Alright. Let’s get serious here.
I will say it straight up and unironically. I love Ghost.
And.. I’ve loved them for a while now. I first caught wind of the band when I was getting hyped to see Alcest back in 2010 and heard that this Swedish shock rock act was supposed to open for the faery-black metal stylings of Alcest.
Ghost, unfortunately, had visa problems and was unable to open for this tour, which sucked ultimately because fucking Junius opened up the show instead, and as cool as watching five dudes who are back lit and wearing matching hoodies and Converse shoes while they rip off the Deftones is.. I’d rather get cancer than have to experience that again.
Luckily for me, I caught wind that Ghost would open up for Mastodon and Opeth a year or so later, and I attended that show instead, and even though Ghost played for roughly 25 minutes to a largely unimpressed crowd who was anxiously waiting Opeth.. I was one of the 25 who was beyond fucking excited to Ghost. This was back when Opus Eponymous had just come out and no one really knew what to make of the black mass come lately ensemble of Swedes.
Their show was tight when they opened for Opeth, a practiced hand, and endlessly entertaining. Truthfully, after Ghost that night, Mastodon and Opeth seemed tame and oddly cheap. Scotty Floronic tweeted a telling thought – “If Ghost raised the beast tonight, then Opeth is trying to put it back to bed”. Opeth was so boring we actually ended up leaving, so I dunno what that says.
Flash forward a couple years and Ghost headlined a show in Vancouver, and Ides of Gemini opened. I came to know Ides of Gemini through this show, and since then I consider J to be a friend. This is the magic of Ghost. Known for hand picking their openers like Purson, King Dude, Ides of Gemini and Marissa Nadler – dark and smaller time names, that are either highly appreciated or entirely not.
At my second Ghost show, I showed up drunk and in a crappy nun costume. I remember Papa leaning out to grab my hand and singing to me. This was before Ghost masks and Ghost outfit replicas were easily purchased online. I still remember stumbling through the streets of Vancouver dressed as a nun at 5pm. I still have the set list from the show, framed now and hung up in our office here at DIAG
This third show, the most recent – October 13, 2016 was one that I have yearned for and looked forward to for an equal amount of years.
Ghost has changed. Their shows are huge, sold out events with expensive merch, paid meet and greets, and while for many this can be seen as “selling out”, I see it as a band reaching goals that they had been upfront about wanting to obtain from the moment they started. The show this past week was a lot like watching someone close to you achieve greatness, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual report part of this article.
Now, I totally understand that Ghost is very polarizing within the metal community as a whole. Some people, like me, completely “get” the message and think it’s funny/unique and roll with it, while some people cannot get over the cognitive dissonance that exists with Ghost in having such a “satanic” and stylized image with veritable sing along melodies.
But here’s a thought – if Ghost was a black metal band who dressed this way, it would be laughable and stupid.
The KISS 1970s Satanic Rock show is so much better with that 1970s style hard rock vibe.
Being granted a press pass for this show was a lot like coming home for me.. I feel like I really understand Ghost and feel like I’ve been there right along with them as a supporter from the very beginning.
To say I was excited for this show and oppurtunity to photograph this band was an understatement.
I very very rarely am star struck. I’ve worked in the industry for a long time and I’ve met a lot of stars, met a lot of my heroes and yet, Ghost was something so unusual for me. I was nervous, constantly rechecking my equipment. I dressed as a Satanic nun, a Sister of Sin. I confused the security at the show because I don’t think they were prepped for someone in a costume to be acting as a professional but god dammit I AM A PROFESSIONAL (asshole).
Marissa Nadler opened the show, a slim woman with long hair wearing a clingy dress singing gothic Americana with her partner. She reminded me of Sumac and Chelsea Wolfe.
I wish here that Ghost fans could be more respectful during her set. Screaming “show me your tits” at anyone is disrespectful and rude and further, you wouldn’t scream that stuff if a man was on stage, so just stop it.
As smoke filled the Vogue Theatre with the scent of incense, I awaited my time to actually photograph this band that had meant so much to me. I ruminated on what it meant to do this job – to take pictures.
I always try to have my photographs be something of an experience. I don’t want you to simply see the band, but I want you to feel what I was feeling what I took the photographs.
I’ve honestly never been so excited to edit the resulting pictures (aside from the Psychic TV show), and I’m here to tell you that I really feel like this captured what it was like to see this band live.
The stage show is awe inspiring, the enter with a total bang, the ghouls, the lady ghoul, and Papa following. Gone are the shittily handmade costumes, replaced by opulent finery.
And yeah, I took like a million shots. I really enjoyed these ones most of all, and there’s some real good ones in here.
The set was a banger, allow me to say right now. The Vogue theatre was sold out. Their capacity is close to 1200 people and the floor was a massive crowd of people veritably frothing at the mouth at the barricade. Allow me to say right here, this is the first show I’ve attended where the photographers I’ve worked with have been hassled by people standing in the front row. Look – music photographers are a necessary part of the whole show biz thing. Yeah, it can be totally irritating to be up front for your favourite band and a photographer is in there working the show.. I totally get it, but here’s the thing.. the photographs and articles and everything else that comes from this necessary evil of music journalism is what gets people psyched. I’ve shared a few of my photos on Ghost groups and metal photography sites and it gets people talking – which is what we want.
Also.. I work for essentially free because I like the bands I do shoots for. Don’t be shitty to people like me, it’s dumb.
Plus, the industry standard is photographers working for the first three songs and after that we’re done. Three songs. Chill out.
Anywho, back to Ghost. Their new track “Square Hammer” is what they came out to, and it fucking KILLED. I appreciated the heavy yet hard rocking sound to the track when I first heard the new EP release “Popestar” and hearing it live even further cemented my thoughts on the track. This band, and I’ve said it before, is amazingly tight live. They know how to work a crowd and Papa was constantly engaging everyone in the audience with his playful banter.
When the Sisters of Sin came out to give the Eucharist during Body and Blood, Papa even cautioned the crowd to not fondle the women which was very appreciated although one would think this should go without saying. However, here we are.
During “Mummy Dust”, the band had a special surprise in store as they used a giant cannon to BLANKET the crowd in glitter, confetti, and Papa bucks worth $666. The band even had time to rip on Donald Trump, calling him “that orange guy with a fucked up hair do”.
The band was joined onstage by a lady ghoul who was one hell of a great musician – she was just as good at working the crowd as the rest of the band.
It was honestly refreshing as well to see a crowd of people at the show who actually WANTED to be there and were psyched to be there and were having fun. The crowd was surging for the whole set and the band was loving every moment of it.
I’m very used to attending shows where the fun is bled out of the attendance in favor of people standing around trying to look cool to no one, and being “very black metal” and I think that Ghost was just a refreshing change from this.
Being able to speak to Papa after the show also was a great experience. It’s rare that artists go to the length that he does to connect with his fans. Waiting patiently to sign goods and being engaging after putting on a crazy show was just an underscore to this great showmanship.
I honestly can’t recommend seeing this band’s live show enough, because I think the band will only get bigger from here out. When I first saw them, the humble pie beginnings of 20 or so people to a sold out 1200 person crowd really says something.
I’m glad this is happening, I’m glad Ghost is bringing humor, hilarity and a classy nature back to music and I’m glad that people are enjoying going to their shows.
It’s honestly so fucking refreshing.
Thank you to Ghost & Peter Q for granting us this unique opportunity. Thanks for a wonderful night.