14 February 2024

I was shamed for filming at a gig and I kind of loved it

| Zoya Patel
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Band on stage

The Darkness at Wembley in 2018. Relax, Mr Hawkins, Zoya didn’t take the pic. Photo: Raph PH (Creative Commons).

It’s Friday night, and my partner and I are out together for the first time since our newborn son arrived six weeks ago. Not only are we out of the house at night, but we’re seeing a band I’ve loved since I was a teenager – British glam-rockers The Darkness. I once used dial-up internet to print a photo of frontman Justin Hawkins out in black and white so I could paste it to the front of my school notebook (as in, an actual book made of paper, not a digital device called a ‘notebook’, ironically).

So when I see him come out on stage, dressed in a jumpsuit and looking like the 20 years since their debut album has barely left a trace on him, I do what 70 per cent of my fellow audience members do and whip out my phone to take a video. Little Zoya would be so excited, I think to myself. I take the video, which I know won’t capture the thrill of seeing Hawkins on stage, and I’m only putting it on my Instagram story to show how vibrant my life still is despite having a baby.

Moments later, after they finish their second song, Hawkins launches into what he calls a ‘three-point lecture’. Why, he asks us, are we videoing the gig when we could be experiencing it? We laugh, but he brings it up again a while later. He is in awe of the belligerence of the people still filming when he asked us not to. It all comes to a head at the end of the gig, though, when Hawkins halts the band in the middle of their biggest hit, ‘I believe in a thing called love’. He is irate that not one but three people are filming near the front of the audience.

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In an interlude that takes an excruciatingly long amount of time, he has a back-and-forth with the audience and assigns filming rights to some poor sod named Colin, who shares his Instagram handle with the crowd. Then the band plays the entire song again.

Surprisingly, the crowd takes all of this remarkably well. But as we leave, my partner is less amused. “I guess if you want to shame people who have bought tickets to come and see your show, that’s one way to alienate an audience,” he says.

Despite being one of the very people Hawkins was calling out, I disagree. I kind of loved it.

Just a few months ago, two of my favourite bands co-headlined a show in Melbourne – Bloc Party and Interpol. Yes, as an aging millennial, I only go to see bands whose heydays were in the mid-noughties, usually performing anniversary tours.

We were in the seated section because I was seven months pregnant at the time. To my extreme annoyance, every time the bands played one of their bigger hits, a guy who was seated further away would rush over to stand directly in front of me in the small laneway between sections, holding his phone up to record the entire song. I had to watch through his phone screen because I couldn’t see past him.

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As Hawkins pointed out, filming live music is a massive bummer. It ruins the energy and vibe of the show for everyone else, and I have to imagine it’s frustrating to be on stage, looking out at an audience and seeing a sea of smartphones gaping back.

But even though I am annoyed by other people doing it, and I literally never watch the videos back after the show, I am guilty of wanting to whip out my phone at shows as well.

Why do we do it? Hawkins suggested a few potential reasons (all of which aren’t good enough to justify the behaviour in his view). Do we want to keep these memories to look back on when we’re old and grey? Is it to signal something to our social media followings – like my desire to showcase the fact I left the house as a new mother? Or are we just addicted to documenting everything for no real reason other than that we can?

After Hawkins’ initial tirade, I didn’t touch my phone for the rest of the show, even though I found myself wanting to multiple times. It did change my enjoyment of the band – I felt more connected to their performance, and I found myself paying attention and committing key moments to memory instead of filming them. It made me resolve not to try to film live music in the future – after all, I haven’t looked at that one small snippet I grabbed at the beginning of the show since, and I doubt I ever will.

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Gregg Heldon10:57 am 15 Feb 24

Oh, and Zoya, I saw The Darkness support Def Leppard at the Brixton Academy in London a week before Permission To Land came out. Blew Def Leppard off the stage in my opinion. That performance has not been bettered by them.
Bought the CD the day it came out from HMV in Basildon, Essex.
And not a camera or phone in sight.

One argument used against the idea that there’s a world wide conspiracy taking place is “do you know how many people would have to be in on it?” To which it can be said, just look at all the people, everywhere, buried in their phones

By golly, they’ve replaced the world-wide conspiracy of all the people buried in their newspapers and writing letters! Splitters!

Gregg Heldon9:13 am 15 Feb 24

I go to gigs a bit and all I do is take a photo or two of the band during their first song and that is it.
No filming. No further photos.
I’m there to enjoy the bands and experience the performances.
Anything else is rude in my opinion. Rude towards the band and towards my fellow gig going punters.

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