David Patrick Valera

2016 represents a year of political change, social unrest, and uncertainty. It has also been a year filled with the heart-wrenching losses of so many musical legends. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Phife Dawg, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Keith Emerson, Sharon Jones, and Leon Russell, just to name a few, have touched the lives of almost all of us in some way.

As we honor and pay our respects to these dearly departed artists, we are constantly reminded of their ubiquitous musical contributions. Fortunately, today there is a variety of creatively talented contemporary musicians forging new territory in the music industry to help fill the void.

A mecca for music lovers, Los Angeles has no shortage of live performance venues, from perennially sold-out festivals like FYF Fest to the Hollywood Bowl, across town to The Forum, to smaller venues like The Echo, and everywhere in between.

As a photographer, preparing to shoot a live show takes a lot more research and preparation than one may expect. The business side of it all is no joke, but it often depends heavily on timing and a little luck. Armed with a portfolio and photographic know-how, you wind your way through the complex labyrinth of corresponding, securing media credentials, and pining for tickets from publicists and managers so that you can enjoy and review the entire show.

Camera batteries charged, cards formatted, and I’m ready to weave through LA traffic and find that one last lucky parking spot. And when I arrive, there is almost always an obstacle that I need to maneuver my way around. House rules change with every artist. Sometimes there is an over-packed photo pit, other times we are relegated to the sound board, which may as well be a mile away from the stage. There are times when we are gifted with only two songs instead of our usual three to get the shots we need for our editors.

Photographers have to make do with the stage setups we are given. We hope that the good lighting gods are with us and that the musicians are energized to put on a great performance. I will not say that live concert photography is an easy and glamorous job, but the experiences, the relationships I have built, the friends I have found along the way, and the moments when everything photographically comes together add up to something that I would not trade for the world.

Many of you attended these shows and shared these special and unforgettable moments. Let us know your favorite concert experiences at any of these shows in a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Here are my top 10 favorite concert moments of 2016 captured in photographs:

#10. The Avett Brothers / The Greek Theatre / 04-29-2016

There is no denying the power of “I and Love and You” to gets one’s heart pounding, crafted in a way only Scott and Seth Avett can.

The Avett Brothers @ The Greek Theatre

#9. DeVotchKa / The El Rey Theatre / 01-16-2016
When DeVotchKa comes into town, they bring the circus with them. Check out these aerialists!

DeVotchKa @ El Rey

#8. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros / The Annenberg Space for Photography / 07-09-2016
The KCRW Summer Concert series is something special for us Los Angelenos to enjoy. ESMZ’s festive music makes any day feel like summer.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros @ The Annenberg Space for Photography

#7. Broods / The Novo / 08-23-2016
The ethereal and angelic voice of Georgia Nott and her stage presence commands well-deserved attention.

The Broods @ The Novo DTLA

#6. Savages / El Rey Theatre / 04-18-2016
If you’ve never seen a Savages show, you’re missing out on one of the best live bands of today. Jehnny Beth never seems to put less than 110 percent into her performances.

Savages @ El Rey

#5. Tame Impala / FYF Fest / 08-27-2016
This was my second time shooting Tame Impala, but I hope it will not be my last. Hypnotizing psychedelic grooves combined with a front lit projector bathing Kevin Parker in all the colors of the rainbow gave me life.

Tame Impala @ FYFFest 2016 - © David Valera

#4. Sufjan Stevens / The Hollywood Bowl / 08-27-2016
When Sufjan Stevens comes onto stage with archangel wings, you know you’re in for a visual as well sonic treat.

Sufjan Stevens @ The Hollywood Bowl

#3. Kendrick Lamar / FYF Fest / 08-27-2016
This was my first time shooting LA’s homegrown Kendrick Lamar, and I’ve never seen a more packed pit. I knew that we were all anticipating some surprises with his heavy bass grooves and lyrical poetry, but when fire exploded with each jump, the crowd went wild.

Kendrick Lamar @ FYFFest 2016 - © David Valera

#2. LCD Soundsystem / FYF Fest / 08-28-2016
Nothing gets the crowd more riled up than when a giant disco ball starts twinkling and spinning at the start of “Get Innocuous.” It becomes one mass of fans beating as one.

LCD Soundsystem @ FYFFest 2016 - © David Valera

#1. Grace Jones / FYF Fest / 08-27-2016
Grace Jones is the quintessential legend. From model to actress to singer/performer, at 68 years of age, she has pushed and torn down all boundaries and will hopefully continue to do so into to the distant future.

Grace Jones @ FYFFest 2016 - © David Valera