[Editor's Note: Longtime concert photographer and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef found out almost two years ago that he had Stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events for us on top of other freelance work and holding a day job at a hospital, of all places. This series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
My anxiety levels finally dropped to "normal" when I pulled my car into the garage. Arriving home late on Monday night, I immediately collapsed into my favorite chair. My goal of photographing two weekends of Coachella was accomplished. It still ranks up there as one of my proudest moments, as I ended up photographing 12 of 13 nights this month. Cancer has altered many things in my life, but I will summon every ounce of resolve to not let it prevent me from doing what I love.
I barely had time to recover from the first weekend, as I stayed in Indio until the late afternoon and stopped at the Fox Theater Pomona to see a stellar set by the Postal Service. Things took a disastrous turn on Tuesday, as one of the memory-card slots on my primary camera was damaged moments before catching a raucous set by Franz Ferdinand and Palma Violets at the Fonda Theatre. Instead of panicking, I proceeded to order 128 GB of extra memory through my phone for immediate delivery on Thursday since I couldn't get my camera repaired in time for Coachella. My nerves were starting to fray; this was the last thing I needed to worry about.
How to Destroy Angels impressed me so much with their show at the Fox last week that I booked a last-minute trip on Wednesday to see them in Monterey at the Golden State Theatre. An early flight in and prolonged sleep-deprivation had me napping in my hotel bed for an unplanned four-hour stretch. My decision to take it easy on Thursday was well-founded, as I ended up having to wait for the delivery of my new memory cards. Another unexpected wrinkle in the day was that my oncologist wanted to see me in his office to go over my latest PET scan. The results from this scan will be discussed in a future column.
Since I was squeezed into my oncologist's schedule, I ended up leaving much later than planned, but I still didn't have the stress of shooting a show and editing the photos, which would have kept me up late. Being in bed by 10 p.m. was extremely beneficial. I was ready to tackle Coachella. Using knowledge gained the prior weekend, I medicated myself each day, and I am happy to report I avoided stomach problems throughout the weekend. Friday was also the coolest day, and I photographed 24 bands. It was an amazing day; I felt re-energized. The bands seemed well-rested and more energetic, and Blur and How to Destroy Angels were highlights once more.
Saturday was a completely different scenario. It was significantly hotter, and the sun took its toll on me. You could feel a 20-degree difference walking from a tent into the blistering sun. Having successfully photographed a majority of the bands the prior weekend, I made sure to not push myself too hard. The finish line was in view, and I was determined to keep going and not fall down. Puscifer, the Descendents and Phoenix were the particular highlights on that day.
The ungodly heat repeated itself on Sunday, and unfortunately, I missed Ghost B.C., who played a midday set. The heat exhaustion was starting to pile up, so I strategically bounced between the Gobi and Mojave shaded tents as long as I could. By the time I finished photographing Red Hot Chili Peppers, the thought of trying to push my way through thousands of fans and walk to the car seemed nearly impossible. Fortunately, an angel in the form of Anna, who works for Coachella, took some of my friends and me for a ride via a golf cart. It was a magical way to end Coachella. Thanks again to the Goldenvoice staff and all my colleagues for their support and kindness. I honestly wouldn't have survived both weekends if it weren't for all my friends. Hopefully, next year, I will be writing Coachella 4, Cancer 0.
*Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer
*Last Shot: Helplessness Blues at a Fleet Foxes Concert
*Last Shot: Chemical Warfare
*Last Shot: Time Is Running Out
*Last Shot: Helmet Doesn't Let My Dedication Go Unsung
*Last Shot: Struggling to Shoot Coachella
*Last Shot: Photographing Coachella is Like Running an Ultramarathon