PHONING IT IN
Earlier this week the Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill supergroup 'Prophets of Rage' played a gig at LA's famous 'Whiskey A Go Go' venue.
'Prophets of Rage!?' What could these musical stalwarts be so feverishly enraged about, I hear you ask?
Specifically, mobile phones at gigs.
Now...A little start-up called 'Yondr' were hired for the night, and they set about collecting everyone's mobile phones, designing a little cosy case for them, and locking them away for the night. No one could shoot the gig, no one could film the gig, and no one could rip the gig.
NME got wind of this, and they were not happy. Nope. Not in the slightest. 'Bands are banning phones at gigs and it's stupid' reads the headline. Literary and musical heavyweight 'Leonie Cooper' has a different opinion to ill-informed nobodys such a Morrisey, Kate Bush and Yeah Yeah Yeahs it seems, and thinks it has all gone a bit too far.
Admittedly we're not the biggest fans of NME here. Sure we get it every week, but that's free, and toilet paper isn't...What else are we expected to do?
Cooper spews some dross about iPhone technology giving us 'pretty decent footage' and that without the crowd 'the show wouldn't even be happening' (True, but nowhere near the point) so we felt compelled to give our own side to the debate.
It is incredibly frustrating to be behind a dreaded phone-wielder at gigs. Not only does it obstruct other people's views, but you're there - view obscured by someone else's stubby little hands - KNOWING that this could be so much better for THEM, too. A lot of the time this footage is unlikely to ever be viewed again and, even if it is, the footage will be blurry, dark, and have a poor quality of sound. As Jarvis Cocker said some time ago: 'It seems stupid to have something happening in front of you and look at it on a screen that's smaller than the size of a cigarette packet. If anything, it undermines the experience because it seemed like a really good moment and now I can see it were crap."
Cameraphone footage can not only ruin the moment for you, the people around you, and the artists' performing, but also your MEMORY of the moment.
There is also the element of mystery. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we now know everything about our favourite musicians. We know when they record, when they play live, when they eat and when they shit.
Call me old fashioned, but before a gig I enjoy NOT knowing what the setlist will be. I enjoy NOT knowing what the backing band look like. I enjoy NOT knowing what the encore is going to be. Unfortunately, though, when live footage is recorded at both the length and regularity that it is - and uploaded straight to YouTube - that mystery disappears, which is a shame.
But of course there can be a happy medium. We ourselves take occasional pictures when watching live music, but it's these fuckers who film full songs - or even full GIGS - that ruin it for everyone. At a recent Louis Berry gig we attended, two different people recorded the whole gig on their phones. That's around SEVENTY minutes of shaky, bad footage.
In the days following the gig, we went onto YouTube to try and find these clips. We found them. One of Louis Berry's songs 'Laurie' actually had the clip title 'Lorraine', and one of his other songs 'Rebel' just featured the (blurry) reactions on the audience's faces for the whole length of the recording.
We shudder to think how many people buy a ticket for a concert nowadays and film the whole thing. They film the whole thing without being remotely invested in the music itself, and their place then deprives a genuine fan of experiencing the same thing. Individuals who film the entirety of a concert are no better than profit seeking touts who buy batches of tickets at a time. They are both there for their own selfish gain, not enjoying the gig for what it is, and simultaneously depriving a genuine fan of their place in that room.
But, hopefully the trend has peaked. Musicians themselves are now requesting that mobile phones not be used during their live performances, and companies such as Yondr are sprouting up with semi-regularity. As Leonie says: 'Big Brother eat your heart out...'.
Too fucking right, Leonie. Bring him on.