The invention of the camera has led humanity to become obsessed with recording reality, which has changed the way we are experiencing concerts. The amount of photos and videos being taken on a daily basis is intimidating.
Live music is heart and soul. It transcends the conscious to a place of indescribable joy, but whipping out a camera mid gig is destroying the experience.
Our snaps are loosing meaning and significance. Almost every fan carries a camera of some sort, capturing precious moments that will never be relived, especially not by flicking through incarcerated escapades on screen.
Focusing on the camera means attention is directed primarily at the lens, geared to trapping experiences in hand-held devices or tripod-supported contraptions, and is the antithesis to engaging in the now.
In the 60’s and 70’s, documenting live music went as far as writing about them or reminiscing with friends and family about moments that were truly lived.
Photographs from Woodstock are iconic and valuable because so few were taken. The lack of cameras meant people could spend their time doing what was important; rolling around naked in the mud, tripping on acid and dancing like monkeys – experiencing the music to the fullest.
We are all grateful for videos and photos that capture historical performances and rad jams. But not every fucker in the audience needs to be snapping. It can be offensive to musicians who dedicate their lives to putting on good shows, which should be embraced by audiences that pay attention and unfortunately THIS has not been invented yet:
In March this year, Kendrick Lamar performed at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, where the rapper poured his heart out to the crowd in a teary five- minute monologue about depression. After a friend of mine looked around at the crowd and saw hardly anyone sans camera, he said to his girlfriend “Look around. Put your iPhone down and experience this. It will just be you, me and him”.
A month later, City and Colour performed at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, where Dallas Green sat on stage and was confronted by a swarm of cameras goggling at him from the audience. He stopped half way through his set, telling the crowd to put their cameras away so they could all be present for at least one song.
So much wonder has been produced through the lens of a camera. It is a beautiful medium for humans to create art, experience parts of the world they cannot reach, and become informed of global phenomena through numerous media channels. Documenting gigs for reminiscence sake allows absent viewers to be transported into the experience.
But let’s face it; many moments captured on the every day camera either never see the light of day, or are visual diarrhoea presented on globally accessible stages. The majority of social media posts are painful at best, and of little interest to anybody. No one is psyched about watching poor quality recordings of live performances when they can just YouTube better ones.
Humans are becoming increasingly terrible at putting their cameras down, fingers at the ready, eyes glued to the screen, simply because such a great importance is placed on taking a good photo or video. People run the risk of missing out on memorable moments at concerts, or missing them altogether.
What is left is a potentially post-worthy photo, or video with a (hopefully) witty caption, or a tirelessly long snap chat story.
It really sucks when a wall of people stand in front of you at a concert and block the stage from view by holding their iPhones sky high. Then you realise half way through that you have started watching the performance through their screens, and nearly bitch slap yourself for being sucked in.
Spiritual leaders like Prem Rawat and Eckhart Toll – not to mention Buddha – teach that the key to a joyous life is presence, and freedom from attachment.
Capturing moments through a lens means your attention is directed at storing memories in a device to be revisited in the future. Be present. Gluing yourself to your camera or phone is a serious addiction that forces you to ignore life’s music.
Detach yourself. Don’t live a memorable concert through a minuscule rectangular screen. Connecting with a stranger in the audience who is getting off on the music is far more important than connecting with your phone.
Feeling the bass vibrate through your entire body is far more satisfying than the fingertip sensation of pressing the record button.
Rather than aiming to get the perfect photo or video, we should all be aiming to dance so hard that sweat leeches into our pockets, and waterlogs our phones.