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Freaky Deaky Milwaukee: In Front of the Rail, Part 1

Thursday, November 02, 2017
Niki Graham
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My ears are ringing. I can't tell how loud I am and my voice is raw, so I don't talk. My feet are red and swollen and I'm so thankful that Jimmy John's is on the way. "What did I just do," runs through my head. I feel like David After Dentist, "Is this real life?" The deafness is most certainly a consequence of the convention center's state-of-the-art sound system bumping bass straight into my ears as I has just stood literally next to the speakers snapping photos. My childish excitement is purely adrenaline as I just witnessed the most awe-inspiring production. "You earned this incredible moment," I think to myself, "it's okay to be happy." We waited in the box office lobby around 6 PM, passing the small line forming on Wisconsin Center's north side. Photo passes had been printed and dated 10/27/17 with GRiZ written neatly in black marker. We returned to The Center a bit later prepped, charged and ready to do this.
It was during Opiuo's set that I marveled at the venue and noticed the Halloween decor. Tall figures low-lit in shades of red and orange towered in the Wisconsin Center. I paused to recognize "Flava" by Ganja White Night, a mix done live with Boogie T and possibly the Wobble Brothers themselves (it was hard to see the two men who took stage for this specific song). By the time we had criss-crossed through a crowd of bass-drops and GRiZ bones, Boogie T had already taken the stage for his own set. Opiuo at Freaky Deaky                          Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin We planned over pizza and drinks, pondering how our photo passes would work: an email mentioned 15 minutes, or about 3 songs worth of time, in the pit. We outlined the shots we wanted, the settings we’d need to adjust, and a meeting place just in case. And then we went for it. Boogie T Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin I'll admit, Boogie T's set was a bit of a blur for me. I watched from the sidelines as Nicole snapped his set, gracefully crouching for perspective, and doing quick, impromptu portraits from the rail. Security passed out water bottles and walked around us to escort fans back to the floor. I stood behind a speaker, in between a row of CO2 tanks and air cannons: a good vantage point to see the DJ booth and pause to prepare. Adrenaline pumped a heartbeat out of my chest, head and finger tips. I counted a 7-and-8 triplet in my head before stepping out into the dance of at least four other photogs circling in the narrow walkway between the stage and the rail. THE RAIL. The rail I had worked so hard to get to in the past. There are only a few elite names on my personal list of rail rides. PC: Nicole Wachnin, OTB Photog Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin The next few moments of my life were perhaps the fastest I have ever experienced: a blur of settings adjustments, ducking into position, pointing and firing on exhale. A small collection of about 45 raw, unedited snapshots were taken of the artist across the stage. I exit stage right, partially deaf and in shock. PC: Nicole Wachnin, OTB Photog Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin It wasn't until Flatbush Zombies rap and hip-hop set that I was really able to step back. Their presence left me both speechless and motionless. I stood frozen as they dove off the stage into the crowd, jumped atop speakers and walked in front of the stage to connect with fans. I watched them look right back at me, just arms length away at times, as they sung into their mics and bounced across stage. After leaving the crowd with a reminder to always think for themselves, they came down to the rail to hug fans, take pictures, and even sign a few autographs. Flatbush Zombies Photo Credit: Nicole Wachnin It's been over 40 minutes and the sandwiches aren't here. "There are a ton of orders to your hotel right now actually," the employee's voice came through my phone's speaker. "It's in the car with the driver right now." Of course there are. GRiZ probably has a 'Club Lulu' with sprouts and avocado on the way, too. Better get these orders right, man. They weren't. But then again, I hadn't even started writing about GRiZ yet either.

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