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She & Him

Camera phones have been interfering with sight lines at concerts for years. Why, it was way back in 2010 that legendary opponents of contemporary culture the Black Crowes took an aesthetic stand against the usage of such technology, banning cameras at their own shows. Said singer Chris Robinson: “I personally think you should be too high to operate a machine at our concerts.” But progress has pushed aside such quaint notions. Smart phones are easy to operate no matter how high one might happen to be. The introduction and subsequent ubiquity of social networks such as Twitter, Vine, and (especially) Instagram have only made camera-phone usage at concerts more prevalent (and by extension, more annoying). Recently, though, bands have increasingly made requests of their audiences to cut it the fuck out.

Over the last year everyone from Jack White to Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Prince to Savages to Bjork have “politely” demanded that their fans have some respect, and instead of taking pictures, just enjoy the show. Today, Gawker reported on another indie act, She & Him, laying down such guidelines. Per a flyer posted at last week’s Toronto Urban Roots Fest:

At the request of Matt & Zooey, we ask that people not use their cell phones to take pictures and video, but instead enjoy the show they have put together in 3D.

Such requirements shouldn’t come as a total surprise; Matt “M.” Ward made similar ones of his fans last year. And they’re not even unreasonable — a flotilla of cell phones can be kind of distracting even to other audience members who are engaging in the very same practice (I can’t tell you how many almost-cool Instagram pics I’ve had sacrifice because my camera caught too many other cameras and not enough of the action on stage).

Even so, though, the rules as written never fail to come off kinda patronizing and passive-agressive — there’s a prevalent air of condescension and disconnection. The phrasing used in the She & Him note sort of implies that camera-phone users have to be gently taught how to properly experience live music. Taking another tack, Savages said, “WE BELIEVE THAT THE USE OF PHONES TO FILM AND TAKE PICTURES DURING A GIG PREVENTS ALL OF US FROM TOTALLY IMMERSING OURSELVES/ LET’S MAKE THIS EVENING SPECIAL/ SILENCE YOUR PHONES.” Or, for another example, Yeah Yeah Yeahs asked, “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.” The former is precious and weirdly timid (“silence your phones”?). The latter is bossy and obnoxious. Most importantly, none address the fact that for many fans, documenting an event on Instagram or Facebook is a crucial element of the total experience. Each assumes that the audience as a whole will be more rewarded if that whole audience is forbade from these activities (activities that are inherently creative).

None of this is to say camera phones don’t create a distraction at concerts. But they’re part of the show, a way in which the audience expresses enthusiasm. Sort of like singing along. Sort of like applause.

Comments (102)
  1. Requests like this might come off as a little douchey but taking pictures with your phone at a show is pretty dumb. 99% of the time it’s going to be too dark and the picture is going to come out like shit. If you are at an outdoor festival you might have a better chance but odds are you are too far away and your picture is still shitty.

    • it always turns out shitty. videos turn out even worse. we all know that the purpose of this phenomenon is 100% steeped in scoring internet bragging points. it’s sickening.

      • I think that’s kind of bullshit. I think along with anything if you do it with a litte of common sense, common decency, and in moderation it isn’t that bad. I for one don’t post many pictures on facebook and I don’t twitter or instagram, but I enjoy trying to get a few good shots at each show I go to. They don’t always come out that good, but it’s cool when they do and it’s nice that it’s your picture it holds a different quality to it then just finding a pro shot online of the same show even if you aren’t trying to show it off to every half-friend you can reach via web. My girlfriend continuously updates a series of scrapbooks and its nice to half snapshots of fun and memorable moments we’ve shared, concerts happen to fall into that category. The usual routine is the artist comes out, everybody tries to get their initial shots in, there are some lingering cameras for the people who were blocked by the initial cameras and then everybody has plenty of time to “live in the moment”. Most picture takers are done relatively briefly, maybe a few more through the show, but it’s hardily ever a continuous obstruction for the whole show all though there are a million other things that are going to obstruct your view especially at a fun show and especially if your short (obviously) and that’s where you truly got to practice your “live in the moment” ability because it’s not 100% about the view though obviously that’s a very desirable thing at a show.

        • Totally agree with this. I always take a couple photos. Just turn up the iso and you’ll be fine. Even if they don’t turn out, just sharpen / lighten / reduce noise / edit the crap out of them so they look cool. I have a pretty sweet collection. And I don’t post them online anywhere.

        • I certainly agree that it’s nice to have a couple shots, no matter how shitty, to remember the show (especially because many of my friends won’t remember due to certain substances).
          However the amount of time many people spend on phones at concerts is ridiculous and I am fully on board with an artist just yelling at the crowd to cut that shit out. As someone who thinks too many people go to shows for the whole “social event” aspect of it more than the music, I think that it’s a fine step in reminding people to try to enjoy concerts for the reason that concerts exist; music.

        • you’re speaking as if since you’re able to control yourself, other will too. do you really think a couple thousand fans can be 100% discreet?

          if you can snap off a few pics without seeming annoying, awesome. but the idea of the rule (or any law, really) is to assume that nobody is the exception.

        • i’m on board with taking a couple of concert photos for the sake of remembering good times; hell, i do that too. but unfortunately, that’s the small minority of what’s happening with phones at shows these days. more and more each year, it seems, i’m seeing people spend wayyyy too much time on their phones. and i know exactly what’s going on: HEY LOOK AT ME EVERYONE, I WENT AND SAW SOME COOL BAND (insert fifteen hashtags). the whole thing reeks of being desperate for peer validation, has little to do with capturing memories, and nothing to do with music.

          truth be told, the shameless egocentricity bothers me more than the visual obstruction part. but that’s annoying too.

          for real, i saw empire of the sun not too long ago, and some guy in front of me literally held his iphone up filmed the band for 20 minutes straight. stared at the phone the entire time. really got his money’s worth there.

          • ok, so after writing all this i read michael nelson’s comments below, and he actually makes a pretty good argument about how phones at concerts are somewhat instrumental nowadays in terms of building exposure for the bands. i hadn’t thought about that. i still think that spending half of a concert taking iphone photos is super douchey, but, fair point. i guess people are inadvertently promoting artists while trying to promote themselves.

          • Hell yes, Ben.

        • I admit I take photos/video for souvenire sake at just about every show I go to. And like you said, in moderation it’s good. But I agree with what Ben Cornell is saying for the most part. The problem is most people don’t do it in moderation, and I’m actually more than happy to put my phone away if it means getting rid of some of the douchbaggery that inevitably occurs at such shows.

    • no, all you gotta do is use your flash. actually bring a separate one, or one of those flashlights that are brighter than the sun. then you’ll get awesome pictures. the picture gets taken before the band squints and before they attack you with their guitars. I miss the good ol’ punk days. You take a picture, the band transforms you into a gurgling bloody mess in the corner.

  2. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • If only 6 (hell, even 10) people went to She & Him shows I would totally go, mainly because my research shows that Zooey Deschanel is fun to look at. I don’t go to their shows though, because I don’t like the music so much, and waaayyy too many people go to their shows… so many that it makes Zooey Deschanel not so fun to look at anymore. Anyway, what were you saying?

  3. Um… How can the cutest indy fold band be patronizing. Reading it in Zooeys cute sarcastic voice, just makes me smile.

  4. Slow news day?

  5. reading this on a tablet at a she and him gig.

  6. The M. in M. Ward stands for Matt? I always assumed it stood for something exotic like Mercury, Megatron, or.. Mitch.

    • Dude if his name was Megatron Ward, do you really think he’d cover it up with the pretentious jazz-era ex-patriot author initialing? That thing would be PLASTERED on every cd. In fact, he’d probably just go by Megatron.

  7. I shot them last week for BV Chicago ( and they had a similar sign:

  8. I would have to disagree that using camera-phones is simply an expression of enthusiasm like singing along or clapping.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a show and the people in front of me take group pictures of themselves while the show is actually happening with their backs to the performance, making stupid faces and distracting everyone around them. It has less to do with an overflow of entusiasm for the moment, and more to do with e-bragging, a way of saying: “Hey, look at how interesting my life is!”

    I take photos at concerts too. I just limit it to an unobtrusive second or two. Or I make a video when they are about to debut a new song and put it on YouTube.

    I think the difference is that when you respond to a show, you should do it in a way that is respectful to others around you and if not (with video), at least use it as a way to contribute via social media to the fan community at large who couldn’t be there. I would also lump into these do’s and don’ts another one: the obnoxious drunk dude that loves to turn every song (slow or fast) into an excuse to mosh even when everyone else is standing still… you know who you are. No one minds if you dance, but just stop spilling beer on me and hitting me with your elbow every five seconds.

    • I’ll admit that “drunk guy forcing moshing” is annoying, however I wouldn’t mind if people made a little more room for dancing. Not aggressive pushing that intrudes physically on people’s space, just actual movement as apposed to the jumping in spot and arm gestures that seem to be the only allowed form of physical enjoyment.

      Especially if it’s a god damn Toro y Moi concert. Who the fuck can resist dancing to Say That or So Many Details?

      • haha, i take it you got yelled at for dancing at a toro y moi concert?

        • Some 6’2″ dick head thought it necessary to bring his cannon camera and go to the front only to stand, arms lifted, taking pictures the whole show, but then had the nerve to tell me to stop bumping into him.
          Twas very upsetting as I like to think I was born to dance.

          • i know that feel. last show i went to, a big group of girls shoved their way up to the area where i had been standing for about an hour before the main band started, creating a situation where there was no room and everyone was pretty much leaning on each other. then one of the offending ladies turned to me and said “if you’re trying to piss me off, you’re doing a great job” – ostensibly because i was all up in her space. people…. they can suck.

  9. Ladies and Gentleman, we request that you enjoy this concert you paid for for the way that we want you to enjoy it

    • This isn’t really a new concept though. You’re not allowed to use your cell phone or camera in movie theaters, some museums, etc. even though you pay for entrance.

      When you’re viewing someone’s art, there is (should be) a mutual respect between the artist and the observer. Some artists, like Dan Deacon, want you to participate in his show with your phone, and that’s awesome! But when others have put hours and hours into preparing what they believe to be the perfect experience, and to them it does not involve hundreds of little light squares in the way of everyone’s vision (including the vision of people who just want to see the show), that should be respected. You’re free to make your own choices of course, but when you go against what the artist intends, you’re treating them as a commodity, not an art.

      • Every public forum has its own etiquette, established over time; consider the difference between applause at a football game and applause at a golfing event. By and large, the setting — not the performer — determines that etiquette. A musician’s intentions are (perhaps) especially irrelevant, because most musicians visualize an idealized setting that demands the audience participate, engage, but do so reverently. For example, most musicians would intend for you to experience their recorded work uninterrupted, giving each song complete focus and repeated listens. That’s rarely how a listener chooses to experience recorded music, though. Does that make the non-ideal listener’s behavior crass or disrespectful?

        • On a side note, Isn’t it also interesting, though, the obvious difference in crowd behavior depending on the artist. For example, seeing Sigur Ros live was one of the quietest, most reverent live experiences I’ve ever witnessed. The same when I saw Eluvium. Hell, in that show everyone was sitting on the venue floor with their eyes closed. Certain artists attract certain types of people in general.

          I’m all for the respect of pure attention, but like you said it usually doesn’t happen that way. When I put a record on with my brother, I literally scold him if his phone comes out at all. PAY ATTENTION, KID!

          • Oh totally. I’ve seen Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon) a bunch of times; you could hear a pin drop. And he’ll mock you mercilessly for pulling out a cell phone.

  10. Whatever. Just like anyone who drinks TOO much, sings TOO much, wears TOO much axe body spray (or any, really), it should be a common sense, everything in moderation, don’t be a narcissist a-hole thing. I hate feeling like a toolbag because I want a few personal photos from the concert I paid to attend – maybe one of which will end up on the interwebs in one form or another. I find these types of things to be self-righteous. Maybe I’m sensitive.

  11. “Most importantly, none address the fact that for many fans, documenting an event on Instagram or Facebook is a crucial element of the total experience”

    Wasn’t expecting to speak up for Savages, because I’m not a huge fan of their preachiness either, but I think they understand this just fine…. and they disapprove.

  12. I refuse to believe that you didn’t get that Savages saying “SILENCE YOUR PHONES” was a reference to their album title, and so totally in keeping with their “manifesto” style.

    • I’m glad you called me out on this. No joke: Five minutes after I left the office yesterday, I realized that “Silence Your Phones” was a play on “Silence Yourself.” I felt like a bit of an idiot! But clever reference aside, that language is a little soft; silencing a phone is a pretty specific action, one that has nothing to do with using one’s phone as a camera. It politely asks only that the audience be courteous — the tone is not meant to scold. And I totally disagree on this point: It’s not consistent at all with Savages’ dour, humorless “manifesto” style. It’s just the opposite — they’re actually being a little playful! “Silence Your Phones” is the same command issued in movie theaters prior to the main feature, and it neatly resembles Savages’ album title.

      The rest of Savages’ request, though, seems pretty sincere and straightforward: They believe the audience taking pictures prevents total immersion. I agree! I also believe that being jostled and/or being forced to jostle all night — because the bar and/or bathroom are nowhere near the stage — prevents total immersion. I also believe that aggressive dancing prevents total immersion. I also believe that bored passivity prevents total immersion. I’m also not a fan of the encore ritual, oversold venues, insufficient air conditioning, disgusting bathrooms, lines, leg cramps, headliners who don’t go on till 11 p.m. or later, really tall people, really drunk people, people who huddle up to smoke pot, people who make out with their significant other all night, people who smell bad, people with backpacks, people who shout shit at the performer (song requests, “I love you!,” etc.), people who start fights, people who do a lot of texting/tweeting/note-taking/etc.

      All of these things prevent total immersion, for me. Total immersion is pretty difficult to achieve. At least three of the above behaviors/characteristics are more distracting to me than cameras. But I disagree that there’s a right or wrong way to experience a show, or even that “the music” is somehow sacrosanct in this context. I imagine the hordes of screaming teenagers prevented total immersion at Beatles concerts. I kinda think getting showered in phlegm at a Sex Pistols gig would’ve made it hard to appreciate the performance. There were probably a lot of annoying guys on acid at Grateful Dead shows — and annoying guys on molly at EDM festivals. Ian MacKaye used to stop the show and berate people for moshing at Fugazi gigs. Low fans famously shush the crowd around them. But concerts are an organic experience, and a shared experience. At Beatles shows, screaming teenagers were part of the experience, and at at Low shows, shushers are part of the experience, and they don’t necessarily make it better, but they’re essential to the milieu.

      Savages are a DEVASTATING live act. They left me breathless at SXSW, irrespective of picture-takers (a group that included me, I admit). Why didn’t they tell us to “silence” our phones? Probably, I imagine, because they were at SXSW to generate buzz, and social media is the most effective way to achieve this. When every music blogger in the world is at your gig — and you haven’t yet released your first record — you probably don’t want to “silence” the media. This is what bugs me the most: You’ll never see a band on the way up or way down telling people to put away their phones — they WANT YOU to talk about them on Twitter, to share their pictures on Instagram; they even want you to share pictures of you and your friends at their concert! It’s only bands in this sweet spot — where the coverage is a guarantee, or a non-issue — that these commands are issued. And it elevates a subset of the audience to a position of holy authority or cop. “This is OUR show. You want to take pictures? Do it at YOUR show.”

      • I wish that on my (their) side of the ocean, we simply got told to “silence our phones” rather than the cheese we normally get.

        Sorry Michael, I should have said that we’re pretty much on the same page here – indeed, as I am with every single commenter who has said that it all comes down to everything in moderation. Yes, you’ve paid for a ticket, but there’s a lot to be said in being respectful to your fellow audience members and to the band.

        But “totally immersing ourselves” is absolutely po-faced Savages.

        (Says somebody who has not yet had the privilege of seeing them live.)

      • This is the most intelligent, thorough comment here.

  13. “Each assumes that the audience as a whole will be more rewarded if that whole audience is forbade from these activities (activities that are inherently creative).”

    creative?!? what’s creative about pointing your cell phone at the stage? What’s creative is what’s happening ON stage. The constant need to interact with your surroundings with your phone is ridiculous and made to seem like you’re somehow “documenting” something and it’s part of the “experience”. Call it what it is, messing around with your fun toy smart phone. I know there are some dissenting opinions, but would anyone really enjoy the concert less without taking pictures/videos of it? (in all honesty, it’s mainly the videos that bother me because the phone is up in the air in front of my face for too long)

    • that was a little tantrum-y, it just boils down to this. People get really offended when they get told what to do, but it’s all about respect for the artist. A lot of great stand-up comedians have to deal with this too. If Yeah Yeah Yeahs wants me to put my phone away for couple hours, fine, no big deal.

  14. I think this stuff is great, and they deserve to be a little touchy about it. It’s annoying as hell. I admit I’m guilty of the practice on occasion myself, but that’s just because I’m overly sentimental and feel like I need to document such experiences. But I fully support the movement to stop it.

    I shall be a good boy hence forth.

  15. I dunno, man. As a musician, I’m happy anyone cares enough to want a picture/video of my band’s performance. :) I’d say just go easy on the flash, and it’s all good.

    • Yeah, but on the other hand, we’re living in a world where 90% of those kids would also pull out their phone to record a pedestrian being jumped on the street to post it on Facebook later. I’m not sure if phone attention is always a good indicator of respect…?

    • Attention is attention though I suppose. Kind of the point Michael Nelson was making above.

    • I like your attitude promiseoftin.

      Now I’m thinking as a band do you have to earn a level of credibility or respect or even fame before you can request that people refrain from using their phones? At what point do you stop just being happy anyone would want to take a picture of you and expect your audience to be giving you their undivided attention?

      • Hi Kitty Kat. I came back out of retirement in my Troll old folks home just to let you know my jaw hit the floor when I read you comparing Kanye West to The Beatles.

        Kanye Vs. Beatles:

        I am a god
        So hurry up with my damn massage
        In a French-ass restaurant
        Hurry up with my damn croissants
        I am a god
        I am a god
        I am a god


        I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
        See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
        I’m crying.

        Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
        Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody tuesday.
        Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
        I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
        I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

        Mister city policeman sitting
        Pretty little policemen in a row.
        See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
        I’m crying, I’m crying.
        I’m crying, I’m crying.

        Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
        Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
        Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
        I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
        I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

        Sitting in an english garden waiting for the sun.
        If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
        From standing in the english rain.
        I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
        I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob.

        Expert textpert choking smokers,
        Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?
        See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
        See how they snied.
        I’m crying.

        Semolina pilchard, climbing up the eiffel tower.
        Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
        Man, you should have seen them kicking edgar allan poe.
        I am the eggman, They are the eggmen.
        I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob.
        Goo goo g’joob goo

        The Beatles wrote all of their own songs, had one producer, one engineer, could actually play instruments and sing ( well). The Kanye Kool-Aid is an affront to the treasure trove of great musical legacy from America and in general. That the Stereogum boards lit up like dim lightbulbs praising Kanye’s sub-par Death Grips tribute make me puke many shades of disgust.
        That is all.

  16. People who spend the entire concert viewing it through their phones are annoying, and they’re missing out. I recently went to a show where more people were filming through their phones than were dancing. I’m sorry, but if the 45 year-old mother of two (me) is more likely to start a mosh pit at a Joy Formidable show than the fleet of 20 year-old guys with beards and iPhones, you’re doing it wrong. I find it way less annoying than the people who sing along badly at the top of their lungs the whole time or talk incessantly while the band is playing.

    That said, I just went to a show at Maxwell’s and you can bet I grabbed a couple of pictures (ok, 6 during the performance) with my phone. When these places and bands are gone, the pictures and video you caught when you were there are going to be like gold. Do I wish video existed from the shows I went to 25 years ago? Hell yeah.

  17. The people who watch the entire show through their phones are annoying, although I’d rank them behind people who sing along badly at the top of their lungs to every song or talk incessantly while the band is playing. Mostly I find it sad, that that’s what passes for experiencing a show for those people. When the 45 year-old mother of two (me) is more likely to get a mosh pit going than a fleet of 20 year-old guys with beards and iPhones, you’re doing it wrong.

    That said, I just went to a show at Maxwell’s and you can bet I took a few (six) pictures during the performance. When these places and bands are gone, the pictures and video you caught are going to be like gold. Do I wish there was video of the shows I went to 25 years ago? Hell yeah. But a little bit goes a long way.

  18. I see both sides of this but I gotta admit it pisses me off to NOT to be able to capture some sort of moment from the night. And yes I do like reminiscing of shows and I do this through memory and through pictures.
    We as the fans PAY to come see you perform. No one pays to see the artist, guess what, the artist is financially unsuccessful. If I want to take a few friggin’ pictures to remember that night, that moment my favorite song came on, I think it’s a little bold to be told you simply CAN’T.
    Like others have stated, it’s ALL about discretion. I wouldn’t mind if we were told to please keep pictures to a minimum, no flash etc.

    Of course this is just my opinion but I don’t like being told I can’t visually capture a moment of a show I PAID to see.

    Respect between both fans and artist should be somewhat mutual. We’re the ones that support you, and for that I don’t mean on a financial level.

    • I see your point and don’t disagree. But one might say taking pictures also disrupts and distracts others who also paid to see and enjoy a show, but can’t now because somebody’s camera is up in their face all night. Who’s money is worth more?

      • @KiDCHAIR It’s a delicate dance of discretion that I’m sure no one would follow. Personally I like to be as discreet as possible and take as few pics as I can. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case for most ppl at shows.

    • Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2013 0

      You’re objecting to being told you can’t take pictures of a show you paid to SEE. You emphasized the word “paid” while de-emphasizing what you actually spent the money for. Did you pay to take pictures of yourself? Or did you pay for access to a venue with a sound system capable of delivering the sound of a band, a safe environment, and a (somewhat) clear sight line?

      • OMG. Are you kidding me? At what point did I say I would be posing taking pictures of myself? I hate that crap at a show. I am talking about taking a few pics of the actual ARTIST. I flew from LA to San Fran to see She and Him, spent money on hotel yeah I’m taking a pic of them (stealth mind you). I was not speaking of the obnoxious crap that goes with ppl taking a pic with their friends during every song during the show.

        How can you dictate how every person at show interprets enjoying a show. Maybe someone wants to close their eyes and take it all in. Maybe someone wants to snap a shot of a moment of the artist. When you start trying to control what seeing a band means to that particular person, that is when I feel, it’s WRONG.

        You can’t assume I’m not getting the most out of the lighting, production, sound quality etc just because I take out my phone and take a quick shot.


        • I get that. My only thing is, I’m willing to not resist the personal souvenir shot if it’ll stop the teenage douchebag’s selfies.

        • honestly, i’m more in favor of taking pictures of one’s self at a concert (with friends, of course; “selfies” are a fucking cancer to society in my humble opinion) than i am of taking snapshots of the band. now, i’m 100% with you on taking 20 group pics throughout the night being majorly obnoxious behavior. but having that picture with friends, to me, is a much better vehicle for being able to look back and think, “oh yeah, that was a good time.”

          pics of bands, on the other hand…. well, i guess it all depends on where you’re standing. if you’re within the first 10, 15 rows of the stage, it’ll probably be a decent memento. but otherwise, they almost always look the same: the back of a whole bunch of heads and the band being far-off enough where you can’t even make out any faces. i suppose what i’m getting at is, does anyone *really* look back at those types of pics, years later, and fondly reminisce about the show?

          from my own experience, i don’t. i used to be a serial picture-taker at shows, and have a folder on my hard drive with hundreds of shots like that from circa ’05-’09 (2009-ish marks the point where i decided that i’m not doing that anymore). every now and again i’ll browse through that folder… and in terms of enhancing the memorability of the event, it does nothing for me. of course, i have a lot of good memories from those shows, but not on account of bad pictures that i took from 100 feet away from the stage. truth be told, i see those pictures and mostly just remember taking the picture… not being at the show.

          • Just for the sake of devil’s advocacy here…they have much better camera phones now, Ben.


          • good point. however, pretty much all of my collection was taken with a little point and shoot camera, which was better than what was on phones at the time and probably comparable to the camera on the iphone 4. most of the pictures are still pretty lame.

            i will admit, however, that it’s still tough sometimes to resist the filming a minute or so of a song you really like. i have to remind myself that i’ll probably never watch the clip.

  19. Maybe you kids were too young to remember a time when every other asshat in the crowd WASN’T taking photos and video with their phone, but having gone to plenty of shows before smartphones, I can recall it being much better without them. It’s not hard to turn off the goddamn thing for an hour or two. Put away the Twitter and the Instagram or Snapchat or whatever the fuck you’re wasting your time on and enjoy the show! Just let the music wash over you: dance, feel, have fun! I was at the She & Him show in Central Park last night and I must say this absence was refreshing. Given the celebrity of Ms. Deschanel, I’m sure there would have been even more amateur phone photography than usual. I must say I got some satisfaction from the security team going into the crowd and tapping people on the shoulder and demanding they put their phones away. Go figure that nearly everyone they approached was also being totally obnoxious and talking loudly through almost the entire set as well.

    • Wow, that was patronizing.

      As an adult person, I can say that this condescending curmudgeon doesn’t represent everyone over 30, so don’t get the wrong impression – we’re not all this self-righteous (and/or cliche. “Maybe you kids were too young”? Are you for real?). Also, let it be known that old-man surlydick thinks that anyone using a smartphone is “wasting their time” on Twitter and instagram and snapchat or whatever the fuck. HIS ENJOYMENT OF MUSIC IS MORE PURE THAN YOURS AND HIS LIFE IS NOT WASTED ON SILLY TRIFLES.

  20. Look, I don’t normally take pictures or videos at shows I attend, mostly because my phone is cracked and the camera doesn’t work, but I see a distinct divide in who does and doesn’t embrace picture-taking, social media, and so on. I’m not trying to say indie rock is turning into an enclave of cranky old people but it seems like the electronic shows I’ve attended/viewed, which have skewed much younger in the audiences, don’t seem to care much about this and in some cases actively embrace it. Social media is a large part of youth culture today. People define themselves by what shows they attend, and they do that partially through visual communication (i.e. pictures). Trying to impede on that seems really regressive and primitive. I understand some artists intend to try and recreate a feeling similar to what came before, especially in some punk and metal circles, but I think completely cutting off that form of expression is being unnecessarily difficult.

    • At the risk of sounding like a cranky old person, one might say that’s what’s wrong with youth culture today. The social mdeia addiction I mean. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a into the whole thing myself, but young people these days RELY on these things to socially survive. It’s insane, and I find it almost unhealthy as a culture.

      But…that’s just old me talking. I just turned 31 so take that as you will.

      • It’s not that, that is what’s wrong with them, it’s that the reliance on social media is what makes them different from you. This would be like boomers complaining about Gen X being a bunch of tattooed and pierced sideshow freaks. It’s a part of the culture you (or others) just don’t understand, so you view it negatively. Complaining about it or trying to stop it is pointless, because kids are kids — they’re going to take pictures.

        • Who says the boomers weren’t right though? Haha.
          I get what you’re saying, but I think this is more of a devolution than an evolution. I have a brother who is a social recluse because he sinks into social media all day instead of actually interacting with the world around him. Yeah, it’s not my generation so I don’t “get it,” but I also can see that it’s not a good thing by being seperated from it a bit.

        • There was actually a really good article by Joel Stein in Time magazine a little while ago about how much more narcissistic and self-focused people of the younger generation are and how it most likely stems from the growth of social media (and other things like coddling kids too much).
          The article does attempt to show a positive spin in the end, but the stats were very clear in showing that people are right to view some of today’s youth as having serious issues understanding their role in a bigger society and so on.

          The analogy of comparing Gen X to the millenials is flawed because you compare tattoos and piercings (visual aspect of personality) to overindulgence in social media (emotional, social aspect of personality). Also, many of the older fold who knock the younger generation are using social media these days! It’s not some completely foreign entity that scares them.

          I will say that I’m not a fan of the stereotype Gen X attitude either, but it doesn’t, in any way, validate the younger generations mindset.

          • This whole generation thing is rich. RICH I TELL YOU. That the boomers – the generation that effed the economy and planet up because their concern with their own convenience, well-being and status – would call ANY other generation narcissistic is just crazy. Younger gens might be more vapid, but at least they’re not sociopaths.

          • I actually saw a program talking about extra terrestrial life in which the scientist interviewed said an “intelligent” race ahead of ours might actually be less logical because, assuming they evolved in a similar fashion as us, would have developed an over-reliance on things like phones, computers, social media, etc to think for them that would most likely effect their logical reasoning capabilities. I found that to be an interesting opinion.

          • The point I was making is that youth culture is never going to make sense to people who are not part of it. Every previous generation accuses the ones that come after it of narcissism (or worse). You don’t think the Greatest Generation took one look at the hippies and started criticizing the Baby Boomers for being self-indulgent? Narcissism is a product of youth because most young people lack the maturity or life experience to realize there are others ways of looking at the world than their own. And the lack of “emotional connection” due to the advent of the Internet and social media doesn’t mean they’re somehow inferior or they’ve devolved. Their experiences are going to be different, they’re going to look at the world (and their place in it) in a different light, and they’re going to interact with people in different ways than what other generations are used to.

            Additionally, overindulgence in media isn’t new. Gen X was criticized for sinking too far into television and the early years of the Internet, so I guess that would be a better analogy (the Idiot Box, chat rooms subbing for real human interaction, etc). But as to your point about Boomers using social media. It’s definitely in a different way. Their lives aren’t built around Twitter and Instagram in the same a way a teen’s is today. And I’d argue that many probably do look at something like Tumblr as a foreign concept, or at least as something akin to memetic vomit splashed across a computer screen.

          • The funny thing about what your saying is I’m not even that old, and I don’t think many on this forum really are. It’s not like I’m an out of touch parent looking at my children’s odd behavior, I’m an older brother looking just a half generation behind me. I’m using the same technology, and have been for longer than them. The only difference is I wasn’t addicted to it all through high school. I didn’t rely on it as a social crutch. I know how to interact with humans around me because I don’t use machines to tell me who my friends are or to tell me how fun a concert is. I’m a fan of many tumblr pages, but it totally is memetic vomit splashed across the computer screen

          • Look, you are right in that every teenage culture has something the adults can’t get behind. But there’s kind of a reason for that pattern. Once we’re adults, we’ve been there, we’ve experienced life. We see teenage stupidity for what it is. You may be right – the digital addiction is just one of those things that makes kids kids these days and eventually they grow out of it etc. – but does that make it any less stupid or culturally eroding? In fact, I think that’s kind of the point of this entire thread. Just turn your stupid phones off for a second, kids!

  21. This conversation seems silly because there’s one sure-fire way to stop this problem: don’t just put up notes, have security eject violators. I’ve been at shows where the band stopped mid-song and ejected audience members who were trying to mosh, and I thought that was fantastic – I would heartily approve if they sent security through the audience to frog-march cellphone users out of the venue.

    • It’s not actually a “problem,” though, is it? And your solution for addressing it is unrealistic. Working out such an arrangement is almost definitely beyond the scope of the bands we’re discussing here (i.e., Savages, as opposed to Barbara Streisand or something). And frankly this is what makes the entire issue so convoluted and case-specific. Look, in brief:

      1. Security is employed (and insured) by the venue, not the performer. The “no-cameraphone” rule is not a venue policy (whereas smoking is prohibited by law, etc.). In theory, I suppose, a venue could adopt a blanket “no-pictures” policy, and work with security on ways to implement such a policy, but think that one through: Most venues are probably pretty hesitant to ask attendees to NOT take pictures — there’s immense and immeasurable value in being mentioned on Instagram 100 or so times a night. (“Look at me I’m at #name_of_theater to see @SheAndHim!” or whatever.) It’s more effective than advertising and much, much cheaper.

      2. Have you ever worked security at a show? It’s a fucking hard gig. Crowds are unpredictable and often amorphous. Alcohol makes people more prone to rash and/or dangerous behavior. Why would any venue ask a small security team to take on an entirely new and very demanding responsibility — one that requires they wade into thickly packed crowds, single out offenders (in the dark), and warn/remove them? At very least it’s a constant distraction and an invitation for complaints, bad Yelp reviews, general dissatisfaction, etc. If something went really wrong and somebody got injured, it could mean lawsuits, investigations, suspensions, etc. There’s almost no good that can come of it.

      3. The no-moshing thing is a bad comparison because Ian MacKaye CAN stop a show, tell the bullies in the crowd to cool it, and maybe even get a guard into the fray to remove anyone who’s getting rough. Jhenny Beth CANNOT stop short in the middle of “She WIll,” point into the crowd, and say, “Over there! Guy in the blue T-shirt! Quit taking pics!” Or maybe she could — once? — but it would get weird fast. So the guy smiles sheepishly and puts away his phone? And she stopped the show for that? That’s literally your best case scenario and it gets worse fast. The signs achieve the same end with much less distraction, no? In fact, the signs are actually probably the BEST way for musicians to discourage fans from taking pictures; bringing in security is probably the worst.

      • Whatever the potential negative consequences, if venue security began to enforce no-tolerance no phone policies in shows, I doubt there would be anything resembling a massive backlash. I think the first time any artist stopped a show to shame a rule-breaker there might be a standing ovation.

        As a teacher I can attest to the fact that although phones are a terrible distraction, when you shame students they usually do what you want them to do. I don’t see how audiences are any different. Your “nightmare” scenario where Jhenny Beth stops the show to shame an audience member seems much more palatable to me. People would get the message real quick that this isn’t a social gathering, it’s a paid music event to which other people paid a lot of money to attend.

        And as to your concerns about venue security – I don’t remember the bouncers pulling kids physically out of the pit at the last Nine Inch Nails show I was at worried too much about safety or lawsuits. I guarantee if you hired some of THOSE dudes to enforce a phone rule at your average indie show and not some moonlighting museum docents, the mood would get a lot more respectful real fast.

        • You’re eliding the principle issue: This is not a “problem,” per se — it’s probably not a problem AT ALL, and certainly not one that merits increased security measures.

          NO VENUE has banned the use of camera phones at rock/pop concerts. Certain rock/pop bands have requested that audiences not use camera phones at concerts. Are you suggesting these venues employ beefed-up security details for those bands who make such requests? Are you suggesting these venues empower their existing security staffs to bust heads when those bands play? Neither will happen. And neither is necessary! My guess is, when Savages made their request to fans, fans complied. Why exactly do you want security involved?

          • For the simple reason that kids are idiots, and need to have their toys taken away from them. If they can’t learn to be civilized human beings, maybe they should stay home and let the grown-ups have a night of peace.

          • And while we’re at it, when can we have all-adult theaters that show more than porn? I’m sick of kids kicking my seat and laughing during the sad parts.

          • agreed, i hate it when that happen in porno theatres.

            oh… wait.

        • “As a teacher I can attest to the fact that although phones are a terrible distraction, when you shame students they usually do what you want them to do”

          Yeah, you sound like a great teacher.

          • seriously? what the hell would you do if a kid in your class wouldn’t get off his/her phone?

            my wife teaches and i think it’s fairly common that you make the kid get up, walk to the front of the classroom and hand it over. that would be shaming.

      • Ha, this article reminded me of Ian MacKaye, too. Telling people to mellow out is one thing Ian would do when he was displeased with the crowd. Option B was to dive into the crowd and beat someone’s ass. Either way, the point was made. The man’s a national treasure.

  22. I know I’ve said a lot on here, so I’ll cool it, but I just wanted to relay an experience I had that makes me completely understand the idea of what these artists are getting at. (Not that others don’t get it, I’m just saying this brings it home for me a bit).

    When I saw Radiohead (favorite band of all time) last year, it was obviously a huge artist in a stadium, which is a slightly different dynamic. Obviously, no picture rules or whatever. So to document this momentous occasion (I’d never seen them before), I took a few videos/pics of my favorite songs. When “Idioteque” began, I hurredly pulled out my phone to get some footage of the glory…but my memory was full! For some dumbass reason, I figured I’d better empty out some unwanted pics/videos in my phone so I could have room to continue. Little did I realize this took me the entirety of “Idioteque” and I finished in time to watch that song end.

    Did this ruin the show for me? Not really, it was only one song. Did it ruin it for someone else? I don’t think so, and on that note I wasn’t particularly distracted by other phones either. But ever since… I think back to that moment and internally scold the hell out of myself for giving that much of a shit about my phone to miss an entire song. For the duration of one of the best songs by one of my favorite bands, I was so focussed on something so trivial that I was completely absent. For that moment, I felt ashamed to be a Radiohead fan.

    Now this kind of thing may not bother some people. Maybe they’re not big enough fans of a band to care about missing a song or two for their phones. But a great show can be a religious experience. I recently went to France and visited the Sacre Coeur cathedral where phones were absolutely prohibited out of respect for the venue, the worshippers, and the religion. Naturally, there were some bastard tourists who completely ignored that rule, but I sat down, looked around, and just soaked it in. That’s how a great show should be. Not witnessed through a phone, but experienced through your senses.

  23. Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2013 +4

    “Most importantly, none address the fact that for many fans, documenting an event on Instagram or Facebook is a crucial element of the total experience.”

    So, the artists who want people to actually experience and be a part of the performance by doing things that people have done at concerts for thousands of years (watching, singing along, clapping, etc.) are “patronizing, passive-agressive, condescending, and disconnected…”

    While the fans who would rather talk through the show, photograph the show by holding a phone up in front of other people who also paid to see it, or document the performance (they aren’t actually engaging with) on social media sites are engaging in “a crucial element of the total experience…”?


    I’m sorry, but when the Savages tour was announced, I don’t think the shows sold out because people were buying tickets to their local Instagram meetup. At least in theory, the “crucial elements of the total experience” begin and end with: the band(s) showing up, the band(s) performing, the sound and lighting folks doing their jobs, and the venue staff being there to scan tickets, check IDs, and serve booze. The person next to me taking duckface selfies and talking through Feist is no more a “crucial element of the total experience” than chlamydia is a crucial element of sex. And yes, I picked a venereal disease for a reason. People fall asleep next to phones. They wake up next to them (and because of them). They carry them around constantly. They use them on plains, trains, buses, bikes, cars, and skateboards. They use them while using laptops and desktops and tablets. Nothing about them is crucial to any form of life. The word you were looking for is ubiquitous. They’re not the same thing.

  24. I just came in here to say that Chris Robinson’s quote is fucking great.

  25. As annoying as I find Zooey to be, I can’t agree with this article. It is more annoying to go to a rock show and find everyone in the audience just looking into their iphones like its the’r kids first recital. put that shit away.

    and yeah.. the signs are sort of necessary.. hopefully people will relearn etiquette. You don’t sit around in a theatre iphoning and taking pictures. at least i hope you dont.

  26. As Jenga mentioned above, I really like the Dan Deacon idea of actually making your phone a part of the show. It takes all of the pretentiousness out of asking you to not use it and instead adds another aspect to the show.

  27. Philip Cosores  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2013 +2

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but She & Him has actually had this sign thing since back in 2010. I wrote about it and I’ll spare you the link (not fun reading one of your first concert reviews years later), but when they played the El Rey, the venue used their social media to urge fans not to bring cameras or use their camera phones, with the warning made that the band will stop playing if it becomes an issue. My initial reaction was that it must be Zooey with the stance, but Ward has been the more noted proponent of no photography at shows. Here is a Seattle Weekly article about Ward’s stance So yeah, sorry if this is repeating someone else, but I thought it might be interesting.

  28. Whenever an artist/band requests that people put their stupid phones away at a concert, I immediately like that artist/band more. Dicking around with one’s cellphone at a concert is so tacky and dumb. Put it away and be present for an hour.

    I get it that people like taking pictures, but there’s no denying it distracts people from being fully immersed in the show, not to mention it’s annoying as ass to those around you.

  29. As someone who lived half of my youth prior to web 2.0 (we played Turtle and Oregon trails in 93′), I was part of a heavy concert going experience from 14-22. I continued to be an avid concert goer from 22-30. Well during those years, there was a bit of a shift in the experience. We went from being relaxed in life to hyper-recording everything people say and do, and we’re not experiencing life to the fullest because of it. What these people are asking is WAY LESS RIDICULOUS than the idiocy of a whole crowd missing out on an experience because they haven’t cut their matrix cords yet. Unplug from it a little bit! You don’t have to be connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Why are they asking that this ludicrous practice be stopped? Because they, like myself remember a time when people just did things for fun, without trying too hard. People need to get their faces out of their screens for a minute. We don’t need to be hyper fake socialized and self conscious all of the time. Put the phone down, away, and be aware of the present moment. The concert experience has changed, and for the worse because of this obnoxiousness. You’ll have more fun if you are actively engaged anyway! Just my two cents!

  30. I use a compact camera at gigs to try to take some interesting shots, which I often manage to do. (some are outright awesome – capturing the experience in ways professional shots from the same gig fail to do).
    That’s one way I express my creativity, which admittedly isn’t as impressive as how the people on stage expresses theirs. But still, categorically banning everyone from using cameras in order to weed out the worst offenders is discrimination based on interests.

    HOWEVER, people that plan on taking A LOT of pictures should show up WAY early to get a spot all the way in the front, so they don’t have to raise their hands into that ridiculous position that blocks everybody’s views so thoroughly. If you don’t have a great position to take pictures, take that as a sign that you probably should limit your photographing a bit. When you start ruining other people’s experience to enhance your own, you’re crossing a line. That also goes for people who shoot vast amounts of video. At no point should you shoot any length of video unless you’re on the very front row – lengthy video shooting with arms raised is incredibly obstructive for people behind you.

  31. I had a very relevant experience last night.
    A group of girls next to me at the concert exemplified the issue I have with the smart phones at concerts. During Wilco one of them said “Try to get a picture of me with Wilco on stage while I’m wearing my Wilco shirt. The full Wilco experience!”
    The full Wilco experience if fucking hearing and seeing the band play, not having your back turned and annoying people with your cameraphone light in the middle of a set.

  32. I totally support these bands. At an amazing multimedia Massive Attack show last night I had to ask a lady to put her camera down as she was recording the entire thing. I’m 6’2 and it was incredibly distracting – could only imagine what it was like for anyone shorter.

    In short, your blurry/shaky pics/vids suck. Nobody wants to see them. Enjoy the show.

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