Remember to tilt your phone horizontally for filming…and then turn it off and put it in your pocket.
Ever since a bunch of hyphy teenages began tearing up their theater seats listening to “Rock Around the Clock” in the 1950s, concert etiquette has been an inherent and contentious part of music culture. These days, whether you’re seeing a dusty old rock god play your city’s football stadium or watching your cousin’s Van Halen tribute band at the local watering hole, the crowd and their cell phones inevitably create a cheap imitation of Starlab. Yeah, remember Starlab? Well, kids, it’s time we had a talk.
The topic is multi-faceted and ambiguous. You might think there’s nothing wrong with filming a whole concert because you paid for the ticket or you might be sick of watching a whole performance through the phone of the basketball player on stilts in front of you. You might be the victim of an annoying Facebook friend who floods your timeline when they go to shows. Someone with zero priorities may actually sit down and rewatch entire concerts they’ve filmed. All of these issues stem from our difficulty integrating old customs with new technology.
Look at social media. Instagram is our way of instantly colorizing, texturizing, and aging our photos because our intangible pictures will never take on the qualities of previous generations’. Snapchat takes the photographic medium—something purposely permanent—and makes it something purposely temporary. With email, Facebook, and Twitter, the speed and ease with which we can send messages enables us to share things regardless of significance. Undoubtedly, if the values that we put on communication change, it will affect our behavior (even if that behavior involves diminishing the concert-going experience for you and those around you).
I’m not trying to be a “get off my lawn” reactionary. Technology is magical and should be embraced. “Everything in moderation” is a good approach to this situation, and I believe that excessive phone usage at shows can be a temporary phenomenon, along with tactless social media moves like tweeting every small detail of life or having dozens of selfie albums. Just think, the novelty of “HEY I CAN WAVE MY PHONE AROUND INSTEAD OF A LIGHTER AT THIS CONCERT! WOW THE 21ST CENTURY IS FULL OF TECHNOCYBER MIRACLES! WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!” was dead when we were still T9ing on our indestructible Nokias. Social media and camera phones are only around a decade old, and our interactions with them will take some time to integrate and adjust. This will occur naturally if we just exercise more self-awareness in public settings. We’ll eventually figure when is best to text at the dinner table, how loud to talk on the phone in public, how not to walk into traffic texting, and how to record (or not record) a show. Of course, I could be terribly wrong and society could slip into a sci-fi dystopia all because of my hopefulness. That’s why you, concert goer, need to lead the way on this initiative. Snap a few and then take it all in face to face.
The nature of concerts is the creation of a lively connection between two active parties, and when you put your phone up between you and the performer, you hinder that connection. The performer feeds off energy from the crowd, and if the audience is distracted, you’ll only be getting back as much as you put in. Do it for you and the artist, not your friends and followers. Your phone can’t capture the feeling of being there, it can only capture sound and image, and it’s not like you’re going to get the best quality shooting a bright stage in a dark crowd, getting speaker-exploding audio from the monitor you’re standing right next to. I’d take a fully experienced concert over one I partially recorded and partially experienced.
If I haven’t managed to sway you, that’s cool. I get it. America, opinions, freedom, etc. Just consider something next time you want to record an entire show: try putting your screen on your forehead so you can see the concert and record what you’re looking at. The poor man’s GoPro, if you will.
At least we can all agree that people who use iPads to capture concerts look like absolute fools.
P.S. You’ll be hearing from me again when Google Glass is ubiquitous.