22 November 2017 | Live

Doing it for the ‘gram: Should phones be banned at gigs?

It's time to put music over memories

Profile

Written by Rosie Dodds

Packed tight in the pit of XOYO’s basement, I wonder why I’ve paid to see British jazz duo Yussef Kamaal when my experience so far has been limited to a view of the glaring phone screen that belongs to the person in front of me. Like many in the room, as well as many before him, the person in question is busy filming a series of clips for his Instagram story.

Looking into the phone – which is being held directly in front of my line of sight – it’s hard not to laugh, for other than the vague outlines of Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams on the stage in front, the only shapes that are really visible are the hundreds of other fluorescent screens depicting exactly the same thing as the first; an infinite mirror of iPhones.

Having recorded an ample amount of the opening track, the cameraman in front finishes his clip, tags both the band and the venue, before taking a second shot on his front-facing camera that captures him, his group of mates, and to my horror, my scowling face of resentment behind his shoulder.

Why do we feel the need to constantly document our whereabouts? What are we trying to prove when we broadcast an evening well spent to our friends who have chosen to spend the night at home?

I nudge my own companion and shoot an eye roll in their direction. Nodding in agreement, my friend takes a more light-hearted approach to the minor inconvenience. “If you haven’t got it on your story, then were you actually there?” she asks. She’s joking of course, but her mocking statement rings true. Why do we feel the need to constantly document our whereabouts? What are we trying to prove when we broadcast an evening well spent to our friends who have chosen to spend the night at home?

At the heart of the action, of course, is celebration. Music is a passion to be shared, and for many it forms the basis of an identity that has been expertly crafted in relation to the status quo. Perhaps this is just typical of music that is stereotypically seen as attracting a more sophisticated audience – I don’t often use the fact that I’ve seen Taylor Swift live (twice) as a tool to impress someone – but maybe that’s where my problem lies: can we not simply enjoy live music without having to worry about the social significance that comes with doing so?

All pretentions aside, my real issue with phones at concerts boils down to the simple fact that it can take away from other people trying to enjoy the show. Another friend of mine recently came back from one of Erykah Badu’s two London tour dates, seething from the fact that her view had been obscured by an iPad for the majority of the show. “I asked her to move, but she told me that she’d paid for a ticket too and could do what she wanted,” she recounted miserably.

Artists themselves are also aware of the problem, with talent such as Childish Gambino, Adele, Alicia Keys, Kate Bush and the Lumineers calling out the use of recording equipment during their concerts, some even requiring fans to keep their phones in locked pouches. “But what about the memories?” you might ask. Capture them, yes, but let’s remember that the music should always come first.