The Modern Concert

There's nothing new about cameraphones at concerts or even filter apps like Hipstamatic (it went to war and came back with an award!), but something about this picture got me thinking today about concert culture in a hyper-connected age.

I don't claim to have broken any new ground here, nor am I putting forth this Instagram picture I took of Robert Randolph and the Family as an example of excellent amateur cameraphone photography. It's not. But I do think this is an example of the tangible (the man snapping an iPhone photo) and intangible elements (Facebookin') that are now, and will forever be, a part of the modern concert experience going forward.

Case in point:

  • I heard about the concert from a friend's text message (I rarely talk on the phone with something as archaic as "my voice" anymore, nor do I check voicemail)
  • Concert updates were provided by Facebook Fan Pages, Events and wall updates
  • During the concert, Blackberrys flashed and iPhone 4's recorded snippets of poorly-lit video
  • A guitar-playing savant, much younger than me, was pulled from the audience to "shred" with the band. I imagine this staged-yet-enjoyable event was facilitated by some kind of online forum or club
  • I snapped a pic with my iPhone 4, making a slightly inebriated mental note to "totally Instragram that shit" on the car ride home
  • I snapped another photo, more "bluesy" than the first, and uploaded it immediately as a cry for attention
  • When my friend arrived home Thursday evening after the concert, he immediately "Liked" the band's Facebook Fan Page
  • I heard about this because that update instantly became a lasting, interactive part of my own Facebook wall
  • The inevitable flood of videos, pics and comments about Robert Randolph "rocking" the Boston House of Blues begins in the hours and days following the concert
  • I finally Instagram'd

Some of my friends malign the appearance of cellphone photographers at concerts, saying their presence somehow cheapens the experience—perhaps not for them, the concert aficionado, per say, but for the person whose eyes are glued to the LCD screen and not the artists on stage.

But I don't know. These cameraphone zombies are spreading content to places it might not otherwise have been even a few years ago and that's a pretty powerful, important thing even if the sharer is missing half the show because they can't decide whether "Toaster" encapsulates the band's effort more perfectly than "Inkwell."

Viewed in more optimistic light, this Modern Concert has played itself out in far more meaningful ways in places like Egypt and Tunisia, where the Modern Revolution made life impossible for oppressive dictators and gave the people a much louder, much more efficient voice—disconnected Internet attempts be damned.

The practice can certainly be abused, of course—thank you very little, girl who had to take six Blackberry flash-assisted photos before things were "just right"—but that's the case with everything.

For whatever it's worth, the scope of humanity's newfound hyper-connectivity all came together for me with this silly photo. Maybe you've had a similar experience, if not at a concert then a speech or rally or sporting event. Whatever it was, it was an event where you too realized just how connected we've become in such a short amount of time.

In any case, the Modern Concert. Rock on.