WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
December 8th, 2011 By Deirdre Kaye | Music | Posted In: Live Music, Music Commentary

Cellphones Killed the Rock Star

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texting-like-a-boss(Photo: likeaboss.com)

At the City & Colour concert at Bogart's a while back, I watched as a woman in the front row texted her way through both of the great opening acts. I glanced around and discovered that she wasn’t the only one. I figured everyone would surely stop when Dallas Green and the rest of C&C took to the stage. Three songs in and the crowd was still lit up by glowing phones.

Everywhere I looked people were texting, tweeting, facebooking or recording the night away. Often, both members of a couple would be recording the same song. As if the iPhone 12 inches to the left might just capture something different from theirs. I watched as a group of friends passed around a cell phone with a message from another friend who, I assume, wasn’t present (or maybe they were just three feet over). Meanwhile, the band played on.

This left me disappointed in humanity.

Of course, it goes beyond concerts. There is a well-circulated picture from one of President Obama’s Inaugural Balls.  In the background you can see a blurry President and First Lady on-stage. In the foreground are a hundred or so little blue squares. Everyone has their cellphone lifted above their heads, trying to capture the moment. I guess there’s no point in attending an Inaugural Ball unless you can tell (and show off for) all your friends?

The night of the City & Colour concert, Dallas Green requested that everyone put their phones away for just one song.

His request was simple but profound:  “Forget about trying to remember a show (so hard) that you forget to experience it.”

There is a ridiculously cliche quote about life not being about how many breaths you take but about the moments that take your breath away. Those moments are supposed to be sudden and surprising, like a shooting star. You will never see all the shooting stars, which is why the ones you do witness always cause you to gasp.

My favorite mid-concert memory comes from a Mumford & Sons show in Knoxville. Halfway through a song, guitarist Marcus Mumford dropped his head forward onto the shoulder of the banjo-playing Winston Marshall. Winston pushed his forehead against Marcus’s shoulder in return. It was obviously an emotional moment for the long-time best friends. In all the social media fangirling, I’ve yet to come across another mention of the moment.

What was everyone doing for those five or 10 seconds? Taking pictures of the other two members, Ted Dwane (bass) or Ben Lovett (keys)? Tweeting to all their followers about how excited they were to be at a sold out Mumford & Sons gig?  No. They were updating their status to, “… is front row @MumfordandSons @TheValarium.” How did 1,500 people not see this moment?

They missed a shooting star.

Worse yet, during the 2011 festival season, a lighting tech tweeted from Bonnaroo that he was sitting in Neil Young’s car … with Neil Young. 

Things to do when in the presence of Neil Young besides tweet:

-Hand him a guitar
-Tell him “The Needle & The Damage Done” is your favorite song
-Ask him how he feels when people cover his work. Does he have a favorite cover?

Not this guy, though. This guy sat three feet away from a freaking Rock Star and stared at his phone. Like a boss.

Aside from the obvious effects of robbing themselves of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I wonder if people realize what else they’re doing. Are they unaware that they can often be seen from the stage? Aren’t they thinking about how hard it is for an artist to look down and try to connect with blue faces lit up by cellphone screens? Mumford & Sons will never read this, but I know that among the cellphones they saw my proud grin.

What about the aging Rock Star looking into his rear view mirror? I have no doubt that said lighting tech finds Neil Young just as God-like as my father thought he was 40 years ago. But does Neil Young know? Neil Young will probably never read a tweet about how stoked a fan was to meet him.

He’s looking for that excitement in eyes that are cast down on a glowing screen.

An average year for me usually consists of spending more money on concert tickets and gas to get to the shows than I spend on payments for my Volkswagen. (It’s a little sad and very irresponsible. I regret nothing.) I have a few pictures and one video and that’s enough. I remember just as much as the girl who filmed every song. I looked up. I paid attention. I’ve seen dozens of shooting stars and I remember every single one without the aid of a picture or tweet.

You should try it some time. You might find it rewarding.

 
 
12.08.2011 at 03:36 Reply

The last concert I went to I was really surprised at all the people talking (and by talking I mean yelling at each other over the music) during the opening acts. Yes, 14 yo girls, we know you were there just to see Walk the Moon, but did no one teach you manners? STFU when others are performing.

 

12.08.2011 at 04:15 Reply

I wonder how many people actually SEE or HEAR the concerts they attend? I don't have many photos or videos, but I have been swept off my feet and moved to tears more times than I can count.

Have you seen the footage of Marcus Mumford at Telluride asking everyone to turn their phones and cameras off so that everyone can have a real, human moment? Or the video of Jeff Tweedy calling out fans for talking through his set? Priceless.

 

12.08.2011 at 04:34 Reply

Agreed, Jenny.

WTM.

Iscariot. 

That it all. 

 

 

12.08.2011 at 05:19 Reply

I enjoyed most of this, but the part about Neil Young made me think a little. I think there is a high possibility that Neil Young (or someone of his level of fame) may be even more excited that someone working with him would be willing to just live in his presence instead of gushing over how awesome he is. Most known (or even semi-known) musicians I've met seem much happier when people treat them like people instead of gods.

 

12.08.2011 at 06:22 Reply

Go to any college campus. You will see the same thing. It's like the majority of kids are zombies with tricorders that obsessively scan everything for life signs. I wish I was joking!

 

 
 
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