There were numerous concert etiquette offenses during the recent Rodrigo y Gabriela show. “It’s the NPR crowd.” That’s the crowd that doesn’t attend many concerts and obliviously avoid manners. Punk shows can be rough, though people will usually help each other out, and metal shows are typically tame. It’s the occasionally rowdy crowds at pop and country shows that keep me on my toes. They’re usually not there for the show. Their smartphones show it.
Glenn Danzig takes a hardline approach to smartphone use at his shows.
I think Danzig’s zero tolerance policy against photography and smartphones is too harsh. There is value in the idea. It’s a thorough way to preserve the lighting and presentation of a performance. If you want to prevent the 10% that might rudely consult their brightly-lit smartphones throughout a show, you must prevent the other 90% that might need to read the occasional text between sets or want to take a photograph to share with friends.
There should be a better way!
First, it’s up to each smartphone owner to know how to operate their smartphone.
Do you know how to dim the display on your smartphone? Usually, if you swipe down from the top of the screen, there will be an option for it. You can search “[your smartphone type] dim display” to find specific instructions.
Second, it’s up to friends to point out this rude behavior.
If your friend is in zombie mode, zoned out on their brightly-lit smartphone, tell them to dim their display! Your friends should be able to do the same. It might be rude to tell a stranger, though there are different approaches to be polite.
Third, it’s up to bands to call out bad behavior.
The Heiress vocalist yelled at a zoned-out zombie in the audience during one show: “PUT THAT THING AWAY!” It didn’t land since they’re one of those yelling bands. This was just before it seemed like we reached smartphone ubiquity. Before bright screens at every show.
Fourth, it’s up to smartphone manufacturers to assist.
I’m not specifically advocating for a “Concert Mode” mainly because it’s a mode that could be strictly enforced. We just need more thorough user training and education. There are already auto-dimming settings with both major platforms and bright screens in dark areas are bad on your eyes.
It’s not like bright smartphones are a serious offense.
You can usually ignore smartphones at shows. You can usually edit them out of a photo or video. Besides, culture will probably shift, and this might no longer be an issue in ten years.
This is just an analogy for not considering those in the vicinity.
The smartphone zombie in the photograph didn’t care about the audience. Or anyone. Showing everyone the texting conversation was a higher priority than respecting everyone else’s view of the show. It wasn’t terribly distracting for me. I already disregarded expectations that this individual would treat anyone with respect.
If you, the considerate reader, can lead by example, please do!