Experience or Document?


By Molly Freeman

Additional Contributors: Jess Goulart, Michele Bacigalupo, Samantha Spoto, Lisa Autz, Veronica Chavez, Zach Schepis

Photo by Molly Freeman.

It seems as though there are two types of concert attendees: those that are constantly taking photos and videos of the event and those that leave their phones/cameras in their pockets or at home. Since many of us here at BTR enjoy some live music now and again, we decided to chime in on the matter.

BTR staffers weigh in on whether they prefer to document a concert or simply enjoy the experience of live music.

Molly’s Take

I’ve always been the type of person to document my life. I have a pretty active Instagram account nowadays. But even predating the photo app, I regularly uploaded photo albums to Facebook of concerts or other events I had attended. So, it should come as no surprise that I fall in the documentation camp.

Although I certainly take the time to put my phone away and enjoy the music at a concert, I also really like taking photos of the bands I see and posting them to social media so that I can share the experience with my friends and family.

For one particular recent concert, Coasts at The Bowery Ballroom, I took more photos and videos than usual. A friend of mine was meant to attend the show with me but had to back out at the last minute due to work, so I wanted to document the concert in an effort to share as much of the experience with her as I could.

Though this may not always be the case, I still prefer to take photos and post them in an effort to connect with people in my social networks.

Jess’s Take

Photo by Jess Goulart.

Once upon a time, I was not the Social Media Director at BTR, and in those days I rarely whipped out my phone at a show. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I was too drunk–er, I mean–busy ENJOYING the show that I always forgot taking pictures was a thing I could do.

Now that I am the Social Media Director I snap a near uninterrupted stream of pics and video at every concert I attend, no matter my level of… enjoyment. Having been down both roads before, I say waving your phone in the air for some media at a show will bring you down a little, but not enough to ruin the experience.

I cannot, however, speak for the people that stand behind me.

Michele’s Take

There are some unwritten rules about appropriate behavior for a concert. I try my best to always adhere to these rules, and I advise other concertgoers to do the same, lest they have a death wish.

Wear comfortable shoes (no one can see your feet anyway). Don’t shout over the music. Don’t hold up your phone or camera for too long. The reason that you’re there is to see live music, not to watch the performance through a screen.

That being said, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to capture certain moments on camera. When a song I love starts playing, I like to take a video so I can listen to it again later. However I never keep my phone raised in a crowd for very long. I don’t have the patience to record anything for more than 30 seconds, especially not when I’m trying to dance.

Attempting to record the entire performance not only blocks the views of others, but it disturbs their experience, as well as your own. I like to take a handful of pictures and videos to remember the night, but after that I put my phone away. The show in front of me deserves my full attention.

Samantha’s Take

Photo by Samantha Spoto.

I spend the majority of my free time and money on concerts. To me, there is no greater experience than hearing one of my favorite bands perform their songs in a live and intimate setting. Each show I attend is worth remembering in some way, whether it be by saving ticket stubs, grabbing hold of a handwritten set list after the show, or in the best case scenario, snapping a picture with the musicians. Sometimes, a photo or a video of the performers in action help me recall the shows best.

I often feel nostalgic for my concert experiences, which is why I am a proponent of taking photos and videos at events. However, if trying to take a picture or video becomes a hindrance to your show enjoyment, turn your phone off and reevaluate the reasons why you first purchased your ticket.

What I love about concerts, aside from the music itself, is that I am in a venue filled with people who have all gathered for the same reason. The camaraderie I feel when slinging my arm over a stranger’s shoulder as we shout our souls back at the band on stage is worth much more than any photo I could ever take. My suggestion to all the concertgoers is to understand when it is appropriate to pull out your phone for a picture, but don’t spend too much time fixated on trying to compose the perfect shot. Instead, surround yourself in the sound and start singing along.

Lisa’s Take

The way I look at concerts is that they are an incredible, transformative way to truly experience music. I am usually way too busy dancing or letting my mind drift along the melodic waves of music to take photos or videos.

In this age of photo sharing, I’ve often felt the pressure to try and take some quick shots for others to see. However, it usually just feels too forced and distracting from the experience of the music.

For instance, I went to a concert for a salsa-rock band called the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra at the Brooklyn Bowl. Capturing my experience with a cell phone or camera didn’t even cross my mind and frankly, interfering with time that I could be dancing and grooving just to take photos felt like a waste.

I spent that entire night dancing with multiple people on a floor that transformed into a huge salsa-dancing rendezvous. I don’t have any photos to prove I was there to anyone else, but I know I will remember the experience very well regardless.

Veronica’s Take

Photo by Veronica Chavez.

Concerts are sacred ceremonies. To stand in the same room as talented musicians that are giving their all on stage is an opportunity that should be treated as a rare and magical event, in my opinion. Who knows if the band you are currently seeing is going to break up? Who knows if the singer can in fact see your smartphone-illuminated face and get distracted?

I think that for 99 percent of a show, concertgoers should put their phones and cameras away. Too much of this generation has become obsessed with possessing fragments of moments. We’ve become too focused on capturing a snippet in time just to upload it to Instagram and let everyone else know that we were there.

Of course, as a sentimental person, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never snapped a picture at a concert for my own keepsake–but these keepsakes never seem to do the event justice. Immersing myself completely in the moment and in the music is far better than any video I could possibly take.

Zach’s Take

My father inspired me to collect concert stubs from a young age, unveiling a cornucopia of faded paper trails that acted like a window into his youth. Queen, Bowie, The Stones… his dusty receipts later inspired a collection of my own. I haven’t counted in a while, but last I checked there were close to 500 stubs stacked together in my little wooden box.

In the time since I first started seeing live music, I’ve noticed a very discernible shift in crowd etiquette. I’ll never forget the pale glow of 30,000 cell phone lights held high and gently wavering to the lilt of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

Nobody holds up a lighter anymore, not even to salute the ballads of yesteryear. Watching the darkness of night at a music festival break against cellphone lights–and the incessant wiggle of fingers hashtagging under the stars–can be hard to get used to.

That being said, I don’t think the desire to document and share is inherently a bad thing, or even too different from my obsession with collecting concert stubs–so long as it doesn’t detract from another person’s enjoyment of the moment. As an avid musician and stage performer, I strongly believe that a concert is a two-way experience. Whether the audience wants to believe it or not, their energy will often determine how the band performs.

So play your best for the band if you expect the same in return.