A year in concert photography

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

A fan crowd-surfed during Converge’s set at Boston Calling.

By Ben Stas Globe Correspondent 

In 2017, I photographed six music festivals, 131 concerts, and 488 sets in total. Approximately.

I traversed football stadiums, hockey arenas, theaters, clubs, VFW halls, and basements to document live music for the Globe and other outlets, and as with every year in concert photography, it was an adventure.


Each shoot presents new challenges, whether it’s access, lighting, uncooperative weather, or some other wild card (crowd surfers, stage divers, spilled beers, moshing fans, overcrowded photo pits. . .).

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Photographers are allowed to shoot the first three songs from the pit in front of the stage during a typical set, but some acts restrict us to even less time from much farther away. Kenny Chesney allowed just two tunes from Gillette Stadium’s 50-yard line. Nick Cave gave us only one from stage right at the Wang.

And while plenty of artists prefer to be well-illuminated during a performance, others opt to perform behind screens, amid banks of fog, with hardly any light at all.

My Globe assignments are always some of my favorites, and these are five of this year’s most memorable:

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

April 9. John Mayer, TD Garden

I have a tendency to double-book, and this night was one of the year’s stranger lineups for me. After three mellow songs with Mayer at the Garden for the Globe, I made it across town in time to file my photos from the bar at Allston’s Great Scott before shooting a set from Belgian black metal band Oathbreaker.

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

April 29. Hot Stove Cool Music, Paradise Rock Club


This year’s iteration of Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons’s benefit concert was headlined by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who played a room about 1/20th the size he’s used to. I’ve never seen the Paradise so packed, and it was the only time I’ve been told to shoot from the bird’s eye view of the balcony soundboard. It was the only place I could fit.

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

Cousin Stizz during his Boston Calling set.

May 26. Boston Calling, Harvard Athletic Complex

Boston’s hometown festival expanded to the sprawling Harvard athletic fields this year, where some creative hustle was required to cover everything. It was exhausting and muddy, but it doesn’t get much more stirring than photographing Sigur Ros in a downpour.

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

July 20. Tom Petty, TD Garden

Petty’s appearance at the Garden for the Heartbreakers 40th anniversary tour would be his last in Boston, though none of us knew it at the time. He was a joy to shoot, still having the time of his life on stage.

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

Nov. 30. St. Vincent, House of Blues

Annie Clark’s latest tour as St. Vincent changed things up on photographers, offering us the last two songs of her first set and the first two of her second — with a costume change in between. It was a generous move on the tour’s part, giving us more time with Clark’s beautifully lit and choreographed show.