I haven’t had a good old rant for a long time, but my current annoyance is so, well, annoying, that I just can’t hold back. I recently went to see Against Me play at the Cockpit in Leeds and Tom Gabel said to the crowd (which was littered with phone-holding zombies), “It would be great if everyone could put away their cameras and just enjoy living the moment.” It seems that every time I go to a gig there is someone standing directly in front of me watching the band through a screen. While this annoyed me at bigger gigs like Alkaline Trio and Against Me, I thought that maybe it was just a sickness of big venues, but alas, when I saw the Down and Outs play at a small venue in Leeds (the Fenton) there were at least two camera phones at the front, in the bands’ face.
I assume you might be thinking why it’s any of my business to be concerned that people are sitting on the train home watching a shit quality, postage stamp-sized video of the gig they could have watched full sized with their own eyes. It becomes my business when I am standing next to a person holding the phone up at my eye level, so my eyes are constantly drawn to the dark flickering, or worse yet, their flash. Furthermore, when you are trying to have a dance and bash into someone holding their phone and get shot a withering glare, you start to wonder what people are even going to gigs for. If all they want to do is watch a video of the band, they may as well download someone else’s and save themselves the door price.
At a gig in London recently I was excited to be watching the support band, The Lawrence Arms. There didn’t seem to be that many people who knew them, but I went down the front and had a little dance. To my annoyance, amongst the still-standing crowd, a camera phone popped up next to my face. I tried to ignore the offending object, but the rubbish video of the tops of peoples’ heads and a miniature Brendan Kelly was so irritating that I turned around to the guy and said, “Hey, I’m sorry to be rude, but your camera phone is really annoying me. Do you mind moving it away?” He looked back at me and said, “Actually, your dancing is really annoying me.” I decided not to engage this comment as I was enjoying a really ace performance, but a little later he struck up conversation with me about how much he loves The Lawrence Arms and it was the first time he’d seen them. This attitude really confused me. He was really excited about the gig, had paid an extortionate door price and then proceeded to watch the whole thing through his phone. Surely he would have enjoyed their performance ten times more if he had put the phone away and absorbed the sights, sounds and smells of a live performance?
It seems like people have become so disengaged with normal methods of communication, i.e. a chat in the park, meeting someone in the pub, dancing or heckling a band, that a world without computer screens is thoroughly terrifying. The camera phone has come to represent the safety net of internet punks who are so used to seeing everything diluted through a machine that they need the security of a visual image to confirm they witnessed an event. Moreover, the era of digital technology has spearheaded this attitude that ‘everyone can be a photographer’. Sure, everyone can be an amateur photographer, but I take the word ‘amateur’ to mean that you share your pictures with your friends or round the office but don’t force these images on the general public.
With digital photography so easily accessible and websites like Myspace allowing people to upload large numbers of images, I find myself subjected more and more to bland, bleached-out photographs that take away from the atmosphere I felt at the gig. I don’t have a problem with people taking photographs at gigs, in fact I used to do this myself, but it would be great, particularly at smaller venues, if the photographic ‘scrum’ showed some respect for all the people who have paid to see a band by taking photos for the first (or last) 3 songs and then stepping back and allowing people to dance freely. In the days when everyone used film and therefore conserved the number and quality of photos, there were fewer people willing to waste precious film on reams of shots before getting the ‘perfect one’. It’s worth bearing in mind that just because you have the ability to take a thousand photos…it doesn’t mean you have to.
Perhaps I’m just bitter because I can’t keep up with the pace of modern technology. I can’t understand why people buy phones because the salesperson is bragging about the high quality images it can take. I thought it was a device to call or text people from, not a multi-tasking robot that will one day be able to kill people with its flash or microwave your dinner. I find it highly ironic that my phone can browse the internet, calculate my body mass index, convert currency and probably wipe my arse if I can just figure out how…But it struggles to find enough signal to let me answer calls anywhere in the South East of England.
I think I will draw my complaints to a close there. If you would like to discuss any of these matters with me, drop me an e-mail! If you are a repeat camera-phone offender, I would love to know what it is you take away from a night out other than a dark, poor audio live video. What are these videos for? Is there some phone video database where people share them online and assess who has the best ‘back of someone’s head’ or ‘wobbly guitar solo’? Anyway, until next time.
- The weather is finally nice! Here’s to a long summer of beach BBQs, the World Cup and warm beer. Off to Barcelona and Lisbon on the train with Mikey D to cause European havoc. Cannot wait!
- In case you didn’t already know, ‘Oh Calcutta’, The Lawrence Arms latest album, is absolutely blinding. So is The Steal, by The Steal.
- Lightyear reforming? If you missed this musical gem the first time round, get your dancing shoes on and head on down to one of their summer dates, or catch them at Reading festival. They are one of the best UK bands you will ever see! This information has made me so happy and rekindles many happy dancing memories.
- Now collecting for the next issue of Sweet Shop Syndicate. If you would like to contribute to our personal non-musical fun fest, please send me and email or visit our website.