“Did you record this with a toaster?” – Recording Live music: Right? Wrong? Pointless?
I’m not happy this morning. Last night I enjoyed a pizza for dinner and in a surge of self-control and foresight I saved three, count it three, slices for the most glorious of morning consumptions: breakfast pizza. Now, imagine my anguish when I readily awoke to discover that one sasquatchuous fiend (my birth father) has taken my most treasured of fast breaking treats in an inebriated state and devoured it. My whole day was structured around that pizza and now I write a broken man. In that vein I thought I’d vent my upset into another unforgivable and frustrating practice: recording gigs on your mobile phones.
As much as I planned and hoped to avoid the cliché I have not the literary skill or wit to rephrase the overused sentence my mother has been carving into my psyche for the past three years: ‘you live on your phone’. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Will, how can I possibly live on my phone? It provides neither the nutrients nor the shelter necessary for my survival.” To which I must respond. “SHUT UP IDIOT. BEING THAT LITERAL ISN'T FUNNY”. (This is a reversed and horribly familiar conversation I have had with my aforementioned mother). Hilarity aside we must consider the vast quantity of time we spend glancing at those black rectangles welded onto our right or respectively left hands. We live with them, we eat with them, we travel with them and we sleep with them; they are the eternally loyal and forever faithful partners in our lives (before you say it, your girlfriend can’t tell me the exact mileage from Bradford to the moon so no, she’s not better than Siri). That said, as much as you love your little piece of Jobs’ heart, is that a valid excuse for blocking my view and enjoyment of Jagwar Ma with your Ipad? No, no it’s not.
Allow me to clarify something. I’m not a strong man or particular good at fighting so please take no offence. I’m not attacking those who want to snap a quick photo of Rough Trade East or who want to send a momentary tweet of “seeing @CerebalBallzy. Some guy just headbutted me #dope”. The creature to which I address is the inconsiderate moron who thought that recording the 55 minute Black Keys set on their Ipad was JUST AS GOOD as witnessing it through their eye and ear holes. I don’t know if you guys have heard but reality has pretty decent HD which raises the question of why you’d want to waste your money, time and experience getting a sub-par replica of what is happening RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU so you can show your mates and narrate like so: “That pixel there, yeah, behind that girls head, yeah, you see it? That’s Alex Turner coming on stage, I think. Oh, this is a new song, I think; it’s hard to tell because the audio quality is like I recorded it on a toaster”. It’s beyond me.
At a recent Frank Turner gig the punk turned acoustic gentleman asked, politely may I add, that while he tried out some new material the gentlefolk of the audience would be as kind to put away their telecommunication blocks; which makes sense. By recording a new track on your phone it potentially distorts the later enjoyment of the superior studio version for others who watch the crackly YouTube video posted a mere 30 seconds after the final chord and I know they could just ‘not watch it’ but that’s not really how the internet works. Though I must confess dear friend that when I heard a live version of the ever treasured Arctic Monkeys’ colossal ‘Do I Wanna Know’ as it surfaced to the interwebs it did not infiltrate any sort of expectation I had for the new sound since the quality was comparable to watching the live set while someone cleanses my eyes and ears with gravel.
Now, tell me, if a man met Marcus Mumford backstage and no one was around to tweet about it, did it really happen? This horrifically relevant proverb illustrates that we live in an age where our daily lives are constantly broadcasted to the rest of the world, not that they care. Now, something as visceral and hair-raising as a watching a live music experience would be counter-intuitive not to share with one’s InstaTwitterVinebook followers considering one’s last 30 updates concerned the amount of food they’d eaten at their Mum’s Sunday roast, an ever insightful read by the way. What I do wonder is how this will affect the future of gigs.
As recording quality improves and devices start to become integral part of our bodies my speculation of days to come provides something of polar results. On one iPhone-gladded hand the removal of the black rectangular devices means less view obstruction and more eyes pointed front and centre but at the cost of all having silver headsets looking like rejected Minority Report extras just staring through the artists checking out what Piers Morgan has to say about the Arsenal score. But let’s consider the positives, not resist and accept that everyone will be sporting these goofy future man spectacles and what it will mean on a communicative scale. Will this provide a scenario where I can send my mate, Google Glass equipped, to a The 1975 concert and live stream it through my set of Googly eyes (they really missed a trick not calling them that) to help me find out that they are a seriously overrated band they are without even leaving my sofa?! If so, I might be swayed.
Regardless of technological advances I still am a firm believer in the spiritual and communal wonder of just BEING at a gig. Vine doesn't capture the feel of an elbow in your back or the feeling of luke-warm beer dripping down your neck and by recording and rewatching you only just capture the superficial of the experience while feeling the stare of 100 angry me’s on the back of your head. But then again, as a man whose day was ruined by a lack of pizza, am I really one to chastise someone for wanting to relive The Rolling Stone’s Glastonbury set while sitting on the toilet?