05
May
09

Camera phones at gigs: how to spot an arsehole in a matter of seconds

Many years ago, I stood in a field at Glastonbury listening to The Waterboys and wishing I had a lighter with which to mark yet another interminable Celtic folk sing-a-long.

In the half-light, the small flames swaying in the air looked quite magical.

I was, as you can imagine, absolutely rat-arsed at this point, and full of Glastonbury spirit (cider) therefore keen to see the magic in everything, even the portaloos and the goths vomiting snakebite and black outside my tent at 4am.

Having got hold of a lighter, I swiftly realised that marking a ballad with fire isn’t remotely magical, especially when the skin on your thumb starts melting and you realise you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere without any plasters.

Fast-forward a few decades and the new ‘ballad lighter’ on the block is the camera phone and it’s not just used during ballads, it’s used throughout entire gigs.

 

I used to use my eyes. But they were shit.

'I used to use my eyes. But they were shit.'

Last week, I somehow found myself partaking in the grime revolution at the request of my daughter, who is a budding urban princess with an iTunes library packed with N-Dubz, Tinchy Stryder and Dizee Rascal.

Apologies if I’ve lost 95 per cent of you. For those in the dark, I’ll spark up a lighter: grime is an amalgamation of UK garage with a hint of drum ‘n’ bass, a soupcon of punk and a splash of hip-hop for added flavour.

No? It’s marginalised youths shouting really fast while wearing ill-fitting trousers. That just about covers all (drum ‘n’) bases.

The moment Tinchy Stryder exploded on stage (not literally. That was poetic license) the camera phones were in the air. Rather than watching the gig, half the audience were recording it on equipment that made my archaic home video camera look state-of-the-art.

Without exception, the footage they were recording was as clear as the water in the aforementioned Glastonbury toilets.

It appeared that a huge number of people were intent on recording a pirate-quality gig they were supposed to be watching with those other high-tech lenses – the ones implanted in our skulls.

One girl next to us recorded five minutes of blurry shapes moving in the far distance and then excitedly told her friend she was sending it to her Mum. She’d have done better to wait until she got home, where she could have drawn a hasty picture with some crayons and passed it to her old girl while shouting about getting her gums whipped (it’s grime slang. Keep up, granddad/grandma).

Even worse, one of the amateur lens-women next to me had the worst BO imaginable.

Every time she raised her arm in the air to capture another pointless, blurred shot of other people’s arms in the air waving camera phones it was as if she had raised the lid on hell’s sewage treatment works.

At some points, all I could see was LCD screens waving in the air: it was like that scene in Clockwork Orange when the Minister of the Interior clamps open Alex DeLarge’s eyes and forces him to watch disturbing televisual images in order to de-programme his violent, sociopathic tendencies.

This is ironic, because after the third or fourth blast of camera phone BO, I was feeling both violent and sociopathic (I almost said something, but the woman in question was quite burly. And agitating her may well have increased the BO).

I don’t remember this sea of LCD at the last gig I went to, which – as memory serves – was the Happy Mondays.

I first saw the Happy Mondays at Manchester’s infamous Hacienda club when I was at university in Liverpool and they were at the height of their anarchic, chaotic brilliance.

Fifteen years and an industrial quantity of controlled drugs later – the band, not me (I’m a journalist. I have to put my alcoholism first) – they sounded tired and jaded, much like the 30-something audience they were playing to: there’s a certain irony in singing ’24 Hour Party People’ at 10.30pm in order to finish in time for an 11pm curfew.

Holding a mobile phone above your head in the Hacienda days would have involved a bionic arm, anabolic steroids and a reckless disregard for muggers.

Holding it above your head at the comeback gig would have meant you were searching for a signal so you could send a text to the au pair reminding her to make Grace take her Omega-3 tablets before bed.

Maybe I’m just too old. Maybe memories really are better if you download them to FaceBook or maybe I just realise that if I’d tried to capture N-Dubz and Tinchy Styder on my camera phone I’d have been stuck in a sub-menu trying to work out how to use the zoom until the house lights were up and everyone had gone home.

Not captured on my camera phone. This is N-Dubz. And no, apparently hes not being ironic.

Not captured on my camera phone. This is N-Dubz. And no, apparently he's not being 'ironic'.

**** Life keeps getting in the way of blogging. My work has ‘relieved’ our freelance cover (got rid of, rather than sexually pleasured) and I am now working even harder than I did when I worked really, really hard. Interview went well. I felt your vibes. Even the slightly dirty ones from Tannerleah. ****

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26 Responses to “Camera phones at gigs: how to spot an arsehole in a matter of seconds”


  1. 1 pinnythewu
    May 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Camera phones at gigs are hideous, almost as hideous as that N Dumbz creature. My daughter better resign herself to the fact that until she’s 18, the only concerts she will be attending is Slayer, Metallica, Ozzy osborne and similar aging acts.

  2. May 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    It’s the only way, Pinny. I just wanted to be down with the kids at a garage gig. I will know better in the future and will stick to staying indoors shouting at my daughter to turn the volume down.

  3. May 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    I’ve always been meaning to listen to some of this post-music sound entertainment but never quite got round to it. Are you sure the woman with BO wasn’t part of the act?

  4. May 6, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I see your N-Dubz and I raise you a Gorilla Zoe. At least there is some punk thrown in there and it’s not just inane blather about money, sex, and drugs, though I do love all three. Or rather, did love all three, but not anymore. I’ll leave it to you to decide which ones.

    As for having one’s “gums whipped” – I fear what sort of traffic I’ll attract if I address that, so nevermind.

    You’re a brave woman to go to a show like this. The BO would remind me of Dead Tour. The cell phones would remind me that my husband could interrupt my fun at any moment to ask me a ridiculous question like, “Where do you keep the milk?”

    Sorry for the rambling. But I’m quite sleepy.

  5. May 6, 2009 at 2:57 am

    I always liked seeing bands like The Pogues, Happy Mondays and Mike Scott and his Waterboys because no matter how wasted I was, it was always nice to know the band was about 50 times more wrecked than me. Poor old Shane MacGowan never failed to disappoint. He was always so smashed and had such problems singing the lyrics to those fast ditties like “Bottle of Smoke” that he’d just make phonetic noises instead (while the rest of the band glared at him).

    “tram em reezus ram em beema bet on a bottle a smoke”

  6. May 6, 2009 at 3:29 am

    I’m thrilled to finally share my photo of Bob Dylan story. At the Austin City Limits festival two years ago, the icon is rasping (he was quite awful, but inspiring none-the-less) and I proudly took a photo with my cell phone to save for posterity.

    I look at it later and I see what looks like a couple of multi-colored car headlights from about a mile away.

    My photo of Dylan. Ahhh.

  7. May 6, 2009 at 4:01 am

    “rat-arsed” a term you don’t hear enough of. I am going to start using it more often.

  8. 8 okathleen
    May 6, 2009 at 8:39 am

    The things we do as parents.

    I’ll swap you that gig for next weekend as ‘Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Medal Award Prefect’,
    camping in the Peak District. Well I don’t do camping, I’ll be in the nearest B&B, which, in case of emergency, is where those mobile phone thingys come in very handy…

  9. May 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I wish tannerleah would send me some dirty vibes

  10. May 6, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Woman in Black — Great blog!

    What a good mommy you are to indulge your daughter’s musical interests. Sacrifice on a grand scale, I’d say. Just one more reason I could never possibly parent.

    ~Ava

  11. May 6, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    “slightly dirty”? sigh…I just have no mojo. Is N-Dubz supposed to be black or Chinese?

  12. May 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Are you sure that’s N-Dubz?

    They look more like 3-Twatz to me.

  13. 15 G
    May 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Great, more annoying pop music to come spilling out of my wife’s radio.

    I might as well be listening to Britney Spears.

    I’m so glad I missed the 80’s in pop music.

  14. May 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    That is funny and I love the pic no they are not being ironic. They are also oddly color coordinated… Every so often I think/ask they really don’t do lighters any more?

    Great post, as always, keep it up.

  15. 17 brucehood
    May 8, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Glad to hear that the interview went well.. How could they not spot the talent of someone so cursed with the acute vision and nose for the underarm of society as well as the talent to make it brilliantly funny as we laugh at that sad condition known as mankind.

  16. 18 Ram Venkatararam
    May 9, 2009 at 2:06 am

    I think Alantru and I were at the same Pogues concert. Still, I’d watch a staggering Shane MacGowan over a posturing N-Dubz any day of the week.

  17. May 10, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Are you sure this isn’t part of the ‘grim revolution?’ N-Dubz…pleeeze. But kudos for trying WIB.

  18. May 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Curiosity has got the better of me.

    I just know that I’m going to regret this, but I’m off to find some N-Dubz to listen to – purely in the name of research.

    I’m going to spotify and may be some time….

  19. May 10, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    …or maybe not.

    It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that my earlier ‘3-Twatz’ statement stood true.

    Now, I need quick fix of Rory Gallagher, to set things straight.

  20. May 13, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Wow, WIB! You are so descriptive with your prose. I can smell those stank pits from here. Good blog!

    I actually like Dizzee Rascal, by the way. 🙂

  21. May 16, 2009 at 9:30 am

    An entertaining insight, WIB 🙂

    If it wasn’t for the fact so many yoofs wave their phones in the air, pointed in the vague direction of the action – I’d probably surmise that they were just trying them out to see if the end result was worthy of keeping. Sadly it seems that even the awful quality of mobile phone-based audio & video isn’t enough to stop them bothering.

    I remember being snapped by lots of phone photographers while I was in the Manchester Pride parade a few years ago. I was initially horrified but consoled myself with the thought that nobody would be able to make me out from that distance at such low resolution 😀

    Maybe these kids don’t see anything as real enough until they’ve witnessed it happening on an electronic screen. There’s possibly no harm in that (other than annoyingly flailing their cameras around in an attempt to keep the content framed).. unless they start to believe that *everything* on that screen is real.

    Re the ‘music’ .. anybody with a mockney accent just isn’t worth a listen IMHO, not even if they’ve been remixed to death by Calvin Harris. What always bugged me about ‘UK garrardge’ etc (and now seemingly ‘grime’) is that it’s all about laaaaaaaaaaaandan innit 😦

  22. May 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    wow… nice info… thanks.. i like it.. 😀

  23. May 18, 2009 at 12:33 am

    My daughter as an application on her ipod that has a life like lit lighter (try saying that five times fast)on it. She holds this up at concerts. Old school, meets new. At least she’s not filming it.


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