The Simple Joy of "No Phones Allowed"
November 13, 2018 1:45 AM   Subscribe

A few nights ago I saw Jack White in concert. It was a wonderful night, and a big part of that was due to a new rule he has imposed on all his tour dates: no phones.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (123 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
This sounds great. The last para or so, comparing screens to cigarettes (you let your toddler ‘smoke’? (actually my dad born in ‘35 claims he started smoking at 12)) was an interesting point.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:54 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


As a college prof, the part of the article about “a black hole of apathy radiating out from the cell phone user” is about as apt a description as I’ve ever heard of what I encounter daily in my classes.

I’ve saved the article and may email it to my students.
posted by darkstar at 1:57 AM on November 13, 2018 [26 favorites]


Please PLEASE ban phones from the Olympics opening ceremony.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:08 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


does Yondr make family-sized kits for thanksgiving?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 3:11 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


comparing screens to cigarettes (you let your toddler ‘smoke’? (actually my dad born in ‘35 claims he started smoking at 12)) was an interesting point.

Sensible parental set limits are one thing, but I'm starting to catch a whiff of a latter day Seduction of the Innocent in the discussion surrounding children and screen time.
posted by fairmettle at 3:20 AM on November 13, 2018 [37 favorites]


Yondr

Was Douchbgr already trademarked?
posted by thelonius at 4:02 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Hey, last two comments....did you read the article or listen to the interview with Jack White? He's making a pretty reasonable point that performing to an audience of phone gazers is not connecting with people as intimately as performing to an audience that's engaged in the performance. That's an important part of music to him and he's doing something reasonable to address that.
posted by kokaku at 4:22 AM on November 13, 2018 [34 favorites]


I've used the cigarette analogy for a while too! It's apt in more ways than one.

It's something to do with your hands when you're by yourself at a party or a bar.

It's something to do to establish personal space. This is especially true for shift workers who don't smoke but want a minute out back.

In general, a lot of the ickiness about living in 2018 feels like a period before a big public health tipping point. Instead of cigarettes, adulterated food and cholera, it's phones, social media and troll-bots.
posted by Telf at 4:22 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


No-phone (and especially no-pictures) policies are common in several Berlin clubs. It lets the weird flourish. It turns out a corollary to the advice "dance like nobody is watching" is "people will dance more freely if nobody is recording". Glad to see those with social capital, like White, are pushing back on ubiquitous-phone culture.
posted by daveliepmann at 4:24 AM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


Hey, last two comments....did you read the article or listen to the interview with Jack White?

I think you misunderstood me, but that's OK
posted by thelonius at 4:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Bob Dylan just played in our small burg, the tickets stated if you pulled out your phone you would be ejected.
posted by rudd135 at 4:27 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


Recently saw a local production of Hedwig and before the show Yitzhak came out and told us not to "memorialize the past or curate the present because you are afraid of not having a future." Thought that was pretty effective.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:47 AM on November 13, 2018 [33 favorites]


Yondr

Was Douchbgr already trademarked?
posted by thelonius at 4:02 AM on November 13 [+] [!]


They passed on Teabgr too. Missed opportunity?
posted by From Bklyn at 4:49 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Bob Dylan just played in our small burg, the tickets stated if you pulled out your phone you would be ejected.
posted by rudd135

I believe that will be the case when he comes to Philadelphia on 3 Dec. I sure hope so! (I haven't eyeballed the tickets yet)
posted by james33 at 5:09 AM on November 13, 2018


With all this focus on people being present in the moment, maaaaaaaannnn, I assume the show started dead on time instead of, like, an hour after the advertised start time like most concerts do?
posted by tobascodagama at 5:28 AM on November 13, 2018 [33 favorites]


I assume the show started dead on time instead of, like, an hour after the advertised start time like most concerts do?

You must go to very different concerts than I do. I can't remember the last time I was at a concert that didn't start within 5 minutes of the time on the ticket.
posted by COD at 5:43 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


In the last few years, I’ve consciously stopped taking so many photos at concerts, preferring to be in the moment/experience instead. I might take a photo or two at the start, maybe a short video in aid of my own bad memory, but then call it a day. I must say that I feel like my concert-going experience has improved by it.

Several bands I’ve seen in small venues ask the audience to do the same - which is fairly effective. Some have a no recording policy strictly enforced. Mandating a strict no phone policy puts an enormous burden on the venue staff, though. It’s also the worst to have my concert interrupted by a guard barging through the crowd to reach the one person with their phone up.

Not sure what the best answer is, tbh. I like seeing artists try different things. This works for Jack, good for him. Something else may work for other artists.
posted by gemmy at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sensible parental set limits are one thing, but I'm starting to catch a whiff of a latter day Seduction of the Innocent in the discussion surrounding children and screen time.

The comics code came to be, in part, because of the uproar that book created, and I'm not sure that is a bad thing just as I'm not all that sure comics have been somehow proven a good influence on kids. There are clearly things in the culture that helps turn a lot of young boys into dirtbags, and I'm not willing to say comics don't play some part in that given the history of racism, sexism and general stupidity that accompanied the occasional better elements. Comics, like screens, exist as part of the culture now, but that existence doesn't prove their influence is benign, it just means its accepted regardless of the impact.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I assume the show started dead on time instead of, like, an hour after the advertised start time like most concerts do?

This is jazz time, man. It's always late.

(I used to attend shows at a venue where the performance always started at least 30 minutes, sometimes an hour or more after the announced time, solely to permit the performers and the audience time to mingle, drink, get high, etc. You could tell who'd never been there before by how restless they got.)
posted by octobersurprise at 5:52 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Jack White is my new fantasy husband. I think we are soul mates.
posted by JanetLand at 5:53 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm not willing to say comics don't play some part in that given the history of racism, sexism and general stupidity that accompanied the occasional better elements.

The Comics Code was not there to prevent "racism, sexism, and general stupidity". It had more of a problem with gay people than it had with racism and sexism, by a long shot. It banned vampires and said nothing at all about treatment of black people, and its actual enforcement of the rule about portraying women "realistically" suggested that nobody enforcing it knew what women looked like. Just because somebody made some rules regulating a thing you think is bad or dangerous doesn't mean they actually made good rules.

Which is to say, in this context, lots of people are going to go, "yeah, I also hate phones, good!" But why are they actually doing it, and what are they actually getting out of it? What are the real impacts of a rule like this on the audience? Who might possibly have a problem with this? As a single woman who would be seeing this show alone if I went, there's no way in hell I'm going to let someone I don't know prevent me from accessing my phone. Great, everybody is being more "in the moment", but I think we should be a bit suspicious of their reasoning. Okay, they also have a legit interest in preventing recordings. What about their interest in preventing anybody from actually documenting assault or harassment? David James Swanson is a white guy; he maybe doesn't care about that. This is improving his experience. But is it improving everybody's experience? Is there a less-intrusive way this could be accomplished if that was the real goal?
posted by Sequence at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2018 [31 favorites]


They changed the Hedwig "turn your phones off" announcement partway through the Broadway run to "You are not allowed to curate the present and fetishize the past because you are afraid of having a future. Be here now, or you will be removed."

John Cameron Mitchell does not like social media and cell phones. He's talked about how people need the chance to fail, and how he doesn't know if Hedwig would exist if there had been cell phones at Squeezbox when they were creating it.

It has made me more conscious of experiencing things through my phone and wanting to document everything.
posted by Mavri at 6:14 AM on November 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


Jack White also thinks magnetic analog sounds better than digital, and would probably like to forget that synthesizers even exist even though they predate electric guitars and ribbon microphones.

I want a concert where it's expected of you to bring your phone and tablet as a music making device and have a huge audience participation synthesizer jam.

No, seriously, that dude has problems and one of those problems is he needs to get into a time machine and go live in the 1950s.
posted by loquacious at 6:17 AM on November 13, 2018 [12 favorites]


They changed the Hedwig "turn your phones off" announcement partway through the Broadway run to "You are not allowed to curate the present and fetishize the past because you are afraid of having a future. Be here now, or you will be removed."

Yes yes that was it. Not being able to snap a picture may have had something to do with the fact that I immediately bought front row tickets to a second showing in 24 hours after the first because I actually wanted to remember every bit, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:18 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I once saw a London production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd where the actor playing Sweeney came out in full costumes and character just before the show began. He swept one of his cut-throat razors slowly across the full width of the auditorium and told us that if anyone - ANYONE - let their phone ring during the performance, he'd be straight down there to open their throats for them.

Worked a treat.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:23 AM on November 13, 2018 [19 favorites]


When I went to see Dave Chappelle at The Cutting Room a couple of years ago, they went so far as to lock up everyone's devices. In that case it wasn't about audience engagement as much as it was, "What I say in this room is going to stay in this room and is not going out there in real time to the world (for free)!" Can't say I blame him. And he was very... candid... in his set. I'm not sure he would have been as outspoken if there were smartphones trained on him.

I bridge the era of concert going pre-smartphone in the mid '80s and early '90s to currently, and to be honest, I much prefer not having to deal with cigarette smoke more than phones. My only issue are tall people who insist on pushing past 5'0" me to stand in front of me at GA shows. Also, I'd be a hypocrite to say I hate smartphones at shows, yet cherish that fan recordings of entire Celebrating Bowie concerts in London, LA, and NYC from 2017 exist, and are posted on YouTube and Vimeo. I was at the NYC show, and while I have my memories, I can go and look at Angelo Moore acting a fool and killing it on "Ashes To Ashes" now for as long as streaming platforms exist, and I'm glad of that.
posted by droplet at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I used to attend shows at a venue where the performance always started at least 30 minutes, sometimes an hour or more after the announced time, solely to permit the performers and the audience time to mingle, drink, get high, etc.

This is not the US, but every music performance I have attended ever has been like this (even the opera / symphony will give you 10 minutes of unacknowledged waiting time). My interpretation has been (a) everybody is always late, and you don't want to start the show with half the audience missing - this is not cinema (b) touring is complicated, something will always break/be late/not be there on time on the performer side and (c) the venue likes to sell drinks.
posted by each day we work at 6:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


That said, yeah, please do put down your phones. Staring at anything through your screen is no way to go through life, and anything you can get on your cell phone is going to usually be crap and not worth your time. You'll remember more of the show if you actually look at it with your own eyes, and all you need is a snapshot or two to remind you of the rest.

One of the many fancy hats I wear is I'm pretty good at photography, and one of the subsets of that that I'm good at is concert and nightclub photography. Doing concert/club photography is a really good way to not actually see or be present for the show.

Being here and now and present is a practice and a mindfulness that must be practiced, nourished and fostered. It's not unlike meditation. It's not unlike a muscle that requires exercise. Being truly present can be really difficult if you don't remember how to do it.

Practice it - it pays off everywhere in your life. You've got one life. There's no second life where you'll get to review all these grainy photos and videos, and even then, it won't actually be living.
posted by loquacious at 6:30 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


I lived in Seattle for a bunch of years where I probably averaged about a show a month, and I recently moved to Mexico City and have taken in a couple shows here, so I have some scattered thoughts.
  • I am an old, and I do not personally take any photos or video during a performance.
  • I frequently go to shows by myself, though, and it's nice to have something to do between sets. I'm generally not there to socialize.
  • Lots of people do take photos and videos. I've gotten used to it and it mostly doesn't annoy me the way it used to.
  • In the small venues that I prefer, the band is close enough to the crowd that I think the affect of phone usage on energy is marginal.
  • Sometimes I like to go on youtube to search for crowd videos of shows that I went to years ago. When I'm able to find one, I'm happy that it exists.
  • At the two shows I've been to in Mexico City, there was a lot of crowd enthusiasm in the form of singing along. I almost never saw this in Seattle (maybe at the end of the night if the headliner closed their set with a well-known cover). There were also a lot of phones out. So while I don't dispute the basic premise of the piece, I think that phone usage is one small dimension out of many when it comes to crowd engagement.
  • I created an instagram account last month for the first time mostly to follow Mexican bands, to learn about other bands that they're friends with and shows that they're playing. A couple of the bands that I saw this month are pretty active, and it was fun to see all the crowd videos as they were added to their instagram story.
So for me I guess I respect a preference to not have phones at a performance, but I think the moralizing about it is just another round of "kids these days".
posted by jomato at 6:34 AM on November 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


The no-phones policy illuminated something about smartphone use that’s hard to see when it’s so ubiquitous: our phones drain the life out of a room. They give everyone a push-button way to completely disengage their mind from their surroundings, while their body remains in the room, only minimally aware of itself.

I mean, except for all the autistic, ADHD, socially anxious, etc. people who can only engage BECAUSE they have a phone to keep them grounded or in contact with support networks, but sure, if the author would prefer me to have a screaming crying meltdown because that's more "authentic" I'll do it.

The no-recording thing I can respect, and I'll even begrudgingly accept no phones at concerts in specific but the piece talks much more broadly than that and the moralizing "if you ever touch a phone while doing a Thing you aren't LIIIIIIIIVING" is so tiring.
posted by brook horse at 6:45 AM on November 13, 2018 [50 favorites]


Dave Chappelle locked our phones up when I saw him at Radio City, too, and I thought it was fantastic. I went with a group of coworkers, all C-level executives running a global company, immediately after a huge business announcement whose repercussions would dominate everyone's lives for the next year at least. It was pretty hilarious seeing all of them sit there in a panic that they couldn't be doing work during the comedy show.
posted by something something at 6:46 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I want a concert where it's expected of you to bring your phone and tablet as a music making device and have a huge audience participation synthesizer jam.

I once watched an improv dude on an upright bass just roll with the ringtone that went off in the middle of his show. He started imitating the chirping sound and making up a song about birds and phones and it was fucking hilarious and delightful and actually moving.

So, yeah, I wholly support the right of performers to put limits on during-show behavior and I absolutely comply whenever I'm asked to do so and I do think that "put down your phone" is a good rule in almost any situation, but I also sometimes feel like this "no phones, no pictures" comes from a sort of reification of the idea of the artist and an unwillingness to engage with ideas of performance "in an age of mechanical reproduction." Which is fine! But still.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:49 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Staring at anything through your screen is no way to go through life

I've honestly tried to understand this argument, which I have heard many times, and I just don't get it. The back of your retina is a screen. Why is it better to look at a person singing than it is to look at a picture of a person singing? How is one of those any more in-the-moment or authentic than the other? I've been to concerts in person that didn't move me at all, and I've had moments watching a person sing on a computer screen that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
posted by IjonTichy at 6:51 AM on November 13, 2018 [15 favorites]


I think...I definitely have an unhealthy relationship to my phone, because it essentially lets me be hacked in to adrenaline at all times. I have recently begun attending church again, where it would be socially horrifying if you pulled it out, and - I think that’s at least a small part of the peace I’m finding.
posted by corb at 6:53 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


David Baker did a jazz improv composition that called for audience ringtones.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:53 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm sure this isn't a good answer for all concerts, but I would be interested, just for fun, to see an experiment in which lots of people in the audience wear an unobtrusive camera (with no distracting monitor) on the forehead of their hats or headbands. If you're into filming shows, you buy a concert hat and wear it to shows (assuming the performer permits it).

Let the camera select the action and focus based on what the wearer is looking at, maybe with a couple of simple manual selections for off, on, close up, and stage to help it decide what to do. But no monitor screen. You just turn your monkey cam on, put it on your head, and assume it's doing its job while you stay in the moment and maybe forget you're wearing this silly hat.

After the show, everyone could click to upload their recordings to the concert site and let them all be mixed with professional recordings from the venue or performer for everyone to browse and link to. Relive the concert through the beast with ten thousand eyes.

And add an automatic cigarette lighter to the top of each hat for those lighter moments.
posted by pracowity at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Maybe worth noting, too, that there are degrees of badness to the "no phones, no pictures" proscription. What might be extremely disruptive in one kind of small, intimate performace, might go entirely unnoticed in another large, loud show. Which raises the question: are your proscriptions in place out of a practical wish to make the show more enjoyable and intelligible for everyone attending, or are they there out of some philosophical devotion to an idea of "authentic" performance. I find the former more compelling than the latter, personally.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:05 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


He started imitating the chirping sound and making up a song about birds and phones and it was fucking hilarious and delightful and actually moving.

”Nokia ringtone during concert of classical music”
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:07 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Comics Code was not there to prevent "racism, sexism, and general stupidity". It had more of a problem with gay people than it had with racism and sexism, by a long shot.

I don't want to derail the thread into comicdom, but,yes, I'm aware of that just as it was true for the production code in film and many other self-enforced or socially enforced standards. I was trying to allude to the shift in concept from what the code enforced and further issues with "just as". The point being that we live under the capitalist logic of ideas moving from possible to inescapable without input, where someone gets rich and the rest of us have to deal with the consequences while being told to accept it as just a way of life now that can't be questioned.

Screens like other new elements of the culture, change it. Some of that change may be for the good, some for the bad, but it needn't be just accepted as inevitable or seen as proof of worth just for its existence. The smirks at past concern, as if everything turned out ideally and the "kids are okay" attitude only points to acquiescence to the forces of capital. We can certainly do better than that and not allow personal ease or "taste" alone to constantly direct our future. It isn't whether screens or comics or whatever else are entirely or inherently good or bad, but that questioning them as if they weren't in control is a worthwhile step to take.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2018


I'm in favor of performers asking audiences to keep their phones pocketed and not take pictures. Even as someone who likes to take pictures at shows, I've been making it a point to take photos at the beginning and then keep my phone in my pocket the rest of the time. (Except encore breaks.) As long as you're not a dick about it, I don't mind other people taking photos at shows, just make sure you turn off the camera flash.

What I do object to is forcing people to surrender their phones. That's a step too far.
posted by SansPoint at 7:09 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Jack White didn't force anyone to surrender their phones. Audience members were each given a bag to put their phones in. The bags were locked and then given back to each person. The unlock mechanisms were in the lobby, so all a person had to do was leave the show floor to use their phone. Nothing was taken from anyone, except maybe a little bit of convenience.
posted by cooker girl at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


If I had it my way I would also ban the ever-present drunk idiot who yells WOOOOHOOOOOO every time there is a goddamn stretch of silence at a show.

Like dude this is a Wovenhand show, we're all solemn and depressed. Go wooohoooo somewhere else, you're cramping our existential doom.
posted by Tarumba at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'm stuck in the middle. On one hand, part of me is like "yes, phones in social settings are fucking poison." Completely agree with the concept of the black hole of apathy that radiates from the bored person checking instagram with your group at the bar; I also believe it's utterly contagious like a bored or tired yawn. It's like an ultra-yawn. Everyone else is reminded in a domino effect to check their phones and disengage. It truly blows.

On the other hand, I agree that phones are a lifesaver when you're by yourself. It's a great way of preventing actual boredom and something to do if you're alone, and it's a great way of putting up a boundary or signaling that you don't want to be spoken to. I think it's a very plausible hypothesis that spaces where phones are not allowed might see increases in harassment, especially if it's a concert or festival or bar.

Whenever I see those dumb "wouldn't it be great if we looked up from our screen and TALKED to eachother" memes there is a small part of me that is like "aww...yeah, yeah it would be great." But at the end of the day I'm not sure if the trade off is worth it so we just have to accept that society and communication is forever changed. I think at the very least it would be cool if it became socially acceptable for groups of friends, at dinner or small gatherings, agreeing to turn their phones off. Like how Jewish people might turn their phone off during a Shabbat dinner. Baby steps!
posted by windbox at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Honestly, all this whining sounds like a bunch of dudes who can't cope with the fact that they're less interesting than a plastic box full of wires and glass.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:41 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


Why is it better to look at a person singing than it is to look at a picture of a person singing?

Ce n'est pas un chanteur..
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I went to see Ry Cooder recently in Amsterdam, and they had a "no photos or recording" policy.

They also had someone stationed by the orchestra pit with some sort of very bright, very focused white light that got pointed at anyone they could see pointing a phone at the stage. Not a laser (which would be horribly unsafe), and more like some sort of manual follow spot.

No idea whether it was as effective, but it was pretty annoying when it caught folks near me.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just think it's so cool and nice that Jack White thought of all the people in the audience, people who paid a lot of money for him, who might have kids at home with a sitter! Or an on-call job, or a close friend who might be having a baby any minute now, or a need to check their bank balance before buying a couple of $11 beers. Just so practical and real, you know?
posted by witchen at 7:45 AM on November 13, 2018 [21 favorites]


It's definitely a generational thing, and I'm an early Gen-Xer who didn't have a smartphone until well into adulthood, so I distinctly remember sitting in waiting rooms or at bus stops and doing absolutely nothing for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more. I have no idea how I passed my time but I don't remember feeling frustrated by the boredom because it was just part of life back then and there were no other options.

The frustration comes from *having* options and not being able to exercise them.
posted by rocket88 at 7:49 AM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


The thing with phone use at concerts is that it truly does impact how other folks, even thoughs who have made a conscious choice to put their phones away, experience what is left. And its not exclusively a youth thing - i saw David Gilmour at Madison Square Garden a few years ago and was appalled by the (lack of) phone etiquette being displayed by all the 60-somethings around me.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:50 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I went to one of these concerts. We were told in advance that this was the policy, so I walked there from our hotel and didn't even bother bringing my phone. We saw people putting the phones in the neoprene pouches when we walked in and thought that it would be a delay and huge hassle at the exit, but it really wasn't. There were lots of stations to open the pouches and people weren't stopped on the way out for more than a couple of seconds.

Jack White starts the concert by telling people they will be able to find photos of the concert online afterwards on his site. I personally loved not having the glowing screens everywhere as I find them to be a distraction.
posted by Laura in Canada at 7:53 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Nothing was taken from anyone, except maybe a little bit of convenience.

Unless you needed to document or get help because of assault or harassment, which are a huge issue at concerts in the US. Unless you have, for example, anxiety or sensory issues and are there alone and need social support or to be listening to something with headphones on until the actual show is actually starting. Unless you use your phone for anything related to accessibility. Or, yeah, basic normal stuff like checking in with your babysitter or your bank balance at literally any point when the band isn't actually playing--but okay, call that just an inconvenience. Some of these things are not inconvenience.

Like, once the event is actually going, I am actually totally fine with the idea of asking people to put their phones away! But locking them up has accessibility and safety implications. The social snobbery of people who don't use their phones as anything but toys is making people feel like obviously this must be because of their own feelings about the acceptable use of phones, when the actual practice suggests it has a lot to do with the financial interests of the companies that provide this service and the copyright holders.
posted by Sequence at 7:54 AM on November 13, 2018 [27 favorites]


This is cool. Phone use in concerts are probably the one time it really bothers me, especially goobers taking pictures. What the hell do you think you're taking a picture of? I've nothing against snapping pic for the memories and shit but a concert photo from a professional paid to be there with access to take shots won't be very good -- your cell phone photo is not even worth taking. A black photo with specks of blurry light, wow, great show, so many sick memories invoked by the world's worst photography.

The cigarette analogy was weird for me because I really miss when there were smoking sections inside of like a Denny's or whatever and I'll never get to experience having a smoke inside a restaurant after my meal. Hell, can't even smoke in most bars these days.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:55 AM on November 13, 2018


I expected the no-phones policy to be controversial, but it didn’t seem to be.

That's because people like me who are irritated at someone else deciding they get to dictate what I do with my property just refuse to go to shows with this policy. FFS, Neko Case and Tig Notaro just said at the beginning of their shows "Hey, please don't record this. OK?" and no one did. Because we're all adults here.
posted by haileris23 at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2018 [12 favorites]


He swept one of his cut-throat razors slowly across the full width of the auditorium and told us that if anyone - ANYONE - let their phone ring during the performance, he'd be straight down there to open their throats for them.

ok but there's definitely a huge difference between "please don't allow your noisemaking devices to make loud & distracting noise during this performance that other ppl have paid to attend" and various smug treatises about how the existence of technology renders you a mindless simpleton unable to "correctly" enjoy life as prescribed by others. the former is common courtesy and the latter is, uh. not.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2018 [27 favorites]


"You are not allowed to curate the present and fetishize the past because you are afraid of having a future. Be here now, or you will be removed."

I would probably remove myself at this point, and I hate it when people's phones detract from a performance of any kind and could understand restrictions on that basis. (Heck, I sometimes won't take a camera somewhere specifically because I don't want my experience mediated through the construct of "looking for a shot," and feel bad when I see a ton of people whose goal is to have a selfie with the famous painting rather than, I don't know, look at the painting.) How incredibly presumptuous. And, hilariously, using the douche-capitalist meaning of "curate" to boot!

I think it's...sweet....that so many of you think this policy is generally being enforced to keep audiences "in the present" rather than just to prevent recording, though. I will give you any odds you like that no guard would come over to take a book away from me to keep me "in the present," and I can blot out the present way more effectively with a book than with any non-headphone use of an electronic device.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 AM on November 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


The performers and places mentioned by name in this thread -- Jack White, Dave Chapelle, Madison Square Garden -- are BIG. I can only imagine the problem of attention and engagement grows along with the size of the crowd. Sort of conversely, I assume that a lot of smaller acts thrive on the social media engagement that comes from crowd pictures and video.
posted by jomato at 8:12 AM on November 13, 2018


I distinctly remember sitting in waiting rooms or at bus stops and doing absolutely nothing for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more. I have no idea how I passed my time ...

We must be about the same age. Me, back then, I tried to never go anywhere without a book or magazine or a notebook to write in. It is weird, tho, I can recall distinctly that feeling of "Welp, guess I gotta sit on my hands for a while!" which is a feeling that I almost never have these days.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:13 AM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


What happens when the shooting starts and everybody's phone is locked up?
posted by Optamystic at 8:19 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


(actually my dad born in ‘35 claims he started smoking at 12)

I was born in '59 and started smoking at 12. Fortunately, I quit at 13.

As for the phones -- I'm all in for minor shaming in that regard. If somebody starts posting stuff to Facebook or wherever, give 'em shit, tell them they're destroying The West. Because they are.

No, seriously, that dude has problems and one of those problems is he needs to get into a time machine and go live in the 1950s.

Or Mr. White has a palpable sense that something very important is being lost in terms of how we humans connect with each other through music and he's doing what he can to to mitigate things.

posted by philip-random at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think at the very least it would be cool if it became socially acceptable for groups of friends, at dinner or small gatherings, agreeing to turn their phones off.

My friends do this, it's nice.

What happens when the shooting starts and everybody's phone is locked up?

I feel like we need Godwin's Law 2.0 in America these days.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:24 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think at the very least it would be cool if it became socially acceptable for groups of friends, at dinner or small gatherings, agreeing to turn their phones off.

I would be fine with doing this myself, but most of my friends these days have small-ish kids, so I'd feel like a jerk for asking them to on less than perfectly solemn occasions. (Also I have had jobs where, whether it's reasonable or not, being unreachable for a couple of waking hours would just be unacceptable.)
posted by praemunire at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I feel like we need Godwin's Law 2.0 in America these days.

the fact that people in the US have survived one mass shooting at a musical event only to die months later at another mass shooting at a different musical event makes your statement kind of silly actually.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2018 [28 favorites]


More than just kind of silly, actually. Not to mention that Godwin himself has public expressed regret over his "law" because he feels it's used more to shut down productive discussion than for its intended purpose of discouraging hyperbole.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:30 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


i know, i was briefly toying with politeness and i regret it
posted by poffin boffin at 8:33 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


I would be fine with doing this myself, but most of my friends these days have small-ish kids, so I'd feel like a jerk for asking them to on less than perfectly solemn occasions.

See, having kids is, to me, all the more reason not to stare at your phone. Because you can be away for a few hours not thinking about your kids and chances are they are just dandy with a sitter! Or, conversely, your kids are THERE. And all of the kids I know hate it when their parents are constantly staring at phones instead of engaging.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


How incredibly presumptuous. And, hilariously, using the douche-capitalist meaning of "curate" to boot!

I mean, I don't know if you've seen Hedwig, but this was probably intentional.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:46 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Because you can be away for a few hours not thinking about your kids and chances are they are just dandy with a sitter!

So, I don't have any kids, but I'm kind of reluctant to defy the conclusion by (many of) my friends who do that they should be readily available for access by the babysitter unless there's some really compelling justification (like a wedding).
posted by praemunire at 8:47 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


As a college prof, the part of the article about “a black hole of apathy radiating out from the cell phone user” is about as apt a description as I’ve ever heard of what I encounter daily in my classes.

I started teaching at the college level in 1993. Students were still allowed to turn in hand-written essays, and also often used typewriters. Gradually the dot-matrix printer took over, with attendant difficulties in getting students to take the time to remove the sprocket holes. Eventually, I was teaching almost entirely online, with essays being turned in electronically.

I can tell you that no college student has ever needed a cellphone to emit a black hole of apathy. It may be the current method of choice, but the apathy has always been there.
posted by Orlop at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2018 [24 favorites]


Parents are often encouraged to be needlessly paranoid in modern society and I get that there are exceptions and disasters but really being on call for the entirety of every single evening away is probably unnecessary. I understand the sentiment, but personally, as a parent, it is soooooooooooooo niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice to trust in other caregivers and not have to think about parenting at all when I go out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I... typed something specifically about the possibility of a shooting and then deleted it because "this will be too inflammatory" but in retrospect yes, absolutely, I think about that when entertaining the prospect of going to large events now. And it's not like any of these exceptions are so common. Most people probably can leave their kids safely with a sitter without communicating with them all evening. Is that universal? No!

Asking people to put their phones away allows for people to figure out if they really need to be the exception. Forcing people to lock their phones up assumes you know better than everybody else does about literally all possible things they could need their phones for. It's not enough for it to be okay that most people don't really need a phone during a concert under ideal conditions when this is being made mandatory.
posted by Sequence at 8:55 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I am old. and cranky. I cannot stand to have someone stand in front of me and block my view to make their own little crappy minuscule video so they can put it on Facebook and show people that they did something. I have the same feeling about people that go to a club and then talk loudly all through the show, snap a few pictures so they can go to work and say "oh we saw so and so on Saturday night, they were amazing" Go ahead and be a fraud, just don't mess up my show.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


Or Mr. White has a palpable sense that something very important is being lost in terms of how we humans connect with each other through music and he's doing what he can to to mitigate things.

I think it's likely that he believes something like this. I also think that, stated as such, it's an oversimplification of the ways by which people do connect with others through music, privileging a certain kind of "performer performs, audience adores" experience. Which is to say, there's nothing necessarily wrong with such an attitude or even with such a kind of performance, but which stated as the ideal against which every actual performace must fail to measure because people seems needlessly constricting and inadequate. (And which may mask the degree to which the sentiment is driven by the demands of ownership, too.)

I mean, inevitably there's no one-size-fits-all here. Different behaviors and different dictates are going to feel appropriate or heavy handed in different circumstances. Generally, I'm with those who find excessive phone use annoying and excessive moralizing over phone use equally annoying. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by octobersurprise at 9:09 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've honestly tried to understand this argument, which I have heard many times, and I just don't get it.

Hey, I'm with you on on the fact that reality is mediated by your senses, and I don't really care if people want to strap VR googles and cameras to their head and go full gargoyle.

And I'm not saying that taking a few pictures removes you entirely from the present, but maybe I can help illustrate what people are trying to say, appropriately by using a parable involving photography.

In landscape photography you can - you don't have to, but you certainly can - spend a lot of time planning a good photograph. You have to think about a lot of things, the subject, the location, the composition, the weather, even geometry and geography. It's really easy to get monofocused on a single shot.

A bit over a year ago I was obsessed with trying to get a shot of the ISS/Zarya flying over/through Polaris in a timelapse starfield astro-landscape type photograph. At one point I did the math and there was something like 60 solid hours of planning and online homework in Google Maps, in The Photographer's Ephemeris and using the satflare.com satellite observation website. The ISS/Zarya doesn't track this far north at this longitude very often, so there's a limited number of tracks each year where the ground track lines up with the inclination passing overhead and in symmetry with Polaris.

i spent a similar amount of time in addition to this keeping my gear ready to go, keeping it sorted, keeping a "go bag" full of warm clothes and snacks, even a stove for hot drinks, etc.

The opportunity to take this particular shot in my part of the world is also weather-dependent, and I live in the PNW so we get a lot of rain and overcast nights. The shot I want also requires a moonless night otherwise the brightness of the moon will blow out a 20-30 minute exposure.

So, we have like a dozen variables that all have to line up before we even get to the care and feeding of me, the photographer, and my camera to make it all actually go.

Finally it all lines up. I have clear skies, a moonless night, ISS/Zarya is tracking far enough north over my part of the world for a day or two (remember, it's 90 minutes-ish between orbits) and it's go time! My gear is ready, I get all hopped up on coffee and everything is falling into place like a months-long game of organizational Tetris.

I am so ready for this shot. I've been obsessed with it for a bit over six months of my life at this point. I need to get this damn shot so I can move on with my life.

The location I've chosen is the gun mount pit of a WW1 era artillery bunker, so I'm down about 15 feet below the horizon.

Each exposure takes about 20-30 minutes to shoot, then another 30-50 minutes for the camera to actually process the long exposure and for the onboard computer to do the noise-reduction processing. The ISS/Zarya flies over every 90 minutes, and I have to wait for the sky to get dark enough that the photograph works, but it still has to be within a couple of hours after sunset otherwise ISS/Zarya won't reflect sunlight back down at me because it'll be passing through the earth's shadow.

So I get maybe two or three chances to make this shot tonight, maximum, and each attempt takes up to about 60 minutes. It's freezing cold out and being this focused and sitting around waiting and being at extreme attention is incredibly tiring and takes as much out of me as climbing a good mountain or hammering out a bike ride.

I am locked in and focused on this mission. I'm set up. I wait. I get the shot..

And it's totally anticlimactic, and not as cool as I'd hoped for whatever reason. I don't love the shot. Worse? Wait, what's that damn fog coming in the shot? I get another shot and peep at it, an hour later. Am I seriously getting light pollution or a light leak or something? What's that weird purple shit ruining my shot? I start cursing Vancouver and Victoria island and what must be fog rolling in to ruin my night. I'm physically verbalizing "NOOOO FUCK YOU FOG WHY GO AWAY..." at this light pollution. I'm pacing around the bottom of this concrete bunker hoping the fog doesn't blow out my chances for this shot.

I get my three attempts at the shot. It's like 5 hours later. I'm feeling defeated and kind of blown out because I don't like the photograph as much as I thought I would, and I've spent six months obsessing about it. I pack up all my gear and I finally climb out of the artillery gun mounting pit in the concrete bunker and see the horizon for the first time since I climbed down there, and... I notice something weird about the fog and light pollution going on.

It appears to be rapidly moving, scintillating... Wait, it's not fog at all. IT'S THE GODDAMN AURORA BOREALIS AND I'VE BEEN IGNORING IT FOR SIX GODDAM HOURS COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW IT'S RUINING MY PLANNED PHOTOGRAPH.

I missed out on what may have been the photographic opportunity of a lifetime, because it's really rare we get aurora that are that energetic this far south, while I had all kinds of interesting landscape subject matter around me.

I love those aurora photographs - much more than the carefully planned ISS/Zarya shots - but I also know they were taken in a panic, and that I was unable to relocate to a more interesting foreground subject like the beach or the lighthouse just 600 feet away because the aurora were fading that rapidly, because I'd ignored them at their prime.

The landscape photographer's moral to this story is "Look behind you. Sometimes the best shot available isn't the one you're looking at."

Translating that to life and the subject at hand is that if you live through your phone and screen you'll miss very real things going on around you.

Further, I'll argue that your senses can be dulled and atrophied if you don't remember how to exist without a phone or screen. This is non-metaphorically true in that an LCD backlight screen utterly ruins your night vision and makes it harder to see in dim light. I also know I hear much less of any given music if I'm monofocused on a phone or camera.

Being present in the here and now and being to able to actually experience and appreciate things is one of the biggest gifts of consciousness. Don't waste it or miss out. It's one of purest and best things about being alive.
posted by loquacious at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2018 [38 favorites]


Oy, this is probably going to be one of those topics that Metafilter does not do well.

I'm not one to preach the evils of phones/screens in general. I'd also love to see less phone use at shows. Locking them up? Not so much a fan, but I understand the temptation, because soft limits rarely work, and it's very rare to see someone ejected for excessive phone use. But ultimately, I think it's a reasonable expectation for people to have their phone on or about their person in non-disruptive ways.

I also have no issues with people recording things at shows, if its done in a non-disruptive way. There are plenty of unobtrusive ways of doing this that don't involve a wash of blue-white light over the entire setting - many cameras have viewfinders that will spill out no light. That's awesome, it doesn't impact anyone else, you get great photos - win/win. Is it as convenient as a phone? Nope, but disruptive convenience is a privilege I am OK with denying.

Here's what it comes down to... I have an issue once what you are doing starts spilling out and affecting those around you. If it's affecting other people who haven't agreed to it, then there's a problem. One repeated thing that comes up - I'm not a tall guy. I've been to way too many concerts where I've literally been unable to see a damned thing over the sea of phones raised up high. Maybe you value your recording over my experience, but that's fucking unacceptable as an experience. Maybe I'm an old or whatever, but if it's not general admission and I'm stuck in this seat, and all I can see is a bunch of small rectangles showing various angles of the show amidst a sea of plastic and upraised arms, I'm not going to be happy about it.

Also, this isn't applicable to every show, but creative lighting is a thing to the point where a single phone can disrupt it. Now that being said, I did see one _really_ cool incidental thing where pulsing lights in the midst of darkness played back through everyone elses phone had a delay that lead to this sort of throbbing ever-migrating light playing over the entire audience through their screens, and that was really fucking cool and accidental, and it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the bulk of people trying to all record it at once. That was the one exception, though. I do think it would be kind of cool to see attempts to integrate this sort of thing into a performance.

I think performers should ABSOLUTELY be able to set limits on phone usage, as long as they are communicated clearly in advance. You don't like it, or you MUST have your phone on you - then fine, don't go, and while I'm sorry that you can't see the person you want to see perform live on your terms, those are the breaks.


I have a lot of music performance in my past. I haven't really performed out in the era of ubiquitous cell phones, smart phone use was just starting to really be a thing the last time I did, so it was a rarity to see. Maybe you'd see someone suddenly look at their phone, and then speed out to deal with whatever. That's totally fine. I never cared about that, or even the occasional person on their phone in the background. It was always much more jarring to play a show where the bulk of people clearly didn't give a shit, but I got it, I knew that there were plenty of times where we weren't the stars of the show - I don't think I've ever bought a ticket just to see an unbilled opening band, so I get it, and we'll get this over with as painlessly as possible within the obligations of our contract. I don't think adding phone use to this would bother me any more in that particular scenario. It sucks to be out there in front of an uncaring audience, but it sucks in parameters that are pretty understandable, and I wouldn't be under any pretense that we should be commanding your attention.

Now - if I knew y'all were there to see me, as a headliner, I might be a bit more pissed off about it. Again, if you need to be accessible, that's fine. I get it. If the overwhelming amount of people were looking at their phones, I'd be skeptical that it would be because something critical came up, and I would be That Guy who would make snarky comments requesting the phones stay put away. Some of you would get the vapors about it, some of you would ignore it, but the bulk of you all would respect that - and the show would move on for the better. At least, I'd hope. And if it didn't ever change... well, I guess I'd likely end up defending Jack White here.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Phones, for the vast majority of people, are a crutch, nothing more, nothing less. A reflexive, unexamined habit.

I don't think it's too much to ask people that want to shine a tremendously bright light into my eyes in a dark place where I've gone to experience something to step out into the lobby, just as I don't think it's too much to ask people who want to smoke to go outside.
posted by Automocar at 9:20 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of the more frustrating rules at concerts I've attended is the no DSLR ban. DSLRs have a viewfinder so there's no annoyingly bright screen for those in back of you.

I've been to several concerts where my DSLR is locked up or left in the car, then watch a concert with hundreds of bright screens in front of me all held high overhead and really screwing up the view and ambiance.

Note: I've also been to concerts with cameras allowed, but "no flash pictures" rule and still watch them go off intermittently. I surmise most phone people don't know how to turn the flash off. Enjoyable to see them get tossed....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Phones, for the vast majority of people, are a crutch, nothing more, nothing less.

Cool comment, barely even ableist at all.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2018 [21 favorites]


thank you, i typed and self-deleted approximately 500000 similar comments and went for a lie down instead
posted by poffin boffin at 9:50 AM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh please, I'm neuroatypical and have social anxiety.
posted by Automocar at 9:52 AM on November 13, 2018


>jomato: The performers and places mentioned by name in this thread -- Jack White, Dave Chapelle, Madison Square Garden -- are BIG. I can only imagine the problem of attention and engagement grows along with the size of the crowd. Sort of conversely, I assume that a lot of smaller acts thrive on the social media engagement that comes from crowd pictures and video.

totally. professional musician here. if i search my name on instagram (or the geotag of the venue) the morning after a show and nothing comes up then i haven't done my job properly. i also play to young crowds, so phone etiquette is correspondingly higher than an arena full of boomers. i imagine that isn't even in the realm of concern for jack white, who basically can only lose out by his live shows being flattened, diluted, and broadcast on any and all social media platforms.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


No, seriously, that dude has problems and one of those problems is he needs to get into a time machine and go live in the 1950s.

Jack White does music his way, you do music your way. The White Stripes back in 2001 was one of the best shows I've ever seen--I walked in saying they were a novelty act with costumes covering the lack of originality, and walked out a believer, so I still have a soft spot for Mr. White's old-timey aesthetic.

I think no-phone policies are great as long as it is made clear when you buy the ticket. If you can't put your phone away for 3 hours, there are other places to spend time and money. Anyway, this debate will be over soon when people start getting their Alphabet Implants. Got Sleater-Kinney in one eyehole, the babysitter in the other.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


This issue strikes me as something that one can be of two minds about. It reminds me of the debate about children, and where they belong, and whether it's reasonable to ask that children not be present.

And in the past, I was really on board with the notion of no-kids, but now that a lot of my friends have kids, I want to make sure there's an allowance for children, because otherwise I wouldn't see my friends. That means more brunch and beer gardens, and fewer dark bars, for example.

So yeah, I can understand the romantic notion of no-phones, but the best way is probably "yes phones, but also expect manners." If someone's kid is crying, they should take the child outside or to the bathroom, but part of being in society is tolerating and expecting that kids cry sometimes. Phones should be on silent, and people should excuse themselves to take calls or the like, but checking phones at the door is tantamount to excluding a certain audience.
posted by explosion at 10:02 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Jack White does music his way, you do music your way.

Oh, I will, but I'll also continue to take pot shots at him if he keeps saying weird shit that tries to define what "real" music and "real" recording technolgy is. I'm not the one being an exclusionary gatekeeping jerk and saying misleading things about digital vs. analog recording.

His attitude is a throwback, and this actually gets in the way of the evolution and exploration of music because a bunch of indiepop hipsters bought the analog-only snake oil he's been selling.

I appreciate his craft but his politics and optics suck.
posted by loquacious at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


Honestly, all this whining sounds like a bunch of dudes who can't cope with the fact that they're less interesting than a plastic box full of wires and glass.

Yep. Much like having to say “Come on make some noise!” the problem isn’t with the audience.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:22 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


It reminds me of the debate about children, and where they belong, and whether it's reasonable to ask that children not be present.

Completely different issues. It's generally considered bad parenting to leave a baby in a plastic bag for a couple or hours.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's generally considered bad parenting to leave a baby in a plastic bag for a couple or hours.

Say, if you can marinate or sous vide one without a plastic bag I'm all ears.
posted by loquacious at 10:35 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't understand why some people are so invested in how other people enjoy things. If you don't like phones at various venues because they distract you or the light ruins your experience or whatever I am totally sympathetic to that. But if you don't want people on their phones because that means they are enjoying the thing wrong? Yikes.
posted by Saminal at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


It reminds me of the debate about children, and where they belong, and whether it's reasonable to ask that children not be present.

Portable computers/phones are not very analogous to children. People don't poke their children every 45 seconds or fire up their children to do one thing and get totally lost in social media. People carrying their children don't clog up sidewalks and airports staring into their children's eyes. The phones are not sentient.

(I can understand people's objections to "children" at shows (or fancy restaurants), but I don't think it's a good analogy.)

I've been traveling in airports a lot recently, and TONS of people are literally strolling around, paying no attention to anyone else, watching videos with headphones in.

If you've ever been anywhere in public, phones are a major annoyance. I don't want to look at your porn movie, crappy action movie, music video, or pictures of your dog. But you've got a screen with blinking lights that is literally a few feet from my face. It's very hard not to look, and I don't think that's a personal weakness that only applies to me.

Like advertisements on gas pumps or in doctor's offices--it's garbage video, but my eyes keep coming back to it.

And when you stare at your phone while you walk, you've essentially removed yourself from our shared human experience. That's your right, but it's a shitty situation, imo.

I realize phones are essential to daily life. I don't think banning them from shows is sustainable. But I wish there were accepted policies where people that are using them move to the back or use them in designated locations. It creates a bad atmosphere at most concerts (excepting those in which audiences are expected to contribute with their own electronics, I suppose.)

However, just writing those words makes me realize how unfeasible the idea is. Many, many people literally CANNOT stop checking their phones.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Honestly, all this whining sounds like a bunch of dudes who can't cope with the fact that they're less interesting than a plastic box full of wires and glass.

my read of some of Marshall McLuhan's foundational communications theory would refute this. Medium is the message etc. That is, just because I might be enthralled by some new tech doesn't mean it's somehow an improvement over what came before. Or more to the point, I should approach it warily, critically if possible. I say "if possible" because McLuhan, though he was no great fan of the exponential growth in communication technologies and media of the 1960s, didn't bother telling people NOT to engage with it. Because he could see that its pull was inexorable. He felt it himself. But he never stopped encouraging us to at least try to see what was happening and how it was changing us ...
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Meh. Whatever personal call I myself might make as a parent about the need for availability, I’m not going to tell my parent friends they’re Doing It Wrong because they make a different call. I know I can come across as pretty confident in my opinions, but even I have some limits in what I think I’m entitled to decide.
posted by praemunire at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


His attitude [...] actually gets in the way of the evolution and exploration of music because a bunch of indiepop hipsters bought the analog-only snake oil he's been selling.


There are few debates more inconsequential than analog VS digital. I promise you that Jack White's dedication to Team Analog is having exactly zero impact on the "evolution and exploration of music." Like, what, are all of the great minds of the current generation White Stripes devotees? I don't think so. Rock is dead anyhow.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:12 PM on November 13, 2018


Are you removing yourself from our shared human experience if you listen to music in public?

Banning the Walkman: what does it mean?
Well, one hesitates to put too broad an interpretation upon it. Maybe the Walkman fad isn't particularly important. Maybe it doesn't much matter that music, until now a communal thing, has suddenly become wholly private. Perhaps no one worries that great groups of people will all be moving (quite literally) to different drummers. Maybe it's not a sign of the breakdown of intercommunication, the isolation of man from his environment, and the surrender of consciousness to outside manipulation.
posted by jomato at 12:18 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Let me add that I agree with previous comments that we should be critical and thoughtful about new technologies and how they change us. Looking at the recent past helps me to think about what's different and what's the same when it comes to smart phones.
posted by jomato at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


But if you don't want people on their phones because that means they are enjoying the thing wrong? Yikes.

It really does change the ambiance and mood of a show, to have any sizeable portion of the crowd disengaged and on their phones. At one time, at the small-to-midsize venues I frequented, the crowd would split itself: super-engaged, there-for-the-music, or there-to-dance/mosh types up front, people who wanted to chill or talk or smoke or drink in the back, and a sort of brackish middle section for people drifting between moods and zones. That went away, starting in 2010 or so; you still have the back section, but the front section has become, essentially, an extension of the middle section, with people taken out of the music by their phones or by the ambient light of said phones and the unresponsive bodies of the phone-users. This would be totally fine if phone-users would move to the back, but they generally press right up close to record, so they don't, and they hold up their arms, so people around them can't see, and if people dance around them, they get mad because they're being jostled or having their shots blocked. "Enjoying the thing wrong" has repercussions when it no longer becomes possible to enjoy a thing together.
posted by halation at 12:35 PM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'll quote myself from the last time I saw this come up here.
Try this for fun: a shithole door agent requires you to turn over your phone when it is, in fact, being used as a receiver for an embedded medical device. (Bluetooth LE is pretty fancy, y'all.) "I can't give you my phone" turns into "seriously, I can't give you my phone" turns into "are you seriously claiming I have to stand here, explain my medical history to a stranger, and pull up my shirt to show you a transmitter" turns into "fuck you, I'm not giving you my fucking phone, you dickhead." Fun times were had by ... oh wait, no one. It's real dehumanizing, let me tell you!
[...]
The proposed solution quashes a whole bunch of completely reasonable (and several necessary) uses of phones. The solution to these problems isn't banning the phone but banning the offending behavior. Banning phones is lazy, dangerous, and makes people who have them (approved) really stand out. As someone who already stands out for medical reasons anyway, adding to that is a wee bit shitty, you know? Pulling out a phone and looking at it for a couple minutes (for, let's say, making sure I'm not going to pass out, have a seizure, vomit, or fucking die) should be a perfectly normal thing. Filming ten minutes of show after the organizers asked you not to should not. How do you differentiate that at the door without being a real fucking asshole to the first group?
It still sucks real hard to be singled out at a show for being "that asshole who snuck his phone in" when I am, in fact, just checking the screen to make sure I'm not going to pass out. An awful lot of people are real, real, REAL assholes and feel the need to bark shit at me because I looked at my phone for 30 seconds.
posted by introp at 12:39 PM on November 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


They also had someone stationed by the orchestra pit with some sort of very bright, very focused white light that got pointed at anyone they could see pointing a phone at the stage. Not a laser (which would be horribly unsafe), and more like some sort of manual follow spot.

At concerts in theatres in China, they do use lasers - they have people standing at the back that shine red lasers down onto people’s phone screens and jiggle the dot around. They’re amazingly accurate and it’s actually kind of impressive to watch, all questions of whether or not the audience should have their phone out aside.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


And when you stare at your phone while you walk, you've essentially removed yourself from our shared human experience.

I dunno. I read this and I'm a kid in the car, on vacation, and my dad's shouting at me to "Get your nose out of that book and look outside." I mean, yeah, it's a good practice to be in the moment, but the flip side, expressed in these terms suggests to me some horror of interiority. Generally, unless someone's going to walk into me, I don't care if they're reading a book—and I have totally walked around while reading a book before—or their phone or whatever.

That is, just because I might be enthralled by some new tech doesn't mean it's somehow an improvement over what came before

This is true? I feel like McLuhan had a remarkable insight into the politics of mass communication and that like a critical examination of new technology is always warranted, but I also always think of Plato's Phaedrus when the fear is that technology is "changing us."
" ... when it came to writing Theuth said, 'Here, O king, is a branch of learning that will make the people of Egypt wiser and improve their memories; my discovery provides a recipe for memory and wisdom.' But the king answered and said, 'O man full of arts, to one it is given to create the things of art, and to another to judge what measure of harm and of profit they have for those that shall employ them. And so it is that you, by reasons of your tender regard for the writing that is your offspring, have declared the very opposite of its true effect. If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.'"
(Keep in mind that there's a lot going on here. Phaedrus itself was composed to be written down, so there's an irony to this passage whether intentional or not.)

Which comes back to "being in the moment," which means to me not just an effort to not be distracted, but also to not be distracted by a belief that my moment would be more meaningful if it wasn't this moment, whether that moment is a moment without phones or a moment without writing or whatever.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Phones should at least be banned in the pit ( the standing general admission area for youse kids who started doing concerts after the '90s). Nothing like securing you spot for an hour before the show, only to blocked by 1,000 arms holding up phone, then trying to watch said concert between those arms.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 1:01 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


as men filled, not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows

Plato predicted Silicon Valley, who knew?
posted by praemunire at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, given that Plato believed that the Ideal was the really real, sold his services to tyrants, and dreamed of a perfect state run by smart dudes for smart dudes, he was kind of the first Tech Bro.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:49 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if phone usage was just the occasional person checking medical devices / something urgent / etc that we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. But that's not the case, as what I'm now realizing is a rather massive rant may demonstrate.

The reality is that almost every concert experience is now arms up all the time, wielding a brightly lit screen, thrashing around in an expansive throbbing gyre of devices that are not just lit up and in the way, but also ineffectively and incessantly emitting bright flashes. These flashes have all of a useful range of like 10 feet, beyond that they just make people blink a lot and see ghostly white squares wherever they look. What they don't do is anything to help your picture, unless you are trying to highlight the heads and arms immediately in front of you. They definitely tend to affect a ton of innocent bystanders... Impotently, yet optimistically never stopping, they are always going off, in a non-stop assault of poorly angled lighting and mixed color temperatures.

So the flash sucks, but it's not just the flash.... also to contend with is the more contemporary constant-on super-bright LED used for video, and fuck these SO much. They have the same or worse effective range (which is to say, ineffective) and they have a lot of collateral damage, so again, it's shitty to your fellow concertgoers.

As an aside, one of the great things about performing - at least something that I always enjoyed on both sides of the stage - is making eye contact with people in the audience. Little moments of human connection. That doesn't happen if all you can see on stage is the ass end of a bunch of phones emitting harsh light, and it doesn't happen in the audience if all you can see is a live, amorphous, undulating, grainy collage of phones that for the overwhelming majority of people, due to the low light and small sensors, effectively ends up showing an abstract wide-angle smear of light in a sea of darkness, or if you are lucky, a severely blown out outline that vaguely resembles a bunch of people on stage. The overwhelming majority of these videos and pictures will never be viewed outside of the lucky few who get them as a MMS, who will then invariably ask "what the fuck is that?" because it's a only vaguely identifiable blur.

So, OK - Despite all of this, you just really want your own photos or video to memorialize the experience you say? Great! Just do it without being a pain in the ass to anyone else.. There are options that actually allow for that! I mentioned cameras with viewfinders and others have mentioned SLRs - Sans-flash, with the rear screen turned off, these are awesome! The pictures generally turn out better, people may actually let you get a better view if you ask nice, and you can do it without disruption to the performers or anyone else.

Clearly, this is all deeply personal to me, as someone who has enjoyed as well as performed a lot of live music, and also as a photographer myself. If you're gonna piss off everyone around you, it really shouldn't be for a blurry, underexposed, poor color-balanced shot that despite all of that, still manages to convey at least one single brightly lit and well focused subject amongst the mess - a clearly lit and well defined layer of other peoples devices.


If nothing else, can we agree that that one person who is invariably holding up an ipad is evil incarnate?
posted by MysticMCJ at 3:37 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Thousands of unattended mobile phones at a concert event?

Identity theft JACKPOT!?!?
posted by Faintdreams at 3:39 PM on November 13, 2018


Thousands of unattended mobile phones at a concert event?

No, they give you a locking bag that you put your phone in.
posted by thelonius at 3:53 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


They give you a locking bag to put your phone in. They have multiple spots in the venue where you can get your phone unlocked to access your phone during the preformance. It was a minor inconvenience at best. It takes longer for most people to take their phone out of their purse or backpack than to get them out of the yondr pouches.
posted by exolstice at 5:06 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


sold his services to tyrants

? Perhaps you are thinking of Aristotle.
posted by praemunire at 5:07 PM on November 13, 2018


Sometimes even that short amount of time is too long. I don't see why this is any better than people just adjusting the social norms so that phone users are more obligated to keep it in their pocket. Shaming jerks works, but most people aren't jerks with their phones.
posted by SansPoint at 5:16 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


If nothing else, can we agree that that one person who is invariably holding up an ipad is evil incarnate?

Fair enough, I'm willing to meet you in the middle on that one. ;)
posted by tobascodagama at 5:23 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Perhaps you are thinking of Aristotle.

probably referring to this adventure
posted by thelonius at 5:27 PM on November 13, 2018


I don't see why this is any better than people just adjusting the social norms so that phone users are more obligated to keep it in their pocket.

I think the ship has sailed on that. In my experience, people will just straight-up ignore even polite requests from performers they love. (Even tender remonstrations and witty-yet-sincere-and-heartfelt pleas -- John Darnielle was doing this, for a while, and it became a whole Thing for people to hope for/provoke one of those tender remonstrations so they could record it and upload it to YouTube.) People figure their one quick use of the phone won't be noticed by anyone, and anyway it'll just be one second, and before we're halfway through the first song the pit has gone full-on Tragedy Of The Commons: Digital Edition.

This difficulty is compounded by a second issue: there are plenty of music-loving people now who don't know what shows without intrusive phone use feel like, because they've never been to one, so it's hard for them to really get the nature of the no-phones request. I understand that no-phone policies have unintended consequences for people who would use their phones only for emergency purposes, and that really sucks. But no-phone shows do allow (well, okay, force) more concertgoers to have that phone-free experience, which might be the only way to convince people there's a reason to work together and shift social norms when it comes to live performances.
posted by halation at 5:37 PM on November 13, 2018


I've never really understood a lot of this phone-shaming, aside from the fact that someone holding up a phone can often obstruct other people's vision, and so fair enough. But I've been to a ton of shows with an actual camera, and I've been to other shows where they either don't let me in with a camera or I just didn't bother to bring one or whatever. Because I know how my phone takes photos, I pretty much never try to use one at a concert, so we're talking either face behind a camera for half the show, or completely 100% attentive to the show.

And let me tell you, for me: it really doesn't make that much of a difference in terms of "how present I am." It does change my experience of the show, sure; I'm thinking about composition, learning the movement of everyone on stage, anticipating when the artist is coming up to a big moment in a song to get a cool shot, etc. I don't necessarily do those things to the same degree when I'm just passively watching it. But I don't enjoy the non-camera shows any more than the camera shows, and I don't feel like I'm missing out when I have the camera with me.

Ironically, the thing people have said about being okay with unobtrusive photographers, but hating people sticking their brightly-lit phone screens above their heads like idiots? That's a partial consequence of camera rules at venues, which over the decades have gotten much more strict about what they will or will not allow. It's gotten to the point now where pretty much the only device you ARE allowed to take into a venue is guaranteed to annoy everyone around you, because all the other less obtrusive options are banned. Until now, with artists enacting no-phone policies because I guess just saying "no photos allowed" doesn't work for them.

I guess I don't really care if venues start banning phones and forcing you to leave them with the coat check. Cameras have had it way worse for years now; often you have no choice but to leave the venue and come back without a camera. So the few shows I go to nowadays, I leave the camera at home, no problem. But what really happens is I just go to way fewer shows. I expect something similar will happen to a small subset of concert-goers if "no phones" becomes the defacto policy.
posted by chrominance at 6:22 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, I'll say that it's real weird to have people saying it's so easy to get your phone, just leave the concert area, head to the back, retrieve your phone, no problem! Nearly every concert I've been to, that's just a recipe for never getting back to the spot you staked out at the front of the venue by arriving half an hour before everyone else, because sure as shit no one's going to let you back in without at least giving you copious amounts of stinkeye.
posted by chrominance at 6:25 PM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Here goes a crazy thought: Maybe the problem isn't the phones, it is social media.

As long as every moment in life is just a chance to gain internet points, banning phones is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
posted by iamnotangry at 7:37 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Metafilter. A reflexive, unexamined habit.

I'd also say taking a couple-few pictures is fine. Videoing the whole thing if that tickles you, also fine. If it gets excessive and actually obstructs other people's view, it's not okay, but I think providing a dedicated box in the audience area could work.

On the other hand, why shouldn't anyone sell an entertainment work on their terms? Purchase not compulsory, health risk negligible. Argue the cultural risk or otherwise all you like, it's happening.

At a recent gig of the Victor Wooten Trio in Budapest, out of an audience of maybe 1200, a few insisted on having their phones out and capturing video (the lighting was such that I guess from quite close up, with a decent phone, you could get good video. Audio is another matter. Nobody stressed about it.
posted by holist at 7:51 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


CrowGoat: "One of the more frustrating rules at concerts I've attended is the no DSLR ban. DSLRs have a viewfinder so there's no annoyingly bright screen for those in back of you. "

That goes way back to before the 'D'. It's hard not to see those sorts of bans as cash grabs. When I saw the Lipizzan horses performing 20 odd years ago they actually paid people to roam the stands looking for illegal camera use.
posted by Mitheral at 9:28 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think providing a dedicated box in the audience area could work.

Upsell it! Ticketmaster and Live Nation present the Bank of America PhoneZone.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:55 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think the ship has sailed on that.

The ship has sailed. It's why I appreciate these bans somewhat, but think they're ultimately futile. People are losing their ability to have somewhat-less-than-optimal experiences. They're losing the ability to be bored and make interesting things happen, to strike up conversations with other people - ultimately, to make friends.

I am worried for my kid's generation each and every day. But these phone bans are never going to broadly catch on, and they can't fight the call of jolts of adrenaline being delivered every 30 seconds.
posted by corb at 7:29 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


All these comments about not being able to see the stage and how terrible it is! As a 5'4" woman, that's always been my experience at a concert, even before phones, unless I show up early enough to be at the stage. (And then good luck getting back to my spot after a bathroom break.)

Maybe venues should be designed so that they're not just for the tallest folk, usually men, to enjoy. Shout out to the 9:30 Club in DC for having balconies/tiers designed in such a way that everyone can get a good view.
posted by Emily's Fist at 9:53 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is true. I'm 6' tall and I'm constantly amazed by how many 6' 4" men there are and how they always seem to stand in front of me. My wife is 5' and there is literally no point in her going to gigs by even her favourite bands unless it's all seated. At which point idiots pull their phones out. But even many of us usually considered tall find all-standing gigs frustrating, and yes, it's impossible for the less tall.

I think the whole thing is broken.

I've just been following a band well-known for opposition to photography. They're right. Their gigs are all seated, and their shows really benefit from an audience that pays attention to what's on the stage.

(An attentive audience is more receptive, and that makes the whole gig more intense.)

If the performers or the venue ask you to leave your phone in your pocket or bag, do it. There's no alternative, there's no excuse. There's certainly no negotiation or rules-lawyering the terms. Accept their terms or don't buy the ticket.

I've noticed that a lot of people who take photos when asked not to do it surreptitiously. Which means they don't want to get caught. Which means they know it's wrong. If a band who you presumably respect enough to pay mucho dinero to see in concert ask you not to do something that you know is wrong, why do you do it? Same thing with texting / Facebooking / Whatevering.

People are weird.
posted by Grangousier at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2018


Which means they don't want to get caught. Which means they know it's wrong.

It don't, you know. It's very simple: they don't want to get caught (don't want the hassle), but they do want their photos, and they think the band is wrong to ask the audience not to take them. I also think it is a question of turf: if you could record your audiovisual stream right from the nervous system, how would you feel about being asked not to? Now people increasingly identify their pokkekons as a kind of prosthetic body part, and may feel indignation when told not to use it.
posted by holist at 10:51 AM on November 14, 2018


Maybe venues should be designed so that they're not just for the tallest folk, usually men, to enjoy

Yes! I'm 4'11" and inevitably the tallest men in the room will stand directly in front of me if I don't get there early, place myself in an ideal spot, and then never have to go pee for 3 hours. My favorite venue in the Boston area (shout out to the Sinclair!) has a couple of levels of balconies and it makes the experience so much more pleasant (I still have to get there when doors open and never leave for the bathroom, but at least I can see...).

Personally, I love having a phone accessible for waiting around before the show and between sets, there's a lot of down time. I saw Boygenius last week, and there was probably an hour and a half of down time total between all the sets. I used to be annoyed by people taking videos and pics on their phones, but I feel like audience members have actually gotten a better hang of doing it less obtrusively lately. And I've been to some shows where the experience is so revelatory that the bands are commanding attention and no one is on their phones, so it can be done (whether it can be done in an arena show for Jack White... well, I think that's one of the downsides of playing a non-intimate venue, you can't expect the intimacy of a small club).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:06 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Very late to this thread but wanted to say that movie going phone etiquette is no more lately.

Went to the movies last night and the person next to me pulled their stupid phone out in the middle of the movie to just text away and read the Internet. Blinding!!! Only after I loudly semi-shouted: PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY, did they.

WTF, WERE YOU BORN IN A BARN?! If theaters are an issue for you, wait to Netflix it.

If we are all so-called adults then we should be able to handle a stupid phone sitting unattended for about 2 hours in our jacket. Sorry, no one is that important, and yes, if you are an on-call doctor, then work around the profession you signed up for.
posted by floweredfish at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


and yes, if you are an on-call doctor, then work around the profession you signed up for.

I was recently at a movie where the person next to me, who I knew was a doctor, got paged. I heard nothing, just noticed them sighing, reaching for their device, eyeing it for maybe three seconds and then getting up and going.

I can suffer that level of distraction.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


most people aren't jerks with their phones

That's very debatable.

Maybe the problem isn't the phones, it is social media.

The smoke, not the fire? The two are inseparable, in both identity and functionality. Everything (almost) online (and on your phone) is social now.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2018


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