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.