Getting the Vid But Missing the Point


The rambling commentary you’re about to read (and may bail out of as soon as you discover my point) is in response to Kate Whittle’s “Kids These Days” piece that ran in the Missoula Independent on New Year’s Eve. (Yeah, it’s been two months. I’ve been busy.)

First off, I dig Kate’s writing. She’s good. In this particular article, she tackles the issue of people going to concerts and shows and recording the performance on their cell phones. She basically shrugs, and says it’s no big deal—that’s just the way it is with her fellow millennials.

I am not a millennial, but I will tell you this: it will probably be one thousand years before I learn to spell that damned word. Anyway, I’m old enough to have taken typing class in junior high, ridden in the back of station wagons with no seat belts, and cruised around on my ten-speed with no helmet. But I don’t take credit for when I was born, so you won’t see me bragging about that shit on Facebook.

I’m not sure what you call my particular generation, but we were pretty well depicted in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused. In my salad days pot was weaker, concert tickets were under twenty bucks, and we hung out in parking lots, not online.

Does that make me and people my age any better somehow than millennials or Gen Xers or anyone else? Nope. Just older. Still, we greybeards possess the experience, and the attendant perspective, of people who were fully functioning adults for an entire generation before the advent of smartphones.

I don’t disagree with Ms. Whittle’s point that a few cell phone photos can be useful for remembering moments in the show later, especially if you go to the show after a few tokes of the weapons-grade, cortex-melting hybrid weed the kids are smoking now. Man, one hit of that shit and I cannot even remember my own name. Two hits and I start voting Republican.

Nor am I going to wag my finger at everyone who holds their phones over their heads at shows. You bought the ticket, if you want to miss the show, that’s your right. Also, I applaud Kate for deftly avoiding playing the age card in her article (“Oh, you hate phone cameras at concerts? You must be old!”)

ElvisPhone (2)

Awesome! I can’t wait to watch this when we go back to the DeLorean.

No, it’s not really anger or resentment I feel toward people taking endless photos and videos of concerts.

It’s pity. You poor bastards.

Kate mentions the sea of fans at a concert holding their phones up, “trying to capture a beautiful, intangible feeling.” Thing is, if people think they can capture the essence of a musical moment with a cell phone, then they really don’t know what that moment is to begin with.

When I’m in the audience at a show, I see others in the crowd who are not watching the action onstage; they’re watching their phones. This doesn’t annoy me, I just feel sorry for these people who think they’re experiencing the show. They just don’t get it. They’re watching a video. It’s like watching porn instead of having sex.

As a performer, I’ve seen it from both sides (not still talking about sex here). Onstage is where the true magic of live music is most evident. Other musicians and performers will recognize this, and most of us will admit it’s the biggest reason we like to play live: the connection.

When you’re in the crowd, getting off on a great show, your response creates this huge wave of energy that infuses the performer. They in turn suck up that energy and pour it right back out to the crowd, and the whole thing spirals everyone upward to a higher plane. You go to that place. Dead Heads, you know what I’m talking about.

For a performing musician, it’s like a drug. Only it doesn’t cause you to lose your job at Hardee’s because you’re out chasing the dragon and you forgot you were working the lunch shift and all your teeth are loose and what the hell you were going to move back in with your mom anyway. When the crowd’s into it and your band is firing on all cylinders, playing in the pocket, there’s nothing like it: It feels more like the music is playing you. The pedal is to the metal. You don’t have time to check your phone, take a leak, go to the bar, or duck into the lobby for a conversation. You keep feeding energy back to the crowd through that connection—a solid conduit of pure bliss.

The thing is, how can you capture that through the tiny lens of a cell phone? You can’t. You have to capture it with your soul. With your heart. With your spirit. And if it’s heavy metal, with your lizard brain.

Cell phones are here to stay, and thanks to the narcissism at the core of human nature, so is the self-absorbed behavior they engender. Hey, if you want to live your life through a five-inch screen in your hand, be my guest. But if you’re at a show and you’re focused on recording images to look at later, you’ll be missing an amazing thing that’s going on right here and now.

I think you can have it both ways. You don’t have to become a Luddite or swap your skinny jeans for a loincloth in order to enjoy life in meat space. We all have phones. We love our phones. But our phones don’t contain any juice. Real life has the juice.

I think the reason you hear a lot of people my age grouse about the overuse of smartphones is that we came up on the other side, before the smartphone revolution.

And it was awesome.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

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