by Hope WisechildThanks to Hope Wisechild for this pic
Five years ago it was flags obscuring the view of the festival stage, even leading that haven of liberality, Glastonbury, to consider joining the likes of Reading and Leeds in a ban. Simpler times. Nowadays, you’re as likely to find yourself standing behind someone holding up a small computer throughout the set.
This month’s hippest festival, Unsound Krakov, known for raising challenging questions, has taken a stand against the growing tendency to watch every live performance through the small screen of a smartphone or tablet. Its official ban on audience photography, which is not being policed, is not an attempt to control the media output but a bid to improve the experience of those present. Artistic director Mat Shulz explains on the Unsound website: “Our aim is to encourage our audience to focus on being in the moment, and not to distract others out of that moment.”
It’s a growing concern among live artists. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently asked their New York audience to “Put that shit away” and Roger Waters has admitted on Facebook “I would never turn on a cell phone at any musical event. It would seem to me to show a lack of respect to and care for fellow concert goers or for that matter for the artist. Apart from anything else, how could I possibly truly experience the thing I’d paid to see and hear, if I was fiddling with an iPhone?”
While carefully shot online footage with decent sound might be welcomed by people who couldn’t make it to the event, it’s only ever available because someone with the necessary equipment sacrificed their own experience to capture it. There may be people new to live gigs who don’t even realise they’re missing out. A frustrated Johnny Marr told the NME filming a gig on your phone is “a completely wasted opportunity”.
Even an 18-year-old music fan who told BBC Newsbeat she likes to video gigs on her phone ‘so you don’t forget’ admitted: “It is a bit annoying though sometimes when there is loads in front of your face and you can’t see.”
There are more viewpoints in a crowd than a professional cameraman could ever achieve, and companies like Vyclone and 45 Sound hope to harness this potential by synching fan footage to professionally recorded sound. Bands are asked to encourage fans to create a collaborative video for just one song, then put their tech away for the rest of the set.
Could this work at a festival? Or is it time we took a cue from Unsound and voluntarily restricted our filming to the usually more satisfying footage of crazy characters or our mates having fun?
Do you get great footage of festival gigs, and is it worth it? Or does other people’s filming ruin a gig for you? Let us know what you think.