Phones At Gigs: The Great Debate

Should mobile phones be allowed at gigs?

A subject that, in recent years, has sparked so much debate and arguments within the music community due to the popularity of the devices through new, exciting models and the apparent thirst to maintain a relevancy on social media that the younger generation is currently going through.
Gone are the days where watching a gig through your very own eyes was a way to remember moments; enter a time where, as soon as a well-loved song is played, phones are whipped out, held in the air and said song is proceeded to be played to a crowd stood still, intently watching through a screen.
The ability to live in the moment is seemingly being forgotten, as people today are increasingly feeling the need to document portions of their daily life on social media. There is nothing wrong with sharing memories and moments with a wider audience, especially if your social media following is mainly friends and family- but has it got to the point where the intimacy and magic of a gig is being lost due to feeling the need to document and share?

This is a point of discussion which has become popular in the music industry, with musicians and journalists both weighing in to give their opinion. Billie Joe Armstrong, from punk-rock band Green Day, has never made it a secret about his stance on the subject. NME reported that at a Q&A event in London in 2016, Billie Joe stated, ‘You can take your picture, but let’s have eye contact, let’s have a human experience right now you can’t capture on a cell phone’. Speaking from my own experience when I saw them in 2017 during their Revolution Radio Tour, there were a couple of moments when he was visibly pissed off at fans that were glued to their phones instead of watching them perform. He didn’t hold back in vocalising his annoyance; something which I can understand. You release a new album, rehearse for months, go on tour with so much excitement and anticipation to play these new songs to fans, only to find some of the audience being more intent on updating their Snapchat/Instagram story than actually getting stuck in to the gig.
On Twitter, music radio/TV presenter Alex Baker- in response to an article published in Kerrang about musician Rob Damiani’s thoughts about phones at gigs (read full article here:¬†https://www.kerrang.com/features/rob-damiani-live-music-isnt-about-a-crappy-photo-that-you-can-put-up-on-your-social-media/)- said he agree’s with the view that social media is impacting and somewhat ‘destroying’ the experience you have at a live show, saying it should be ‘raw’ with ‘pure energy’.
Rob, Alex and Billie-Joe do all agree that you can take a few photo’s to serve as lasting memories, but perhaps it’s best to leave it at that.

I have been going to gigs since I was young, and have definitely noticed the change. I’ve been to gigs at arena’s, small venues, larger venues and most of them rock gigs, punk gigs etc. It used to be that only a few people would have their phones out, taking pictures and recording songs, but now it has developed into 2/3 of the audience. I would usually bounce off down to the middle or front and leave my parents at the back,with mum in charge of photo’s/video’s so I could just immerse myself in the experience. If the gig was good enough, you would remember it without the need to record it. An incredible gig will stay in your memories for life.
Like others, I’m definitely not against taking a few pictures or 20-30 second video clips of your favourite songs. I’ve been to loads of gigs on my own since living in Manchester, and I like to send a few photo’s and clips to my parents, show them what the band is like. But after I’ve done that, I’m away, getting lost in the show and the music. The feeling of watching your favourite band live is such a beautiful feeling. It can fill you with such euphoria. Stresses are forgotten and emotion pours out of you, sometimes uncontrollably.

Perhaps gig-goers and music lovers need to reconnect with the ‘lost in the moment’ feeling. Social media is consuming us but some things should stay near free from it. Unfortunately, gigs will never be how they used to be back in the 60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s, where people would drink, dance, mosh, sing along and create memories that way. But, maybe people will start to soon remember that the real world is more important, more precious than their number of followers.
Put the phone away, get down to the front and get stuck in, even if it means getting other people’s beer and sweat on you- trust me it’s worth it.

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2018: More gigs than you can shake a drumstick at

Oi oi we’re back. Second year of uni is done, the stress of assignments is over (for now) and I have some spare time and a crap tonne of writing ideas and opinions to put down. To start it all off, this post will be a look at all of the gigs I have been lucky enough to attend during this year.

I’ve talked about how the music scene in Manchester has its ups and downs, but one thing that brings me so much joy as both a music lover and journalist, is how many bands bring their shows to this culturally rich city.
Put it this way: fuck all bands come and tour Norwich. In a tour manager’s eyes, it’s a small city, there is not an arena to accommodate their performers. They literally will tour anywhere except Norwich…maybe they just don’t like Norfolk people.

ANYWAY. In the past two years that I have spent living and studying in Manchester, I have seen bands that, years ago, I came to peace with that I might never see and experience hearing their songs live. This means a lot to me. As someone who has used these performers music to get myself through some of the worst periods of my life, and to be the soundtrack to some of the best, all these gigs merge together like one big, surreal moment.
In this post I will be detailing the 5 most significant gigs that I have been lucky enough to attend these past few months (and December last year). These experiences will stay with me forever.

  1. Good Charlotte (2nd December 2017)
    I only got into Good Charlotte a couple of years ago, but their music instantly clicked in my head and I was so attached to their songs. When the opportunity to see them came up, I had to. They played all the songs I love, they appreciated the crowd so much and I did cry a bit when they played ‘Hold On’. The lyrics are so poignant that they provoked feelings I mostly suppress. But, this is an indicator that the band is doing their job correctly, it is their intention to make you feel those things.
  2. Marilyn Manson (4th December 2017)
    Okay so…this is the most disappointing gig on the list. When I got tickets to see MM, I thought, ‘Holy Shit this will be INSANE. It’s going to be the weirdest gig I have ever been to!’.
    It was actually the most boring. OH MY GOD was I bored! I feel so bad saying this but…it’s true. My expectations to see some weird, crazy, twisted show were thrown into the ground and stomped on by a goths 6-inch platform boots. It took him an hour (from when the support DJ finished) to come on stage, by that time my attention span had taken up residence at the bar, and then the whole show looked like he was trying to force something out in a desperate attempt to reclaim his youth.
    Like I said, I feel bad writing this but it’s what I genuinely feel. Marilyn Manson did what he could considering his recent injury, but it just felt limp, empty. Still, I can tick it off my list that I’ve seen the one and only ‘Anti-Christ Superstar’.
  3. Thirty Seconds To Mars (24th March 2018)
    This is actually the second time I’ve seen 30STM but I can say, watching 30STM perform is not like rocking up to a standard gig. They put on a SHOW. I managed to get tickets so close to the stage I could almost flick Jared Leto on the nose. But I wouldn’t do that, I’m not weird.
    It was the UK leg of their Monolith Tour and it was just Jared and Shannon Leto, on a moving stage in the middle of the MEN arena, and that’s all you honestly needed. Both clad in Gucci, they dominated the stage, owned the entire crowd. I felt almost honoured to be there, watching them perform anthems such as The Kill, Kings and Queens, and Walk on Water.
  4. Fall Out Boy (29th March 2018)
    MY LITTLE EMO HEART OH MY GOD. I never, ever though I would be in a place to get the opportunity to see these absolute icons. I have loved FOB since I was 11. As a music journalist, to listen to the change in their musical style over the years- especially after their hiatus- has been beautiful. It goes to show that you should not feel pressured, as a musician, to stay in one particular genre your entire career. FOB’s music has changed drastically since early songs such as ‘Champagne For My Real Friends’ and ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’ were released. Listen to them, then listen to ‘Young and Menace’ from recent album, ‘Mania’. Incredibly different, but equally as great.
    Highlights from their show were; being LITERALLY a few feet away from them all, Pete Wentz performing in a TESCO cap, Patrick Stump performing ‘Save Rock and Roll’ (the song that kickstarted my career in music) and making me shed more tears, then dancing my little heart out to ‘Hold Me Tight Or Don’t’. It was the most perfect gig. I still can’t believe I finally got to hear all those special songs. I’m still not okay after it.
  5. The Wildhearts (4th May 2018)
    A proper, good old rock gig. It was messy. I got very sweaty. My hair got in some woman’s cider. I knew all the words to all their classics and was also probably one of the youngest audience members there. Fucking hell it was brilliant. People who I’ve spoken to about this gig have never heard of the Wildhearts until I told them, but I am making it so clear now that YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THEM. They deserve so much more appreciation than they currently get.
    The Wildhearts are a band who sound like they were made to be a live band. Their songs sound even better being performed live, they have so much more energy and sound so fuller. I used to beg my Dad to let him take me to see them when they would tour Norwich, but I was way to young at the time. So when the opening notes of ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ reverberated around the room, and Ginger Wildheart became illuminated by the overhead lights, I felt so overwhelmed with happiness and excitement. I stood there, frozen for a split second before going absolutely fucking mental, probably kicking a few people with my army boots, and I did not stop once. It was pure happiness that night, and it engulfed everyone. I’ll never forget that feeling.

Live Review: ‘Avenue’ @ Night & Day Cafe, Manchester (11/10/2017)

The Night and Day Cafe in Manchester is slowly becoming a favourite place amongst young bands. It’s cool, quirky, and at first doesn’t strike you as a music venue, just an overly alternative coffee shop-cum-bar. But it definitely has that hipster vibe which is becoming a must have accessory for a lot of today’s young talent.

Tonight, the headline act is Avenue, a jazz-rock band from Manchester. The place isn’t packed out, but I wouldn’t really expect a full on mosh pit to happen at a jazz gig.
As they kickstart their first song, ‘Mellow Yellow’, it instantly comes across how professional they must work together. They are tight, the sound is clear and the singer has a voice very reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. The overall sound of jazz vocals mixed with rock instruments blends together so smoothly. It’s actually so refreshing to hear a young band sound like this and not like a wannabe Arctic Monkeys/Oasis tribute band.

I just wish they had more spark in their stage presence for in between songs. It deflates the set when they go from full performance mode, to standing around awkwardly, talking shyly to the audience.

‘Move On’ injects some feistiness into the performance, with lead singer Lauren George spitting out lyrics such as, ‘Move on, you need to get some help!’. It has that element of sassiness which makes you want to applaud and shout, ‘YES GIRL!’.
Remember I said the singer sounded like Amy Winehouse? Well sure enough, mid-way through their set, they launch into a cover of ‘Valerie’ (originally done by The Zutons, Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse covered it in 2007). It is definitely their stand out song, getting an impressive reaction from the audience. A crowd pleaser, yes, but it shows off Lauren’s vocals beautifully, and with their own relaxed jazz-rock twist, it makes the song sound effortless.
All the songs that Avenue have performed tonight are slick, well rehearsed and enjoyable to listen to. You just need stage presence guys! Get some movement in there, dance a little, it’s your night and you are in control.
However, it is a good thing that this the only negative thing I have to say about their performance tonight.
Last song ‘Wicked Heart’ leaves the gig on a happy-go-lucky, feel-good note, and finally shows the two guitarists enjoying themselves.

Avenue have incredible songwriting talent, and seem to have already established a solid sound with no doubts of who they want to be. Their set was a perfect mix of well rehearsed originals and crowd pleasing covers. It went down so well, they definitely deserve to feel proud as musicians.

Live Review: All Time Low @ UEA LCR, Norwich (30/3/17)

Being 5ft 4 and quite tiny in general, having a 6ft steroid loaded body guard standing right in front of you isn’t ideal. I can see one member of the band so…this review is going to be interesting.

The UEA is packed out tonight. It’s been a number of years since Baltimore band, All Time Low graced this ‘fine city’ with their presence, and 14 year old me thought they never would. 19 year old me has mixed feelings about seeing them now, as I haven’t listened to their past two albums properly and- having hauled myself out of my emo phase a few years ago- I feel very out of place wearing a Kanye West shirt.
Thankfully I’m by the sound-desk and not in the mosh pit getting a cocktail of other people’s sweat on me.

Support band SWMRS are…interesting to say the least. They look like they should still be in high school, a band just jamming away in their parents’ basement. Probably mostly famous for having Billie Joe Armstrong’s son on drums, they have a very grungy, laid-back, don’t care, slurred vocals, desperately-trying-to-be-punk sound. It almost works but it feels quite pretentious. They come across very overly confident, already used to being on the stage and being center of attention, even having the balls to write a song about…Miley Cyrus? According to SWMRS she’s a ‘punk rock queen’. Who knew.

SWMRS finish and the anticipation builds. Cue blackout and enter All Time Low. OH WOW THAT’S A LOT OF STROBE LIGHTING.
It’s a little surreal seeing a band that, 5 years ago I accepted I may never see live. It’s almost a euphoric atmosphere when they play ‘Weightless’, one of their most well known and loved songs. Everyone is clapping and the room comes alive with an energy so electric. It’s with this song that everyone is brought together. We sound amazing according to front-man Alex Gaskarth.
‘Somewhere In Neverland’, from the album¬†Don’t Panic, see’s heaps of passion come through, with the entirety of the pit jumping up and down in unison.
Their sound is as clean as on the records, none of this half-arsed singing you get with some bands live who think they’re ‘all that’. All Time Low are down to earth, nice guys- despite being how well known they are- and they take the time to thank the crowd, seeming genuinely in awe at the energy the crowd has and how many people are here.
Ah Jack Barakat already has 2 bras dangling off his mic stand, classy as ever Norwich.
Beach balls are suddenly flying everywhere and even the disco balls were brought out. Combined with the intense lighting set-up All Time Low have, it feels like one big fucking party.
‘Everywhere we look we see people, it’s kind of cool’, says Jack.
Their new song, ‘Dirty Laundry’, has very different sound to the usual pop-punk All Time Low are known for. It’s ambient and fresh and just when you think it’s going to stay relaxed, they hit you with all instruments and volume for the last chorus. Is this a new era of All Time Low we’re seeing?
As soon as Alex brings out his acoustic guitar up start the chants of ‘Wonderwall’. A song which- after hearing every time you go to the pub in Manchester- you’d rather pass on.
The banter that Alex and Jack have is very reminiscent of early Blink 182, minus the continuous dick jokes.
All Time Low blast out more flawless hits such as Love Like War and Backseat Serenade, and my throat is now very dry from singing. This is a brilliant gig, I may not be heavily into All Time Low anymore but honestly, I’m still having an awesome time. They know how to put on a good show and not let the quality of their sound slip up.
Encore: Lost In Stereo and Dear Maria, Count Me in
If you are standing still during this then you are a very boring person. You couldn’t have chosen better songs to end the show with. Everyone is going to leave in high spirits and on a serious serotonin kick. Well done All Time Low, that was fucking incredible.

Live Review: La Mode (+Ballamona and Maddy Storm)

The Night and Day cafe in Manchester is one of those hidden gems nestled in Northern Quarter, and the last place you expect to be packed out on a Tuesday night for a gig.

GENERATION MCR– an event put on by BIMM students, for BIMM students and reviewed by BIMM students.

First up are Ballamona, who seem nervous- expected given the huge crowd- and arrive up onstage heads down, slouching behind their guitars. They are very much reminiscent of early Foo Fighters and soaked with Indie that if you cut them open The Strokes would play, with the bassist having a Kurt Cobain style presence. A moment during the intro to the second song, the drum beat was so similar to The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson yet then twisted and went into a smooth, safe indie rock song. It captivated you as there were so many styles all blended into one. The vocals are almost slurred, definitely trying to recreate that laid back, nonchalant feel generic indie bands have. However, you cannot fault Ballamona on their talent. You can tell they have a direction and sound they are happy with and want to move forward in. They are a very melodic band, the music and vocals blend together like coffee and cream. It’s always good to interact with the crowd, however you need to judge the timing , as you will lose interest from the audience. Unfortunately this is the only time Ballamona slipped up during their entire performance, but no band is perfect when they first start out. Credit to them as they did pick it back up, captivating the crowd again and holding onto them until the very end of the set.

Little Maddy Storm with the big voice.
A huge contrast to Ballamona, with her music having a very ambient feel, unlike anything I’ve heard before. Maddy Storm and her band grab your attention in such a different way to Ballamona, the music tricks you into thinking it will constantly be a gentle listen and then the volume rises and Maddy releases a teaser of her powerful vocals. Whilst the music is good, it is so chilled out and relaxing, I could have easily curled up on one of the sofas and drifted off to sleep. Maybe Maddy wasn’t the right choice to have on after an indie-rock get up?
There were moments throughout her performance when the (intentional?) feedback detracted the attention from her voice, making it a struggle to make out the lyrics. Despite this, Maddy clearly has potential to become a strong character, there’s already a glimmer of front-woman in her. Her music is unique, it’s fresh sounding, you can’t pin point one particular artist she sounds like, and the performance tonight shows she means business and is not your typical singer/songwriter. There’s ambition, emotion and drive behind her voice. She just needs to act like she owns the stage, that it is her place…and she will go far.

For the entire performance that La Mode gave all I can think about is how the vocalist looks and acts so much like Joey Ramone that it scares me. With her voice also sounding like a mash up of Axl Rose and Joan Jett, it’s a very confusing gig to watch/listen…and I think I like it?
Songs such as ‘Electric’ inject the crowd with energy, with their sound being similar to Ballamona- very indie, punky, more aggressive vibes, dripping with attitude. Their cover of ‘Woman’is incredible, and I feel that most of the bands musical talent shines through this song. As someone listening to it you can tell that they love it and have worked hard on that, to do the song justice. La Mode are a band you can picture playing in bigger venues already. They have that edgy aesthetic that appeals to the younger generation.
Now, audience participation can be the make or break of your gig, asking the crowd to clap and getting blank looks back is always awkward, yet La Mode seem to have the audience wrapped round their little finger. The crowd claps and hollars along to pretty much every song. Impressive.
It’s time for the instruments to mellow out now, and let the vocals fill up the Night and Day venue like smoke. That girl has some lungs on her. She shouts, roars and yells her way through the whole of the set, never faltering, maintaining a consistent power few female vocalists actually master.
It must be a euphoric sensation being able to perform like that, and to end the set to a full crowd cheering, clapping and begging for more is such an achievement. La Mode should be incredibly proud of themselves.