Music Fans Are Crazy

The Photo Blog
July 14 2014 11:53 AM

Music Fans Are Crazy

Fans screaming for Joan Jett, Englishtown, New Jersey.

Erin Feinberg

Erin Feinberg began her career photographing concerts as a way of getting to see her favorite musicians up close and for free. But as digital photography got more popular, photo pits became overcrowded and restrictions for photographers at shows became overbearing. “The creative freedom I once had photographing concerts was disappearing and so to make things interesting for myself I needed to find other ways to document the live music experience,” Feinberg said via email.

About a decade ago, Feinberg began turning her camera toward the other show at live performances—the activities of the sometimes weird, sometimes wild, but always joyous fans. Her photos of audiences from all over the world are now collected in the book, Diehards. “I just loved observing the excitement and joy surrounding a given show—everyone expresses it a little differently. While you are surrounded by complete strangers there is this unique bond that forms over the course of a show because, together, you are part of that show. It’s a shared experience that is so incredibly powerful,” she said.

James Taylor concert, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Erin Feinberg

Jimmy Buffet fans tailgating before show, Jones Beach, New York.

Erin Feinberg

KISS fans preparing before a show at Jones Beach, New York.

Erin Feinberg

Bob Dylan fan, Long Island, New York.

Erin Feinberg

Feinberg’s main challenge was getting access to enter the venues. When she was on assignment, she would shoot what she needed for her client and then spend the rest of the time photographing fans for her own personal archives. When she couldn’t get access to a particular show, she would have to find a way to sneak her camera in. “There was a lot of finagling over the years! Most event promoters and producers couldn’t understand why I’d be interested in photographing the audience over the performer, so it was often a struggle,” she said.


In the last 10 years, Feinberg has met fans of all different types of music. She felt the raw energy of mosh pits at heavy metal concerts, captured crowd surfers at punk concerts, and admired the scarily precise air drumming at Rush concerts. She also hung out at tailgates in parking lots with Parrotheads, or Jimmy Buffet fans. “They’d always feed me whatever they had on the grill, and they made me cocktails from their mobile tiki bars! They know how to have a good time,” she said. “The Parrotheads are kind of like Deadheads in that respect—the social ‘hang’ in and around the shows can be as important as the show itself. It’s a lifestyle!”

U2 fan with band-related tattoos covering his back, Long Island, New York.

Erin Feinberg

Judas Priest crowd, Holmdel, New Jersey.

Erin Feinberg

Young Elvis Presley fan, Memphis,Tennessee.

Erin Feinberg

Along the way, individual fans have left their mark on Feinberg’s memory, like the U2 fan whose back was covered with tattoos celebrating his favorite records, and the Bob Dylan fan who had a picture of the artist on her prosthetic leg. While many of her images are straightforward portraits of those fans, others capture people in candid, unexpected moments. “One of my favorite crowd moments was at a James Taylor concert. He has incredibly loyal, diehard fans, but he’s not exactly known for boisterous crowds—so when this girl climbed up on a man’s shoulders and screamed out towards the stage clasping her favorite record above her head, I grabbed my camera and framed the moment as quickly as possible,” she said.

While Feinberg’s black-and-white images often feel timeless, if she’d started her project today, her images would likely look a lot different, as the proliferation of cellphone cameras have increasingly changed the look and feel of live shows. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be for artists to perform in front of all those little bright lights and fight for some eye contact in the crowd,” she said. “I recently worked on a tour with a very popular country artist and each night I was just so perplexed —and irritated!—by the sea of cell phones out in the crowd. It was impossible for me to capture that thrill and radiance in the faces of his fans because all of those ‘personal vanity appliances’ were in the way,” she said.

Young punk fan at Warped Tour, Englishtown, New Jersey.

Erin Feinberg

Front row of a Katy Perry concert, Englishtown, New Jersey.

Erin Feinberg

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips floats over his audience at Terminal 5, New York City.

Erin Feinberg



Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.


Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.


You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?