By Noah Banning
“Can I ask everyone a favor?”
This question changed my view of how technology has altered the music industry.
The digital age has definitely expanded our ability to explore new music. Pandora, Spotify, Last.fm, Grooveshark and other online music services provide easy access to new and exciting tunes once only found only in the underground scenes of cities around the world. Meanwhile, YouTube has emerged as the go-to site for artists to share music videos and consumers to post footage from their favorite bands’ concerts.
Back to the question: “Can I ask everyone a favor?” said City and Colour frontman Dallas Green earlier this year at Seattle’s Neptune Theater (as I stood in the crowd with my iPhone raised ready to capture the band’s next song on video to post on my Facebook account for all my friends to see.) “Can everyone put the phones and the cameras down for just this one song?”
It took awhile for me to comprehend what Green was asking. It wasn’t until I looked away from my phone that I realized there were at least 20 people in my general vicinity who had the same idea. I had been so concerned with documenting my experience that I completely forgot to stop and enjoy the show myself.
Fast forward to my latest concert experience. Explosions in the Sky played The Moore Theater in April and I was excited to see the Texas band and their instrumental genius. Their mix of up-tempo guitars and crashing percussion fits together so perfectly that you quickly forget about the absence of lyrics. I saw the group at last summer’s Capitol Hill Block Party and couldn’t wait for a second dose.
The show started well, but I quickly became distracted by the number of screens I saw lifted in the air in an attempt to capture footage. “Why have people paid good money to watch an amazing show through the tiny screen on their mobile phone?” I wondered. It used to be that fans would clamor to the front of the venue for a chance to catch a closer look at the band, not because the digital zoom on their camera phone wasn’t the greatest.
My guess is none of the photos or videos taken are going to be used for a concert review or on the band’s upcoming live concert video, either. Videos taken from phones have gotten better, but you still can’t escape the distorted guitars, the loud pops from the drums and the lack of ample lighting.
So why do we do this? Have our memories become so weak that we need the aid of a recording device to relive these concerts? Is the need to share our experience so great that we don’t mind removing ourselves from the moment as it happens?
As we approach summer concert season I’d like to ask all of you the same favor Dallas asked earlier this year: put the phones and the cameras down and enjoy the show. Experience the connection you have with the band through your own eyes, not the screen of your phone. It’s the way concerts were meant to be experienced.