It’s Friday evening and Openair Frauenfeld is buzzing. 50,000 fans are waiting for superstar Eminem. The die-hard fans have been waiting since twelve noon. A friend of mine who works at the entrance area of the festival tells me that they all ran in as soon as the gates were opened. I get there two hours ahead of the concert. Meanwhile, the mud has dried. Everyone’s packed like sardines. More and more people are pushing their way to the front. There’s a lot of pushing, shoving and squeezing. It’s shoulder to shoulder now. I can feel the breath of the guy behind me. I’m glad he didn’t go for the garlic bread at lunch.
Here we go! The white curtain falls and the rap god steps on stage without delay.
We’re all in ecstasy! But then thousands of mobiles appear and are held in the air at arm’s length. My view of the stage is blocked. A sea of smartphone displays stretches as far as my eyes can see. The screens almost outshine the stage lighting. Surely they’re only filming the beginning of the concert, I think to myself. It will stop in time. Turns out I’m wrong.
The guy in front of me, probably in his early twenties, films the entire concert. The. Entire. Eminem concert. He holds his mobile up for a whopping 90 minutes. Shoots one video after the next. A pity his stupid arm didn’t fall off. He puts his phone away twice, only to plonk his girlfriend on his shoulders. She stays up there for fifteen minutes a time. Right in front of our faces. And she keeps on filming from up above. My friend and I either see the guy's mobile or his girlfriend’s backside. Great.
Although I’m a bit over one metre seventy tall, I need to crane my neck to just about see the monitor. I have to stand on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the stage.
After the show. At least I could see the fireworks display
I’ve got to be honest with you. I got carried away and am also guilty of filming the concert. One single video. Four in total during the course of the whole festival. I regret every one of them. Because of my filming, I missed fifty seconds of Eminem’s grand final «Lose Yourself». All for a stupid video. It’s shaky and the sound quality is the pits – like all videos. What’s more, I will never watch it. Nobody ever does. Nobody wants these videos.
Shaky beyond regcognition. Well done me.
There are professional videos of almost all larger concerts. So what drives people to play director themselves? And in such an intrusive way? Nobody's going to complain if you hold your phone up for a minute. But it’s not like that. The phones just stay up.
I think people who film an entire concert are repeat offenders. After all, if you don’t realise how dumb it is to film an entire concert, you’ll probably do it again without batting an eyelid. This begs the question how these people deal with memory issues. A ninety-minute video probably eats up about 16 GB of memory. So if this daft concertgoer is attending more concerts in the near future, he or she is going to have to delete some of the videos. Yep, those exact videos that required a lot of view blocking to be made.
A ninety-minute video will not just devour memory but also battery. I’m asking myself what kind of mobile phone this guy has. Or if he’s actually brought a powerbank to the concert for his filming excesses.
I feel like knocking the phones out of these peoples’ hands. But violence and property damage aren’t my thing. And would be illegal.
Concerts are meant for dancing and singing along at the top of your voice. I want to feel the bass in my belly and go crazy. I want to truly experience the concert. But the majority of people around me are standing there, firmly rooted to the ground. There’s the odd waving of left arms. The right ones are busy holding those darn phones.
These days, atmosphere is created with smartphone flashlights. Back in the day, we put our lighters up until our thumbs got burnt.
During the Eminem concert, the mobile network breaks down. I know that because I lost some of my friends in the crowd – not because I was uploading videos to Snapchat or Instagram. Calls weren’t possible and WhatsApp messages weren’t going through. The network was totally overloaded. But hey, who cares! We’ve come here for the music, right? What is bothering me, however, are the countless Snapchat screens around me. Why the hell would you upload more than one video of the same concert to your story?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the friends of these videomakers are standing right next to them. With the same view. Duh. And yet, everybody seems to be uploading the same thing so they can watch the same videos their friends sent. Cool. What's more, those friends who didn’t get to be there will hardly want to watch rubbish-quality, painfully long videos of distorted songs and a stage you can’t make out. They’ll watch the aftermovie.
The audience at the Eminem concert is joining in. But still: I’ve been to concerts where every single person was jumping. Not the case here. Only a few fans were dancing. It is kind of difficult when you’re holding a phone in your hand. Not to mention if you’re trying to film stuff.
Do we really need to resort to a complete phone ban so that concerts are enjoyable again? The company Yondr has identified the mobile problem at concerts, in schools and other public places. Yondr has come up with a concept I like the sound of: They don’t ban smartphones at concerts but restrict their use.
On their homepage, Yondr say:
In our hyperconnected world, we provide a haven to engage with what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. In physical space and real time.
This is how Yondr's concept works: At the entrance of the venue, every concertgoer is given a Yondr case to stick their phone in. The case has a special lock that can only be opened by means of a particular docking station. These docking stations are available at the exit in a designated mobile phone zone – a separated area where you can use your phone for emergencies or other urgent calls or messages.
So let’s say you’ve got a babysitter at home or are on call for work. Simply put your phone on vibrate – according to Yondr, you will be able to feel it through the case – and proceed to the mobile zone to check your phone if it goes off.
Artist Adele is not a fan of smartphones at her concerts either. She wants a complete ban at her gigs.
I’m in! I would like to see more concerts with a phone restriction, even though I’m not impressed we need to resort to such measures. It is worrying that not even our favourite stars can unglue us from our phones. Watching a gig through a tiny screen even though you’re actually there is just sad. So please leave that phone in your bag during the concert.
However, I'm also a tiny bit grateful to the festival-goers at Frauenfeld: At least nobody was using their iPad to film the concert. I wouldn’t have been able to control myself.
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