Music lovers of today would be shocked to hear concert photographer Larry Hulst’s memories of attending live shows in the 1960s and 1970s.
Like how people would hear through word of mouth that a band was coming to town versus being inundated by concert announcements. Hulst lived in Sacramento, Calif., in the late ’60s and would go to the ticket outlet the night before the show to stand in line and ensure he got in.
“Now with all the computerized ticketing, I can be in Europe and buy tickets for Red Rocks,” Hulst said from home in Colorado Springs. “It was more of a success story to get a ticket (back then). And if you went to a big show, it might be $4.50 to $6. That didn’t change until probably the ’80s. I would go to A Day on the Green with five or six bands and pay $12 to see national acts.”
Hulst has hundreds of colorful stories, seeing as how he’s watched upward of 4,200 concerts in his 75 years, and taken a countless number of photos of iconic musicians along the way, including Elton John, Janis Joplin, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden.
Those famous black and white photos have shown up in publications such as Rolling Stone, Time and Guitar Player magazines and have been selected for album art for Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. He’s been represented by Getty Images, one of the largest stock photo agencies in the world, and the subject of more than 40 museum exhibits across the country, including at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College and Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
About two dozen of his photos will be on display in the new exhibit “I Knew Where to Stand” at Academy Art & Frame Co. Hulst will be on hand Friday for the opening reception. The show is up through December.
“Every time I saw Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page was pretty good,” Hulst said. “A 1978 concert of the Grateful Dead was pretty good. It lasted until 7 a.m. Anytime I went to a large show I had a good time. I didn’t have too many bad times.”
Hulst never imagined his life would turn out this way. He was just a guy who loved music and taking photos. It all started after he returned from serving in Vietnam in 1969, and attended Sacramento’s American River College. He’d wander around campus with his camera, finally drawing the attention of the school newspaper staff. His concert photos made it into print and caught the eye of the owner and founder of Tower Records, who asked Hulst to sell his portraits outside his Sacramento record store for $2 to $3.
That’s what he did for the next 18 years.
“I didn’t sell that many,” Hulst said, “but it was enough to buy concert tickets and gas to get there and a meal. I started taking concert photos to be sure I had money for food.”
To make up income, he went on to work for 27 years as a full-time U.S. government photographer, which included a stint at the Air Force Academy. He retired in 2010.
These days the music lover doesn’t attend many live shows, especially since the pandemic had its nasty way with music venues. He’d rather spend his money watching local musicians. He did, however, check on tickets for last month’s Grateful Dead shows in Denver. The cost for two tickets was a prohibitive $260.
“We turned around and did pay-per-view. I liked it, actually,” he said. “I poo-pooed it for a long time when it was first starting, but now bands have gotten so inaccessibly expensive.”
But he does miss being there in person, pointing his camera up at musical legends and catching them in their glory.
“I miss all the excitement of getting to the show, talking to new people, lining up and getting in and being in a crowd,” Hulst said. “There was zero energy in the living room.”
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