5:47 pm, Wednesday, September 20. I’m nervously pacing around in my lobby, waiting for the taxi I booked to arrive at the curb. This was supposed to be my very first time photographing a show from the photo pit, with one of my favourite bands, Make Them Suffer, opening for Parkway Drive on their “Monsters of Oz” tour — and I was about to be late. 

It was kind of funny really. Just 10 minutes before, I was sipping on a glass of protein shake and packing my gear at a leisurely pace after coming home from my biology practical because, for some reason, I had mistakenly thought the show was starting at 7:00 pm.

Earlier this year, I wouldn’t have expected Make Them Suffer to have become a favourite of mine. I had known of them through Onslow — the side project of vocalist Sean Harmanis — but didn’t think much of them as I wasn’t really into heavier music then.

As the weather grew warmer, however, my taste in music shifted toward metal. A few metalcore shows in the spring and some Tidal algorithm recommendations later, I came across Make Them Suffer once more. This time around, I fell in love with their entire discography. They currently sit at the very top of my last.fm artist list, and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.

Ghost of Me was their first song that evening. They played a total of seven songs: their four latest non-album singles, two tracks from their newest album, and an older single from 2016. As it usually is with openers, the setlist was fairly short, so my personal favourites unfortunately did not make the cut. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed their set both inside the photo pit and out. 

Make Them Suffer kicks off their set with their newest single, Ghost of Me. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY

Their energy alongside the sun’s presence meant easy lighting and dynamic shots, so I was very happy with my shots from the pit. When I wasn’t taking photos, I was mouthing lyrics and headbanging along to breakdowns, entranced by the mesmerizing blend of screams, riffs, and falsettos. Good bands are better live than in recording, and Make Them Suffer was absolutely phenomenal live.

Alex Reade, the newest addition to Make Them Suffer. She is the first keyboardist in the band’s history to employ a keytar as part of her arsenal. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY
Make Them Suffer’s 30-minute set left me wanting more. I hope they return to North America with a headlining tour. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY

The night wasn’t without its hiccups, however. I had to clear things up with security and the head event photographer after I unknowingly breached a venue policy as the second band performed. This left me a little shaken for the rest of the show, but I trudged on.

The calm before the storm. Bursts of fire illuminate the stage just a few moments later. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY

Parkway Drive, the headliner, introduced me to pyrotechnics. I had never seen pyrotechnics at a concert before, and I was mere feet away from the stage in the photo pit when the flames kicked in during the first song’s chorus. The air was hot, and I felt lost trying to control focus and exposure through the fire, but I still managed a few decent shots and left the pit with my limbs and gear intact. I enjoyed the remainder of their set from the crowd, witnessing pyro in action once more and left just before the encore started.

A crowdsurfer sings along to Idols and Anchors by Parkway Drive. Crowdsurfing is an integral part of rock and metal show culture. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY

I had a plethora of firsts and beautiful images, both captured through my lens and etched into my memories. No matter where my concert photography journey takes me in the future, I’ll always look back fondly at this night.