Daniel Corrigan is First Avenue's assistant facilities manager, unofficial tour guide, occasional stagehand, sometimes security guard and official photographer.
With his camera in hand, he's been smashed in the head by Iggy Pop's microphone, stuck in an elevator with the Replacements and scrunched in a van with Babes in Toyland. All in the name of capturing the decisive moment for an album cover, promo photo or story in some publication.
After more than three decades behind a camera, Corrigan, 58, has published an attractive, comprehensive book of more than 500 photos, "Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis," which covers everyone from U2 and Michael Jackson to Dessa and Hippo Campus (with text by Danny Sigelman).
Nowadays, Corrigan shoots about six to 10 concerts a month for First Avenue. Before that, he shot regularly for City Pages and the Minnesota Daily at the University of Minnesota, where he got his start. Like an airport tarmac worker, he always wears large headphones at concerts because his ears got blasted at an AC/DC gig back in the day.
For the book, the Minneapolis photographer credits Josh Leventhal of the Minnesota Historical Society Press for choosing the images from tens of thousands of negatives and digital files. In fact, Corrigan hadn't even seen some of the photos until they were published.
"My career is fraught with mistakes that went well," he says.
We've gathered a few of his favorite mistakes and asked Corrigan to tell the stories behind the images:
Replacements in elevator, 1985
They were playing at Coffman Union at the University of Minnesota. "They were squirrelly as hell," Corrigan recalled. "It was totally planned to get them in an elevator and hit the stop button between floors. I shot 20 to 24 frames and only four were usable. My career is fraught with mistakes that went well. A happy mistake. Adding elements of randomness and chaos is a technique I've used from the start."
"I shot Prince six times — four times at First Avenue," Corrigan said. "Two things I tell people: 1) He was teeny-tiny and 2) how good he was as a guitar player. I've never seen anyone with such complete mastery."
Lifter Puller, 1999
The band was playing at a house party near Franklin and Lyndale in Minneapolis and the people who lived there had a beauty salon. "It was totally spontaneous," Corrigan recalled. "Those were props that happened to be there. It was just an opportunity."
Iggy Pop, Duffy's, 1982
Because there was no barrier in front of the stage or special arrangements for photographers back then, Corrigan arrived early to the sold-out Duffy's (a south Minneapolis rock club) and camped right in front of Iggy's microphone. The singer inadvertently hit Corrigan in the head with the mic stand but the crowd buoyed the photographer and kept him standing. "The crowd pushed me forward and Iggy actually grabbed my chin right before I hit the stage," Corrigan recalled. "He looked me in the eye like 'Dude, are you OK?' and I swear he didn't miss a beat."
Henry Rollins, First Avenue, 1986
"I was a big Black Flag fan and a fan of Henry's politics but I'm not a fan boy," Corrigan said. "No one will take you seriously if you're a fan boy. He was super-pleasant."
Replacements on the rooftop, 1984
Corrigan took the band to the home of Anita Stinson, mother of two guys in the 'Mats. He shot them practicing in the basement, on a staircase, in the hallway and on the roof — all in less than two hours. "I'm super-fast. I don't work with assistants or stylists." Corrigan stood on top of the band's van to capture the four musicians and the Stinson dog on the roof. One frame ended up as the cover shot for the album "Let It Be."
Miles Davis, Orpheum Theatre, 1987
The jazz giant was notorious for not facing his audience when he performed. Corrigan stood by the side of the stage and captured Davis when he turned.
The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, Metrodome, 1986
The photographers were stationed behind the musicians' mixing board — far away from the stage. "My long lens was not long enough," Corrigan recalled. "That show is famous among Dead tapers for the worst sounding show the Dead ever did."
Michael Jackson, Met Center, 1988
"It was three songs of terror," Corrigan said referring to the limitations placed on photographers. "I shot four rolls with two cameras. You're so focused you're tuned out from the experience. I'm glad I have these pictures. I don't have any clear recollection of the experience."
Babes in Toyland, album cover, 1990
One of the band members had an idea to bring a bunch of toy dolls to the photo shoot for the cover of "Spanking Machine." Corrigan built scaffolding in his photo studio so he could shoot from overhead. He ended up using multiple camera formats.
City Pages periodically would assemble a roundtable discussion featuring people from different Twin Cities bands. "The Minneapolis scene is cohesive," Corrigan said. "People are friends. Paul Westerberg is the most reticent of the bunch. I'm the only one who has good pictures of Westerberg smiling."
Soul Asylum, album cover, 1989
The group's cover for "Clam Dip & Other Delights" was a takeoff on Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' "Whipped Cream & Other Delights" from 1965. "It wasn't my idea," the photographer said of the cover concept. "Karl [Mueller, the band's bassist] had to stand there in clam dip, which we made out of Crisco, dyed with coffee. My studio smelled like fish and clams for weeks."
Mumford & Sons, First Avenue, 2010
Corrigan confesses: "I poached that. I didn't have permission. I was there working security. They had TV lighting. They were being interviewed by someone else. I stole someone's lighting."
Haley Bonar, First Avenue, 2016
"I saw her first show when she had massive stage fright," Corrigan remembered. "At this show, it's dark. You have to use a slow shutter speed. I caught that split-second when she wasn't moving."
Lauryn Hill, First Avenue 2014
"She's started late. She's got the diva reputation. She's anything but. She wants [the lighting] subdued. She conducts her band onstage. After the show, she came down and said hi to every fan who waited to shake her hand. Then she greeted everyone in the crew."
Devotchka, First Avenue, 2016
"It's taken from the DJ booth. I shoot from up there. I'm not in any customer's way."
Prince tribute, First Avenue, 2016
"I love that shot 'cause it's got Bob Mould in it and the Suicide Commandos," Corrigan said. "They're playing Prince songs. It's the last photo in the book, and it ties the book together because the first picture is Prince. It's a poetic ending."