Paperlate: Lonely Robot's John Mitchell confronts filming at gigs

A portrait of john mitchell

I recall my first live concert experience like it was yesterday. Iron Maiden, Seventh Son Tour, Wembley Arena 1988. I remember being distinctly terrified by the impending reality of being surrounded by lots of burly ‘metallers’ who may or may not have my weasly teenage guts for garters. I also remember naïvely trying to record the show on my small Sony Walkman. Within five minutes I had been spotted and told not to continue doing so, but strangely did not have my tape confiscated. The gig was immense and frankly unforgettable. On reflection and inspection of the tape once home, however, the recording was dire, best compared to a fart in a windsock. I promptly wiped it, happy to commit the actual colourful experience to my memory banks for posterity.

Fast forward to 2017. These days I play gigs myself on occasion with bands Frost* and my own solo project, Lonely Robot. These days, prevention of recording and filming gigs is largely unenforceable. Literally every concert goer turns up to a gig with a smartphone and the logistics of preventing people from using said phones to record or film the event are nigh on impossible. From my perspective alone, I have to ask… do I want my musical legacy reduced to a shakey and blurry lo-fi distorted fart and liberally sprinkled all over YouTube? No thank you. What actual purpose does it serve? It’s not a flattering interpretation of what my music represents.

Equally, do the people behind the people gazing through smartphones want their own concert experience marginally impaired by a selfish twonk holding their device aloft? I very much doubt it: it’s both distracting and irritating. You’ve all paid the same money to attend the gig, so what gives you the right to spoil it for someone else? Moreover, at a recent Frost* gig, some bloke in the front row was filming it with his phone torch pointing in my eyes – it felt like some onstage interrogation technique! What on earth goes through people’s minds? On what planet is that remotely acceptable? Pack it in! Stop trying to capture the glorious Technicolor real time moment for shit YouTube posterity and watch the damn gig. Next time, front row phones are going to be confiscated! Live concerts are designed for human ears and not smartphone microphones. Gigs are fleeting moments in time, try to enjoy them and not obsessively catalogue them. That’s what memories are for.

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