Thursday, 31 July 2014


Edit - I wrote this a few months back so the lineage may be a little off, but I think my point is still largely relevant.

I feel so glad that I experienced live music before the age of the camera phone. I'm so glad I got to experience a few really special moments in crowds where everyone around me screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs, bounced around and fully lived the moment. I don't know if it's partially because my taste in music has changed a little, or if it's because I don't bop to gigs with a bunch of rowdy 16 year olds, but crowds at shows just aren't what they used to be. You are almost made to feel a dickhead for not wanting to stand still throughout. I feel the main reasons for this being the case are camera phones.

I recently went to see Jay Z at the O2, an artist who I have been a big fan of for as long as I remember. I don't know if it's down to his appearance at Glastonbury, or people wanting to go and see Beyonce's husband or simply because an artist of Jay Z's stature is a public figure, but it didn't really feel like a gig. Not as I know it anyway. He simply isn't niché enough to attract a crowd solely made up of hardcore fans who want to enjoy the music. His wide appeal is the reason he can fill arenas. Sure, he took to the stage and performed songs, and it was amazing but the crowd was static. Everybody around me was statuesque trying to get the best photo/bit of footage of him. Everyone was constantly Snapchatting. Spending their time (at a show they paid upwards of £80 to attend) collecting media that effectively disappears. Why bother enjoying a show when you could get some likes on Instagram instead, right? A song would drop in and people would reach for their camera phones so that they could film the entire song. People viewed the entire show through a little screen, stood as still as possible, as a musical legend stood but metres away from them. It was heartbreaking.

I'm not alone in my annoyance. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's (among plenty of other acts) have often been sighted calling people up on using camera phones at shows. Earlier this year signs were posted on the doors to shows reading "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." There has also been reports of them stopping mid song to tell people to put their phones away.

Maybe I agree with this sort of behaviour because I was kind of spoilt with live music when I was in my teens. Walking distance from my house in Leicester was a small music pub called the Princess Charlotte. For anybody who has not heard of it, it's one of those pubs that bands play on the way up, often being retrospectively mentioned by artists as one of their favourite gigs they've played. The capacity was only 250, so the only people who got tickets were people who really wanted to see the bands. I saw some really great bands there when uk guitar music wasn't solely marketed at girls. They were all sweaty, loud, boisterous affairs, the sound used to bounce around the room. I think being privy to this sort of action has made me expect more from crowds as life goes on. I live in constant disappointment.

Flash forward to the Jay Z show and I'm stood behind some idiot filming unwatchable footage on her iphone, which is held aloft her senseless head as some sort of trophy. Worse still, she has one of those ridiculous miami vice-esque leather cases that flops open, further obscuring the view of anyone behind her. Do you think she values that clip? Do you think she enjoyed it after she filmed it? Do you think she shown her friends an unstable, digitally zoomed in video with inaudible sound and they were dazzled by what she had filmed? It boils my fucking blood. Everyone around her filmed the same fucking clip. If you're that desperate to re live it just go on YouTube and search for it. I guarantee it'll be there, everyone else was filming it too.

I think we live in an age where people will fork over stupid cash just to say they've done something. To say they've been somewhere. Bragging rights. With the social media era we live in people rarely enjoy things without having to post and tell the world about them, and this is killing live music. Sure, I'll get a photo when the artist comes out, but after a few seconds my phone goes away. It upsets me that most of these kids wont know that feeling I felt when I left the Charlotte after seeing the Cribs. Absolutely exhausted, elated, covered in sweat and leaving my voice behind. The memories sweeten in my mind as time wears on, I do not need some awful footage to re live it. I stand at the front of gigs thinking that's where the real fans will be, screaming their lungs out to the entire set, when infact it's where the Instagram obsessed 17 year old girls are, who feel they have a right to be posted front and centre as they queued up since the early afternoon to be as close as possible to whoever the magazines are telling them to fancy that week. These same dickheads recently did their best to ruin an Arctic Monkeys gig for me, and I'm sure they'll do the same when I try to see J Cole in a couple of weeks. Maybe I'm asking for it by going to see global artists on stadium tours. I certainly know what I'm getting myself into but it doesn't stop me leaving shows muttering my same defeatist mantra over and over again underneath my breath; Everybody's an idiot.

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