1st Festival Back! Ubbi Dubbi 2021
Ennis, Texas
April 24 - 25, 2021

Last weekend Ubbi Dubbi made history as the first festival back in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a year without any large scale events and hardly any live music. That seems so wild to say. I've been photographing events for over a decade now, and I never thought I would see something like this, let alone have the opportunity to cover the first festival to kick things off again. 

The Disco Donnie Presents team still took precautionary measures on-site and there were protocols put in place for the attendees, artists, and event staff including 50% venue capacity, the use of CLEAR Health-Passes, COVID sniffing dogs, required face masks, and an express entrance lane for vaccinated attendees. I had received 1 of 2 shots of the vaccine before the event, and our photo/video team took COVID rapid tests upon arrival. While I can't speak for everyone's experience, the Disco Donnie Presents team did do alot to minimize risk. 

With all the hype surrounding this first festival back, I wanted to approach this shoot to showcase the human connection that live music brings us. The community, sense of belonging, and all the emotions that come with it. I feel like I do that no matter what I shoot, but it was especially important for this event. Some people were seeing their friends for the first time in over a year and making new ones, and we were all collectively sharing this experience after a devasting year. 

I was assigned to shoot the Zoom Room, which was the house and techno stage, and featured artists like LP Giobbi, Shiba San, and Green Velvet. But some of my favorite photos came while I was running back and forth between my stage and the production trailer. Like the sunset shot of a flag that read "Music Unites Us All", which I spotted towards the end of day two and sprinted across the venue to get. 

I think Disco Donnie's speech after Illenium's set summed it all up pretty well:

“I just want to say thanks to all of you guys. I want to say thanks to the city of Ennis. The Texas Motorplex, they’ve been great partners to host us this year. I want to say thanks to the whole staff. They didn’t have to work. They chose to work. I want to give special thanks to the artists. It took a lot of courage to play this show. It wasn’t easy….. This one’s gonna be hard….. I wanna thank my team. I told them 7 weeks ago that we’re fucking doing it. They put all this shit together. I was a terrible boss. A really bad boss. 6am, midnight…. They put this shit together for you guys. And now I will talk about my favorite subject, myself. I’ve done over 16,000 shows over 27 years. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t for me, it was for all of us…. For our mental health…. We needed this, we really needed this. What I want you to do is tell your grandkids that you went to the first festival back. You saved the rave. We fuckin did it” - Disco Donnie