Neko Case

Lately, the widespread use of cameraphones at rock shows has become a hot-button issue in certain circles, albeit an extremely minor one. And like her peers in Savages, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a bunch of other bands, Neko Case is apparently not cool with you filming her on your iPhone for the entire duration of the show. And at a show in Cincinnati two nights ago, she expressed that sentiment so much, and so harshly, that she apparently managed to turn an entire crowd against her, according to certain reports.

According to CityBeat, Case spent much of an awkward, uncomfortable show demanding and re-demanding that phones be put away, cutting songs short, and engaging individual audience members in heated arguments. Early on in the show, she told the crowd that the flashes from phones were bothering her and asked them to keep the phones away. Later, she repeated the request: “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me.” And apparently, this happened so much that people heckled Case, flipped her off, and stormed out of the show.

The article’s comments section is full of heated discussion and accounts from other people at the show, most of whom echo the sentiment that Case seemed out of it and that she was the one who turned the show uncomfortable. If you’ve ever been at a show where performer and audience seem to be at odds with each other, you know how squirmy it can get, how shitty it can feel when the person onstage doesn’t seem to notice that most of the people in the crowd are right there with her. But this is the first time I’ve heard of the phone issue turning a show toxic.

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Comments (30)
  1. I like the policy from a purely spiteful standpoint. I know people that absolutely must share every single thing they do on social media, to the point of making other people in their lives feel weird. I’m also a photographer as my job, so I look at the times where I can put my camera(s) down and just enjoy what’s in front of me as treasured opportunities.

  2. I hate this phenomenon so deeply, that I have come up with my own response to it. Since I have to stare at your stupid iPhone the whole show, I hold my phone up and play porn on it, if only to underscore the absurdity that is throngs of people standing at a live event holding a telephone in the air. And does anyone remember when cameras were forbidden at a concert?

    • The “no camera” policy did away with people bringing them to concerts and shows, but it’s hard to do a “no smartphone” policy since phones are also used for emergency situations and there’s no way that you’re ever going to be able regulate audiences going rogue. I want to side with Neko, as I’m the type of showgoer who would have respected her wishes the first time she asked, but the realist in me doesn’t expect that in 2013 that others are going to do the same. It’s sadly asking A LOT of people to put down their devices. But I don’t think every show necessitates an Instagram. When I go to shows at DIY venues, you’re the idiot if you pull out your phone in the tiny space. But when I went to see Nine Inch Nails, I felt like every song was worthy of a 15-second Instagram clip (I limited myself to two for the night.) I get the whole “Put the phone down and just enjoy living in the moment” sentiment, but I’ve also watched those measly 15-second clips taken from that night from the very seat I sat and it’s nice to have that memory.

    • sweet, but what happens when the perv next to ya starts wanking?

  3. “One guy (flipped) her the bird and storms out.”

    those poor, respectful fans

  4. Saw Prince in January and he expressly banned bringing smartphones into the venue. Then he had off duty Minneapolis cops at the door to ensure compliance. I had left mine in the car, and after getting over the odd feeling of not being able to check the time on my phone it was a ridiculously liberating experience to be completely unplugged for a couple hours.

    Of course standing 10 feet from Prince at the debut performance of his new band probably helped the feeling of liberation.

  5. I saw Savages recently and they requested no phones by putting up notices at the door and around the venue. They never mentioned it and the crowd was very respectful. I only saw a screen pop up once or twice and it was very brief. It actually made the show so much more enjoyable.

    I also just saw Father John Misty solo and he had a giant cut-out of an iphone that he propped up in front of him for a few songs. I thought that was a cool way to poke fun at the “must document every moment with my phone” crowd.

  6. The first mistake that the fans made was not going across the street to see Built to Spill instead.

  7. I was actually at the Case concert on Tues night. I would say that the mood was definitely tense – even uncomfortable at times – though I definitely did NOT think the “entire crowd” was against her as suggested in the above article.

    I still managed to enjoy the show despite the fact that I did not totally approve of Neko’s behavior. She doesn’t need my approval anyways! Some of my fellow-concert-goers made a bad situation much worse. There are any number of possibilities why this went down the way it did, including that Case just had a bad day.

    The more likely culprit may be a total lack of communication between the Tour and the Taft Theater. Case’s concert page on her website says videos (obviously) and pictures are not allowed. Case stated this once during the very first song before things escalated. Later, she referred to the signs posted around the theater asking for no pics/videos even though there were no such signs.

    The Taft website does NOT list phones as restricted but ALSO allows for small cameras. Given a camera’s unique function, this statement surprised me (Taft does say no “recordings” are allowed, btw). I won’t even venture to guess who is to blame for this. Maybe Case’s team did not communicate any of their own policies to the Taft. Or maybe they did, and the Taft management did not do anything – posting signs, having a pre-show announcement, etc — to relay that to the audience. Either way, the result was that the audience went into the show with certain expectations about cell phones and cameras. And those expectations were met with total resistance by the performer.

    • Unless the ban on phones/photos is advertised ahead of tickets being made available, they really have no legal right to ban them. it’s customary for pretty much any venue to allow camera phones and compact cameras (with non-interchangable lenses),

      So they would really have to be totally up front with that from the minute tickets are up since it may very well impact whether or not people would want to pay full price tickets for what may for them be a more limiting experience than the norm.

      I certainly would not give any number of shits about signs or the artists complaining if I paid full ticket price with no disclaimer given at that point.

  8. I guess I’m in the minority in feeling like this behavior from artists is total prima donna bullshit. I have a really hard time believing that flashes from iPhone cameras are going to “kill” artists onstage. I played a show with my band earlier this year where the stage lights were so blinding I couldn’t even see the crowd, let alone anyone’s smartphone. You know what I did? I sucked it up and played the show, because that’s what I was there to do.

    I get that it can be annoying, but it’s part and parcel of playing music. You know what else is annoying? Overly drunk people at shows. You think artists are gonna start banning alcohol from their shows? Yeah, see how well that goes over with venues and audiences. These people aren’t throwing stuff onstage, they’re not disrupting the actual show, they’re just taking pictures with their phone. To me that doesn’t even rank in the top 1000 things a person could do to be annoying at a show.

    • I don’t think you are in the minority. I wish they all allowed pictures and that none of them flew-off-the-handle when pictures are taken. Neko Case could have handled this better, and as I suggest above- there needed to be some better way to communicate the policy with the audience.

      But Neko’s site on her tour page does say videos AND photos are not allowed. And I honestly have no problem whatsoever with an artist/band making that their policy. They have earned the right to perform – the problem is just making sure audience members are aware of that policy behorehand.

    • Keep in mind too though, that for an artist to put their time into making music and performing, it’s incredibly disheartening to be up there and see a bunch of smartphones for the WHOLE show. Mentally it just gives the impression that people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening and just want a shitty video to share on YouTube, blah blah.
      It just feels lousy. And encountering it night after night is probably exhausting, as opposed to “the lights being too blinding” at one show. Imagine if it was EVERY show. It is totally annoying, even just as a spectator to see that.

      In all honesty I still don’t get why people can’t just enjoy the show going on in front of them. All my favorite concerts happened before smartphones were in my pocket, and I remember them just fine.

    • I think banning alcohol from venues would actually be a good idea – you don’t see a lot of drunken louts at the Philharmonic.

  9. I was at Neutral Milk Hotel last night, and their no photo policy made the show infinitely better. I love that Savages does it too. I must admit if I’m standing towards the back and there isn’t a no photo policy, I’ll snap a pic, but I totally agree to take on anyone blocking anyone’s view.

  10. Maybe if everyone adopted a policy where it’s fine to do it during the first song only, then everyone would be happy? The over-sharers could still get their pictures, then the artist and would-be-annoyed fans could be mostly spared the rest of the concert. I’ve been to a concert or two where they’ve said something like “take your pictures now – get it out of your system” and it seemed like a lighthearted and effective way to handle it.

  11. I, too, was at that show. Thought it was a brilliant maneuver, especially when he said “everyone should be able to see now”.

  12. I can see it being distracting/disrespectful to the artist, and it also depends on what kind of show you’re at (common thread discussion)… but you know, I was at at White Denim show this past weekend and there were a ton of people recording on their phones. All I was thinking was for how hard I was trying to wrap my mind around what my ears were hearing, and then how the people on their phones were getting none of that as a result (if you’ve ever seen White Denim live, you’ll know what I mean).

  13. Eh, get over it. It’s a concert not a memorial. People are going to do what they’re going to do. A show is a space where a lot of different folks are coming together to have an evening out. It’s a social environment. Some will get drunk, some will tell the drunks to be quiet, some will take pictures, some will glance askew at those people, some will stand in rapt awe of the performer. Whatever.

    Step outside your own head and think of the possibilities. Maybe the person taking the picture has a sister who couldn’t be there that night and maybe that picture would mean a lot to her. It doesn’t always have to be some jerk posting to YouTube. And just maybe the loud couple next to you are falling in love that night. And just maybe you’ve been that person.

    It’s just a show, lighten up.

  14. What percentage of the live video clips of your favorite artist on YouTube are even watchable? Most are out of focus, distortion heavy, partial recordings from the back of the venue. That’s what people are capturing for posterity and sharing with the world. The majority of the clips that are worth watching are professionally shot, and are set up through the venue and artist. I totally agree that going to a show is a social event, and not everyone there is totally focused on the musical performance. Still, you can’t shout “Fire” in a movie theater. Venues have rules that have to be adhered to. I don’t know if that is the case in this situation with Neko, but either way, if the artist doesn’t want that going on during the show, then be respectful to the artist and everyone else around, and just put the phone back in your pocket for an hour or so.

    • this is my big question. i went to a show when i was about 19 and recorded a couple of whole songs using my camera and went to watch them later and thought, “why the fuck did i do that? they look and sound like shit and i’m never going to watch them again”. and i haven’t done it since. even halfway decent recordings… what’s the *most* you’re going to get out of watching them? it is similar to when people go on holidays and only witness the scenery through a camera lense? it’s a very peculiar concept to me, that people are so into it.

  15. All of this would be a non-issue if people followed simple guidelines, like:

    1) limit your flash photography, especially if you’re at a show that’s not in itself a full blast light show. if you can’t take photos without it, you’ll need to a) get a better camera or b) not fucking try.

    2) photos and vines/short clips are okay; full length song recordings are not – nobody will ever give any salient number of shits about your horrid quality youtube videos with barely discernible sound.

    3) if you plan on taking a significant number of photos/video, make sure you’re one of the first people in line to secure a spot in the very front by the stage, so you’re able to shoot from head height, as opposed to performing what can only be described as the douchenozzle maneuver – i.e., holding your camera/phone up in the air like the fucking olympic torch and then keeping it there, forcing everyone behind you to experience the show through your shitty little screen.
    if you don’t care enough to show up at least a couple hours in advance, you forfeit the right to shoot any more than a handful of photos.

  16. I think an artist would be perfectly justified in simply putting their instruments down and walking off stage. And then a representative from the venue should come on stage and say the show will not continue until all phones are surrendered to security. If people complain, they will be ejected by said security.

  17. Neko and the band should learn a full set of Motörhead songs and bring appropriate backline to all venues to play it at the correct volume. I’d bet the majority of those “fans” more interested in playing with their phones than experiencing the music would turn tail and evacuate the venue by the time the band hit “Mean Machine” or “Snaggletooth” at 140 db. Weed out the weak. Neko is NOT music for people who don’t like music.

  18. I’d love to side with the artist on this, but after seeing Neko completely derail two past shows (at different venues) with her constant sound complaints, I think she is simply a truculent headache of a live performer.

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