If you’ve been to a show at The Joint anytime in the last three years, chances are you’ve seen a man carrying around an excessive amount of camera gear and wearing a T-shirt with a dark blazer. Say hi next time. His name is Erik Kabik.
Kabik is The Joint’s house photographer and has been for about three years, but his history with the Hard Rock’s live-music venue goes back to way before he was in the pit for virtually every show. All the way back to opening night.
Last weekend the new Joint turned one. It celebrated with a concert from Them Crooked Vultures. The room was packed, the sound on point; Kabik said it might have been the loudest show he’s seen in the new venue. It was a good one, to be sure. To mark the hall’s first year, we asked Kabik to sort through his archives and send us his favorite images from the last 12 months. From Paul McCartney to Gwen Stefani to Jamie Foxx, it’s been a busy run for the Joint and, consequently, for Kabik. Who better to sum up its highlights than someone who’s known it since its first night out of the gate?
Kabik spent The Joint’s first night working. Not in the photo pit. Behind the bar. It was 1995 and Kabik was working at Mr. Lucky’s at the newly opened casino. On The Joint’s opening night, the crew was short a few staffers for The Eagles’ performance inside the debuting venue. “They threw me in there as a barback. So I got to see the first show of the original Joint.”
During the last 15 years Kabik has seen and photographed more shows inside the venue than most people will probably see their entire lives. “I’m sure I’ve seen a few hundred shows there,” he says. “Whether I was dumping ice, or cleaning glasses or shooting photos, I’ve always been around it. I feel this awesome connection to The Joint, like it’s my baby or something.”
Over the years he’s seen and photographed an impressive roster of musicians. He saw The Ramones with his dad, a life-list show for the younger who used to follow the Grateful Dead on tour. He photographed Neil Young there, too, though he was unsatisfied with the shots and ended up throwing the photos away. He shot Alanis Morisette there in her heyday, The Wallflowers, Motley Crue.
Kabik was there with Carlos Santana when he took his first walk around the venue where he’d take up a residency. “He wasn’t saying a whole lot,” Kabik remembers. “He was just doing these long stares. He must have been imagining it full of people.”
Seeing the new venue made an impression on the photographer, too. “It was definitely like The Joint all grown up,” Kabik says, a touch of nostalgia creeping into his voice. After all, the old Joint is where he became the photographer he is today. His first years shooting inside the venue, Kabik was using film.
And amid his memories of fantastic shows and iconic musicians, Kabik cherishes a few less-than-precious moments working inside The Joint, like the night he was spit on by the a member of the Voodoo Glow Skulls. “He just came right out and hocked one right at me,” laughs Kabik. “That’s the downside of being in the pit at a concert.”
It’s all part of the gig, which isn’t quite as glamorous as you might imagine. So the next time you see Kabik, monster-sized lens over his shoulder, hustling into The Joint on the night of a big show, smile and say hi. You’re spending the night with his baby. It’s only appropriate you say hello.