Author Topic: Take the digital age outside the club...  (Read 916 times)


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Take the digital age outside the club...
« on: January 15, 2006, 02:01:00 am »
January 15, 2006
 Op-Ed Contributor
 Don't Rock and Dial
 By GERRI HIRSHEY, The New York times
 A few months ago, I staked out a spot on the packed dance floor at Irving Plaza to see a rare Manhattan performance by the British piano man Jamie Cullum. As a music journalist, I've cheerfully survived my share of sweaty mosh pits. So had my evening's companion, who is a feisty alumnus of a 1980's punk group. Yet neither of us was prepared for our evening-long tussle with a horde of rock 'n' roll barbarians. Their cudgels were cellphones.
 These boors stood with their phones held aloft during the show, intermittently bellowing the lyrics into it for the benefit of some unfortunate friend on the other end. The scourge included camera phones and larger digital cameras as well, scores of them. Their owners elbowed their neighbors, stomped toes and shoved. One disgruntled patron uttered a faint, "Yo! Not cool!" But no one really challenged these bullies, or even asked them to lower their offending arms.
 Alas, it has become an accepted, if distracting fact of American life: every minute roaming, in network or in a seat at Madison Square Garden must be shared and even downloaded. These trophy-hunters clamor to net every vibrant blue note and pin it to the hard drive at home.
 And so I've watched, with dismay, the corruption of the live rock moment - that sublime nonce when the sticky floor trembles, a splinter of drumstick streaks into the blue light and, as B. B. King once described it to me, "the little hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up." The thrill is indeed gone if you're scrolling speed dial contacts at the instant the lead guitarist reaches the bridge and leaps off into amazing fretwork. And it's darn tough for the digitally unconnected to stay "in the moment" with a host of blinking blue screens bobbing at eye level.
 I first encountered the gang cellphone sing-along a few years back at a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands. I realized this digital trend had gone country when a mother and her teenage daughter turned away from the very live Gretchen Wilson at a Las Vegas show when she asked for a "big hell yeah." Instead they bleated their joyous affirmation, via cellphone, to Granddaddy in Wichita, Kan. He hallooed back on high-volume speakerphone.
 Musicians are stuck trying to figure out whether to beat 'em or join 'em. Security guards checking us into a Green Day show in Hartford tried, loudly and in vain, to ban or confiscate camera phones. Yet once the show started, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong commanded people to turn on their cellphones for a blue-lighted update of the flicking Zippo lighters.
 In hindsight, I should have been hip to the band's conflicted policies before the show, when a giant screen alongside the stage flashed mash notes that fans had sent as text messages from their phones: "Scream if you think Billie Joe is hot!" As I fulminated, my 15-year-old son growled: "Duh, Mom. Their tour sponsor is Verizon."
 I'm no endorsement naïf. Since Woodstock, concert venues have been mini-malls of merchandising. But at that Green Day venue, the T-shirt lines were 40 people deep throughout the show. Fans now seem willing to miss four or five live versions of their favorite songs to snag a souvenir.
 The concertgoers with their cellphones are just high-tech extensions of this desperate craze for mementos. As music consumers, we have become a tribe of craven souvenir takers. If file-sharing and digital piracy have turned the industry (and artists' rights) upside down, the age of the iPod, camera and video phones has devalued the beauty of the live moment.
 That night at Irving Plaza, Mr. Cullum came into occasional view when one of the barbarians bent down to type in a message and transmit. What little I saw was great. But when my view was again obscured, I started to long for the scabrous je ne sais quoi of the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious, who would have distressed the offenders' artfully holey $200 jeans with the metal-tipped soles of his Doc Martens. Download this!
 I'd be happy to ignore these digital louts if their antics and sheer numbers didn't step all over my rights to enjoy the performance. But more than that, I mourn the loss they don't seem to feel. A love of the live and unpredictable moment keeps 80-year-old B. B. King rocking in person about 200 nights a year; it still sends Bob Dylan to college cafeterias and gyms, and impels countless garage bands to crank it up. We should respect their impetuous art and not scheme to carry it off in a doggy bag.
 Gerri Hirshey is the author, most recently, of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The True, Tough Story of Women in Rock."

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Re: Take the digital age outside the club...
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2006, 04:04:00 pm »
Please take this lonely unloved poast outside the forum and give it a pep-talk.  Thank you...