The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

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Stories from the pit: Freaks on Parade


When Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie came to Wells Fargo Arena, I got the chance to do one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

It can be hard to remember how well-known The Simpsonian actually is until something like this comes around. About a month before the concert took place, we were reached out to by a representative of Grandstand Media about covering the event for our publication.

How could you say no to that?

So, I filled out a form requesting a ticket and press pass, hit submit and waited.

Waited about a month, actually, down to the day before the show, which was nerve-wracking because this a pretty big deal and the closer the event got, the more I started thinking it was going to be a rejection.

But sure enough, an email came through. “Hi! You’ve been approved for the show tomorrow night with a ticket/photo pass.”

Okay, wow. Who am I?

As instructed, the day of, I went to Guest Services where about six other photographers and I were meeting Elly Simpson, the Marketing Manager at Iowa Events Center, who would run through the plan and the rules before leading us down to the photo pit.

We were allotted three songs for each performance (three for Alice Cooper, three for Rob Zombie) before we would be escorted back to Guest Services to leave our equipment and then released to watch the rest of the show.

The lights went down, and the spotlight came on, illuminating Alice Cooper’s eyes plastered on a banner imitating a fictional newspaper, “The Iowa Chronicles,” reading: “BANNED IN IOWA! ALICE COOPER. TRIAL SET: FOR DEEDS AGAINST HUMANITY.”

The other band members came out first; Nita Strauss on lead/rhythm guitar, Chuck Garric on bass, Tommy Henriksen on rhythm/lead guitar, Ryan Roxie on guitar and Glen Sobel on drums/percussion (though he was hidden behind the banner).

They jumped into a short clip of “Lock Me Up” as the banner split down the middle and out came the man himself: Alice Cooper wearing a top hat, leather jacket, eye makeup and his legendary scowl before the crowd cheering before him.

He pointed his sword at the crowd and held his microphone to his lips, singing “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

He sounded amazing. I quietly sang along to the words I knew, marveling at how I was less than a foot away from the man I’ve heard on the radio all my life all while keeping my camera trained on him.

If you’ve never been in a photo pit before, which I assume most of you haven’t, it’s a crowded area. Security is there to make sure the photographers are following the rules and to make sure that nobody tries to climb the gate and rush the stage. A man with a video camera was there to film the performance for the side screens and then there were seven photographers.

It was a miracle I didn’t trip over anyone, but I definitely ran into people a couple of times. It’s hard to pay 100% attention when there’s a camera glued to your face the whole time.

I found it surprisingly difficult to keep track of how many songs they went through. Thankfully, nobody else seemed to have trouble telling so I just followed the crowd when the other photographers started leaving.

And it was hard to leave because, come on, it’s Alice Cooper; that man’s whole thing is performance. But rules are rules, and we went up one of the back staircases to drop off our cameras.

Elly ran through the rest of the schedule for the night, highlighting when we would meet back at that location for Rob Zombie and what would happen after, before releasing us to enjoy the rest of Cooper’s set.

We only missed a few songs, making it to our seats (section 103, row H was designated for media) just in time for “Snakebite,” which is notable because this is when Cooper brings out a live snake to sit around his shoulders for the duration of the song.

It was followed by “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Poison,” a guitar solo by Strauss and then the “Black Widow Jam” from the band.

Cooper returned to the stage locked in a straitjacket to perform the “Ballad of Dwight Fry,” which ended with his escape from the jacket; intent on a rampage before his wife, Sheryl Cooper, dressed in a complete Marie Antoinette-style dress and wig, holds him close…

…and proceeds to bring him over to the guillotine for his beheading.

The crowd was all for it, cheering for Cooper’s execution as they raised the (fake) blade over his head and brought it down with the appropriate sound effect.

I had never wanted to be in a photo pit more than when Sheryl kissed Alice’s severed head.

Cooper rounded out his set with “Elected” and “School’s Out” before wishing the crowd pleasant nightmares and leaving the stage, which was our cue to get our cameras and wait another half an hour for Rob Zombie to start.

I’m pretty sure Zombie wanted to make sure his band was the hardest band to photograph.

He started with “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)” and stood sky-high on a tower while he did so. Getting down from that didn’t improve things because his microphone stand had a large star on the front of it that further obscured him.

The guitarist, Mike Riggs, and bassist, Piggy D., each also had a microphone stand that hid them.

But the photos I did get ended up being cool. There was talk beforehand about him being hard to shoot because of the crazy lighting, but that part I didn’t have much trouble with. Between the lighting and the pyrotechnics, I was able to get stylistic photos from Zombie I couldn’t get from Cooper. 

We photographed throughout “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown” and “Feel So Numb” before repeating what we did for Cooper.

This time, though, everyone said goodbye and most of the other photographers left.

I wasn’t about to let that free ticket go to waste though, so I stayed for the rest of the show which was just as awesome as the show before it.

Zombie ran through “House of 1000 Corpses,” “Living Dead Girl,” “More Human Than Human,” and “Thunder Kiss ’65,” all with that deep gravelly voice you hear on the radio, before closing out with his most well-known song “Dragula.”

Then it was over, I was left to reflect on an experience that was amazing and unreal. Whether an opportunity like this will ever come again remains to be seen, but to top this would be a feat itself.

“Freaks on Parade” has rounded out the main leg of the tour, but will return for a few shows at the end of October on the West Coast.

You can find the gallery of photos taken from that night here.

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Jenna Prather
Jenna Prather, Editor-in-Chief

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