My first concert was a rockin’ double feature of Chicago and The Beach Boys, which was completely contrary to my peers who were having New Kids on the Block, Back Street Boys or NSYNC as their inaugural concert experience. My musical taste has always been aligned with a middle-aged man. I blame the six years of adolescence I spent working at my family donut shop with the radio station permanently tuned to Classic Rock as the culprit. These tunes set the default soundtrack of my youth and the concerts which followed adhered to the classic rock theme: Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel (last reunion concert), Elton John, The Police, Journey. The nostalgic sounds of the 1960s and 1970s will still comprise my desert-island tunes.
Those first few concerts were invigorating and electrifying, with louder than necessary performances sponsored by overpriced t-shirts and the sweet smell of weed wafting overhead and they set the gold standard for the quintessential “Rock n’ Roll Concert Experience,” where I left the show with real ticket stubs as opposed to a computer print out with a bar code. Those were the good ole days before electronics, to stand between me and my rock idol, where they performed and you watched mesmerized, there was RESPECT. In tribute, we busted out the lighter and swayed it until our thumbs got calloused or the wind killed the flame.
Recently I’ve gotten annoyed at how the entire concert-going experience has gotten corrupted by the over saturation of devices. As a basis of comparison, I’m using last month’s Paul McCartney concert, because I’ve seen him twenty years apart.
Here’s what hasn’t changed:
- Hippie dudes who came in their powder blue convertible and jeeps complete with pot air freshener tailgating in the parking lots.
- Yuppies, who have progressed from hippies, who still like to pretend they are partying like they’re at Woodstock, only they have BMWs and use fancy Tommy Bahama folding chairs and tables and drink locally crafted brews and eat artisan cheese.
- Guys selling unauthorized discounted concert t-shirts outside the stadium.
- People who try to illegally get a better seat. There were three 60+ women who moved three times in the seats to the left of us, right of us and then in front of us. Finally, they lucked out and no one else came claiming they were in the wrong seats and asking them to leave.
- The guy who riles people up by standing, arms outstretched Jesus style and raising them up repeatedly like he’s about to fly, yelling at people to “STAND THE FUCK UP!”
Here’s what’s different:
- THE CELL PHONES, IPADS, and all other BIG FUCKING SCREENS blocking the experience.
- Instead of the lighters, cell phone screens illuminate the stadium in an artificial LCD haze.
- People videotape extraordinary amounts on their devices. One woman recorded the entire concert with her old digital camera. She never looked up from the back of the 2” little LCD screen.
- Snapchatting during the concert. All around us, people were their own pop-up recording studios, broadcasting Sir Paul and the rest of us, focusing on sharing more than experiencing it themselves. In lieu of applause and dancing, people are busy with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever I’m not cool enough to use yet.
- No one stands or dances for a whole song. It’s like they think they’re at home watching a DVD and get pissed if anyone around them obstructs their view.
- There is a marked disassociation among the fans; everyone is too busy engineering their own quintessential concert experience that they’ve completely disregarded any degree of social concert etiquette where we can all come together in music and artist appreciation. Instead, people have become more preoccupied with preserving the memory, than making it.