Friday, May 15, 2009

Why I hate living in the present

The other day, at my job, I had some friends who wanted to go watch an opening band on our tour. I thought it would be fun, since I don't often spend time in the crowd, to watch the band from front of house and watch the crowd have fun watching them and just get lost in the moment. This is when I noticed that most of the crowd was holding up cameras and cell phones attempting to capture video and photos of the show. Immediately this brought sadness to me as it made me realize one of the very things I held dear about attending a rock concert had been completely lost forever. That's the art of memory. Being able to recount an experience without the use of photographs, or videos, or blogs, or Twitter, is 100 percent a dead art.

I fought with myself about this after I witnessed this display. Is this just something that the youth of today are doing? Is it completely impossible for them to enjoy something and take the home the experience without there being 100 grainy blurry photos for them to peruse? Then I opened up my Twitter client on my phone and was inundated with messages about a show featuring a band that had just gotten back together for the first time in 4 years. Which a) 4 years? not that big a deal.. give me like 10 years and I'm all ears. b) these are grown men "tweeting" this, not excitable teenagers. They come from where I come from. Same ethical and socio-cultural background.

Why is the world in a constant pursuit of validation from their peers and their collection of anonymous followers? Social networking has created this unreal world of people who's worth is measured by followers, friends, and contacts. Now when an event happens in someone's world it automatically becomes public domain. This is what pains me. I can no longer experience anything without someone automatically asking if I "twittered" it or if I have pictures or if blogged about it. It sucks.

30+ years ago when Paul Simonon* smashed his bass onstage at a Clash show in NYC there was ONE camera there to capture it. ONE. You didn't hear about people going home to post on the (then non existent) internet, "OMG DID YOU SEE JOE STRUMMER* BREAK HIS GUTAR ON STAGE AT TEH CLASH SHOOOOOW LOOOOOLZ". 15+ years ago I personally witnessed Nirvana play one of their most legendary shows in NYC at Roseland and one of the most defining moments of the show is a SINGLE photograph that MANY people have seen probably at this point. That one moment, that single part of a very infamous show, that famous black and red sweater, was all captured for all times sake not by a million cameras and phones being waved in the air. It was an historic moment very specifically captured by a photographer there to document the unknown. These days it seems, in large part due to technology, that everyone is a documentarian, and everyone is a critic and a photographer, and a videographer. No one can leave a show without there being some physical proof that it happened then and there, and even worse yet, now with the ability to let everyone who knows you (or not) exactly how it all went down as its going down.

For once in your lives take home a memory and cherish it. Let something that you saw or heard affect you in some way instead of making it some sort of point of validation. Yes, you saw a celebrity. WOOOO. I see celebrities every day of my life. I work for some. My life isn't any more validated than yours when you see the EXACT SAME PEOPLE. It's okay. They're all made of the same cells and blood and hair and skin as you.

Eventually there is going to be no such thing as personal memory. It will all be collective memory based on Flickr photo pools and Twitter posts and blogs. No one will want to listen to an account of how something went down without a digital picture album to follow it up and 300 comments from ABSOLUTE strangers about every second of what you JUST experienced.

Everything is up for review at all times. Every time you open yourself up for validation you open yourself up for judgment. Openness to the world is choking creativity and more importantly stunting creative and emotional growth. Stop letting the world know what you're doing at every second. Leave the crowd wanting more. Blah blah blah blah... the old guy said what? Dude.. TOTALLY twitter that..

* - contrary to collective popular belief/mistake Joe Strummer is NOT the person on the cover of London Calling by the Clash. It's Paul Simonon, and I figured this would be easy enough to figure out since the instrument being smashed is a BASS and not a fucking guitar, but I guess we're all too stupid to think about anything for a second. I give humans way too much credit.


Anonymous said...

Firstly: I totally knew that was Paul Simonon - I'd never even been aware of any confusion about that. People are idiots. But you and I are clearly well aware of this.

Secondly: I'm finding it harder and harder to enjoy shows because the kids around my small group of gig buddies just seem to be so intent on ruining it for everyone. They're either kids who will deliberately grind elbows into you because they're desperate to get to the front so that [band guy of choice] will obviously spot them in the crowd and drag them off to spawn millions of kids, Hanson-family-style; or they cry when they get jostled in the pit; or, as you pointed out, they're standing there with their phones out, shoving their hands in your face and blocking your view so that they can add it to their shitty little Buzznet profile and "be leik totaly kewl lololololz!!!1!!".

I have to say that FOB has a particularly high ratio of fans like this and the behaviour extends online, too - it's so off-putting.

In general, though, I find that modern life in general has done this to us. I don't know any of my friends' phone numbers from memory, anymore - they're all in my mobile phone. I don't know the majority of my friends' email addresses because they're all saved in my Gmail account automatically. We don't have use for memory anymore.

I swear long term memory will eventually be lost in evolution the way some people believe certain senses were.

I kind of think the attitudes we grew up with and around, when it comes to music, have totally changed with the celebrity culture that's exploded in the last ten years or so. Everyone thinks they're a pap, now.

Most of the time I honestly wonder if it's worth putting up with it and going at all.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your view on this. I went to a Death Cab show recently, and before Ben GIbbard played "I Will Follow You.." he asked everyone to put their cameras away, turn off their cell phones, and have a memory of that show for themselves, not for anyone else. He wanted to make that part of the show just for the crowd in Milwaukee, and people STILL pulled out their cameras, I thought it was really shitty and rude. I would much rather keep an experience like that for myself, rather than share it with someone who wasn't at the show via youtube. It just isn't the same.

Anonymous said...

I used to take pictures at shows until I finally noticed that I was missing the show to get the "perfect" shot. What was the point of capturing it if I couldnt remember any of it?

Bridget said...

I remember feeling that way to a degree when I was traveling with my husband. Now, I rarely take camera pics, use twitter, or any of that, but part of me loves photography so I have my fancy pants digital slr that i lug around with me. somewhere in paris i realized, "shit, i just took the same picture of notre dame that i bet 1000 other people have taken. all our vacations, all our pictures end up being so similar. i don't even need to take these pictures, i could probably find nearly identical ones on flickr"

then i got all meta about it before i realized if i wanted to document things, i should document the things i wanted to, even if it meant forgoing the bigger picture. cracks in walls and bugs on leaves and graffiti instead of glass pyramids and all that nonsense. i found it fit me a lot better, plus it meant a little less time behind the camera, and more time captured in the moment instead of desperately trying to capture it.

but i totally get you on the collective conscious. it makes me wonder if "waking life" would have a different tenor to it now considering what a shared experience everything has become, being that that was such a large part of philosophy that it focused on.

(i like your blog. i barely knew you a million years ago when you were in edna's goldfish and i was vin's friend who lived in cambridge across from the middle east and i sincerely doubt you remember me and that's totally cool. i found this after hearing about the bamboozle, which i missed, and sort of felt compelled to say hello.)

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I have never taken pictures during a concert. I just never got the point. If I want pictures from the show, I'll wait until the professional photographer puts them out online, because hell, at least they'll be good ones then!

Standing beside people in the pit, nowadays, you get kids whining and shouting when they're jostled a little, and you've got to wonder how they'd cope at some of the rougher shows, and they've got their phones out taking shitty photos no ones ever gonna recognise or care about.

We're slowly losing the ability to capture the moment with our eyes and minds. I don't ever wanna lose that. All my concert memories are trapped in my head, not in a grainy picture that I can't use to recollect what song was playing when it was taken.

I wish I had been there for Edna's Goldfish @ Bamboozle. I hope you had a great time. Take care, Diaz.

Nichola said...

Five stars!! The BEST RANT EVER! We are going to the show in Minneapolis on Sunday and I know that as excited as I am to see these bands, the experience will be ruined by the camera flashers, video capture rs and cell phone twitters!!


Stephanie said...

Excellent post, Diaz. You are gonna roll your eyes at this one but I can still remember and play back the Bon Jovi/Skid Row concert I went to in 1989! That was a life changing event for me and there were no pictures or videos. And I like it that way. These days, I find myself losing special moments with my CHILD because I am so caught up in trying to get it on camera... Sometimes I have to force myself to put down the camera and just take mental pictures and treasure them... I am thankful that we do have the technology and the means to capture so much...and on the other hand, it is a burden and it makes me sad. Your "rant" was dead on.

Anonymous said...

i think me, and others like me, are taking too much time trying to capture a moment so we can remember it tomorrow, and not enough time living and feeling the moment today. i'll try harder not to take pictures.

walkinvisible said...

i used to call this the japanese tourist effect: i remember when i was in rome in 94 and this tour bus full of middle-aged japanese tourists got off near the coliseum and they were all walking around with their super high tech video cameras, panning left and right.

the thing that got me was, while i was just soaking it all in (watching, feeling, experiencing), these poor folks weren't even SEEING things. they might as well have been watching them on TV cause all they saw was the coliseum on a 3x3 inch screen as they walked around.

i'll take a few photos here and there (mostly of people, less of things) but i'll rarely roll video on stuff. i don't want to miss out on real life....


tam said...

and this is why i like brian. Youre a good dude.

johnbob said...

... I can't for the life of me remember what I even Googled to get here, but I ended up reading this post and was instantly feeling happy in the fact that not everyone pulls their schlonge out at gigs!

Wow, seriously, I find it so annoying, but at the same time, I hold my hands up to doing it too. It was at a Rammstein gig at an arena in Newcastle and it was the first ever time in seeing those guys live.

... one of the band members got on an inflatable rubber dingy and rode over the crowd to pretty much the centre of the lawm and then back again. (That was photo #1).

Photo #2 was at the same event, just taking one of the amazing pyrotechnics display they put on... the kind that singes the eye brows off of anyone in a 50m radius of the stage.

That was it though, just because it was so... :-O

Never ever would I spend the night behind a lens though, jesh. Why watch it on a 5 inch LCD when you can watch it in fully eye--blurry-defnition!

My mem is bad though, so maybe I should start recording things electronically. Hmmm.