10 bands who hate smartphones at shows as much as you

As part of Transport for NSW’s new “Get Your Hands Off It” campaign, here are the top 10 musical acts who hate smartphones at their shows more than you.

Every new technology goes through an awkward phase when nobody knows the rules and smartphones are no different. What we need are simple rules explaining that taking a few photos of the band is fine but taking shots of yourself in the crowd and blinding everyone around you with your flash isn’t. Keep your phone in your pocket when you’re enjoying your favourite band this Summer – and definitely keep your phone in your pocket when you’re driving to the gig as well.

But don’t just take it from us, check out what bearded manchild Derek Anderson has to say about putting it away while you’re driving. His viral track “Get Your Hands Off It”, created by Transport for NSW, is one of the catchiest road safety messages slash music video clips that you’re going to see this year.*

1. Neko Case

When M. Ward played a gig at the 9.30 Club in Washington last year entrants were told, “Tonight, no photos or video. Including cell phones.” It was the last part that sparked discussion on Twitter, with fellow singer-songwriter Neko Case joining in to say, “Just put the phone away and watch the show. That IS why he is traveling THOUSANDS of miles to play.” Interviewed by FL recently, Case brought up her annoyance at smartphones again while discussing the last concert she went to – an Adam Ant show – and how the crowd was full of “a lot of young people who didn’t give a shit”.

“They were just holding their phones up and that made me sad,” she said. “But then there were some super die-hard fans that were singing along and that was really great. There were people who were there for the right reasons and then there were people there who were there because that’s where you go and all they were doing was filming it and taking pictures, which was really a drag. Because we were trying to see and people had their phones up so it was actually hard to see because it was like a sea of phones.” On the subject of people bringing iPads along to film concerts she added, “I would punch somebody’s iPad if I saw that.”

2. The Lumineers

Appropriately for a band who dress like dapper pioneers, folk-rockers The Lumineers are against your new-fangled modern technology. They’ve even been known to interrupt performances of their biggest hit ‘Ho Hey’ mid-song to tell the audience things like “Put away your phones and cameras and just be human for a while” or “be more present with us”. They’ll also put the house lights to go on to make it easier to shame people who have their phones out and are ruining the ambience of their “band of woodcutters who have got dressed up in their Sunday best to play at somebody’s wedding” vibe.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA.” So shouted the signs at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs show at Webster Hall in New York. “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.” While they’re down on people watching the whole concert through that screen, Karen O did encourage people to get their smartphones out for photos during a couple of songs early in the set so they could get it out of their system and then put them away for the rest. Which seems sensible, because without photographic proof no one will believe you when you try to explain what Karen O was wearing.

4. Wilco

Wilco now have a pre-recorded message that plays at the beginning of their sets explaining that although they’re happy for you to record bootleg audio of their concerts, sing along and shout requests in between songs as if they’re your personal iPod, you better keep that phone in your pocket unless you want to be kicked out by security, or at least have a torch shone in your eyes. Apparently the band’s frontman Jeff Tweedy was inspired to add the disclaimer to their shows after going to see a stage magician perform tricks – sorry, “illusions” – where the entire audience was frisked for recording equipment beforehand. So be thankful that’s not happening, yet.

5. Savages

Since they’re an art-punk manifestocore band the fact that Savages would join the list of bands using signs to tell their fans to leave the phones in their pockets isn’t surprising, but the fact they did it so politely is. At an April 2013 show in Seattle they wrote “A NOTE FROM SAVAGES” that read:

Their song ‘Shut Up’ has a similar refrain (“Silence yourself!”) and begins with an intro by frontwoman Jehnny Beth that berates the inhabitants of our overstimulated age for being unfocused and distractable, begging everyone to shut up for just one moment. And to what end? So we might better hear “an angry young tune.” It’s a fancy politicised way of saying “listen to me.”

6. Jack White

Jack White cultivates an image as a cranky old man out of time, so it’s easy to see him as the type to rail against the fancy modernity of phones and Tweetin’ and Facebookin’ and whatnot. When a Facebook post by the Red Rocks Amphitheatre declared, “NO CELL PHONES OUT OR IN USE”, before his gig there, it seemed like exactly the kind of pronouncement White would make, right before announcing to his all-female or all-male backing band who would have the privilege of playing for him that night.

But his label, Third Man Records, had to step in and clarify that White’s actually OK with people using social media – so long as they’re respectful to other concert-goers. “Third Man uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr every day to communicate directly with our fans,” they said. “All of these are important tools that are great to open up lines of communication for us and for you, the fans. We are not luddites who hate technology.”

7. Pink Floyd

In 2011, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was in the midst of touring his old band’s classic album The Wall. While reviewing footage of the shows for a concert DVD he was surprised to see how many people in the crowd had their phones in the air and went to Facebook to post about it. “For my part I would never turn on a cell phone at any musical event,” he wrote, “whether it’s at The Met, The Garden or anywhere else. It would seem to me to show a lack of respect to and care for fellow concert goers or for that matter for the artist. Apart from anything else, how could I possibly truly experience the thing I’d paid to see and hear, if I was fiddling with an iPhone, filming or twittering or chatting or whatever?”

Of course this is from a guy whose concerts involve building a physical wall brick-by-brick across the front of the stage during the first half, then performing the second half entirely from behind that wall. Which maybe explains why people started looking at their phones?

8. Jarvis Cocker

The frontman of Britpop legends Pulp once organised a musical workshop in a Paris art gallery where people could come along and pick up instruments to rediscover the spontaneity of pure musical expression, or whatever. Explaining the concept, he said, “Our society now revolves a lot around repetition. People feel the need to film events on their phones so they can relive it later. It drives me insane at concerts. It’s just happening, innit? Why not just look at it? It seems stupid to have something happening in front of you and look at it on a screen that’s smaller than the size of a cigarette packet.” Thank God there were plenty of cameras around when he invaded the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance at the Brit Awards in 1996.

9. Prince

Prince has said “the internet is dead” but apparently he knows Instagram is alive and well, banning cameraphones at his South By Southwest performance even though it was an event sponsored by Samsung Galaxy where 200 tickets were given away to people who raced around Austin performing a scavenger hunt with their phones. The fact that Prince can ban phones at an event that closely tied with them is a mark of how revered he is.

10. Black Crowes

The final word on phones should go to Chris Robinson, frontman of the Black Crowes, who said that, “As a band we’ve been trying to string together these moments, the kind of moments I’ve had as a music fan that have blown my mind. That’s not happening when you’re texting or checking your fucking fantasy league stats. I personally think you should be too high to operate a machine at our concerts.” Amen!

Don’t get your phone out when you’re enjoying live music this summer, and don’t get your phone out when you’re driving to the show. But don’t just take it from us, check out what bearded manchild Derek Anderson has to say about putting it away while you’re driving.