a, Arts & Entertainment

Pop rhetoric: Keeping it real at concerts

It’s hard to explain why you do it. Why, at some point during a concert, you will feel the need to pull out your phone—with its lackluster picture and video-taking ability—and snap a picture or a 30-second video that doesn’t do the artist any justice whatsoever. Sure, part of it is some notion of preserving the moment for nostalgia’s sake, but the more likely reality is that you’re just going to upload it onto whatever form of social media you partake in, hoping to get a few likes. Live music is a uniquely enriching experience, but when half the people at a show are busy coming up with a sweet caption to accompany their next Instagram upload, a lot of its value gets derailed.

Technological advancements such as mp3 files and YouTube have revolutionized the ways in which the average person listens to music. There is so much access to free music through the internet that the process of physically going to the store and buying a CD has become the exception, not the norm. Amid the rapid changes brought on by technology, concerts have been perceived as being safe from going obsolete. There remains nothing quite like immersing yourself completely in live music and soaking up the intimate experience of a concert—it’s something that technology can’t replace.

Although concerts remain as popular as ever, they are being compromised by the very thing from which they seemed to be immune, and the all-engrossing experience they offer is getting harder and harder to achieve. I challenge you to think of one concert you’ve been to recently at which you were not bombarded by a plethora of smart-phones throughout the performance. Now I’m not saying that I’m 100 per cent guilt-free on this, but I do think there is a way to go about it with a little bit of decorum.

Here’s how not to do it. I was recently at Kodaline’s show at the Corona Theatre, and I ended up standing behind a girl who watched the entire two hour show through the three inch screen of her iPhone. Aside from the fact that she kept her arm up for the entire time, I was astounded that she made the conscious decision to alienate herself from the musicians onstage for the whole performance. Not only did she—and everyone behind her—have a worse visual experience, but when you place a barrier between yourself and the stage, it’s pretty damn hard to connect.

It’s not just audience members who get irked by an obnoxious use of cell phones at shows—musicians have been speaking up about it, too. While on tour last year, bands like The Lumineers and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s both made announcements during their shows in response to their plugged-in audiences. In one instance, Lumineers front man Wesley Schultz stopped mid-“Ho Hey” to ask fans to quit filming the concert on their phones—a bit of an abrasive tactic, in my opinion. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s on the other hand, posted a sign that read: “PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA. PUT THAT S— AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian. MUCH LOVE AND MANY THANKS! YEAH YEAH YEAHS.” The message was then reiterated when vocalist Karen O gave a photo-op during one song and then asked that phones get put away. I think that’s a happy medium.

There’s no doubt that a rapt audience vastly improves any performance. The more you keep your phone out of sight, the more freedom you have to truly connect with the music in whatever way is meaningful to you. Putting your phone away will enhance the experience of everyone around you. As is the case with any human interaction, the best ones occur when you are fully engaged, and live music is no exception. Allow yourself to disconnect from your phone, and by extension, fully connect with the moment.

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