[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. As he continues to fight for his life, this series, Last Shot, allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
These last couple of weeks have been difficult to say the least. It was painful to miss writing my column last week as I was basically bedridden for most of the week dealing with managing my pain and controlling my nausea and vomiting. I'm still losing weight which isn't a good sign and it feels like my resolve is weakening along with my body. It is very easy to lie in bed and take pain pills to mask the mental as well as physical pain.
On one of the more particularly difficult days, I was restless and tired yet couldn't manage to get comfortable. It was absolutely horrible. Definitely one of the lower days in my journey since my diagnosis. Luckily, the fog of feeling horrible subsided and some semblance of strength started to take form. Approaching fast on the horizon was the FYF Festival held at the Los Angeles Historic Park which had one of my favorite bands, My Bloody Valentine playing the headline slot.
In the pantheon of guitar based bands, My Bloody Valentine are one of my favorites. Kevin Shields is simply masterful in the way he sculpts gigantic washes of fuzz guitars. Armed with an assortment of Fender Jazzmasters and at least thirty plus guitar pedals that serve as the sonic bricks to his wall of noise, Shields's guitar work is out of this world in that it transports me immediately into a heavenly place.
Having seen the Saturday headliners Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently at Outside Lands, I opted to rest at home on that particular day and save my energy for Sunday when My Bloody Valentine headlined. The fact of the high temperatures and the lung paralyzing coats of dust that permeated the grounds had me show up a right before Beach House who played an intoxicating set.
While I would have liked to have ventured to the other stages, I staked out a spot on the main stage and took in the psychedelic swirls of MGMT who brought out Henry Winkler to play the cowbell. Once they finished, my excitement grew as I was ready to have my eardrums shredded by My Bloody Valentine. Security guards kept offering ear plugs to the crowd who may or may not be aware of the extensive noise and feedback storm that punctuates the ending of their set.
One of the unfortunate events of the evening was that My Bloody Valentine didn't allow any form of photography which was devastating but made me thankful that I shot them at the Santa Monica Civic Center and Coachella in 2010. The woozy pitch bending notes of “I Only Said” took me into another world. In a majority of concerts that I attend, I'm able to keep a form of composure. This wasn't the case as I couldn't contain myself when the roaring guitars of “When You Sleep” blasted through the speakers.
A trio of new songs from their latest album “m b v” kept me floating and my mind off how ill I had been feeling for the past couple of weeks. “Only Shallow” was so loud that the amplification system for the festival couldn't handle the noise and began cutting out as the bass and drums were absent from the mix. I continued to air tremolo strum along with the rest of the songs until the final epic conclusion of “You Made Me Realise” and the sound of jet engines that seemingly get added to the mix of noise and feedback.
Considering that My Bloody Valentine rarely tour these days, I was glad I overcame my illness for a few moments of sheer sonic bliss. It pains me that I couldn't have spent both days at FYF Fest with my fellow photographers in the trenches but I figured it was smarter to conserve my energy and see My Bloody Valentine. It would have been easier to stay at home but I refuse to let cancer dictate how I live my life.