This may come as a headline to some, but in general we, the media, do not consider ourselves VIP material. It's a fact generally underscored by our paychecks and by politicians whose hands we find may be in a cookie jar.
So it is beyond this member of the working media why our press passes for Festival read Media VIP/Scene in the most recent running of Festival International de Louisiane, last week all over downtown Lafayette.
Don't get me wrong, I mean we're flattered and all of that but having the same access to areas as a VIP really doesn't help us do our job, and in many ways it is a hindrance. That is to say, we're hustling around Festival grounds working, while the VIP types are, well not working.
A VIP pass allows Festival contributors, businesses, including media outlets an opportunity to give clients and deserved staff an understandable perk such as a stage level view of a performance. No problem, I get it.
But herein lies the problem. Working media are not VIP. With six stages actively underway, we really need to be able to get in and get out to catch as much of the festival as we can to document it for our readers. And sometimes, a large crowd of VIP can get in the way.
If you'll recall in my blog Friday, I made light of being restricted from the Scene Popeyes International stage opening night (Thursday) while a lovely and talented miss in a wispy summer dress wearing cowgirl boots walked right on up the stairs to shoot away.
Seems I ran into the magnifying glass ceiling meant for her ascent because we both had identical passes and only she was allowed to climb the stairs. Don't get me wrong, again, rules are made to be bent and more power to the lass for getting where and what she wanted. I'm just talking equal access here. You know, good for the goose and gander kind of thing.
Another night at the VIP entrance to Scene Malibu on Jefferson Street, of which half of my pass alludes to, it was okay for me to go on up the stairs, squirm through up to three rows of dancing, texting, and talking VIP to try get a good shot if the performers might happen to look stage right.
At the bottom of the stairs, however, I was denied access to the pit in front, although I was already inside the barricades and it was just steps away. For some seemingly bureaucratic reason, a barricade was locked in place obstructing an otherwise quick access to the pit.I wasn't permitted to go behind and around the stage to the pit because of the cables and the possibility of tripping over one and disrupting the show, and of course then suing Festival, the city, the cable maker and my late parents for having conceived me … you get the picture and I understand the thinking here. We are a litigious society and one must protect oneself.
I was told I'd either have to walk down Convent and hopefully be allowed to enter through the back, or use the "media" entrance which is stage left and in front near the parking garage. Well, with the band playing and a mass of humanity enjoying themselves, coupled with the throng on Jefferson Street, it was a difficult and time-consuming task.Anyway, on my way to the media entrance that night, I was dodging chairs, people, little wagons and baby carriages and framing a potential photo in my mind when I tripped over one of those parking lot cement things your car tires bump into and fell on the ground.
I was told I wasn't the first to fall (see tomorrow's Independent paper for my solution) by the kind folks who helped me up. I ended up with nice raspberry on my left calf, a sore shoulder, a dusty camera bag, but no broken bones or busted camera gear. All of this could've been avoided if I'd been allowed access to the pit while I was inside the barricades.
Over at Scene TV5 Monde, no issues whatsoever. However, the Media/VIP area was limited in that it was behind the performers, so profile shots were the norm unless a performer looked our way.
Come Sunday at Festival's end at Scene Popeyes it was goofy all over again. First, another photog told me we weren't allowed in because Rusted Root supposedly didn't want photographers shooting after their first three songs (note to band: it's a festival, not a gig), but the gatekeeper told me I could only shoot for three songs and let me in.
Then a guy in the photo pit told me that only AOC (say what?!) was allowed in the pit and I had to either shoot from the sides on the ground or leave. I left after getting off a shot or two.
I know Festival runs on volunteers and that they're doing a great job and Lafayette overall is fortunate to have these guys and gals on hand. In no way is this a dis on the volunteers. I volunteered at the Cite des Arts beer booth and encourage everyone to find time to give to Festival or an organization they support during the event.
However, what I am saying is that perhaps the good folks at the Best World Music Festival in the world reconsider combining media access with VIP privileges. We're simply two different entities with two different objectives.
Heck, even having a media area with food and drink and an opportunity to get out of the sun for a break like we used to would be nice, too. And no, paying for the food and drink is not a problem, it's the long lines while a band is playing. So basically, it's the quick access thing once again.
Believe it or not, come Festival time, we're still working, too.