So, there was an article going around yesterday about Jack White “100% banning phones” from his shows and I have seen this come up a few times now and wanted to talk about it. A few years back, The Arcade Fire had a dress code and phones were being taken at their shows, this AVclub article says however that this was NOT the bands idea, but it’s also something that is super shitty. There's even a list of 7 bands who have spoken out against smart phones at their shows. I know Pvris wanted fans to put their phones away during their song “Holy” on one of their tours in 2015 and singer Lynn Gunn would jokingly call them out if they had them out. Holy is my favorite Pvris song so for me this would have been incredibly difficult to do. Taylor York of Paramore tweeted out during their fall tour supporting their fifth record “After Laughter” that he wishes that fans wouldn’t film THE ENTIRE SHOW and watch it from their tiny screen, Hayley of Paramore also commented on his tweet in support of it. But are they wrong? To be totally honest, not really.
Now, I am on both sides of this. As a fan of music and someone who attends shows on a regular basis, I think it’s a little much. There are bands I go to see where tickets are in the $100’s and I most times go to multiple dates of the tour. For me as a fan, I feel as long as I am not harming the artist or anyone in the crowd, I should be able to enjoy the concert however I want.
On the other side, I can see it from the artists perspective. Even though (even if we hate thinking about it this way) being in a band or being an artist is a job and people are paying to see you do your job, people are still people and we should respect that they don’t want us to film them the entire hour and a half/two hours they are performing. At the end of the day, you are still filming and taking pictures of a human, being in a band or being an artist doesn’t lessen that. They’ve worked their asses off on this show, putting it together for the fans, I get the level or frustration when they want to interact with a crowd that’s paying attention and actually giving a shit about what’s happening on stage, and I totally respect that.
My thing though with all that being said is, without people recording, I would have never heard a lot of my favorite songs that bands have only played live. Paramore played the miracle outro at what I have figured out to be 12 shows in 2009. I saw the tour they played it on but they only did it for select dates. That song never got recorded, I'm thankful for the lovely people who recorded that for people like me to see.
There are people who also attend multiple dates of shows on tours, I'm sure I'm not alone but I always check the setlist before a tour, I once went on a tour for paramore and saw 5 shows. I knew the set, I took videos the first and last night of the tour. I didn't film every show or every song, I took video of a few seconds of "ignorance" because I was making a video compilation for something but other than that, my phone was away and I enjoyed myself because I saw that set 5 times and got to pick and choose what songs and nights to live in the moment and what ones I wanted to preserve.
Also, speaking of Paramore, they always call up a fan onstage for misery business. Without phones, we could never relive one of the best moments of some people's entire lives. Some people need to look back on then when times are tough.
I get it, you paid for an experience. But, there are people who can only witness a show through someone else's eyes, I couldn't go on the UK leg of a tour and Paramore played my favorite songs for the first time on that tour. I was thankful for the videos and I felt like I was there without being physically there.
This topic is super hard for me because I want to respect the artists and their wishes to not be filmed the entire time or for their fans to enjoy it and “live in the moment” but maybe people want to remember that perfect moment. I know I look back at concert videos and relive those moments, people make montages with the videos and share them, sometimes they do it for work related reasons or to build a portfolio. Maybe they’re facetiming their friend who’s never seen that band or it’s their favorite song, maybe their friend got sick and couldn’t attend the show. Maybe they’re facetiming their mom who got them into the band and their song came on, it’s not always so black and white as to why people film things at shows, and it’s frustrating as a music fan to feel like I am under attack or considered the generation who needs to document everything. I mean, last time I checked, the older generation is guilty of over documenting as well. I mean, do we really need to film the entire show like the members of Paramore talked about? No. But banning phones all together? That’s extreme. Let people enjoy themselves, take a video or two, and lets stop making music a place of rules but also respecting the artists who we admire that have worked hard to put on a show for us.
I mean NO disrespect to any artist or band who wants their fans to put the phone away for a few minutes and enjoy the show they worked their asses off for, I just wanted to open up this debate a little because a lot of fans have felt attacked by this extreme level of policing that Jack White is talking about.