Put Your Phone Away at Shows

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Hey. Quit taking pictures and video of live bands.

Oh hi. Last month I went to Kansas City to see Marduk with Incantation and Abysmal Dawn. It was literally one of the best live experiences I have ever had. This was my first time seeing a real black metal band in person, and now it is my favorite genre of metal to experience in the live setting. I won’t pretend to be the biggest Marduk fan in the world, but I have a few albums that are pretty spectacular in my opinion and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see a serious black metal band. The intensity was tangible, like a toxin in the air filling everyone’s lungs. But I guess it wasn’t all that impressive to a few younger audience members, because they couldn’t put their f**kin’ cellphones down for more than a few seconds at a time.

I’ll save you some time and put this right here:

Now I know how it feels to have other people view photographs of things that I have experienced in real life, on different social media platforms, and rake in them coveted “like” symbols. It feels good. But do you know what feels better? Experiencing things in real life; for instance seeing a stellar performance by the Swedish black metal giants Marduk. During their set, I essentially left this earthly plane and ventured into a different world, a world in which my active mind didn’t worry about all the complex problems of life (and remembering all the quotes from The Simpsons). During their set, I calculated that I was having about 261 times as much fun as I would be having if I were just looking at an image of the band on Instagram or watching somebody’s “live” feed of the performance on the book of faces. Yet there we were in a packed venue, having the time of our lives, but one in which 10 or more people had their phones held up high, to capture that coveted stream of “like” buttons (and hopefully a few “wow”s from aunts and uncles who find this kind of music too spooky) on a digital representation of life.

Here’s my favorite Marduk song:

You’ll have to forgive me, I told you I wasn’t a gigantic Marduk fan and therefore I didn’t really know which songs were being played, nor from which albums. So I couldn’t tell you which track was being played at the time, other than with this description: it was amazing. And Mortuus was giving a performance that deserves a full five flaming toilets ov hell (maybe more), yet some kid was recording video on a cell phone that was twelve inches from his face. Do we believe that Mortuus is the kind of guy who prefers having a cell phone that close to his mouth when performing? A guy who looks — and sounds — like he could dispatch of me entirely in one fell swoop. Okay let’s disregard how he looks, do you think anybody giving a performance that intense enjoys putting on a show in front of a camera lens for a small coven of Internet people? We were in a small venue, packed yes but maximum occupation of 300 people. And it turns out, a bunch of curious friends and other onlookers waiting by their computer screen to see what crazy experiences Chad was having.

Ghost was the worst offender that I have seen, cell phone wise. When their tours hit St. Louis, they’re hosted in a decent sized theater called The Pageant (which apparently can hold between 1,000 and 2,300 heavy metal dads who just obtained their first smartphone). No, I don’t believe I could visually see a single moment of Ghost’s 1.5 hour set because my vision was blocked by a fleet of phones. Somebody may correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the audio quality still pretty shitty on video recorded with modern phones? It was five years ago, but maybe they’ve gotten better? I’m kidding of course, it still sounds so bad that you might as well be listening to power electronics.

So who are these videos intended to please? I am willing to guess that the concert goer is going to watch those videos in the coming days, or even weeks; and reminisce about how great the show was. That feeling of nostalgia comes close not close at all to the feeling of actually experiencing something. And I am darn sure that the experience of seeing a live band is hindered even further if you spend the whole time holding up your phone steadily trying to capture the… well, the experience.

Kids put your phones away and try enjoying things in real time! I doubt any of you Toilet people are offenders, but perhaps we can get the word out to those who are. Or if you’re really attached to the validation of sharing images your life experiences to your boring friends to show them how cool you are, keep doing it… but know that you are kinda ruining live shows.

Marduk slayed. Abysmal Dawn and Incantation were no slouches either, but they didn’t blow my mind. Things have changed now. I need to see all black metal bands live. Without having my vision blocked by a hundred million small screens mirroring what I’m seeing firsthand with my eyes.

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Bonus Toilet Material! Here are the best pictures I could get with my stupid phone:

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