What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding? Sevendust live at the Emerald Theater in Detroit


Since Barack Obama’s nomination and subsequent election as the first African-American president of the United States, we have been bombarded with commentary about how he has broken racial barriers, winning traditionally “red” states and southern states. But political superstar that he is, Obama would likely have his hands full winning over a crowd of beer-guzzling, good ol’ boys into metal and hard rock.

For Lajon Witherspoon, it’s all in a days work, and has been for years as the frontman for Sevendust. Witherspoon is one of only a few African-American vocalists in heavy metal, yet has garnered such respect he was named #35 on Hit Parader’s list of 100 Best Rock Vocalists of All Time in 2008.

And when you see Sevendust live, you can see he’s earned his place. He may be short in stature, but he thrashed his muscular frame around the stage, Keith Morris-esque dreads whipping around him as the band covered songs from their full discography, going back as far as “Denial” from 1999’s Home, to “Inside” from their current release, Chapter IIV: Hope and Sorrow.

Sevendust00062You’d expect Witherspoon to be a total badass, but he showed the Detroit crowd a bit of a different side that night. At one point, he called out to a couple of soldiers in the crowd still in camouflages, and as they were hoisted over the crowd to the pit, Witherspoon stopped security from booting them out, and took one of the soldiers on stage to thank him for his service. To roaring applause, as you can imagine.

If that won’t win over a rough crowd of metalheads and biker types I don’t know what will.

 Then as the set resumed, a drumstick had been thrown in the audience. I watched as two men both had a deathgrip on it, struggling to rip it from each other, neither giving it up. They seemed on the verge of blows, but Witherspoon quickly put an end to that. It’s one thing to have a pit, but he’s not having any fights at their shows — he called to them to stop and handed the men a second drumstick, ending the brewing fight and inspiring the men to hug each other to the crowd’s applause.

Who knew he could be such a sensitive guy and ambassador of peace and goodwill?

The Emerald Theater was sold out for this show supporting Black Label Society, and as I looked up from the front row into the balconies in that old theater, I could see about every face in there, and I only saw one that was African-American. But I didn’t see any that weren’t rocking out.

I can’t see Obama as a rock star, but for Lajon Witherspoon, who knows…maybe he has a promising future in politics and diplomacy, should he ever get tired of rock and roll.

But given the show Sevendust put on in Detroit, I can’t see that happening anytime soon. And thank god for that.

Shiny Toy Guns at Meadowbrook Music Festival

I was having a lot of technical difficulties with this set — getting my exposures right and my shutter fast enough. Not to mention a very high stage and big amps in the front of it, plus little room to move around security in the pit. The adjustment from dive bar to arena can be a bit rougher than I anticipated. I was also struggling to get the feel of my new 70-200 lens and learning to juggle shooting with two cameras.