I went to a concert last night (Porter Robinson’s tour for his album Worlds—it’s phenomenal and everyone needs to listen to it). We arrived around 7:30; the doors opened at 8:00; show started at 9:00; Porter went on around 10:00. Before the opening acts, everyone sort of just shuffled around with their phones, which is understandable in my opinion, considering there’s not much excitement in staring at an empty stage and stage hands testing equipment and setting up water bottles. When the opening acts arrived some people still just stood there on the phones; personally I loved the acts, but some people came just to see Porter and whatever was on their 5-inch screens was clearly more interesting to them than the no-name band and DJ that preempted the real show.
Then Porter Robinson stepped on stage and everyone’s attention was rapt, hands in the air, cheering and screaming… into their phones.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against technology in any way—hell, I’m an electrical engineer; I’ve gotta have some stake in electronics. I’m not even against photographing shows; having something to look back on and remember an experience is always nice. Clearly, even I grabbed my phone once or twice to photograph the experience. But looking out over the crowd was at times unsettling, to say the least.
As you can see in the photo, I managed to snag a spot in the front row. I was about 30 feet from the performer I had been dying to see. If you don’t know who Porter Robinson is, he’s a 22-year-old DJ who not only writes his own music and lyrics, but mixes, sings, plays keyboard, plays drums, and even improvises his mixes live on stage. His show isn’t a standard EAT SLEEP RAVE REPEAT EDM show, either. The thematic motif in his newest Worlds album is something most DJs and even songwriters lack. His concert isn’t just a time to go and listen to some nice music and dance with strangers for a few hours; the visuals, music, and lyrics tie together to tell a 2-hour story. It isn’t simply a concert; it really is an “experience” you have to live and get caught up in the moment.
And that’s where it really struck me that people were living this experience through the lens of a camera. My phone camera is really shitty (obvious in the picture), but even the best cameras couldn’t capture the experience of living in that moment. Seeing the depth, the focus of the musician, tying the visuals with the music, feeling the community of the crowd of strangers living these feelings together is something that can’t be captured with a camera.
I’ll leave this off with a quote from the song “Sea of Voices” off the tour album, Worlds. ”We’ll see creation come undone. These bones that bound us will be gone. We’ll stir our spirits ‘til we’re one, then soft as shadows we’ll become.” Life isn’t about focusing on the destructive society and physical world we’ve grown up into. Life is about living in the moment. ”Every mind is a world. You are a place.”
I totally agree with you. I love the experience of a show/concert and aside from taking a few quick photos, I feel like using a camera extensively really disrupts the experience. A few summers ago I went on a study abroad trip to Greece and Italy. When I returned, I heard a lot of “OH MY GOD YOU MUST HAVE SUCH A GREAT TIME TAKING SO MANY PICTURES”, probably because those who said that were aware of my background in photography. I really didn’t though, and the few times I did pick up my camera during that trip was because it was required to include photos in our final essays (which really annoyed me). For me, experience and photographs are two different things, and I don’t like to mix the two.