# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - September 2014

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 14 / 11 / 2014

Miscellaneous - September 2014


With both Peter Frampton and Kate Bush having asked their fans to not use their phones at their shows, Ben Howarth in 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' examines the issue of mobile phone photography and filming at gigs

In early August, it was widely reported that rocker and 'Simpsons' star Peter Frampton angrily grabbed a camera phone from the hands of a fan in the front row of a concert in Indiana, before throwing it into the rafters. (Frampton has since issued a statement insisting that the phone was, in fact, returned intact.) Frampton insists that the fan was asked repeatedly to stop filming the performances. Reports posted online suggest those around the man and his partner had repeatedly asked them to stop taking so many photos. Indeed, there had been an announcement at the start of the show requesting no flash photography, which the couple wouldn't have heard, as they arrived late. Whoever the phone's owner was, I suspect he never posted his photos onto Facebook (assuming that Frampton's account is accurate, and the phone still works). Such is the online approbation he received, he is probably pretending to everyone – including himself – that he had not been to the concert in question at all, and knew nothing about Frampton's performance. A few weeks later, and newspaper editors, starved of irrelevant content to distract our attention from the possible end to civilisation as we know it (Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine... take your pick), had their waking wish granted when Kate Bush asked fans not to use their smartphones during her comeback concerts. A debate that had hitherto largely been confined to message boards had the oxygen it needed. Taking photos at gigs. I know I've done it, and I bet you have too. But, suddenly, it is widely agreed that this is a serious problem that must. be. addressed. Frampton's subsequent comments suggest that he may regret losing his rag, but he adds, “It just happens that this event has stirred up the conversation which is a good thing.” And, my, what a conversation. One of you says, “It's annoying when someone distracts me by taking a photo at a gig. Why don't they just watch the show?” And then someone else says, “Yes, but sometimes I like watching those videos they post on YouTube, so I can see what the gig is like if I want to go.” And the first person says, “Yes. Still annoying though”. Thank god for Frampton, who allowed us all to get that off our collective chests. Let's leave aside the question of whether taking a photo at a gig actually is the biggest problem the music industry really faces (I'd suggest routinely expecting female singers to have a sideline in soft porn might be a bigger problem, but that is a question for another day). I'm not even sure the question of taking a photo at a gig is the biggest problem facing gigs. Indeed, the bands never seem to mind when the photography is being used for their own promotional purposes. All those iconic black and white photos from CBGB's were, of course, taken right in front of a paying customer, whose own memories of the occasion are probably peering angrily over a photographer's shoulder. What's really more annoying? Having someone hold a mobile phone camera up in the corner of your eye? Or paying several pounds on top of the advertised cost for the privilege of paying? Or having your bottle of water confiscated at the entrance, leaving you gasping long before the encores? Or seeing the price of tickets to the average gig more than double despite seven years and counting of recession? Kate Bush and Peter Frampton are far from the first musicians to get annoyed at using camera phones. But, for don't go mistaking this for a democratic gesture. It's all about them. Indeed, Frampton said just as much - “When I go to do a show, it's my time, it's all about me. You've come to see me.” And's that the nub of the issue. Camera phones are a (minor) irritant for the bands, and thus a cause of concern. The other issues I listed above are merely a problem for us, the paying punters. Having our water confiscated doesn't impact upon the atmosphere of hushed reverence around the artist, so no conversation needed there. And, of course, it's still “all about” the artist when they don't publicise the stage time and leaving us hanging around aimlessly for hours before they deign to arrive onstage. I'm not saying I don't find camera phones annoying sometimes (although the occasional flash that allows someone a sketchy memento is really, really, not a problem). I just find the attitude of (most) musicians in this regard far more annoying. There are plenty of live events that manage to preserve the atmosphere of hushed reverence these bands claim to want. Look at Wimbledon's centre court, for example, where, even late into the evening, each point is played in pin-drop silence in front of thousands of people – most of whom will have been drinking champagne non -stop for several hours, yet somehow contain their excitement to between points. Or the Proms, where nobody ignores the request not to take photos. Of course, rock gigs would be ruined by the formality of the Proms. But, with a little imagination, bands could easily meet us halfway. Try starting on time – that way, it would be realistic to police the annoying movements all the way through the gig to and from the bar. How about giving us some space – it's the fact that we are packed in like cattle that makes it impossible to remove the worst offenders – meaning someone is always left standing next to that guy who won't shut up. Heck, bands could even make some of the photos taken each night available to the audience – that way they would have more justification for forbidding us to take our own. Until those things happen (and, of course, in enlightened venues with enlightened acts, sometimes they already do), gigs will remain what they always been – unreliable, crowded, overpriced, poorly-regulated (and, yes, exhilarating in spite of themselves). In that context, bands get the audiences they deserve.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors