Bob Boilen wants to take pictures at concerts. He wants to put them on Instagram between tweeting and texting about the show, like an adroit concert-going ninja. The host of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” posted a rant on Monday regarding a recent M.Ward show at the 9:30 Club in DC where upon arriving he was informed by the venue that Ward had asked for no photos or video be taken during the show, even on cell phones. (Expect the same when he swings by Prospect Park next month, we suppose?) Boilen, reasonably surprised, tweeted his doubt that anyone would even follow the rule. Photography, both amateur and professional, has become prominent at concerts these days, no news there (unless, of course, you’re going to see Jeff Mangum). But seeing how many people adhered to no-photo policy that night and how little support he received from the Twitter community in regards to his frustration (even Neko Case piped in, siding with Ward), Boilen was taken aback:
The nature of a nightclub is that it’s filled with plenty of distractions: clinking glasses, cappuccino machines, friends having fun with friends, plenty of chatter and so on. I’m not saying we should never ban cell phones at public venues. It makes sense during an intimate seated show, a quiet tune or a formal setting, but not a nightclub. … The idea of being at a club or a public event, standing around and not being able to silently share seems almost old-fashioned to me.
Besides the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever been to a nightclub with a cappuccino machine, his argument checks out. It is a free country, and Boilen’s not suggesting we elbow each other to the front of the stage to get the perfect cell-phone shot. As someone who frequently attends shows to write about them and therefore needs to remember them adequately, taking photos and tweeting is something I’m pretty much required to do, even though I feel sheepish whenever it comes time to actually raise my iPhone above my head and wave it around for a semi-decent shot. I’m apparently not alone on being torn, as pointed out in SF Weekly‘s recent list of ways music fans are hypocrites. (Similarly, we’re proud when we come up with a joke to tweet at a show, but get mad when we see others with their heads buried in their phones.) But in fact, wanting to capture the moment forever, or at least until your iPhone dies, generally signifies being a fan. Boilen mentions the incessant chatter that’s been rippling through audiences here in New York, and evidently other cities as well, pegging it as more of a distraction to the artist and fellow audience members than any clicking of a camera, which is an argument I can 100 percent buy into. Let’s make a conscious effort to stop all that talking during the show, ok? It’s rude, and it makes us all look like jerks, only fueling more “careless hipster” jokes that aren’t even funny to begin with.
As for those photographers with the fancy cameras who are also just trying to do their jobs so we can have these pretty reminders of what we experienced (speaking of which, an exhibit of BrooklynVegan photography will be on display at 92Y Tribeca in August) we, the concert-going public, just ask that you don’t stand in one spot the whole time. If you’re going to block our view for one song, we can handle it; if it’s for the whole show, not so much. Also, it’d be nice if you said “excuse me” while making your way around us to get in front. That is all.
For more soapbox musings, follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.