Blogs of War: Why it’s time for gig goers to put their phones away

TWITTER HAS declared 2014 to be the year of the selfie. It said so on the BBC News. It’s all US TV star Ellen Degeneres’ fault. Blame her. Her Oscar star-studded selfie, featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt and a fraction of Jared Leto’s face has been retweeted over three million times. That’s lovely in the cosy bubble of Hollywood. But let’s look at what happens when the hardcore and selfie world collide…

So when, exactly, did selfies become a thing? You can’t scroll through Instagram without someone clogging your feed with awkwardly posed photos. Do you not trust anyone to take your picture properly? Can it not wait? I’m sure that when Alexander Wolcott invented the camera, he didn’t sit back and admire his handiwork, thinking, ‘One day, people will be able to see what they look like in a bathroom mirror and share it with the entire world’. He certainly didn’t wonder if a guitarist could kick his invention out of someone’s hand while playing a complicated riff.

And neither did rock fan Micah Barnes, who possibly became the first victim of the little-used ‘Selfie Denial’ martial arts move. On December 5, he was one of many fans crammed inside the Granada club in Lawrence, Kansas to see Every Time I Die, The Ghost Inside, Architects and Hundreth.

For whatever reason, Barnes wasn’t content with watching the show with his eyes and remembering the best bits in his brain. He climbed onstage – not to stage dive, because that’s a whole other discussion – but to grab a cheeky selfie with vocalist Keith Buckley. While he was performing. A song. On a stage. In front of hundreds of people who paid money not to see Micah Barnes grab a snap for his Facebook page.

Now, judging by a shaky, fan-filmed clip – yes, it’s ironic, that – Buckley seemed game enough to pose for a split second amid the melee. That special, intimate moment was ruined, however, when brother and guitarist Jordan unleashed a high kick that removed the fan’s phone from his hands and into the air. Three points.

Let’s be clear about this, Jordan didn’t kick Barnes. Just the phone. High into the air. You could argue that it was out of order to boot his phone towards the ceiling, but Barnes crossed a line. If you’re at a hardcore show and feel the need to stage dive, do it quickly and safely. Definitely don’t hang around like a fart in a lift and fumble for your phone for a snap. Chances are you can grab a pic before or after the show, during what Jordan Buckley calls ‘normal selfie hours’. Don’t worry, Barnes got his photo later.

There’s a sense of entitlement which is wholly misplaced. You pay your money to see the band perform. Of course, bands love their fans – you’re the reason they can do this – but the price of admission doesn’t entitle you to get in the way of their job.

The fact is, technology has stopped us from stopped living in the moment – we’re all guilty of it – and unless we’ve tweeted it, posted it on Instagram or updated our Facebook status, there’s a chance it didn’t happen. We’ve all seen someone giving themselves arm ache while trying to film a gig on their phone, while blocking the view of the people behind. Some of us have witnessed people filming entire songs on their phone at a show which was being filmed professionally. With actual HD video cameras. I wonder if they’ve watched the live DVD of the show they attended thinking, ‘The multi camera stuff is all well and good, but I’d rather it was poorly filmed at one angle with my mate Stu yelling over the top’.

And this doesn’t stop at selfies. There’s been a growing number of musicians who are getting tired of looking out from the stage to see fans’ faces bathed in that soft glow. How can you expect a band to feed off the energy of a room full of people who’re carefully holding their phone aloft like a digital Simba?

Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson called out one fan at a show in Indianapolis in 2012. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, the man in the white shirt, you’ve been texting for the last three fucking songs!” said Dickinson mid-set. “You’re a wanker!”

Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor will break your phone if he catches you using your phone as well. “People don’t [use their phones] so much at our shows, and if they do, they do it from quite a ways back, because I empty whole water bottles into people as soon as I see them staring at their phone or tweeting or whatever,” he recently told US radio station WRIF. “Hey, it’s a live show. Pay attention, or don’t be here.”

Going to a gig? Keep your phone safe in your pocket. Feel every moment. Live in the now. You’ve paid for it. One day, when you’re old and grey and robots have become self-aware and banned shows, someone will ask you, ‘What were concerts like?’. Imagine how embarrassed you’d be as your eyes fill with tears and, with a tremble in your voice, you reply, ‘I don’t know, I can’t remember because I lost all my data in the Galactic Takeover of 2040’. That’d be rubbish.

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.