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash was Baby Keem’s set. I was always a fan of his art and his music, so that was the first time I saw him perform live. He’s extremely talented when it comes to performing and the representation of his lyrics and how he presents himself to the crowd. I would say he’s a very energetic, extremely talented, and elegant performer. He kills it. You can actually feel what he’s talking about when he’s performing.
What’s coming up for you for 2021?
I don’t want to give away too much just yet but my company Clusive Co. is doing a couple of shows coming up in Chicago at this new 3800-person venue called Radius. Auris is the company behind that and they own Concord Music Hall and PRYSM. I’m going to be working with them pretty diligently in the next few months. We at Clusive Co. are going to be pitching to a couple of other festivals to do things such as drone operations, 360 video, cable video, photos, and pretty much everything a festival needs in terms of creativity.