Is there a ‘right’ way to watch a concert?

By Angelina Miller
July 5, 2016

Photo by Angelina Miller

Since the early 1950s, people of all ages with similar music tastes have been congregating in venues big and small and places near and far for one common purpose: concerts. While listening to one’s favorite artists through record, CD, the radio and so on is pleasing and convenient, nothing quite compares to seeing a band or artist live.

Having the opportunity to be up close to a band, breathe their air and hear their music raw and untouched by the villain of autotune that consumes the music industry today can give one incredible memories that will last a lifetime. Why is that something that a majority of concert goers in our generation have somehow failed to realize?

That would be because of a little device that people treat as a third arm, the smartphone. It may be surprising, but a person can not only enjoy a concert, but also collect and obtain vivid memories of it WITHOUT the use of a smartphone! Despite that very obvious fact though, living a concert through a small handheld screen as to through one’s own eyes has only become more and more issue over the past few years.

Apparently, this problem traces all the way back to 2010 according to Joe Cahill, a previous staff writer for the Loquitur. “It’s easy to get caught up in taking pictures with digital cameras or cell phones,” he said in his article about ways in which concert etiquette called for reform even back then. “The danger in this lies in getting lost in LCD screens instead of the show you are attending. Take some snapshots here and there, but actually pay attention and watch the show.” Three years later, in January of 2013, Andy Greene, a staff writer for Rolling Stone, also noted “taking pictures the entire freaking show” as the number one most annoying concert behavior, out of nine others he mentioned in his article.

Even Florence Welch, the front woman for Florence & the Machine, went out of her way to touch base on this topic recently. During the middle of the band’s set on night two of Radio 104.5’s 9th Birthday Celebration, Florence requested for everyone in the audience to put their phones away for one song.

“Don’t be that guy always filming things on their phone,” she said when preaching about how people are “missing the world” by living behind a phone screen. While the audience surprisingly obeyed her request for that song, everyone’s phones were back up in the air for “Dog Days Are Over” a few songs later. According to Florence and a number of other bands and artists, though, phones unquestionably create a barrier between a performer and their audience.  

It would have been ideal for this matter to have been somewhat improved over the past six years; however, the expansion of the social media spectrum has caused a domino effect of many more smartphones being put up in the air during a concert.

In 2010, Twitter and Facebook were really the only two social media platforms that were beginning to impact our generation. However, come 2016, if a person does not tweet about being at a concert, and post photos and videos of the show all over Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and so forth, were they even really there?

Just as a person has the option to choose who they want to go see in concert and pick where they would like to sit at that show, they also have two options of how to enjoy it. They could choose to live in the moment and trust that they will enjoy and remember the sounds and images of that show and the band or artist they are seeing simply by being present. Yet, they could also clutch their smartphone in their hands the whole time, photographing, videotaping and snapchatting the entire show.

Pros to option one, according to Joe Cahill, are that genuinely paying attention to a show “gives one a much more rewarding experience.” Cons to option two, according to myself, are that having massive amounts of photos after a show will only intensify the post-concert depression that one will already have regardless. Which option is considered the “right” one is up to a fan to decide for themselves.

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Angelina Miller

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