For the Love of Good Music Turn Off Your Phone

James Garside by Alejandro Ortiz on Unsplash

To gig or not to gig?

I just got back from a gig. If you want the latest up-to-the-minute audio, pictures and video footage from the event then get off your arse and go to a gig.

Whenever I go to a gig I have to face the gig conundrum: I love music but hate people. Music always wins out, of course, but people are annoying.

Here are some of the worst offenders.

What not to do at a gig

There are some behaviours that are obviously frowned-upon, obnoxious or otherwise inconsiderate.

Do you heckle the band? Grow up.

Do you go to a gig with the sole intention to disrupt it, get drunk, and start a fight? Save it for outside.

Do you harbour any sort of violence, aggression, or hate that you just have to let out at the people around you? Save it for your day job.

Do you deliberately try to crush the people in front of you just for fun? People have died thanks to that, you genius.

There’s nothing wrong with moshing or slam dancing but if someone falls down you help them back up. That’s the rule. Wall of death is always fun until you’re the one who ends up on the floor.

Do you attempt to stage-dive when you weigh about the same as a truck? That’s fine. Just don’t expect anything other than the ground to be there to catch you when you land.

And the big no-no

Do you chuck pints full of your own urine at the stage? That’s not cool. Usually lukewarm actually — but what I mean is that’s not on.

Yes, people actually do this.

For anyone who thinks that no-one really chucks pints of their own urine at the stage I dare you to go to the Bingley Music Live festival and stand at the front for the duration of any band’s set.

People behind you routinely urinate in plastic pint glasses and throw them overhead.

But that’s not the worst of it

Any time you show a complete disregard for people around you, when you’re in a crowd, is obviously a bad idea. But there are other annoying behavours that are so all-pervasive they seem to have become the norm.

My biggest pet peeve when I go to a gig is people trying to record the gig on their smartphones. Though I admit that people chucking pints of their own urine at you is a close second.

Turn off your phone

Are you at a gig? That’s great. Turn off your phone. Pay attention. Listen to the music. Don’t try to record it. If your friends wanted to see the show so much they’d already be there with you.

I know that I just sound like a grumpy old man. That’s because I am one. But why pay 50 quid for a ticket to see someone live and then spend all your time taking selfies and filming it for someone who isn’t even there?

No-one cares about your YouTube channel

You’re just ruining it for anyone else that’s there to enjoy the music for the sake of your vanity and the benefit of your imaginary friends.

Don’t try to record a gig with your smartphone: The quality will suck. You’ll enjoy it more if you pay attention. And everyone else at the gig secretly hates you.

Why do people do this?

I don’t understand why people do this. Please explain it to me. I’m listening.

Why do you feel the need to record the gig? Are you really so starved for attention that you think that the presence of a person on stage playing their heart out is somehow all about you?

Why must your every waking moment be recorded? Do you think that your life isn’t real until you show it to other people? Do you need constant validation and approval? Are you living in The Matrix?

Am I alone in this?

I’m from England and have definitely noticed the cultural shift in the UK. It used to be unthinkable to do something like this but now it’s commonplace. But it also seems to be the norm in a lot of places around the world.

I found out the hard way at a gig in New York that: “I’m very sorry but please could you turn off your phone” is the most unthinkably offensive thing you can say to an American girl.

It was funnier than it sounds. Though to be fair when it comes to their ability to do anything without talking and playing with their phone Americans are pretty unendurable.

Shut up and listen

Listen with your eyes
Listen with your eyes
And sing everything you see
I can sing a rainbow
Sing a rainbow
Sing along with me

Live music is really important. It’s a unique experience and every performance is different. Sometimes the real magic happens in the moments between songs.

I’m not a snob. I get that gigs are horrendously expensive these days and not everyone can go. That’s all the more reason to pay attention if you’re fortunate enough to be there.

Music means a lot to me

I once had to choose between going to see Leonard Cohen and buying food. I was unemployed at the time and living from hand to mouth.

I went with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see someone whose music I’d been listening to since I was 16.

Leonard Cohen died a few years later. To this day I’m glad that I went to see him even though I didn’t really have the money at the time.

As I get older, thanks to health issues and chronic pain, it gets harder every year to go to a gig.

Sometimes it feels like a gig is an endurance test or an exercise in standing and sweating. That only makes me appreciate it all the more.

Thank you for the music

Sometimes I find myself making excuses not to go but it’s always worth it for the music.

Is it wrong that once I decided against going to a music festival because I didn’t fancy standing in the rain by myself listening to bands that I don’t know? Yes. Yes it is.

You always regret the gig you didn’t go to more than the gig that you did. The best time to see some bands is 20 years ago — the next best time is now.

Enjoy live music any time you have the chance. But please, for the love of good music, put your phone away.

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.


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