Last Shot: The Time Juliana Hatfield Made Me Forget I Have Cancer

Jun 11, 2013 at 6:11 am
Andrew Youssef - Lindsey Best
Lindsey Best
Andrew Youssef

[Editor's Note: Long-time concert photographer Andrew Youssef found out two years ago that he had stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events, on top of other freelance work and working a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]

As a DJ at my college radio station at the University of the Pacific back in the mid '90s, I used to always play a Juliana Hatfield song during my show. The combination of Hatfield's honey-sweet vocals and chunky Gibson SG guitar riffs easily won me over when I first saw her videos on MTV's Alternative Nation. She had been on my radar previously with her swooning background vocals and rollicking bass work on the Lemonheads album It's a Shame About Ray.

See Also: - Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer

She toured sporadically back in the day, and I remembered doing whatever I could to catch her live shows when she came to town. Hatfield is responsible for igniting my interest in concert photography, as I snuck in my brand-new five megapixel Sony camera into her show and taking a slew of blurry photos. I had no idea what I was doing but luckily scored a few good shots due to the sheer volume of shutter actuations.

I follow Hatfield on Twitter and was intrigued when she announced a Pledge Music campaign for fans to fund her new album of cover songs. One of the limited packages was a fifteen-minute phone call with Hatfield for $50. I immediately got out my Visa card and made the donation, as I knew it would sell out. The chance to speak with one of my favorite artists and guitar heroes was a no-brainer.

Ironically, the time she was supposed to call was the day my chemotherapy ran later than usual. So I have a voicemail on my phone from Hatfield saying she would try back later. When I finally did talk to her, my anxieties melted away. It was effortless talking to her about guitar pedals, working with Josh Freese on her album Only Everything and how Nada Surf was criminally underrated.

During the conversation, she mentioned she was going to do two sets (acoustic and electric) at Q Division studios in Massachusetts in a couple weeks. Understanding that Hatfield rarely plays shows, I made the rare exception to postpone my chemotherapy treatment and take a red-eye flight to Boston to photograph her performances. It was surreal to see Hatfield sitting on a stool and politely greeting everyone at the door of the studio as you entered.