People Who Record Concerts on Cell Phones Are Actually Great
Someone doing the Lord's work when Charli XCX was in town.
Photo by Jack Gorman
If you love live music, it can be hard to put into words the feeling that it gives you. The live-music experience is one of those things that we become deeply protective of because of the emotions that they give us. Live music, on the right night, in the right room, is as close as we can get to pure magic in this reality.
But that doesn't change the fact that concerts suck.
Be honest with yourself: Other than the music itself, the concert experience is usually pretty abysmal. If you're even lucky enough to get the option to buy tickets, you get hit with crazy, byzantine fees. Parking at most shows is usually some sort of disaster. To even get into the show, you have to deal with whatever goes for security and the headaches that come with that.
And then there are the people. Your fellow fans. The monsters who are trying to ruin your good time.
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If you've literally ever been to a concert before, you know that hell is other people. Sure, maybe you make some friends and maybe the rest of the crowd isn't so bad when they're singing along to that one really popular song, but by and large most people at concerts are just the worst.
When it comes to concert complaints, the one that I hear the most is about people who record concerts on their cell phone. Most music fans — and a fair share of folks up onstage — have a big problem with this, and usually manifest their frustration in some form of “Ugh, like they're ever going to watch that video again” or “Blah, you need to learn to live in the moment.”
I could not disagree with this point more. The people recording concerts on their phones are heroes, and I hope they never stop.
So the thing about other people at concerts is that the problem is, no matter what their behavior is, they're making your life just a little worse. From the people who ignore “No Smoking” signs to the really tall person blocking your view to the group holding a loud conversation during the opener/in between bands/during all of the headliner's songs except the one they know, nothing they're doing benefits you. All that ends up happening is that your clothes get smelly, you hurt your neck straining to see and you're distracted from what's going on in front of you.
At least the folks with their cell phones out are providing a service.
I didn't make it out to see Low at Walters and, reading the review of the show, I'm pretty bummed about that; it sounds like it was a good time. But as I'm sitting here writing this, I'm playing the above video in the background. It was uploaded 13 hours ago as I type this sentence, and it's giving me a chance to experience, even in a reduced capacity, what I missed. I have no idea if the person recording it is ever going to go back and watch it, but I know that I'm glad that I can.
Two years ago, I flew to Chicago to hear my favorite album played all the way through, because I knew that it was one of the handful of chances I would ever get to hear my favorite song from it; that song is a deep, deep cut, and even though I've seen the Get Up Kids a ton, I'd never heard “The Company Dime” live. And I got to, and it was everything I hoped it would be.
And in an age where almost everything is online, I can find no video of that performance, and that bums me out so much.
I understand the argument that concerts should be ephemeral. I can definitely see the romance of that point of view. I just don't happen to agree with it. Live music is romantic enough as it is without the need to manufacture scarcity. If anything, live music is so romantic, so intoxicating, that I want to relive certain moments over again and am really happy that I live in an era where that's an actual option. And I'm also glad I live in an era where people can capture moments that I would literally not be able to experience otherwise: rare song performances, new song performances, one-off collaborations, train-wreck shows and shows people rave about online.
Now, if an artist asks you to put your phones away or puts in security to make sure that you're not using your phone, don't be a jerk. You don't have to respect the artist, but you should, even if you've paid the privilege to be there. But if the artist doesn't care, go all in. Record the entire thing and get it up online. Be a hero.
I mean, I'm not going to do it. I'll be too busy trying to avoid the smoke, the tall people, the talkers, the people who showed up late trying to push their way to the front, the people who have no sense of personal space, the drunks and the creepers so that I can “live in the moment.”
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