Last month the Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill supergroup Prophets of Rage took to the stage at Los Angeles’ iconic Whisky A Go Go venue. The band had hired a company called Yondr to help them out with the event – a start-up whose slogan is ‘be here now’, not because they’re, like, massive fans of the shonky Oasis album, but because their whole thing is based around locking up punters’ iPhones in a snazzy sock appliance, which automatically locks when inside the venue, meaning people can’t shoot or film the gig they’re at. Big Brother eat your heart out.
“We think smartphones have incredible utility, but not in every setting,” write the company, in zen-like tones. “In some situations, they have become a distraction and a crutch—cutting people off from each other and their immediate surroundings. Yondr has a simple purpose: to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it.” Infuriatingly patronising or actually quite a good call? Well, Prophets Of Rage aren’t the only ones to want to keep phones out the live music equation. Last year, when Mumford & Sons played a run of tiny live shows in London, LA and New York – debuting their last album ‘Wilder Mind’ ahead of its release – they used a similar method, collecting phones at the door in branded band pouches and redistributing them at the end of the gig. In his later years Prince was also renowned for setting the security on anyone he saw raising a smart phone during a show, while Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages and Jack White have all also asked fans not to take pics during gigs.
And we get it, we do. It must be as annoying for bands as it is for fans to see a sea of white plastic cases bobbing up in front of the stage but just because people are taking photos, doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying themselves or living in the moment. Personally documenting a moment on the insanely amazing piece of technology that most of us are now lucky enough to carry around in our pockets every day does not mean we’re not fully embracing it too.
Thanks to the progressions of iPhone technology people are able to get pretty decent footage and photos, images that they’ll ping onto Instagram or share with mates, which will give them a lasting reminder of a great night out, rather than forgetting the whole thing in a fug of overpriced beer. Also, let’s not forget that without the crowd, the show wouldn’t even be happening. If the people who’ve actually paid money for the concert want to appreciate it taking a few photos, let them. So here’s to taking a couple of snaps at a gig – appreciating live music and taking a pic for posterity shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive.