An Open Letter to Snap-Happy Gig-Goers

12 February 2015

Not every gig is worthy of remembrance

Dear Gig-goer,

Does you smartphone burn a hole in your pocket? Do you itch to snap a quick shot of your favourite artist as they jump, sing, shout and scream on stage? Maybe you prefer video, after all there’s nothing like re-living the moment after the fact in perfect aural clarity, is there? If so this is directed at you…

First, a disclaimer. Before you take this personally I want you to know something, I once did as you do now. There was a time when I would think nothing of removing my phone from my jeans’ pocket mid-gig, lifting it to the sky in the hopes of capturing the eternal, wondrous moment of one of my favourite bands smashing out one of their hits, or struggling to snap a brief cascade of coloured lights that shone through the smoke filled venues.  So I’m not judging you, I’m merely offering you an alternate viewpoint, one that I’ve come to adopt over time.

Let’s face it, nowadays the world is stuffed, packed, jimmied and rammed with distraction. Billboards, banner ads, Buzzfeed lists, clickbait tag lines. Boobtubers, chuggers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the inimitable smell of Subway. Crowds, cars and pools of vomit that line bus stops on Saturday mornings. We are inundated and the natural human reaction to this abundance of stimulus is to shut down. And who suffers (besides those struggling to sell The Big Issue)? We all do.

But to say we shut down is an oversimplification, we still connect with what we see, it still registers somewhere in our minds but that connection is superficial at best. We’ve learned to live broadly, not deeply. If ever there was a moment presented to you that demanded your attention, vied for your consciousness then it is “the gig”. That intimate and unavoidable blend of sights and sounds; the music deafening and the bright lights momentarily blinding; the warmth or hostility of the crowd into which you’ve been consumed and that moment when you find yourself singing along to one of your favourite songs, your voice lost to the room.

A good gig will linger in the memory longer and be accessible more readily than a video or image. I still remember gigs I attended 15 years ago, I remember how it felt to be there and to really exist in the moment – those were good days. The number of gigs I remember that viscerally are few and far between but not every gig is worthy of remembrance.

By all means, take out your phone or tablet, take a photo or video of yourself at the venue as some social proof of attendance but once the music starts and the lights dim to black, put it away and actually absorb the experience. Trust me, you’ll remember the ones that count and you won’t have had to resort to the wholesale outsourcing of your memory to the cloud. Plus, there exists no privacy policy (as of yet) for memory.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Theo


Image used under Attribution licensing. Cropped to 1:1 ratio
We Are In The Crowd by Harry Thomas Photography