Last Shot: Outside Lands 1 Cancer 0

Categories: Last Shot

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

The last couple of weeks have been extremely difficult in managing my pain and new side effects from my clinical study medication. My anxiety levels grew to new heights as the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco quickly approached. Was I physically healthy enough to carry two camera bodies and weave through a festival crowd?

Even though my bags were packed and the flights were booked, I almost pulled the plug on the whole weekend as I was going to let cancer scare me into not accomplishing a goal that I had set. Since my diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer in February of 2011, I've managed to photograph 331 concerts. I refused to let cancer get the better of me and proceeded to head to the airport on Thursday night.

*Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer

My main objective for Outside Lands this year was to photograph and absorb a full set by Nine Inch Nails. So I needed to conserve as much energy as possible. Friday gave me a primer boost of energy though with some outstanding sets by Band of Horses, and The National. The real treat came though when I found out I was one of ten photographers approved to photograph Paul McCartney. While I was fortunate enough to document his performance at the Hollywood Bowl back in 2010, I never thought I would be so lucky to photograph a legend again.

After a full day of activity on Friday, I was not nearly as spry on Saturday. Some aches and pains had developed over night and it seemed like the narcotic patches that I am on weren't as effective which forced me to rely on Dilaudid pills every two hours until I could reapply a higher strength narcotic patch. Saturday's line up was just as impressive with a blistering set by guitar virtuoso Gary Clark Jr., a huge crowd showing up for OC's Young The Giant, and a fiery performance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who are bound for FYF Fest next week.

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I just don't know how you manage it!  So much wear and tear on one's body even if you're feeling at your very best.  I still don't think I recovered from Lolla yet.  I was assigned to shoot Lana Del Ray instead of NIN unfortunately but I walked back after her 3 and heard "Head Like a Hole" and "Hurt" both so I can imagine you hearing them (though obviously I can't possibly imagine what you're going through or fathom how brave you are through all of this).  I listened to those songs a great deal when I was 14-16yrs old.  It's so strange to hear them again as an adult.  It's interesting how songs can change us and how they mean different things and sometimes more to us depending on what we're going through in our lives.  Thanks always for your inspiration.  You have more pain tolerance and ambition than probably anyone I've ever known or met.  I am always keeping you in my thoughts.


Andrew, I was diagnosed Stage 4 NSCLC in late January. I've only just started on the journey you've been on for the last two years. I am struggling to get back my mojo and my rock'n'roll-ness, and am making progress. I too was at OL although we were too tired to stick it out for the headliners on Sat or Sun. But I was able to catch the National, which was my main goal, and Macca, and Kurt Vile and Gary Clark and Hall and Oates and was introduced to Foals - what a great find they are. I wish you the best. And I'm sure the title "Last Shot" won't be foreshadowing.


I am so glad to have come across this column, Andrew. I was at Outside Lands and was totally blown away by NIN! But more importantly, two months ago, I lost a very dear friend at the age of 31 to stage IV colon cancer. She fought it for five solid years and inspired me every step of the way. Your courage and resolve to not let cancer get the best of you is exactly what I admired in my friend Aubrey as well. Here's a link to the blog she kept, if you are interested. All the very best to you, and keep rocking!


Keep up the fight Andrew. Very inspiring, each accomplishment is meaningful. 



I was there, NIN is a fuckn beast! Andrew, you and your work are admirable, thanks for setting an example...

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