We’ve all been there. You’re watching your favourite band at a gig when all of a sudden a wazzock in front of you whips out an iPad, held aloft to film the proceedings, before bashing your friend in the ear with his elbow. Or, instead of your eyes focussing on the lights and action on stage, there’s a sea of smartphones up in your grill like a constellation of enormous stars. What can you do? Not much. It’s become the norm.
Unless artists try and make a stand against it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the latest to declare war on smartphones with this message over the weekend at Webster Hall tweeted by Spin (Photo: Caryn Ganz/SPIN):
PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA. PUT THAT SHIT AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian. MUCH LOVE AND MANY THANKS! YEAH YEAH YEAHS
“Put those motherfuckers away” shouted Karen O, reiterating the point during the show.
Are they right? Any music-lover in his right mind would surely say yes. A Tribe Called Quest supported Prince at a show I went to at SXSW last month. You could take photos and film all your wanted for the hip-hop bit – and people did. Prince, of course, doesn’t like pictures taken of him (he allegedly approved every image released after his performance) and the audience were threatened with removal if seen using smartphone devices. As you’d expect, the latter experience was a lot more pleasant.
But. There is value in music-lovers taking videos of gigs across the world so fans can watch them the next day or even that evening on YouTube. Hands up: I took pictures of Prince that evening in Austin. They were pretty ropey but fans were glad to see them. And some of the films shot unofficially out there are excellent, such as this Radiohead one. While it’s rarely a truly vicarious experience, hearing what’s going on, say, at a show in Coachella when you’re stuck at your desk in London Bridge is a great aspect of the internet.
Some will argue that the enjoyment of the gig-goers who pay for the show is paramount. Others would say that, when it’s done well, fan-created videos and audio are the the modern-day equivalent of bootlegging. What do you think about the use of smartphones at gigs? Does it drive you mad? Or are there other aspects of concert etiquette that you loathe more? Let me know below.