There are few things better in this world than a Friday or Saturday night out seeing your favorite band play in a tiny venue in their hometown. Everyone is as into the music as you will ever experience. The band eats it up, the crowd eats up the music, and the venue owner is overwhelmed because the building hit max capacity 300 people ago and there’s still a line around the block outside.
This is what I experienced one week ago today. Between The Buried And Me, a world renowned metal band local to the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, played their first show to kick-off its headlining tour with The Faceless and a few other bands to promote the most recent album The Parallax II: Future Sequence.
For many, BTBAM is composed of a few hometown heroes who, when together, create some of the most melodic and simultaneously brutal music today. Personally, I consider Tommy, Dustie, Dan, Paul, and Blake to be a team of composers of modern music, which is beyond the comprehension of many. And if BTBAM were related to smartphones or technology in any way, each and every one of you would call me a BTBAM fanboy, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
There are only two other bands that I’m ever as enthused to see as I am when BTBAM returns home to play some euphoric melodies to the most enthusiastic, interactive crowd of people you may ever see in one room at a time: The Avett Brothers (also hometown heroes to the area I now live) and Flogging Molly. (You might also add that I’m a fanboy of NC-based musicians and bands, and rightfully so.)
All of this is to make a point.
I love seeing music live. I have an eclectic and very selective taste in music, and it’s rare for my favorite bands to come home. They’re usually in such demand worldwide that hometown shows become scarce. And even if they make it back home, it’s not guaranteed that I will actually make it to the concert.
I digress. Until last Friday, it had been at least five years since I had last seen BTBAM perform live – much longer than I had ever anticipated. And after working most of the day, loading my weekend pack and dog into my car, driving nearly two hours, dropping the dog off at my sister’s, and circling the venue for upwards of 30 minutes in search of a parking spot (it was seriously that crowded), I was late.
I wasn’t late to see The Faceless or Between The Buried And Me. But I was late. Period. And when you’re late to see a highly anticipated band of hometown heroes, a band which many dedicated fans are willing to drive several hours to see, it’s a bad thing.
There were at least three hundred people crowded (sardine-tight) around the stage. There was no hope of getting any closer. So I went upstairs to the loft. I watched The Faceless (which was sadly missing its main attraction, its main attraction, Evan Brewer) through a tiny gap between two people’s arms.
During the 30-minute set, all the people around me were sticking their phones up in the air, snapping blurry, unrecognizable pictures. Some were taking shaky videos which were just as unrecognizable and likely reproduced the sound as if it were being played back on a tape player from the inside of a Blendtec blender.
I, too, wastefully spent much of my time at this event doing the very same thing, though I would venture to say it was with much more respect for those around me. More on that in a bit.
During the lull between bands, when everyone relaxed a bit from the sudden halt to the mindsplosion created by some of the most technical and brutal music you can hear live, I muscled my way to the very front with utter disregard for the well being of those around me. I cemented my place in a very cramped spot, and defended it – thirsty and hungry – for the thirty minutes it took for the band to setup.
And as soon as the BTBAM intro started, I shoved my hand into my pocket and ripped out the Lumia 1020. This was it. This is what I had been waiting for. Finally, my favorite metal band playing a show in our hometown, and I made sure to bring the best smartphone camera with me to document it.
It was a long set. I pulled the phone out for a quick picture maybe three or four more times. And that was it. I was there for the music. I got my sharing and social bragging out of the way, and enjoyed the remainder of the mind-numbing show.
But those people around me, pushing and shoving in an attempt to get closer, just would not stop. Four guys to the left of me held out their iPhone 4s, Galaxy S IIs, and even a flip phone to record (no, not take pictures, take video) of entire songs.
Rather than looking forward in total awe and enjoying the masterpiece being displayed in front of them, they watched it through the viewfinders on their phones. Seriously. Four guys to my right barely looked up the entire time. They had been excited while BTBAM was setting up, giddy like a bunch of pre-teen girls going to their first Bieber show, yet they watched at least 90 percent of the concert through the 4-inch displays on their phones.
Sure, to say “Put your phone away and enjoy the show” is a bit hypocritical on my end. I, too, had my phone out taking pictures. And I, too, shot a few, short videos. You could say I’m as guilty as they are. But I also realized the quality of my pictures – even with the Lumia 1020, as great as it is – was utter garbage. I knew the videos sounded horrible, and that I will never look back at them beyond a few nostalgic binges through my Instagram feed a year or two from now. I realized this before I ever took the first picture, and I made sure I wouldn’t spend my entire time watching my favorite band aimlessly taking crappy pictures and videos that would never be used … for anything.
And, yes. Who am I to decide who should do what when they see their favorite band?
Frankly, I don’t care that they spent the entire hour and a half snapping terrible photos and recording indiscernible videos. And I don’t really care that they blinded me with their viewfinders. The strobes on the stage made their phone displays in the pitch black negligible.
The point is, we all had waited for months on end to see one of our all-time favorite bands. We couldn’t be more excited. Yet every time I go to one of these events – a concert, a bar, or even just a movie theater – I see more and more people who can’t put their phones down and enjoy what they’re doing then and there, who can’t simply enjoy being and living in the moment, in the meatspace.
It’s as if real life with real people isn’t enough anymore, that online connectivity and social sharing with the hundreds or thousands of people online, who likely could not care less about what we’re doing or what band we’re seeing, dictates what we do, when we do it, or how we do it.
I wrote an editorial a while back and tagged a poll onto the end of it and asked how often you guys and gals disconnect. And the results were staggering – albeit not all that surprising. Nearly 40 percent – the majority – said you never disconnect. Ever?
You should try it sometime. Put your phone down and enjoy the show. Enjoy the company you’re with. Enjoy the scenery around you. Enjoy the silence. Enjoy being disconnected, if only for a moment.
Try it. It’s actually … pretty fun.
Excuse me while I disconnect for the weekend. I’ll see you ladies and gents on Monday.