Soundgarden

Chris Cornell performs with Soundgarden in San Francisco. Photo by Clay Lancaster

An avid Soundgarden fan, I naturally jumped at the chance to photograph the San Francisco stop on their 2011 reunion tour. The band was holding a contest through a website called Talenthouse, where fans could upload a handful of images they had taken of various acts from various concerts. Those entries would get voted on, and a winner would be chosen for each tour stop to photograph the show on behalf of Soundgarden.

I quickly realized that the whole thing was a popularity contest, and tried desperately to compete by asking friends and family on social media to vote for the work I had submitted.

That didn’t work. I had probably 200 votes, and I don’t think I was even in the top 5 pages of entry results (the front-runners were amassing thousands of votes). When I realized it was a numbers game and I was falling ridiculously behind, I gave up promoting myself, bought a ticket to the show, and settled on attending simply as a fan.

Then, on a summer afternoon, I got out of the swimming pool and dried off to check my phone for messages. There was a voicemail from Soundgarden management, asking me to call them back ASAP. Apparently whoever won the contest had to back out, and they wanted me to photograph the show instead. Knowing that I was nowhere near being runner-up, I asked how they ended up choosing me — that’s when I was told the band had gone through the contest entries themselves and picked my work out of a lineup, telling their management to get a hold of me. They must’ve spent time choosing, as I wasn’t anywhere even in the same solar system as the top-voted entries. It seemed one of my favorite artists of all time had actively hunted me down to do the work.

Needless to say, I was pretty psyched. Below are some of my favorite images from that show.

Soundgarden at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, CA. July 21, 2011. All images by Clay Lancaster.

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