With more and more artists "banning" cameraphones at concerts lately, we decided to open up a civilized discussion about the use of cameraphones at shows. Do they ruin the experience for others? Have they now become a part of the experience? Do they extend the experience so it lives forever in your gadget and online? We discuss...
Jen Carlson: So, i was thinking of doing: In Defense Of iPhones At Concerts, since I do believe people should be allowed to bring them, and use them.
John Del Signore: To take photos and shit?
Jen: Yeah, to CAPTURE MEMORIES
John: That is so annoying. How about EXPERIENCE THE MOMENT instead of always needing to FIDDLE WITH YOUR GADGET?
Jen: If no one filmed Neutral Milk Hotel shows way back when, we would have had nothing for all those years Jeff Mangum spent in solitude.
John: Yeah but that was like one person who had the equipment to do it, now it's every idiot looking to bring some sort of credibility to their Instagram feed.
Jen: But the only way most shows are captured now is via people with iPhones. If I never filmed this [below], no one would have ever seen this footage of Wilco performing "Love Will Keep Us Together" at Pianos in the early aughts. (Ed. note: this was my first time filming with a gadget sorry I didn't do a better job! But as you can see I kept the camera low as to not to annoy those behind me.)
John: These "moments" are overcaptured though, and it's a major distraction for the people behind the person with the iPhone held up.
Jen: I'm a firm "no" on iPads, those are very distracting, but iPhones are small and don't really bother me. People are generally respectful (or at least too lazy to hold their arms up for so long), and you can always ask them to stop.
John: I've been at many shows where the dude in front of me COULD. NOT. STOP. People are uncomfortable with the present moment, so they create a distraction. "I will document this moment to share in a future moment," is the excuse, but it's really just a way to occupy a restless mind.
Jen: OK, but what if you have a great vantage point and can knock out some good pics quickly, or capture one song to share with everyone that isn't there? I think it's worth it. These concerts are being documented for future generations via audience iPhones. Without them our grandkids won't know how awesome Thom Yorke's dancing was.
John: I'm fine with that, but most people aren't that considerate or aware how annoying it is, the incessant photo and video taking above the head when Thom's singing "Exit Music."
Jen: Too much of it all over the venue gets annoying, but I do feel like that sort of severity, where it takes you completely out of the moment, happens at shows that attract a more youthful audience.
Chris Robbins: If I may interject, I'm not sure that age matters here: you see just as many cameras at a Steely Dan show as you would at 285 Kent or whatever. Also, the next time you have the urge to take a photo or video to document the experience, remember that there is likely someone with actual equipment who is likely taking that video better than you ever would at that exact moment. Every garage band or bedroom artist seemingly has some photography student hovering around them with a $4,000 camera that doesn't cast a harsh glow on your eyeballs. Wait a day or two, and your favorite song at that show will show up on YouTube. And the bigger acts record everything too, and have it directed by Steve Buscemi or Gary Oldman or Discover Card or whatever.
Jen: I'm gonna ask a millennial now...
Jen: Do you have any thoughts on people using iPhones at concerts?
Marc Yearsley: To take vids?
Jen: Yeah. I'm assuming you've mostly only ever experienced concerts like this, not like in the old days when we had no cell phones...
Marc: Been to a few Dave concerts early high school before video was really a standard function. I mean I think its absolutely Whatever. If you want to record the show, that's what you will use, and that is okay! I totally understand the desire to preserve and document. If you don't want to do that, who cares? Bitching about it, at worst, is some anti-technology utopian bullshit—"Back when listening was real in the good old days without all these Cromputerz and sexting and MyFace." Sometimes I vid, sometimes I don't.